Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer was the first game I recieved with my PS1, and also my first 3D game, so this is a nostalgic revisit for me. (As it’s named Ripto’s Rage in the Reignited Trilogy, I’ll just refer to it as Spyro 2 here). It was also one of my favourite games – I remember enjoying Idol Springs and Crystal Glacier, and finding the summer and autumn home worlds incredibly peaceful. I don’t think my 7-year-old self ever reached the final third of the original game, as it was mostly unfamiliar. This time, however, I beat Ripto at 98% completion after about 13 hours of in-game time, then reached 100% at about 14 hours (blame the Fracture Hills level for that delay!).
The major difference between Spyro the Dragon and Spyro 2 is revealed in the first cutscene, which shows off a more detailed story taking place across a larger set of worlds and also introduces you to allied characters who need Spyro’s help to take their homes back from antagonist Ripto.
Cutscenes at the start and end of each level reveal livelier and less isolated environments than those in Spyro the Dragon – seeing communities of creatures in their own habitats makes the game feel more lived-in and less dormant. The cutscenes are simple, but effective: the introductions clearly distinguish between the inhabitants who Spyro is protecting and the intruding enemies, which helps younger or newer gamers make sense of each level as soon as it begins. Then, seeing the inhabitants take PG-rated comic revenge on their enemies during each exit cutscene lets you feel like Spyro’s presence has changed the environments for the better rather than just emptied them of gems.
The varied creature designs also help distinguish levels from each other, which is an essential improvement over the first game because of how players now need to revisit earlier levels. During the game Spyro gains three new abilities; climbing ladders, swimming, and performing a headbash that breaks certain objects. The starting level, Glimmer, features a prominent ladder with an NPC who asks Spyro to return after he has learnt how to climb it, which clearly highlights Spyro 2‘s changes for both new and returning players. Backtracking isn’t excessive – only one or two levels in each home world require the skill unlocked in the next home world – and the extra level design and challenge opportunities created by Spyro’s expanded moveset far outweigh the potential frustration of needing to defeat some enemies again.
Similarly, Spyro 2 enforces a more restrictive progression system than Spyro the Dragon. Each level in the first two homeworlds contains a unique talisman found by reaching the portal home, plus orbs collected by completing minigames. Although most areas are unlocked by collecting a specific number of orbs, you must also obtain every talisman to access the final homeworld. Including extra restrictions could have been annoying, but instead the game is just limited enough to make its structure clear and to encourage players to retry levels that they haven’t finished yet.
For me, the minor addition of showing talisman and orb progress for each level on its portal is really useful. This change let me instantly know if I had completed each level or not, so I could avoid the issue which confounded me in Spyro the Dragon. (I became stuck at 97% completion for ages because I had entirely overlooked one level, which I could only solve by flying through every portal in the game).
Another reason why I prefer Spyro 2 over the first game is its improved control scheme. In Spyro 2, pressing the Y/ Triangle button while gliding makes Spyro gain extra height and briefly hover, which allows you to more easily glide over long distances and reach tricky platforms more precisely. Hovering is intuitive to use, and it feels far more agile than the previous system of simply pushing Spyro into a ledge and hoping that will trigger his mantle animation. The Reignited version, with its analogue controls, makes Spyro even more nimble and responsive.
Compared to its predecessor, Spyro 2 puts more emphasis on discovering secrets through long glides rather than by using supercharge jumps, which works together with the improved gliding controls. Supercharge and superflame powerups return, alongside new superflight and superfreeze powers. This time, powerups aren’t just used for navigating levels, but for completing minigames to earn orbs.
These minigames are given out by NPCs, which helps further connect your actions to the world you are visiting. Challenges include collecting items, racing, shooting targets, and defeating specific enemies. Aside from a couple of frustrating exceptions, they are mostly easy to grasp. Their presence resolves one of the largest problems with Spyro the Dragon, by making levels more individual and by giving players reasons to learn all of Spyro’s abilities.
Even outside of minigames, the levels have more varied designs, from peaceful monastic communities, to tropical marshlands, to robot-staffed factories with sheep piloting UFOs. Rather than progressing alone from start to end, Spyro may need to shepherd other creatures through a level, or break open parts of the level using powerups.
Finally, the end of the game is just as strong as its beginning. Getting to take Spyro to Dragon Shores and give him his desired vacation is a really good finishing level, as it both ties the game off neatly and feels like a true discovery. The 100% completion reward can apparently transfer across into a new game file – I haven’t tried it myself but I can imagine that being incredibly fun to do. (It can also be used to unlock specific achievements more easily if you’re chasing Gamerscore).
Spyro 2 is a very strong collectible platformer in its own right. For me, it’s the epitome of how a sequel should build upon an initial release to enhance its unique character and improve its strengths. Spyro 2 retains the promising concept, controls and aesthetics of the first game, while countering its weaknesses – like the lackluster boss fights and lack of variety – through new abilities, minigames, missions and a larger pool of level themes. Together these changes create a fun and charming game that offers plenty to do but never becomes stale.
Although Spyro 2 doesn’t quite have the same interesting sense of isolation and tranquility that I perceived in the first game, its objective improvements are a fair reward. In comparison to games released now, it is still unobtrusive and still offers some choice in which levels to complete in which order.
As with the first game, the original version of Spyro 2 still holds up well today. However, I would say that the Reignited version is the optimal way to play it, especially as the Reignited trilogy can be cheaper than finding the three original PS1 discs.