I’ve been playing the original Tomb Raider on the PS3 recently. It’s the only console that we’ve unpacked since moving here (and also the only one we have the right cable with to make it work with my partner’s TV). I had a sudden aching to play the Anniversary version, but PS2 disks don’t work in our PS3 (although my partner points out that they may work with other editions of the console). I looked on the PlayStation Store and it wasn’t available for download.
So I looked online and found The Tomb Raider Trilogy disk, and promptly ordered it! It contains three second-era Tomb Raider games on the same disk; Legend, Anniversary, and Underworld.
These were all games I’d played before, but I fancied playing them again, and although I didn’t care for the other two as much as I did for Anniversary, I got the disk, and reasoned to myself that I could at least blog about it afterwards.
The disk menu itself is incredibly simple; you can either press “Games” or “Extras,” and “Games” takes you to the option of Legend, Anniversary, or Underworld. I played Anniversary first, because that was why I bought the disk.
I must also warn you, before we go any further, that all of my photos are extremely bad, taken of the TV screen with my phone. I am very very sorry. The visual quality of the games is a lot better than I am showing you.
Tomb Raider: Anniversary is a re-imagining of the original game’s story. Let’s talk about that for a bit. I was 6 or 7 years old when the first game came out. I’m pretty sure it was the first game we actually got for the original PlayStation console. I loved it, and I kept loving it, playing it usually once a year (with some gaps for various reasons). There’s a 5-year age gap between me and my younger sister; she wound up loving Tomb Raider too and it’s a thing that bonds us.
Now I’m going to confess something: Lara Croft was my first crush. More the promotional 3D images of her than the blocky in-game version.
I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be her or I wanted to marry her. But it made me realise that I liked women. And I was very small at the time so I didn’t know there was a word for that or even that it was really a thing. But it is difficult to put into words the impact that Tomb Raider has had on my life.
I’m bummed that there is a lack of consistency, that they’ve changed her appearance so much, that they’ve changed her original backstory, that the original theme music doesn’t get used, and that Shelley Blond didn’t keep doing Lara’s voice. But Anniversary was still something I fell in love with.
The story still takes place in 1996. The only year of birth I can find for Lara Croft is 1968, making her 21 years older than me, and 28 years old at the time of this adventure (cue another quarter-life crisis for me).
As in the original incarnation, Lara is approached by Larson to recruit her to find the Atlantean Scion for Jacqueline Natla. We already know how the story goes, and it’s largely the same, with added bits about Lara’s father.
Anniversary is honestly a beautiful game. The original was beautiful enough, especially the Egyptian levels, I’d decorate a room in my house like that if I could figure out how.
But seeing these same levels in their modern, less-blocky glory is really something. Even if that glory has now become ten years old itself somehow 😱.
Some of the original secrets areas are honoured in this incarnation of the game, such as in the Mountain Caves level, an iteration of the original Caves. Secrets themselves in Anniversary are different, though. Instead of being rewarded for finding medipacks or ammunition in a hidden place (although there are still plenty of those around), you now hunt for generic artefacts, which are shaped to match the theme of the area you are currently in, and also relics, super special items that will tell you a bit of history about the people of the area. Some of them are a real bitch to get to (e.g. climbing flaming towers on a timer; I’m looking at you, Midas’ Palace), but, worth it if you find it really fun to unlock all the outfits! (P.S. you can’t really go wrong with Stella’s Tomb Raider Site if you need to look something up.)
(I am the world’s most amateur Egyptologist.)
Something else relics and artefacts will do is unlock cheats. You can switch cheats on and off from the menu. The two most notable for me are Infinite Breath and Textureless Mode. The former allows you to swim underwater without drowning ridiculously soon (you better believe I switched that on), and the latter allows you to, you might have guessed, go through levels with all the texturing missing. It’s fun to play through the game like this, and it can make some things more obvious, other things get harder without a bit of helpful design over the top though.
Cheats and outfits come into play when you replay levels. Anniversary does have a fair bit of replay value; you can go back to levels in your chosen outfits and pick up missed artefacts, or play the time trials to unlock further stuff. I haven’t tried any of the PS3 time trials yet but some of the PS2 ones were bloody unpopular with me.
I do wish some of the levels were closer in design to their original counterparts (especially Atlantis, which had pulsing veins on the walls), although at the same time I suppose they had to find a way to insert second-era Tomb Raider mechanics.
I think my least favourite part of the whole game is that bloody timed horizontal pole in Obelisk of Khamoon that leads to an artefact. I think I did it once on the PS2 version and I haven’t done it yet this time, it’s a nightmare. On the other hand, I found the bladed traps in this level so much easier to deal with this time around, either because they’ve been made more tolerable on this disk or my gaming has improved somehow in the last ten years.
I wish the original soundtrack had made a bit more of an appearance instead of just the remixed pieces, and I also prefer the original Croft Manor to how it is now, but I might just be being an old fuddy-duddy.
Either way, Anniversary is a lovely game, and if you don’t care much for the story of Tomb Raider, I’m fairly certain it can make you care, if you’re not into Tomb Raider yet this is not a terrible place to get started.
Next up, I played Legend on the Trilogy disk. This was the first second-era Tomb Raider game, it changed Lara’s backstory somewhat and also has very different gameplay elements to its predecessors.
Lara’s original backstory involved her being the only survivor of a plane crash in the Himalayas at the age of 21, which led to her eventually becoming an explorer/ raider of tombs (archaeologists hate people like Lara, she essentially just loots places and keeps things for herself). Her wealthy parents disowned her and she wrote to fund her trips.
In Legend, Lara’s plane crash instead happened when she was 9, and on a private plane with her mother, Amelia Croft. They sheltered in Nepalese ruins when Amelia suddenly vanished into thin air after touching a sword, and is presumed dead.
The theme music and soundtrack of Legend samples Ailein duinn, an old Gaelic-language song whose title means “Dark-haired Alan.” While obviously about a man, I think it is used to represent Lara’s search for her mother, particularly with the repetition of the line Ò hì shiùbhlainn leat which is basically “I would go with you if I could.”
The plot of the Legend game revolves around Lara trying to find out what the dealy is with that sword, and she is frequently interrupted by the mercenaries of a man named James Rutland, who is seriously trying to go for a Jeff Goldblum vibe.
There’s also an old-friend-turned-nemesis, and a playable flashback. The most infuriating thing about this flashback, is that you can die in it. How can you die in your own memory?! Like much of the Legend gameplay, it’s also buggy as fuck.
Lara travels to different locations, connecting the sword to Arthurian legend, which in turn is connected to equivalent legends around the world.
Legend has a lot of things in it that annoy me.
- The camera angle sometimes does a 180 when you pull up onto a ledge, and so when you press on the joystick to keep going forwards, you actually throw yourself back off of the ledge again.
- Long cutscenes and annoying dialogue are positioned after checkpoints, so if you die doing something tricky, you have to watch and read/ hear the same things again and again until you go a bit mad.
- You can only carry 3 medipacks at once.
- There is a confusing blue icon that appears; it’s sort of a silhouette of Lara in mid-air aiming her guns. The icon basically means “run for your life in this part because there is probably a boulder or something” but it doesn’t convey that at all.
- Some of the dialogue honestly made me cringe.
- There is a lot of nonsense on a bike. You have to go at fast speeds, for bloody ages, while dealing with enemies, and no option to stop and get off or otherwise have a break from it, and it’s really easy to die by smashing into something. They could have at least played Michael Jackson’s Speed Demon over the top of these parts but they didn’t.
- I keep accidentally throwing grenades because they switched the controls; what normally makes Lara fire a gun instead makes her throw grenades and I HATE IT SO MUCH.
- There are a lot of stupid mechanisms for stupid reasons. Obviously, ruins are places that are not intact. They are old and crumbly. Things are missing. But there are mechanisms that you have to get working in this game, that I can honestly not imagine what their purpose would have been when the building was home to an active civilisation.
- Disappointing lack of Croft Manor consistency even with other second-era games. And you can’t even go in the garden?!
Perhaps the most frustrating part of all is that it’s a bit faddish and gadgetty. Lara constantly has two guys talking in her ear about stuff, there’s a PDA in her pocket and some binoculars that highlight various things. I understand that things have moved on since 1996, but it all seems a bit overkill.
There’s a fun part set under a building in England where you quite literally get to surf on a coffin or two, although sadly there was quite a substantial bug here. There was meant to be a big metal platform lift in an open area. It just plain wasn’t there, so I couldn’t exit the area and I had to reload my save file and go back to an earlier point in the level.
The game is really quite short, and it’s certainly not my most favourite Tomb Raider (having said that, I definitely don’t hate it as much as The Last Revelation). It is, however, something you should probably give a go. Especially if you want to understand anything going on in . . .
This follows on from the story of Legend, Lara is approximately 40, and as you may infer from the title, she is tracking down the physical locations of various afterlives, in search of her mother.
As usual, my pictures don’t do the game justice.
The main menu of this game was immediately annoying. Trying to aim for a particular option, despite having the physical joystick sensibly pointed where you want it to be, caused the selection to be bounced around all over the shop.
There’s no Croft Manor option on the menu either. Instead, you start the game with it being on fire.
The controls have changed AGAIN, which is very jarring immediately after finishing Legend and having adapted to them. Of course, when I’m trying to aim, those bloody grenades get thrown again.
Grenades were cool for about 5 minutes back in Tomb Raider 2 when you had a Grenade Launcher.
Lara’s movements are a lot flightier than they were in the previous game, but this does seem to make ridiculous jumps a bit easier because she just sort of ends up on the other side. Climbable walls and surfaces are now a thing, although Lara gets a serious case of spaghetti legs while using them.
Balancing on beams is also a thing, you have to tap the joystick forward a bit at a time though, otherwise she falls off. Positioning the camera behind you doesn’t seem to help as much with making jumps as it does in the other games. The camera also likes to spiral off in unhelpful directions of its own volition.
Natla appears again, though I shall try not to spoil the context by saying so, and she has had another appearance change.
There are aggressive spiders hiding in bushes. But also, beautiful colourful parrots perched in places. I love them so much.
The developers seem to have learned a bit from Legend’s checkpoints, and the parts of the game that involve riding a bike are also far less nonsensical.
I guess this is my 2nd-favourite game of the second Tomb Raider era.
This little tune here is very sad in more ways than one.
It’s the last time you’ll hear the notes from the original Tomb Raider melody, it seems very much to be a farewell to the last vestiges of the original Lara.
I suppose they’ve had to reboot things, from a commercial standpoint, because nobody will want to see an independent 60 year old woman raiding tombs (I would, but I am not their entire customer base). They might also feel it’s hard to justify her still being single at her age, but they want to keep her single so that she’s appealing to players, so they’ll just keep rebooting her younger and younger so that they solve both of the above issues.
Personally, I think she’s a lesbian loner who’s fine in that big house all by herself. She’s barely ever at home anyway!
My headcanon is that 2013’s Lara is actually original Lara’s daughter and that way I don’t have to get too distraught about the way things have gone. Oddly I do like the new Tomb Raider as a game in its own right.
And here’s something I’ve saved right for the bottom of this post so that you can avoid it if it’ll spoil things:
This moment mentally screwed-up 19-20 year old Letti for a while.