Tag Archives: analysis

Thoughts on America’s Greatest Otaku: Episode #1

I wasn't too into this show, but then there was a lady dressed as Sailor Venus with wings and it was all good. Anybody can dress as Sailor Moon with wings, but it's rare for Minako to get the angel wings she deserves.

Just so you know, the last reality show I watched was an episode of Top Chef where Cookie Monster, Elmo and Telly showed up to judge a baking Quickfire, and Padma totally talked to the Muppets like they were real people. For me, this was the pinnacle of reality television; they can stop making it now.

Nevertheless, I decided to give Tokyopop’s new reality show (or whatever it is) a shot, and while it certainly wasn’t stellar- five minutes in, I was considering turning it off out of boredom- it was better than I expected. I decided that I wouldn’t blog about it if it was really bad, because then all I’d end up doing is mocking the show, and that’s kind of a horrible thing to do when real people are involved. It turned out that it’s good enough that I can talk about it without mocking it, but not good enough that I’m not tempted to at points.

Otaku Who?

Right now, the biggest problem with the show is that the so-called “Otaku 6” have no personality, other than perhaps Stephan. That’s not to say they don’t actually have good personalities; maybe if I knew them, I would think they were the most charming, sparklingly effervescent otaku shut-in con-goers I knew, but that’s the problem- I don’t know them. At all.

I used to snobbily avoid all reality TV, but lately I’ve softened to some of the shows that have actual content other than “watch these people live in a house.” After watching many episodes of Top Chef, Cake Boss, and Next Great Baker (notice a theme?), I know that the one thing you can usually say about reality shows is that you get a strong feeling of the personalities of the various contestants- sometimes, you hate their guts, but you definitely know who they are, even after only an episode or two. The main thing the Otaku 6 did in this episode was stand around and try not to look too awkward when host (and Tpop founder) Stu Levy asked their guests questions. What’s the point of having them, if we’re not getting to know them?

Of course, the Otaku 6 aren’t the contestants- the four people in this episode who are in contention for the “Greatest Otaku” title are, and the interviews with them were actually interesting. Supposedly, the Otaku 6 are going to come into their own next episode and start doing more interviews, but I don’t know- as of right now, I would be having pretty much the same experience if Levy were just walking around and interviewing people single-handedly.

Also, the five or ten minutes at the beginning of the show spent introducing the 6 were by far the most boring part- I almost turned it off in a until they started interviewing the guy with the massive toy collection. Speaking of which…

I want this Sailor Moon figure this guy has so badly...and thanks to this show, I now KNOW WHERE HE LIVES.

A Definition of Otaku After My Own Heart

They seem to be using a rather inclusive definition of otaku- one contestant’s American comics collection is counted as part of his otaku swag, and some of the venues aren’t strictly Japanese or J-culture related; I couldn’t figure out what the otaku connection with that game company was, other than the fact that the art in their games was MAYBE a little anime-inspired.

This doesn’t bother me- the girl who puts Tomb Raider analysis on her otaku blog- but expect J-culture snobs to bitch and moan about this like there’s no tomorrow. At the very least, I promise that if I stop watching it, it will be for a much less stupid reason.

Chance of anyone watching this not knowing what "Jpop" means: .0000000001%. It's like the Oni system (and I bet you're such an otaku you got that reference too.)

Split Focus

The last thing of note is the fact that the show seems to be somewhat ambivalent about whom it’s targeted at. Every otaku-related term is described in an on-screen post it, which I suppose is nice for people who don’t know squat about otaku culture, but how many of them are actually watching this? Furthermore, how many people who know about this show really need WoW explained as “a popular online role-playing game”?

If it was just the post-its I could let it slide, but it seems like everything is over-explained just on the off chance that someone grew up in some wasteland where even Pickachu’s adorable face never graced their TV screens, and it’s annoying. I thought this was supposed to be a show by-otaku, for otaku, at least in theory- why are they catering to the 1% who discovered this site through something other than an enthusiast website?

Best: -The interviews with all four of the Greatest Otaku hopefuls. Not only was it fun seeing those massive collections, but they seem to have tried to pick people who have some kind of talent in addition to just buying everything under the sun.

-That little moment when Levy picked up that girl’s Nia dolfie, and though she was smiling you could tell she was thinking “if he breaks my $700 doll I will absolutely set the Tokyopop offices on fire.”

Part of me is almost sorry that he didn't just drop it, just to see what would have happened. Does that make me a terrible person?

Worst: The really poor play-acting Levy and the guys did a few times. If you’re going to do an obviously rehearsed “hey, what are THESE doing here?” sort of bit, you have to go so far over the top that it’s hilariously cheesy, not just kind of throw it out there and hope for the best. Those were perhaps the only moments when the show started to cross the line into “I can’t believe I’m watching this” territory.

Overall, it was definitely not a total waste of 40 minutes of my life. But would I bother if I didn’t have a blog called Otakusphere? I’m really not sure at this point, but I’ll give it another episode or two at least.

Tomb Raider, Level 6: The Coliseum

Screenshots for this level taken from TombRaiderChronicles.com, since Katie's TR site doesn't have screens from this level for some reason.

Because Greece and Rome are Clearly Right Next to Each Other

On some level, I always assumed that the reason there was a coliseum at this point was because Lara had somehow passed- on foot- from Greece into Rome. Now in my regular, non-Tomb Raider life, I’m well aware of the fact that Greece and Rome are not within easy walking distance, but it never bothered me until I came back to this game for this project. Somehow, while playing Tomb Raider, my brain has protected me all this time from the crushing tyranny of geography.

The official Prima strategy guide tries to play it both ways: “Here’s a real treat! A Greek Coliseum complete with maniac lions roaming around.” No, strategy guide, we know coliseums are not Greek; don’t try to be clever (although in fairness, the guide does point out a major shortcut in this level, so maybe it is a bit clever.)

There's a lot of fighting to be had, but that's pretty much neutral as far as I'm concerned. Shooting the lions and gorillas in the middle of the coliseum from the stands is fun, in a totally unfair, shooting-fish-in-a-barrel sort of way.

I think I must have played this level about ten times over the past week or so while trying to figure out what I was going to say about it. It’s another one of those levels that people tend to remember, but I’m honestly not sure how much I like it; once you’ve reached the main section of the level and have that “oh cool, it’s a coliseum,” moment, the level empties its bag of tricks rather quickly. The traps are fairly pedestrian, running around the “stands” gets repetitive (and disappointing, due to an inexplicable lack of pick-ups there), and it’s actually one of the more simplistic levels in the game.

Part of the problem here is probably me, since the concept of a coliseum doesn’t speak to my imagination as much as a lot of the other concepts in the game do- I never bothered to see Gladiator, and never really had much of an interest in Roman culture, period. I think some people probably played this level soaking up the atmosphere, thinking what it must have been like to live in Roman times and watch actual gladiators battle actual lions for their actual larynges, but my mind doesn’t tend to go in that direction, and that’s really not the game’s fault.

There's a shortcut to the lower balcony here- you can backflip onto the rock, jump forward and grab the ledge. It requires such precise placement that it's not really much of a shortcut, although I still feel awfully proud of myself when I pull it off.

All that said, this level does have some rather interesting touches. They totally fake you out with the ending- it seems so obvious that the goal of the level must be to get through the giant double doors on the balcony, since, like trained seals, by this point we have learned to associate large doors with progression. It’s actually kind of a surprise when the level ends with Lara underwater.

We also get a save crystal about one minute before the end of the level (behind the aforementioned double doors), which is quite odd. In theory, you could die in the underwater passage before you complete the level, so the crystal isn’t entirely useless, but it still seems out of place.

Stupid Pierre Tricks

On the plus side, for people who enjoy messing around with Pierre (and I hope that includes you and everyone you know), this level happens to be a particularly fun place to play around with his wacky disappearing-mechanics. Since the stands of the coliseum are long straight-aways, Pierre can have a hard time finding a decent corner to slip behind for his ninja routine, and as a result, spends a tremendous amount of time getting shot. I think I shot at him once for five minutes straight.

Interestingly, he will often run far away from Lara, and then loop around back for some more punishment- as though he suddenly decided “No, I’m not going to be a sissy-man and run away, but rather be an HOMME about this and finish off ma petite* once and for all! ,” then changes his mind again sixty rounds later.

I think if you keep him out and about long enough, he will basically teleport away from you- at one point, the camera angle changed when Lara rolled, and by the time I reoriented the camera, he was gone. Poof. Bam. Like Nightcrawler or something.

Based on this indisputable in-game evidence, I have now concluded that Pierre Dupont is a  sorcerer.

If you have another explanation, hey, knock yourself out.

It is now my intention to gather more evidence to back up this exciting new theory in the realm of Tomb Raider scholarship.

Best: It’s really satisfying the first time you get to the elevated room with the chaise lounges, I mean the Emperor’s Balcony, according to the strategy guide. Climbing on the rocks to get to the balcony is fun in that Lost Valley I-love-jumping-on-stuff way, and it’s just cool looking out at the expanse of the coliseum once you’ve ascended.

Worst: The first minute or so of the level is boring. You might be thinking “hey, it’s the FIRST ROOM, why be so harsh?” but think about it: we just did HOW MUCH work to open that door in the bowels of St. Francis Folly? I don’t know about you, but I was expecting more from the other side of that uber-defended door than a room full of sand and a disoriented crocodile. Plus, I find the lack of pick-ups in the stands area to be truly disappointing.

Rating: Three Uzi Clips Out of Five. The idea of the coliseum, geographic switcheroo aside, is probably great, but the execution could have been better as far as I’m concerned.

Next up: Palace Midas, or I no longer care about the whole Greece/Rome mix-up because OMG SHINY THINGS!

*Yes, all of my knowledge of French comes from Gambit of the X-Men. Why do you ask?

Edit: I just realized that Katie’s TR Screenshots DOES have screens of this level, I just missed them- considering I’m working on Palace Midas now I think I’m going to let it slide, however.

Parasite Eve Playthrough, Part 1

I confess: I love Parasite Eve. Objectively, I’m not even sure it’s that good.

But some things are deeply influential to a specific individual, and it’s not because they’re great –quality has nothing to do with it. It’s a certain alchemy of personality, timing, and some x-factor that I’ll never be able to nail down. Parasite Eve was one of the first games I played, and it had a huge effect on my personal aesthetics.

Come to think of it, between this and Tomb Raider, I seem to have a thing for games featuring young women spelunking in dark places. What does this say about me? That I wish I was a spelunker? Where does one go to spelunk these days?

Keep in mind, I’m not encouraging everyone to go out and pick up a copy of the game. PS1 games from that era have aged poorly in the graphics department, and while I think the writing in PE is actually underrated, there’s nothing about it that’s sufficiently high quality to make it especially worth playing compared to more recent fare. However, as a startlingly ambitious combination of cop show, psychological thriller, Doctor Who-esque Science Fantasy, dungeon crawling, character building, gun collecting, and techno music put together in an RPG that celebrates an empty Manhattan that never was, it’s a unique piece of gaming history.

The protagonist of Parasite Eve is rookie NYC cop Aya Brea, proficient with every firearm under the sun and totally the women I’d fall for if I played on the other team (and err, if she weren’t fictional I suppose. I sometimes forget that part.) However, I’m straight, and it does have to be said that Aya can be a little dense– her dialogue is littered with exclamations like “What? How can that be!?” and “No!” and “What do you mean my mitochondria are evolving at an unusually accelerated rate?” People have knocked the character for that, but to be fair, I kind of like that about her. We can’t all be Rhodes Scholars. She’s already gorgeous, can handle a rifle as well as Solid Snake, and soon enough, will also have superpowers. There’s a fine line between idealized and insufferable, you know?

This hilariously awful date is probably much more hilarious if you happen to be a woman and have had this experience.

Note on the Screens: In years past I have always, always kept the default character names in RPGs out of respect for the writers’ intentions, but in some of the following screens you will see that Aya’s name is Karen for this playthrough. Is this an attempt to tag all of my screens so they aren’t easily stolen, or a sign of my growing megalomania? You decide.

The game starts with Aya on a hilariously awful date, with an escort who says things like “I had my Dad get me the best seats for us tonight!” Y’know, I wonder how much the average guy gamer likes this opening, because being a woman probably makes it about ten thousand times better. It’s like, we’ve all been on this date, but unfortunately unlike Aya, we weren’t packing heat…well, actually I was once, but that’s a story best left for another day.

Fortunately possessed Opera Singer Melissa (known from this point on as Eve) brings a

You know, maybe this is just sour grapes because I never got the hang of playing the violin, but I would be totally cool with it if more games opened with Carnegie Hall being set on fire.

premature end to Aya’s date by lighting Carnegie Hall on fire. I used to just pretend that I had cramps.

While the other occupants of the theater are busy burning to death, Aya’s all business; she draws her gun and orders her mysteriously-not-burning date out of the theater. If I were some kind of fancy internet guru, I would make an animation of Aya body-checking her date out of the way, because that’s exactly what she does here. Minor plot hole: It’s repeated many times that Aya is the sole survivor of the Carnegie Hall Incident, only her boyfriend mysteriously escapes the theater and is never mentioned again. I guess some of her special mitochondria must have rubbed off on him when he was helping her off with her coat.

I can't help but feel that Aya is kind of happy to have a reason to get rid of her date prematurely, carnage or not.

Aya approaches Eve in the name of the NYPD, and Eve starts starts demonstrating some of the problems with Japanese-to-English translation that plague this game. The Japanese use the word “body” much more often than English speakers, but a too-literal translation will often keep the word, leading to awkwardness. “I’m burning up!” has a very different connotation then “My body is getting HOT!” Guess which version this game goes with.

Localization Team: I BLAME YOU.

A pathetically easy boss fight ensues, during which Aya’s “Parasite Energy” awakens due to her proximity to Eve, meaning she has a green PE bar under her health from now on and will start learning spells to cast as she levels up. Technically I guess they’re not “spells”, they’re more like “benevolent mutations” or “super-evolved mitochondrial abilities”, but I’m going to use the word spell from now on because it’s shorter. Anyway, Eve babbles something about a connection between her and Aya (Nooo? REALLY?), and Aya has the first of about forty flashbacks to a time she was in the hospital as a small child that she barely remembers. Eve floats offstage, and Aya follows.

At this point, the story sequences start to dwindle and you begin to experience the actual gameplay of PE–in the past kiddies, opening non-playable sequences used to last for about five minutes as opposed to three hours– which I will save for the next installment. The main event is that Aya starts ransacking the basement of Carnegie Hall while looking for Eve, and mysteriously finds lots of ammo instead. Illogical perhaps, but I kind of like the idea that all of the musicians who perform at Carnegie Hall have been stockpiling bullets just in case that first-chair violinist needs to be put in their place….actually, that’s not as far from the truth as you might at first think.

Next time on Parasite Eve: Spelunking in the rat-infested sewers beneath Carnegie Hall is no reason not to look fabulous. In the interests of full disclosure my next blog entry will probably be another installment of the Tomb Raider project, but you know what I mean.

(Note: Just like the Tomb Raider Project, this was originally posted as a Destructoid Cblog; I am moving my game playthroughs over here for posterity. These entries are edited slightly differently than they were in their first posting.)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Episode 5 Thoughts

I roughed out a concept for Sayaka preparing to do her own version of "Unlimited Blade Works", but decided not to do a finished piece. I kind of like it as a rough sketch, though.

Well, Puella Magi Madoka Magica has moved up in the hierarchy from “Things I might want to mention once and a while,” to “things I must blog about NAO!”

I figured I’d just jot down a few of my thoughts and questions about the show at this juncture, rather than recap it. Well, okay, here’s your recap: Two magical girls fought. Kyoko is a bitch. There, done. Needless to say, spoilers abound.

Thoughts on Episode #5:

1.I’m glad Sayaka has regenerative powers- leads me to believe that they’re not looking to bump her off so quickly; I don’t think I could handle losing another sympathetic character at this point. However, nothing seems to be off-limits with this show, so who knows.

2. I was really confused by what Homura’s power seemed to be, until @Rangoric pointed out that it seemed to be like the property of Gae Bolg in Fate/Stay Night: An inversion of cause and effect. Everything somehow misses Homura, because the effect of her power is that everything will miss her. I thought after her battle in episode #3 (against Charlotte) that she had some sort of weird displacement thing going on, but his explanation makes a lot more sense to me. It really makes me wonder how she’s going to handle fighting Kyoko, since it seems to be such a defensive power. How can she damage her?

3. Oh, and speaking of Kyoko, I know I’m like, SUPPOSED to hate her, but uh…yeah, mission accomplished there, guys. Why can’t a witch come and eat HER head?

Of course, with this show, I should be careful what I wish for- they’ll probably only kill her off after they’ve done some huge redemption arc and revealed that she was actually abused by her older brother at a young age, leading to her callous attitude, and inside she’s the sweetest little girl there is. Dammit.

4. I’m surprised no one on the show has even mentioned the possibility of bringing Mami back through wishing. I know a lot of fans were pleased that the series didn’t immediately go that route, but it seems odd that it wouldn’t occur to Madoka. I don’t think Madoka will use her wish to bring Mami back, because I’m pretty sure she’s going to use her wish in a more interesting way, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone did. I may not normally be keen on characters coming back from the dead, but I’d be okay with it in this instance, since I’d trust the show to do something interesting with it.

However, the fact that Mami’s silhouette is the only one depicted sitting down in the ending leads me to believe she’s not coming back:(.

5. Speaking of wishes, what would happen if a girl wished for there to be no more witches? According to Kyubey (um, assuming he can be trusted, which is increasingly doubtful), NOTHING is off-limits for the wish. I will be a little disappointed if the series never addresses this question (or something similar), even if it’s just Kyubey pointing out the limitations on wishes he can grant; it seems like such an obvious Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card.

6. Do you think “Unlimited Blade/Musket/Whatever Works” are an inherent property of Puella Magi, or was Sayaka just doing it because she’d seen Mami do it? I had assumed it was the former, but Rangoric thinks it’s the latter- he assumed that the fact that Sayaka did an attack that was derivative of Mami’s was meant to show that she was still inexperienced, copying instead of creating her own attacks.

7. I would like to bet someone a box of Pocky that Kyubey will be revealed to be Satan, or some close associate thereof, before the end of the series.

8. At this rate, I don’t see how Madoka could possibly become a magical girl until at least episode 12 or 13, if even then. What would be a bigger subversion; if she ends the series without becoming a magical girl at all, or she becomes one, but her outfit is different than it is in the OP? Come to think of it, I honestly think giving her a completely different costume would be more of an upset to the genre. Like, “What do you mean I can’t even trust the OP?”

Otakubites: Puella Magi Madoka Magica and DRRR!! dub

1. Late to the Party: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

I like this new policy; rather than actually watch a whole bunch of first episodes to determine what’s good, I wait a few weeks into the season until it’s been determined what the one show everyone absolutely cannot shut up about is, then just watch that one. Obviously to anyone who’s been on Twitter in the last month, that show currently is Madoka Magika. Beware, those who have not seen through episode 4; spoilers abound.

I’m hesitant to call it “The Evangelion of Magical Girl shows,” because that somehow sounds awfully pretentious, but it’s certainly an apt comparison. Mami’s last stand in episode 3 reminded me very much of Asuka’s final battle in The End of Evangelion; both fought in a state of kinetic euphoria, realizing for the first time that they were no longer alone, and the end came as an extremely brutal shock. Also, the soul searching Sayaka does before deciding to become a Puella Magi reminds me of what Shinji would be like if he ever took his head out of his ass for the five seconds it would take to think about somebody else for a change.

It probably is doing a disservice to the show, however, to just keep pointing out the Eva parallels, so I’ll just leave it at that- I think the show is ultimately going for something different. The deconstruction of the genre is obviously similar, but I don’t think the themes necessarily are.

Madoka is currently the weakest link in the show, which would bother me were it not for the fact that I think it’s very much intentional- I’m wondering if the fact that she’s actually considering using the wish she gets by becoming a magical girl, in order to become a magical girl, will create some interesting divide-by-zero sort of situation, hence the “potential” everyone keeps talking about.

I hope her potential isn’t just latent magic power that she was born with or something, because that’s REALLY boring; I’m interested in the idea that she could end up being the best magical girl because there’s nothing else in her personality to compete with it.

Also loving the ultra-modern aesthetic of the architecture on this show, it makes the “real world” look strangely cold and sterile compared to the reality marbles, complicating the good/evil dichotomy. I’m not going to say the witches are good- last time I checked, making people inhale chlorine gas is rather bad- but don’t you think it’s funny that those creatures in the reality marbles are so cute, and the colors are so warm? Meanwhile, Madoka’s house and school look like they’re part of the same giant, impersonal hospital. I’m not sure at this point whether or not that’s the result of the art direction going off and doing it’s own funky thing, or if it’s something deeper; I look forward to finding out.

2. On the Durarara!! Dub

With the first Durarara!! DVD collection hitting shelves now, the normal reviewer-type thing to do would be to say whether or not I recommend it. However, I’m currently sitting here surrounded by my full set of Durarara!! mini-figures, sipping coffee out of my Shizuo-emblazoned mug. I also have my very own “Certy” pencil case, and have written one of the wordiest blogs about the show ever. I think it’s safe to say I’m a fan of this show: do I think you should buy it? Hmm, y’think?

If you’re actually unfamiliar with the show and and are genuinely wondering whether or not to buy it, then I would direct you to Mr. Huber’s review. What interests me, and what I’ve been curious about ever since this show was licensed, is the English dub.

I was initially going to write up some impressions of the dub based on a five-episode screener, generously provided by Aniplex, but my first watch of the dub left me so ambivalent, I didn’t know what to say for a good while. Now that the show is actually, well, RELEASED, I think I’ll wait until my copy arrives and I can watch the full nine episodes properly before I get into analysis-crazy mode.

From what I’ve read, the general consensus is that the younger cast (Mikado, Masaomi, and Anri) are poor and/or miscast, while Celty, Shinra, Simon and Shizuo are good. Generally speaking, I agree with this- although I think there’s something interesting going on with Bryce Papenbrook’s performance as Masaomi that some fans may not have picked up on. Anyway, I think the problems with the dub are indicative of what happens when a dub is made for a hyper-specific, enthusiast audience; they let Izaya say “Shizu-chan” because they know everyone watching knows what honorifics mean, but he has to call Rio “Ms. Mazenda” in episode 2 because GOD FORBID he use her first name; Japanese people just don’t do that! Even though he’s speaking English!

Meh, I’m getting ahead of myself- more dub musings after my copy arrives.

3. Otaku USA Conclusions

Remember last time, when I was trying to decide whether or not to continue subscribing to Otaku USA? Well, I think I have my answer; the latest issue has a cover story about Evangelion by…RevolutionofEvangelion.org. Really? Without getting into my concerns with that particular site, they’ll just run an article that a fansite sends them? More importantly, they run it as the cover story?

Dropping a magazine because of one article is silly at best, but I haven’t really been enjoying it in general; their article on Excel Saga was of little interest to me, because I’d actually seen the show, and too much of their stuff seems to be like that- either “Hey, this anime exists-check it out!”, or something critically suspect like the Evangelion article.

I wish I could remember whether Animerica, which I loved to pieces, was actually much better back in the day, or I just wasn’t completely spoiled for otaku coverage yet. Rightly or wrongly, I certainly remember it being better.

4. Zettai Hero Project- Dropped, sort of

Dropped for now- currently replaying the early Tomb Raider games on my PSP after getting them through PSN. I do plan to eventually get back to it, but I also want to eventually play Disgaea 2 and Persona 3 Portable, both of which I have yet to touch in their console iterations. I don’t dislike ZHP, but it may be hard to get back to it with that kind of competition around.

Tomb Raider, Level 4: Tomb of Qualopec

Before I delve into ToQ, a note about a change to the TR project; due to the fact that I’ve switched over to playing these games on my PSP, which is about fifty times more comfortable for me for some reason, I’m not taking screenshots anymore. Fortunately, with a game this well-known that’s been out for this long, you can bet that someone else has taken great screens already, and that person is Katie. From here on out, unless I note otherwise, all screenshots come from the excellent Katie’s Tomb Raider Screenshots; Used with permission.

Oh, and it just sort of hit me the other day that since Tomb Raider is now owned by Square-Enix, there’s an otaku-connection there that I didn’t even realize. Go blog-cohesiveness!

Would You Like Some Tomb in Your Tomb Raider?

Level 4, Tomb of Qualopec, is actually the first tomb in all of Tomb Raider-dom; that sounds awfully significant. In fact, that makes me wish I liked it more.

Really, there’s nothing wrong with this level- it’s a respectable puzzle level 95% of the way through, if a little short, and the last 5% is remarkable due to actually exiting the temple and backtracking into the previous level (which is actually a lot more novel and exciting then it probably sounds) but it seems lackluster coming off of the Lost Valley high.

Last level: traverse vast distances, find loads of goodies tucked away in hidden alcoves, take in scenic views, and finally, meet lots of interesting dinosaurs and kill them all. This level: there are switches. Pulling them accomplishes things.

Still, the rampaging raptors add a bit of excitement to the otherwise dull proceedings; they’re a bit intimidating in these cramped surroundings.

Now, does anyone understand what’s going on with that one mummy whom Lara targets in this level? It would be one thing if you could shoot all the mummies, but the fact that only one of them can be targeted leads me to believe that he’s a special mummy- i.e., this is HIS tomb. Like, Qualopec himself sees what Lara’s about to do and isn’t keen on it. I like indulging the idea that some of the plot-related moments in this game are more subtle. EDIT: I have since read on the internet that this is widely believed to be the case by many TR fans; I guess I don’t get any analysis brownie points for this one.

This level also features a “boss” fight (a generous use of that term if ever there was one) with Larson, everyone’s favorite Southern stereotype dude. Stereotypes generally don’t even bother me (I just think of them as offensively hilarious), but I guess it’s worth pointing out that he is one nonetheless.

I find the conversation between Larson and Lara here more interesting than the rest of the actual level; not the bit about the scion, but the fact that Larson is threatening to shove something up Lara’s unmentionables, and she APOLOGIZES for interrupting him. I think this is what I initially loved about Lara’s character, and what’s been missing pretty much ever since; that absurd level of politeness, a relic of her prim and proper upbringing, that clashes tremendously with her day job. I don’t know, there’s something charming about a woman who will apologize to a cursing southern redneck (that she’s holding at GUNPOINT) because interrupting other people is just rude.

Showing his southern spirit, Larson cheerfully walks off the thirty or so rounds Lara introduced to his redneck hide. The first time I played this game, someone told me that Lara actually kills Larson here by snapping his neck with her kick; you can imagine how surprised I was when he started shooting at me later.

Best: Revisiting the previous level; revolutionary for the time, still surprising. The fact that there’s a new secret there is just icing on the cake. Of course, that means the best part of this level is technically STILL Lost Valley….

Worst: The spike pits that crop up all over the damn place. Okay, I understand the need for some challenge, but there’s something surprisingly gruesome about those primitive-looking spikes; yeah, you don’t see anything when Lara dies to them, but in some ways that just makes the idea of impalement worse.

Umm, why are they bloody? Do they actually get much use? If other people were impaled on these things, why are there no bodies? Wait, I’m just as happy they didn’t put in any bodies, that would be gross and I would have thrown down the controller, screaming. Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean….

Rating: Three Uzi Clips out of five; it would be two Uzi Clips, however the last two minutes of the level elevate it considerably.

Next up: St. Francis’ Folly, or Let’s Get Vertical.

Tomb Raider, Level 3: Lost Valley

LV is one of those iconic levels that defines it’s era as much as it does the game; Not only is LV one of the things that tons of gamers are inclined to remember when they reflect on this era of gaming history, but it puts on display everything that was good about the early 3D era. This was when being able to explore a 3D world was completely new and exciting, and the very act of running around and looking for stuff was still fun, because you were not yet bored senseless by the very act of running around looking for stuff.

That said, the fun of the level isn’t limited to the original novelty value; most early 3D games that were fun at the time are nowhere near as memorable. Some would say that it’s the dinosaurs that make this level great, especially because the surprise arrival of the T-Rex boss is one of the most memorable moments in gaming, period. I would have been inclined to agree, but while replaying this level recently for the TR project, I realized it’s something else: this level takes letting you climb on stuff to a new frontier.

What am I walking on here? I DO NOT CARE.

Sure, you can climb on stuff in tons of games, but Lost Valley is like the Citizen Kane of climbing on stuff: Do you see it? You can climb on it. Do you not see it? You can probably climb on it. You can climb on stuff that it makes no sense for you to be able to climb on. You can climb on stuff that in God’s name, you have no business climbing on, but there you are. Suddenly instead of a sedentary gamer and a reserved Miss Croft, you and Lara both are transformed into a wired three-year-old with ADHD who just ate a whole box of Chips Ahoy and isn’t about to stop until he’s put his tiny little feet on everything in the room. Only, instead of crying and being picked up by your mommy after your insane Romper-Room crazy-fest, you get to find the shotgun (finally).

“The One With All The Dinosaurs”

There is a slightly more subtle appeal to this level, in that it breaks your expectations of what the world of Tomb Raider is, and no matter what kind of technology they have at their disposal, no developer will be able to do this with the series again. Other than the fact that the wildlife in the previous two levels didn’t seem to have anything to eat, the world of TR up to this point has been fairly realistic. The ruins of the civilizations that Lara was exploring were rooted in reality (they say in the commentary for TR:A that archeologists actually found the real city of Vilcabamba in Peru not long after TR came out), and despite Lara’s monkey-like agility, the laws of physics seemed to be intact.

Then this level comes along, and you realize that instead of a stylized version of the real

"This is a definition of 'extinct' of which I was previously unaware."

world, you’re in a world where anything can happen. One minute you’re exploring realistic rocky caverns and shooting a few starving wolves (something you could do in real life if you were a bit of a strange individual and had no plans for the weekend), and the next minute you’re uncovering a valley hidden since before the Stone Age, and animals that have been extinct for billions of years are suddenly trying to eat you. But that doesn’t mean we’re off to crazy-town entirely; that historical foothold is always there, from the levels based on Greek mythology to serpentine Egyptian labyrinths. You can expect the grand majority of the game to be rooted in reality, but you can never let your guard down, because you never know when that bizarre alternate world is going to rise up and kick you out of your comfort zone with fanfare.

A lot of games try to do something similar and fail– it’s very easy for things to get over the top very quickly, and you cease being surprised by anything because your real-world expectations have been abandoned. In TR, there’s always that lure of actual history that drags you back from the edge, and the line between history and fantasy is handled with enough finesse that even though you know to expect the unexpected, the game can still throw you for a loop when it wants to.

If you can remember standing here, you are good at Tomb Raider.

This level also features one of the better puzzles in the game: It’s fairly intuitive, so you can figure it out without needing the design equivalent of a glowing neon sign over the solution, but not immediately obvious. There are also puzzles-within-puzzles, in that this is the first level that really requires you to understand Lara’s moveset. The standing jump, running jump, and back flip all have different distances and arcs, and navigating to the major set-piece of the level requires understanding which ones you need to do and in what order, and though it isn’t terribly difficult, you WILL spend a lot of time falling down the waterfall if you don’t pay attention.

By Tomb Raider III you needed to have a goddamned Masters Degree in Euclidean geometry to get across a small chasm, but at this point it was still fun.

Me, circa TR III. I kid because I love.

There's a physics teacher I know who could explain all of the reasons why this wouldn't work.

Best: It’s hard to pick just one feature as the best of the level, but the secrets in general are fantastic. Some, like the one that requires hanging onto a waterfall show the game’s age, but they’re all satisfying to find– it’s like the game rewards you with free goodies for going as far off the beaten path as possible. There are 5 secrets this time around, too.

Worst: Uh…the whole game isn’t like this? Well, putting my great affection for this level aside for a moment, it takes a while to figure out what the objective of the level is– finding the cogs in the valley that will allow you to work the mechanism to close the sluice gate, granting access to the cavern behind the waterfall–and even when you’ve figured it out, it takes a while to find those suckers in the huge (for that time) valley. This level does take a long time on first play.

Rating: 5 Uzi Clips out of 5. Perhaps not the biggest surprise of the year.

The next level is the relatively pedestrian Tomb of Qualopec; I feel claustrophobic already.

Also: This:

Oh, and GUESS WHO HAS THE SHOTGUN! Of course, it might have been more useful to have BEFORE fighting the T-Rex...shut up.

Tomb Raider, Level 2: City of Vilcabamba

Spoiler Warning: I mention plot points in Final Fantasy X and Metal Gear Solid in this entry. If you haven’t gotten around to playing either of those yet, you may want to just read the capsule review at the bottom.

“Vilcabamba” is a really fun word to say. Say it a few times and you’ll see what I mean. It also sounds like a delicious new flavor of Bubble Yum to me for some reason. This level really made me want gum.

This opening area seems to have been a town based around a well, which makes some nice real-world sense. It's completely unnecessary to enter the underwater portion of this level in order to advance, but some pretty cool secrets lie in that direction. I remember being really confused as a kid, because I kept trying to figure out how the underwater part helped you progress, and it doesn't.
This opening area seems to have been a town based around a well, which makes some nice real-world sense. It's completely unnecessary to enter the underwater portion of this level in order to advance, but some pretty cool secrets lie in that direction. I remember being really confused as a kid, because I kept trying to figure out how the underwater part helped you progress, and it doesn't.

These first few levels are going to get some of the longest write ups, both because they’re some of the most memorable, and they’re simply the ones I’ve played the most over the years. Like a lot of people, often I would pop in my TR disc and just play through the game up until somewhere around Tomb of Qualopec, and then move on, my tomb-raiding craving sated. I have played through the game in it’s entirety several times, but I’ve played through these first three or four levels way more times than any of the subsequent ones.

For the life of me, I have no idea why the Vilcabambans were so afraid of this stupid medipack. I can only speculate that this skull-adorned cubbyhole originally contained something decidedly more threatening.

In the case of City of Vilcabamba, there’s a lot to talk about: The wolf ambush that begins the level, the completely optional underwater pathway, the three(!) secret rooms, the contrast between the simple architecture of the village square versus the grand architecture of the temple area, etc. However, I’m going to go in depth about NONE of those things in favor of A RELIGIOUS TOMB RAIDING EXPERIENCE. You’ll see.

Every once in a while in a game you get a moment where you really understand the feeling that the developers have been trying the whole game to put across to you; Any decent game will communicate the developer’s intentions to a certain extent, but great games often have one or more moments that crystallize the essence of the game.

For lack of a better term, I tend to call these video-game religious experiences, but while I originally was using the term jokingly, it’s not really as silly as it sounds. The traditional idea of a religious experience is a powerful, beautiful message from a God, or creator received by a normal person, a denizen of the world: A video game religious experience is a powerful, beautiful message from a creator, the creator of the game (and humans are at their most divine when they create their own worlds) to a normal person– a denizen of their fictional domain.

 I start this level off the right way: Killing a bear. Lara 2, Bears 0. I’m an agnostic with no religious agenda, so if any of this is making you uncomfortable, don’t be: My point here is more about the potential for the creator of a game to move you, not about religion. If you don’t want to consider the religious parallel, just think of it as a moving experience.

Some examples of this phenomenon that I’ve found: In Final Fantasy X, when you’re on the road to Zanarkand after Tidus has finished telling his story (and you’re finally in the present), and everyone bands together to protect Yuna one last time, because the time is coming when they know they’ll never be able to protect her again; they don’t want to go forward, they want to stay on that journey forever, but they keep pushing forward, towards the dead world of Zanarkand, while the beautiful version of the main theme– Someday the Dream will End— plays in the background, fading slowly to the battle hymn of Zanarkand while the sky darkens and fills with pyreflies, the souls of the dead. In the original Metal Gear Solid, at the very end Naomi makes peace with Snake, and herself, as the sterile environment of the Shadow Moses nuclear facility is traded for beautiful footage of the Alaskan countryside– Snake is a creature of technology and war, like Shadow Moses, but when we see the snowy mountains and the wolves, we feel happy for him, because we know he’s going home. Even if just for a little while, he can have peace. And in Tomb Raider, there’s the suspended pathway in City of Vilcabamba.

The exterior of the temple. I've always assumed it was a temple, although there's no sign that says "Temple of Blah-Blah-Blah", so I could be wrong. Maybe it's a bathhouse with delusions of grandeur.

I mentioned in the Caves write-up that music is used very sparingly in Tomb Raider, and scenes like this are the big payoff for that creative choice. Toward the end of the level, as Lara ascends a tower of broken platforms in what was once a beautiful temple, we hear Lara’s theme for the first time in the game. It plays in the menu, but it’s in this instance that we really pay attention to it. It’s a surprisingly sad, mellow song– the opposite of what you’d expect if your only exposure to Lara was through the movies, or even the more recent games. It’s a song that makes you think of lost beauty, and quiet reflection, and more than anything, being alone. It’s the sound of patience, and persistence: it’s the siren’s song of a puzzle you need to solve. If you have a copy of PS1 TR, you can put the disc into your computer and listen to it like a soundtrack, and see what I mean.

Where the magic happens.

If Lara were in a lot of danger, with the kind of locked-door traps and spiked pits and stuff that start to pop up with increasing frequency later, Lara’s theme would seem out of place –it’s not a song of peril. But in this puzzle, there’s a safety net: the broken platforms are suspended, on both towers, over a pool of water. Even if Lara falls from on high, the water catches her harmlessly. Lara has to struggle to get to the top, but the tomb doesn’t really want her to fall. In one sense, she’s an invader– she’s “raiding” the premises– but this obstacle was not put in place to kill her. This was a city that was once alive, and though it’s been devastated by war, or famine, or disease, and it can never go back to that time when it was teeming with life, it can save this one lonely visitor, just this once. It will never let Lara in without making her work for it, but as long as she puts forth the effort, she’s allowed.

In this game, Lara and the tomb are always opposed to one another, as rivals, but never enemies: It’s not a battle, but a dialogue with the past, between this one mysterious woman and an even more mysterious place. In short, no matter how hard she fights, Lara is never trying to conquer the tomb; she’s trying to prove her worth. She’s trying to prove that she’s strong enough to be allowed inside. It’s not a battle, it’s courtship. Yes, there is a sexual reading there if you go in for that sort of thing, but honestly, that’s not what it’s really about.

And all of this is put across in about five seconds of gameplay: Lara ascends, the music plays, Lara falls, the water catches Lara and immediately, tirelessly, she begins to ascend again. Sometimes people say that Tomb Raider has a feminist message because Lara is a tough chick who carries guns, and I think that’s pretty much nonsense: if there is a hidden social message in TR, it’s a humanist one. Lara is the one we admire, as opposed to Larson or Pierre, not because she’s female, but because she’s the one who strives to understand. She’s the one who’s learned to read the hieroglyphics, she’s the one who won’t tolerate ruins being littered. If you come with arrogance and violence, you truly are a “raider”; Lara is a raider in name only. She’s not entirely there of her own free will: She can never resist exploring, because if she doesn’t, she may never find the source of that voice that’s singing her name.

Completely aside from all of this, this part of the game has a personal resonance to me. When I was young, and TR was the first game I ever played in it’s entirety– I’d played Mario at friends’ houses, but this was the first game I ever played at home, on my own console–I spent a long time on this level. I was still clumsy with the controller, I fell into the water a lot, and I got very frustrated. But I kept at it, because games were still exciting to me, every game was like new uncharted territory in a wonderful fantasyland, and I couldn’t wait to see the next level. Now when I play, I know the level like the back of my hand and I don’t fall at all, but I don’t feel that excitement anymore, because I know what’s ahead, and no game will ever excite me in the same way. I don’t fall in the water and I complete the level, but I can never go back to that time.

This entry is probably too close to literary analysis for a lot of people, and if you’ve been completely soured on the whole subject by pompous, overblown academic writing, I can’t really blame you. I’m attempting to describe what that tiny lump in my throat is when I play this part of the level. I don’t think about any of this consciously while I play, but this is what happens when I try to articulate that feeling. I pass this part of the level, I collect my thoughts, I pull a few switches, and I celebrate the beauty of discovery, the unknown. I plunder the last of the secret rooms, and I take a final swim. On some level, I mourn the loss of my childhood.

And then there’s another fucking bear.

He thinks he's so tough. Watch this, I've got the drop on this bastard.

BWAH HAHAH! Lara 3, Bears 0.

Best:

Need I say it? The suspended pathway in the temple. Additionally, the fact that there’s a whole underwater labyrinth that’s completely optional to the main course of the level is pretty awesome. I like levels that give you places to explore that are off the beaten path.

Worst: FUCKING BEARS.

Rating: 5 Uzi Clips out of 5: Still simple compared to the later levels, but it’s a beautiful simplicity.

Next Level: The Lost Valley: In which instead of a religious experience we have a MADE OF AWESOME experience. Totally not a spoiler: Next one is also a 5 uzi-clipper.

Tomb Raider, Level 1: Caves

If I were to go into great depth about every individual level, this TR project would be about 50,000 pages, so I’m going to give most levels a cursory inspection and only spend time on the ones that strike me as something special. I will also give all levels a rating out of five (medipacks? Uzi clips?), and do a best/worst section. In the event that I have nothing much to say about a level, I’ll just do the rating and the best/worst. Also, I’m not including the bonus levels that were added in the later PC versions because I have the PS originals. If I can find a version of TR Gold that works on my computer, I’ll play the bonus levels.

The journey of a ridiculous amount of videogames begins with a single step...

Caves doesn’t appear to have much going for it; graphically it’s the blandest level ever. Since it’s the first level, there isn’t much difficulty, and Lara is still on the outskirts of the ancient city, so there’s a lot of stone and grass and only small touches of Incan artwork. However, what it does do marvelously well is establish a mood that will persist throughout the entire game. Lara is alone, in a cave, exploring areas that haven’t been seen by human eyes in decades, if not longer. The architecture, what’s left of it, is grown over, if still majestic at times. Except for occasional whispers of sound, it is silent. Lara is a breath of life in a dead world. Even the presence of animal life doesn’t add any warmth; starvation has driven the wolves hostile. Anything that survives here, does so just barely.

Lara's Home is a little mini level where Lara teaches you her moveset. We also learn how marvelously British and patrician she is. Most people do not have a "Music Room" with a baby grand piano. Also, I never noticed this until taking screens for this blog, but I think the paintings on the wall are very pixelated versions of famous paintings. The one in this picture looks like a Jacques Louis-David to me.

They also introduce all of the most significant exploration features: Lara turns her head to look at a significant area (from the very beginning she always mysteriously knows things that you do not), music is rare and only appears when something important is about to happen and you need to step up your game, and if you’re thorough, you can hear that deeply satisfying “ta-dah!” sound that heralds a secret multiple times.

BEARS! I didn't have to go out of my way to kill this guy, but I did out of a sense of duty. I watch the Colbert Report.

We also get the first Bear of the game, who functions as a kind of hidden mini-boss (it’s not necessary to kill him, but you get access to another medipack if you do), showing that Tomb Raider was taking the fight to the bears ten years before Stephen Colbert made it cool. Should you make the mistake of fighting the bear up close and personal instead of plinking away at it from a safe perch, you will learn very swiftly that the only good bear in Tomb Raider is a dead bear. The same applies to T-Rexes, but that’s later.

In this area some wolves rush at you and you hear the rousing action music for the first time. It's pretty surprising the first time you play because the dead world of Caves has lulled you into a false sense of security by this point. Unfortunately, the wolves are not in this pic because I got impatient and killed them before I could take a screen. Whoops. It was beautiful, I swear.

Best: Backflipping up the marble stairs away from the wolves while the TR action theme plays. Still exhilarating after all these years.

Worst: The timed switch puzzle. In some respects it’s good because it forces you to get a little tighter with the controls if you’ve just been winging it up to now, but the controls in TR aren’t well suited for this sort of puzzle. Fortunately the grand majority of the puzzles in the game are not timed.

This little secret room tucked into the first level is a good example of the secrets in the game-- the items you got were unimportant, it was finding a hidden realm within a hidden realm that was satisfying. Also, you can see some of the Incan style on the giant idol.

Overall Ranking: 2 Uzi Clips out of 5. It’s simple, but it has to score higher than 1 because a)It’s good enough to lure you into playing the rest of the game b) the simplicity is intentional and c)the occasional musical cues add a lot of atmosphere.

The times on these may end up being off from what you would expect, since it can take me a while to set up screenshots and whatnot.

Playing Tomb Raider from the Beginning: MADNESS

A quick take on Lara Croft in MS Paint; I find doodling in paint to be surprisingly fun. She looks kind of worried that raptors are about to sneak up on her, though.

When I first started playing Tomb Raider in high school, I was briefly obsessed with the game and commented to a classmate that I would love to be a professional tomb raider when I grew up. It seemed so perfect: I had long brown hair, I was kind of a stuck-up bitch, I liked nature hikes and firearms and shiny things, so I was halfway to being Lara already.

Then this dude reminded me that another term for tomb raiding is grave robbing, and that kind of took all the fun out of that idea. It’s kind of like how Pirates of the Caribbean (or any of the dozens of Japanese RPGs that romanticize pirating), can get you really psyched up about the idea of being a pirate, until you remember that regardless of whether or not they’re charming rogues, pirates are thieves. And additionally, they might even rape and pillage. It’s not a pretty picture.

Suffice to say, tomb raiding is one of those pursuits best left exclusively to video games. One of my ideas for game blogging was to play through all of the TR games, in order, and write about them like some sort of adventure game anthropologist. Keep in mind that while this entry marks the beginning of that project, I fully expect to die somewhere in the middle of The Last Revelation— if I’m lucky.

There are several possible interpretations of that statement, all of them macabre.

I'm breaking up this post with some of the TR art I've done over the years, otherwise it would be a pretty unforgivable WOT; you're welcome.

Before delving into the original Tomb Raider as a game, I want to address the subject of Ms. Croft herself. She’s been so incredibly over-exposed as a character that it may seem like there’s nothing left to say about her, but it’s important to note that Lara as she appears in classic Tomb Raider is essentially a different character from the incarnation in the later games and the movies.

Original Lara was a woman of few words, classy as she was concise, and only carried weapons because large jungle cats tended to try to kill her if she wasn’t careful. She was primarily an archeologist and a writer with a passion for exploring, and if she was also an action hero, she performed that role as a means to an end. Basically, original Lara was far more likeable and alluring because you were given very little information about her, she handled herself very capably, and the game really wasn’t trying to hit you over the head with how awesome she was.

I don't think that's really how one should handle firearms, but I drew it, so I guess I can't really complain.

After the huge success of the first TR, from the sequel onwards Lara evolved into one of those obnoxiously self-aware movie badasses, who possesses a huge wardrobe of sexy adventuring gear and doesn’t need much provocation to shoot someone in the head. I wouldn’t dismiss the later games and movies, since there’s a lot more to TR than just Lara, but I think you have to have a sense of this evolution of her portrayal in order to understand my tremendous affection for the original character of Lara– When I say Lara, unless you played this game when it came out, chances are you are not associating the same character with the name.

I drew this when I was going through this odd phase as a teen of putting as much detail as humanly possible into my drawings- that's a lot of rocks back there. Why did I draw so many Laras? I honestly have no idea.

Another thing to keep in mind about her is her age; It’s very telling that Lara was conceived of as a character who was around 30 years of age, if not older. By any reasonable standard that’s still pretty young, but when you sit back and think about it, it’s astonishing how rare that is in video games. The last thing I ever want to do is go on some sort of indignant feminist rant (seriously, if I ever start doing that, just shoot me. Like an injured race horse), BUT, the fact remains that women tend to stop appearing in games after they hit the ripe old age of 18, or early 20s at the latest. It’s getting a bit better now- in Metal Gear Solid 4 for example, both Meryl and Naomi are supposed to be post-30 and still babes, if professional ones–but in 1995, usually the only females above a certain age were the apron-adorned mothers who stayed in the house in Japanese RPGs, and sometimes doled out fruit and/or free healing.

This is actually one of the oldest drawings I have scanned into my computer- I think it's circa '97 or so. I kind of miss the heavily Image Comics-inspired style I had at that time. It was ridiculous, but it was so much fun.

In the case of Lara, the developers were forced to make her a little older because the character type they were going for was so experienced and erudite that making her too young would have rang false. That presumed experience and intelligence is very appealing in a character, at least if you’re like me and are tired of playing as either plucky ten year old boys, or virile special forces types who wouldn’t know a book if it bit them on their well-muscled gluteus maximus.

Like Final Fantasy VII, Tomb Raider is a game that you can’t really give it’s proper due without taking into account the zeitgeist of the time. Many of the features that were so innovative at the time have become bread-and-butter features in games with any sort of adventure component, and the things that made us miss sleep to play it in the mid-90s are hard to even imagine now. I remember being motivated to beat the next set of levels as soon as a I could so I could see the next FMV of Lara in action, because you only got one cinematic for hours upon hours of gameplay, and as a result, every single one was critically important to the plot.

Today, the overabundance of video game cinematics has become such an epidemic that we rate scenes on a kind of Kafkaesque “Sandwich scale”, or how many sandwiches you could make and consume while the characters on your screen preen and emote like first-year drama majors and generally refuse to SHUT THE HELL UP.

The sparse use of music in TR caused you to have strong emotional connections to individual music cues, whereas now games have full Hans Zimmer scores and hearing a full orchestral track in the background of the most mundane parts of a game is completely normal. The graphics had just reached the level where you could believe you were in an immersive world if you engaged your imagination and pretended that ammunition totally would be at the bottom of a pristine mountain lake and the whole world is made up of squares– nowadays, if you have to use your imagination at all in most games, the graphics have failed. The world of TR was like an impressionist painting, the graphics we see now are a hyper-real simulation. It’s a very different aesthetic.

At the time, TR opened the door for the future of gaming, while thematically being based on nostalgia for the past. You were using the newest technology of the time to explore the ruins of human civilization, and there was a certain reverence there for the past that was moving in a way that I’ve never encountered in another game. The TR franchise, and others as well, have explored environments drawn from lost cultures since, but never with the same perfect meeting of the future and the past. Current game environments tell us with authority what they think the past was like; the blocky, pointellistic environments of Tomb Raider were not a statement, but a suggestion: Wouldn’t it be nice if it had been like this?

Note: This, and the first three level entries, were originally posted on my Destructoid blog, Gaming Goddess. Since I lost a few of my posts the last time they updated their site, I decided I should move it here for posterity. Yes, I do intend to continue blogging TR, I was just busy for a while….