I'm currently a freshman who tries his best to balance gaming and responsibility (that doesn't work out so well). Over the past two years I've seemed to develop an RPG fetish, an ever-growing backlog of games, and a weird habit of listening to the soundtrack when deciding whether or not to purchase a game.
Videogames let me exchange my familiar surroundings for vast, uncharted, and alien lands. Although I've been playing since my preschool years, it's only recently that I've come to realize the potential of video games as a medium. Trust me when I say I've been working hard to make up for lost time.
To some, Tomb Raider is just a worn-out game franchise. To others, its a series they enjoy every now and then or maybe respect the original title(s). But to me, it's something that has defined my gaming experience and still does.
I have a long history with Lara. Tomb Raider was a major part of my childhood and one of the earliest memories of gaming for me. My family wasn't into gaming aside from an older brother who dabbled in Resident Evil and Grand Theft Auto (nothing's changed). And then there was me - small and adorable, a kid who liked videogames like Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Finding Nemo, and was head over heels for Karaoke Revolution. My game library was filled with movie cash-ins and random games I would spot off the Walmart shelf and grab. We had a Sega Genesis and PSX and played them regularly into the PS2's lifetime - we weren't ones to keep up with technology, let alone the newest game consoles. Yeah, I loved videogames, but they weren't something that made me feel anything beyond some kind of triumph after completing a level. I never indulged in the graphics or the music or the atmosphere or feel of the controls. Videogames were just something fun to do to kill time. But, there was a single game that I found myself coming back to again and again for more than that feeling of accomplishment - Tomb Raider III: The Adventures of Lara Croft.
This game is forever embedded into my mind. The opening scene with the crocodile and the comet, the puzzle-filled Croft Manor, the theme song, sliding down the hill in the first area; there are so many things about this game that I can never forget. True fact: I never got past the first level. It wasn't until I downloaded the title last year from PSN that I dominated the Jungle. Yup, that's right. I never got past the first level of the game that defined my gaming experience. The game was difficult and frustrating with random trial and error traps - yet I kept coming back. The lonely jungle atmosphere with monkeys crying far off in the distance, the complex levels (I used level skip most of the time), small effects like her ponytail flowing behind her and the shells flying from her pistol were total eye candy for me (and this was when PS2 was already released). I was even obsessed with the way she ran. Not to mention I found this game absolutely terrifying thanks to the dark lighting, the animals that would always pop out of nowhere, and the lack of music instead replaced by some haunting, echoing background noise. And if there was anything that drew me into Tomb Raider III the most, it was the triangle-breasted archaeologist herself: Lara Croft.
With her dual pistols, high jumping powers, and shorter than arm length shorts, the silent heroine was my total idol. And the fact that she was a woman who was fighting tigers with guns blazing blew my mind. I wanted to run like her (arms swinging at the side), jump like her (arms straight up, and like, six feet up) and even swim like her (believe it or not, but from observing her swim in-game is how I learned to swim underwater.) An old, embarrassing memory of myself has me running around my house in my underwear (they were the smallest shorts I can find) with an orange handgun claiming I was "Tomb Raider".
I looked up to her, but at the same time something was off. She was a good guy - yet an emotionless one that murdered men along with cute animals. When cutscenes came and went, it didn't so much as address that she had killed thirty badly pixelated men, six dogs, eight monkeys, and two lions to get to where she was. It almost confused me. The good guys were supposed to be nice and kind and forgiving, right? So what was going on here? It was something that would continue to irk me until Anniversary came out, but that's still a ways off.
Needless to say, Tomb Raider was the first video game series that I really got into. Afterwards, and still today, I manage to find a bit of it in everything - its become my standard videogame. Eventually I would get my grubby hands on the the first and second entries, but The Last Revelation and Chronicles sadly never found their way into my console. The two movies came and went, (which I forced my parents to watch) and I gradually became less and less interested in Lara. Maybe a couple of years past - I'm not sure - but sometime in third grade I stumbled upon the game that would reignite my rabid love. I was out and about shopping with my aunt when Gamestop (the then holy land) caught my eye. I walk in, her hand in mine, and what do I see? A new Tomb Raider game?! It's called Legend? What's with her face?! She's pretty! And where's her blue top?? And her hair... it's not braided! I was genuinely confused and interested. I begged her to buy it for me and eventually she caved in (they all do). I was dying to head home and pop it into my PS2. I stared at the cover and back, flipping it over every once in a while to make sure I didn't miss a single detail. "LARA CROFT IS BACK!" It read on the back cover. Those words filled me with excitement.
Hours passed by, and then a couple of days. One thing I was certain of: I freakin' loved this new Lara. She had a personality, her chest was proportional, and I cared for her and the happenings in the story. The mysterious tragedy revolving around her mother, the decision to leave Amanda in the tomb and the later rivalry between the once friends - it all touched me in a way that I didn't think a Tomb Raider game could. She loved what she was doing, and it showed in the witty conversations with Zip and Alistair and the cutscenes I actually looked forward to. It was stylish and sleek and I adored every second of it. The big "to be continued" at the end had me counting the days for the next game.
Anniversary only helped strengthen my love for the new developer, Crystal Dynamics. The entirely remade levels pumped the nostalgic factor and the fact that they even addressed Lara killing a human (something that was glossed over even in Legend) was the icing on the cake and me feel even more for our heroine.
We'll fast forward past Underworld to the picture. This picture to be exact:
The feeling when I first laid eyes on the cover of Legend came to me once again. Lara was being reborn for the second time. Her hair, the face, the bow, the ship in the background - what could it all mean? I was beyond hyped, but I didn't keep up with the game until its release date was nearing closer and closer. I tried to keep my expectations at moderate levels, but I couldn't help myself. The E3 demo and Crossroads trailer practically had me giggling with excitement. It looked crazy, intense, gritty, and mature. It wasn't what I wanted from the next Tomb Raider game, but now that it was right in front of my eyes, there were no complaints from me. Crystal threw it in my face, shouted "You're gonna like it!" and oh god, did I.
I loved it. The action was restless, the environments were large, beautiful, begging to be explored, and Lara herself was the highlight of it all. The once triangle-boobed, stoic archaeologist who tussled with dinosaurs and crazy cults was beaten, scared, vulnerable, and most of all, human. Sure she gets a used to killing a bit way too fast, but it was the one large flaw I found in the great narrative. I loved what Crystal did with Lara in the Legend trilogy, and I love what they did with her in this re-boot. Her arc is just amazing. The pain my childhood idol went through tugged on my heart strings - made especially real by Camilla Luddignton's stellar performance. One particular quote towards the end of the game where's Lara's yelling at the island's inhabitants to run because she's coming for them all is the best example of the change her character goes through - from scared survivor to hardened soldier.
I was a little kid again - one that looked up to Lara, wanted to be like her, be strong like her. Maybe I too one day can be "that kind of croft".
Thanks for reading! -Artemis P.S Sorry for all the editing. I'm new to this!