Tomb Raider: Legend

Lara Croft may have had a couple of commercial failures under her belt, but her first Nintendo DS appearance is actually a solid piece of work. It’s not revolutionizing any type of gameplay, and it’s certainly not pushing the DS hardware to its limits, but it’s a fun title that should bring back memories of the originals to anyone who had the opportunity to try them out. How good is Mrs. Croft’s latest adventure, though? Is it Legendary, or just a bust? No puns, please.

Facts and Features:

  • Lara Croft’s first DS aventure!
  • Touch Screen combat!
  • Great 3D engine and wonderful cinematics.

In Legend, Lara Croft is trying to figure out the strange circumstances surrounding her origins and even her mother’s death. To do that, she’ll request help from her trusty posse and will travel to many places in search for answers. Her first mission puts her in the Tiger infested jungles of Bolivia, but that’s only the beginning of her grand adventure. Tomb Raider: Legend’s story is told via CGI cutscenes and text, and even though the cutscenes are a bit compressed, they’re still complete with voice acting and subtitles, which goes to show how far the DS hardware can go in regards to presentation.

Most of the Gameplay relies on exploring a 2.5D environment complete with puzzles, baddies, and even one or two blocks to push. Hey, it’s the same world after all. Lara’s still as acrobatic as ever, being able to grab onto ledges, jump and swing on vines, use a grapple hook a-la (but not as cool as) Samus, and even swim when the time is appropriate and the level allows one to. In the latter levels, you’ll even be able to use a motorcycle. These levels may not be as difficult as expected, but still require a lot of quick reflexes thanks to the sometimes muddy visuals, and weird positioning of the objects.

Title Screen for Legend

When you encounter an enemy, your touch screen will turn into a first person view of Lara that you can use to fire by violently tapping your touch screen. The more precise your shot is, the higher probabilities you’ll have in succeeding. Your gun repertoire doesn’t stop at Lara’s famous dual guns, either, you can pick up any gun – from shotguns to machine guns – that the baddies leave behind. The gameplay itself isn’t necessarily difficult, and even when you die you’ll just restart at your last checkpoint. We like that.

Controls are responsive, though sometimes they miss the mark. Jumping is quick and effective, and grabbing onto ledges is easy (because it does so automatically), but sometimes –- and this can be attributed to level design alone –- you’ll easily miss the mark when trying to perform a dangerous move or a dangerous jump. Sometimes you’ll just have to assume that there’s something to grab on to, because the game will not give you a clear visual, or Lara will simply not grab onto something when you really want her to — plunging into her death as you scream at the Nintendo DS. Hey, it happens.

Tomb Raider: Legend looks great from a visual standpoint. Sure, its art style may not be the best (especially compared to some graphical powerhouses like Final Fantasy III and Hotel Dusk) but we can’t help but congratulating the developers on some of the best translation from console to portable out there. The full motion videos are there, the voice acting is there, the 3D is kind of there, and the polygons are steady all the way through. Again, don’t expect PSX quality out of this game –- not because it cannot be done on the DS –- but actually because the game wasn’t meant to be a carbon copy of the PSX originals, and instead a retooling of the latest GCN/PS2 game. The same can be said for the audio. It’s a nice package, the voice acting is actually clear on the cutscenes, but it’s nothing like the PSX classic –- again –- remember that the developers weren’t trying to make a port of the original, but rather a new DS-exclusive adventure.

…Or Just a Bust?
Tomb Raider: Legend for the Nintendo DS may not be Lara’s return to videogame glory, or even the best adventure game on the DS — but it’s still a fun game that shows a lot of effort in most of its departments, even though it’s ultimately eclipsed by other adventure games that have already been released on the Nintendo DS. Still, if you’re a Tomb Raider fan, or a Lara Croft collector (we have a couple of them here), you have to make this part of your game list –- as it has enough good things that serve as a solid base for the developer’s next game, which can ultimately turn into the best handheld Tomb Raider out there.

— Miguel Yanez