Lara Croft, I Presume? It's So Nice to Finally Meet You

Considering I'm essentially a professional gamer, some find it shocking to hear of the gaping holes in my gaming bibliography. For example, I never played Mario 64. Nope, not even on the Nintendo DS. Nor have I ever played half the games in the Legend of Zelda series or the first several Resident Evil titles, any of the Silent Hill games, the Civilization games, Starcraft, The Sims, Warcraft, Quake, or even any of the games in The Elder Scrolls collection up until my recent foray into the world of TES: Oblivion. Hell, I only ever played one Final Fantasy game too, and they're up to part 12 now!

But arguably my single biggest ommission is the fact that I've never, ever, not even for a moment, played any of the Tomb Raider games. I'll pause to allow you to pick your jaw up off the floor.

There was always something about overly popular games that made me feel that playing them was unnecessary. I felt that the overwhelming amount of hype and media-coverage given to these games made playing them redundant. By the time each of these games would come out, I had already seen hundreds of screenshots, read numerous articles, and heard more than enough people tell me how great the game would be. I would often already know the storyline, know what the boss characters looked like, and would especially be subjected to lengthy conversations about each of these games flaws and strengths. So why play it when the publisher's marketing company already played it for me? And in Tomb Raider's case, there was so much made up out of the main character, Lara Croft's, cup size and other ass-ets that I couldn't bear to play the games anyway out of the fear that I'd have to make fun of myself.

Fortunately, through a combination of cancelled magazine subscriptions and reduced Internet browsing, I have managed to cull the amount of exposure I'm given to unreleased games. And when it comes to the latest installment in the Tomb Raider franchise, everyone's expectations were particularly low anyway. Ignoring the previews was a very easy thing to do.

But when Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend started showing up on the website with a rather healthy aggregate review score, I took notice. I looked at a few screenshots and read a review or two and, surprise, the game actually sounded pretty cool. And to the top of the Gamefly queue it went!

I popped in this bad boy (or should I say bad girl?) this morning and I'm heavily impressed. The exploration is very similar to the Prince of Persia games and the gunplay segments are nice and easy and clearly not there to provide major hurdles. The game has a definite focus on exploration and the actual raiding of tombs, which I hear has been sorely missing from the series for years, and I'm actually looking forward to going back through levels on different difficulty settings just to find more of the treasure. The added Time Trial mode is a nice touch too.

I can tell you right now that what's going to happen is that I'm going to be overly impressed by this game and will put it on a pedestal that many fans of the series will not think it deserves. And why? Because of absence and unfamilliarity with the series. Take Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for example. I absolutely loved everything about the game, but fans of the series routinely complain about the game. Why do they do this? Because they play every game in the franchise and have built up certain expectations about what the game has to be. Having not played a Zelda game since spending a couple of nights with the SNES one back in 1993, I was a blank slate ready to be impressed. Same thing happened with Mario Sunshine. Fans who wanted more of Mario 64 seemed to hate it, but I liked it quite a bit.

Sometimes we gamers ruin things for ourselves by getting too wrapped up in following a select few game franchises. We try to learn everything there is about them, we play them inside and out, and we whip ourselves into a frenzy over an upcoming sequel. Only to find ourselves being too critical to actually enjoy it. We need to learn to step away from games that receive sequels on an an annual or semi-annual basis and give ourselves some time to make the heart grow fonder.

When it comes to games like Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess and Halo 3 and other major franchises, fans hate to hear of delays in their release. But as much as fans may think they want Halo 3 to release already, the best thing for the developer, publisher, and the fans to do is to take a break and allow for some separation.

And for those of us who have gone decades without ever having played a game in a particular series. Give one of them a shot. The masses who have become jaded with the game's flaws or repetition or... whatever... will miss out on something that very might well be quite fun and enjoyable. I haven't heard of a lot of people talking about Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend and only one or two of those on my Friends list on Xbox Live have played it. But Lara and I have finally met face to face, and so far at least, the pleasure is all mine.

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