Tomb Raider: Anniversary

Back to the Beginning

Lara's re-imagined origin goes portable and stays remarkably true to the console versions.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: August 25, 2007
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The road for Tomb Raider Anniversary on the PSP is actually a little more storied than you'd imagine. At least in name, the project began in the hands of original developers Core Design. Still smarting from the critical and retail thrashing that The Angel of Darkness took (the beating was so severe that it would eventually lead Eidos to sell off Core and give their series to developers Crystal Dynamics), the team devised a proof-of-concept that would completely redo the original game with an engine specifically made for the PSP.

Though a video of their project was leaked, it sadly never came to pass and after Tomb Raider: Legend warmed gamers back up to Lara and her adventures, Crystal Dynamics became the go-to developer for what is the now-current version of Tomb Raider Anniversary.

The PSP version is actually arriving a few months after the PS2 version, courtesy of Buzz Monkey Software, who did a remarkable job converting the game. This isn't a pared-down, Anniversary Lite, it's the full game, and though the controls suffer a bit more than even the console iteration, it's still a remarkable achievement. Given that the game is so similar, and our gripes are more or less the exact same, we're going to go with the original review text, making changes as need be.

It's probably no secret to long-time readers that I have something of an infatuation with Crystal Dynamics. Since they managed to properly update (and mostly close out) the Legacy of Kain franchise with Defiance, they've earned a warm place in my heart, not the least of which was due to a fantastic engine. That engine has been tweaked and prodded and updated into what was the remarkably competent engine for Tomb Raider Legend, but it's been bulked up even more for Tomb Raider Anniversary, a game that is more tribute than remake.

Ironically, in updating the game with the core fundamentals of the undeniably impressive Legend entry, the franchise seems to have accidentally contracted some of the bigger problems of the Tomb Raider curse, most notably level design that can be unintentionally confusing, a camera that can kill some key moments and difficulty that can leave newcomers and old-timers alike feeling a combined sense of unwelcome familiarity and newfound frustration.

These problems are exacerbated by the PSP's analog nub when making small adjustments (though the developers came up with a great little smoothing filter for inputs, and you can see the difference if you switch it off in the options). Mapping the right analog stick's camera controls to the shoulder buttons works most of the time, but the shoulders are also used for locking onto enemies, and some fights can be infuriating because there's no quick way to re-pan things beyond using the Triangle Button to quick-snap the camera behind Lara.

That's not to say that Anniversary isn't an absolutely solid entry; as good as the original Core Design-developed entry (and the better-still sequel) was, this is undoubtedly a better "start" to the mythos, with a deeper storyline and far more inspired level design, but whereas Legend left us craving more (well, save for those horrid motorcycle bits), perhaps having to use the original game's basic bits seems to have short-changed the overall experience.
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