Influences and accessibility in Tomb Raider: Legend

Lara's looking nicely humanized these days.It’s always fun to pick a console’s remains after its death for cheap goodies that are worth playing. The original Xbox has hit this sweet spot, and as I still have a perfectly-functioning black box, I don’t have to worry about backwards-compatibility issues. I’ve been rifling through the budget bins with a taste for Western titles with good writing and an adventure bent. The first of these I’ve finished is Tomb Raider Legend.

Before Legend came out, there was a lot of speculation that it would be the game to save the series after Core Design’s bumblings, and it had a lot to live up to. Clearly, it was successful. Since I’m only just now playing the game, after all its promises have been fulfilled, I can thankfully evaluate it on its own merits.

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The Red Star

FEALTY IS DUEFor a game that spent three years in publishing-hell and entertains such lofty influences as Treasure’s Ikaruga and several of Konami’s classic 2D series, one might expect The Red Star to end up rather disappointing. This isn’t the case.

This is a no-nonsense deep-action game that successfully fuses bullet hell with beat-’em-up mechanics. Bullet patterns start off rather calm – almost patient – but by the end of the game things get as hairy as the latest Cave game. I’ve seen the melee mechanics compared to Streets of Rage or Final Fight, but there’s a lot more going on here than in the 2D classics. Branching combos, down attacks, fall recoveries, juggles, air combos, and more make for some seriously dynamic and (satisfyingly) abusable combat. And thanks to unique movesets and capabilities, each of the three characters must be taken on his or her own terms. Makita is all speed, Kyuzo is all power, and the unlockable Maya is somewhere in between yet almost entirely focused on ranged attacks and tricksy magic.

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Colosseum: Road to Freedom

now that's a bonus!It’s interesting to imagine what might have come of this game if it Koei – the game’s publisher outside of Japan – had actually secured the license to a certain Ridley Scott movie. Colosseum: Road to Freedom was actually released as Gladiator: Road to Freedom in Japan, but with the precedent of the movie and an Acclaim title of the same name, things had to be shuffled a bit. As things played out, Colosseum received next to no attention in the US, likely not in the least due to little advertising by Koei and a miniscule print run. Reviews mostly showed disinterest or bewilderment, while one or two did admit the potential for niche appeal. So, was this game unjustly ignored? If so, what’s compelling about it?

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Simple 2000 Series Vol. 95: The Zombie vs. Ambulance

The most interesting Simple 2000 titles all start with a great concept. Volume 95, The Zombie vs. Ambulance (say that title to yourself, out loud), has that in spades, but is a concept enough to carry a game?

You control the last doctor alive in a city that’s been overrun by zombies. Ignoring the pleas of the other remaining hospital staff, the main character takes it upon himself to rescue every citizen that has survived the zombie apocalypse, using the last ambulance left in the hospital’s garage. Zombies roam the city’s streets and are spawned from thin air at a steady pace, menacing your vehicle and its passengers. What’s the solution to the problem? Running the undead over at full speed, of course. Guts and gore go flying everywhere with a successful hit, and multiple successive kills fill up the requisite combo meter. High combos add bonus time to the timer that limits the amount of time the player has before the hospital is overrun and it’s game over.

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