28 years ago, Lara Croft turned video games into a great adventure

It’s the return of the most famous video game heroine: Lara Croft! With the release this Wednesday of “Tomb Raider Remastered,” an enhanced version of the first three episodes of the series, released respectively in 1996, 1997, and 1998. The program includes a slight graphic facelift to bring these nearly thirty-year-old games up to date… But the gaming experience should be almost the same as it was back then.

When we think of “Lara Croft”, we often think of explosions, hypersexualization, and grand spectacle: yet, when the very first “Tomb Raider” was launched in 1996, the atmosphere was quite different.

An almost contemplative experience
At a time when video games often relied heavily on adrenaline, “Tomb Raider” offered an immediately recognizable, almost contemplative experience, where the player felt very small in vast 3D settings, a technology that was still very new. Even the sound track was minimalist, composed of echoes, rocks, and long, eerie silences.

The goal was to accentuate the feeling of loneliness of the adventurer exploring caves, tombs, or temples abandoned by humans centuries ago… The rare moments when the music became frenzied then became epic moments, like the famous encounter with a tyrannosaurus in a gigantic cave.

Beyond its meticulously crafted ambiance, “Tomb Raider” also inspired a whole part of the video game industry with its desire for realism, especially in the dangers that threatened the heroine: it seems obvious today, but at the time, Mario or Sonic fans had to learn to evaluate whether a fall could be fatal before jumping from the top of a cliff.

Between realism and fantasy, like with Indiana Jones
Another important point: the realism of the heroine’s movements. If they seem a bit stiff compared to modern games today, they brilliantly transposed, into the world of 3D action-adventure games, animations that were more fluid and closer to actual human movement that were found in 2D cinematic platform games like “Prince of Persia,” “Another World,” or “Flashback.” Hence, there was an impression of slower, sometimes more laborious movements… But closer to reality than the triple jumps of a ten-meter-high mustachioed plumber.

Also in “Tomb Raider,” there is an obvious inspiration from Dr. Indiana Jones created by Steven Spielberg. Not only because Lara Croft is an avowedly feminine version, but also because, like in the films with Harrison Ford, archaeology and history intertwine with myths and the fantastic.

“Tomb Raider” was all of that: a strong but not invincible heroine, the thrill of exploration, the wonder of every discovery. Sensations we can’t wait to experience again.

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