Close to 20 years ago, in 1999, Lara Croft was about to embark on her fourth adventure. Critics claimed that it was a return to form for our heroine on PS1 and PC, and the year thereafter she made the leap to the newly released SEGA Dreamcast. There’s really only one question here – how did they get it so horribly wrong?
The second to last revelation of that particular era
After leaving the tombs that made the original such a huge hit, Lara was about to return to them. Tomb raiding was back on the cards in the Last Revelation and players got to meet Lara as a girl at the age of 16-years old. She’s helping her mentor, Werner Von Croy, discover an ancient artefact called the Iris. Once they find it she discovers that there is a bad outcome for anyone who disturbs the artefact, but he ignores the warning (because, of course) and the place falls apart. As a result Lara has to make the tough decision of leaving her mentor to meet his death and make a last-second escape to safety. The game returns to the present day (that of 1999 at the time) where she’s about to enter another tomb.
The controls are very, very broken.
What made the Dreamcast version of the game such an exciting prospect was the fact that it was basically a port of the superior PC version of the game. Graphically it was going to look quite a bit better than the PS1 version, but it failed. Gone is the pixelated mess of the PS1 graphics engine and in its place you’ll find that everything looks blurry. The walls, floors and ceilings all looks much smoother, but it’s not sharp at all. Even the water looks less lifelike than the PS1 version. A quick look at the image above shows you just how poorly it ported graphically.
Watch it all fall apart
The controls are very, very broken. In 2017 we’ve of course all moved on to better and greater controls systems, but thanks to the lack of two additional shoulder buttons on the Dreamcast controller, the game is especially cumbersome to play. The first five Tomb Raider games required players to play in a particular style. Move towards the end of a platform, by walking towards (avoiding yourself falling off the edge), jump back once, now run towards it and press jump to leap as far as you possibly can to reach the next platform. That’s generally how all the old Tomb Raider games worked. On the Dreamcast this style of play makes it a game of finger twister.
The D-Pad is used to have Lara run forward and jump backwards, or spin on the spot. To have her walking or step to the left or right requires you to use the analogue stick. Jumping between the two inputs takes time to grasp and thanks to a lack of muscle memory I often met my fate by running off an edge. Want to look around at your surroundings (to find out where you should go to next)? Press in the left trigger and use the analogue stick to look around, now move there using your D-Pad. It just does not work. Unfortunately the game itself hasn’t aged with grace either.
There’s no changing weapons on-the-fly, or pressing a button to use a health pack.
A look at the recent Crash Bandicoot remake difficulty outcry reminds you that games were indeed tougher in the older days. Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation adds to that by making the puzzle elements exceptionally tough. There’s no helping hand guiding you to your next objective. Activate a switch and you’re shown a short clip of a door that opened, a hatch that dropped or ‘something that did something’, and now it’s up to you to try figure it all out. It could be that whatever got activated happened in an area you’ve not even found, which leads to confusion and hours upon hours searching for something hidden somewhere. The chance of you finding a few hidden secrets is often more plausible than finding the solution to your problem. The combat also feels primitive by Lara auto-aiming at her targets while jumping back and forth to avoid being munched by the nasties. There are also vehicle sections that are best forgotten, but it’s the execution of pulling out the right weapon or using an item that takes the cake in terms of clumsiness.
No automation for anyone
There’s no changing weapons on-the-fly, or pressing a button to use a health pack. Nope – press start, select inventory, now find the item you would like to equip or use and press the A button. Now press B several times to exit and you’ve pulled off that one thing you were trying to do. It’s a game of patience, but there’s something that completely tops it – there’s no auto-saving. With all the control issues combined with the difficulty it can be infuriating when you die and you’ve not saved for the last hour or so. It happens, and when it does you’ll see your personal rage meter extend a little bit more. Remember how you have to change a weapon or use an item? You have to follow those same steps to save.
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation is most definitely not a revelation on the Dreamcast. Even without the Dreamcast it’s a game that’s not aged very well. It did what it could in that particular era, but by standards set today it’s a tomb you might want to reconsider visiting ever again. Especially not on the SEGA Dreamcast.