Tomb Raider Anniversary (Wii)

Tomb Raider: Legend on the Gamecube was the first ever Tomb Raider game on a Nintendo console (there was a trilogy of games on the GameBoy Color) and was not the last. About a year after Legend was released for the Gamecube, Tomb Raider Anniversary arrived on the Wii.

The Wii version was released several months after the PS2 version and about a month after the Xbox 360 retail version of the game. While the PS2 and 360 versions of the game are pretty much identical, save for prettier graphics on the 360 version, the Wii version brings a host of unique features meant to take advantage of the system.

Graphically, this game is on-par with the PS2 version of the game, which translates to fairly good for a Wii game. Whether that’s good enough for you is up to you, I personally thought the game looked very nice and even impressive in some places. Visually, I don’t think the game ever looked ugly from a technical standpoint, although it definitely didn’t push the system.

Gameplay is where it starts becoming hit and miss for some people. Translating traditional gamepad controls to the Wii can either make a game better, or worse for people; there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground.

For Tomb Raider, the pointer is used to aim and the analog stick to move, the same way most people expected a lot of Wii games to be played. The Z-Button locks your camera onto an enemy but not your reticle. Basically a lot of people have trouble wrapping their head around this part. For some reason they can’t manage the locked on camera with an independant reticle then having to move Lara on top of that. I’ve personally never had a problem with it and I found it very enjoyable.

The game also assigns seperate actions to each button on the D-pad. Up is used for interacting with or picking up objects. Down is used for crouching and acrobatics, such as rolls. Left is used to activate Lara’s flashslight which is controlled with the pointer, almost in the way you’d imagine Luigi’s Mansion playing on the Wii. The right button switches Lara’s weapons. The plus and minus buttons are used for activating the large and the small medpacks respectively while the 1 button is used to bring up the menu.

The nunchuck itself is used for a few commands. To speed up Lara’s movement, you can rhythmically shake the nunchuk. Lara’s adrenaline dodge is activated by shaking the nunchuck or pressing the down button on the D-pad while holding the analog stick in any direction (while being charged by a raging enemy).

The greatest fault I have with the control scheme is the way the camera is controlled. Since the Wii lacks a second analog stick, the camera is controlled by holding the C-Button (Tapping it recenters it behind Lara) and then moving the pointer. Its a little akward, but I wouldn’t call it unmanagable or broken.

As I said earlier, the Wii version adds several new features aside from the controls. Many plain switches in from prior versions are now small puzzles that are handled with the Wii remote, such as puzzles where you need to align tumblers a certain way (which is controlled by pointing at a tumbler and then moving the remote in the direction you want to turn it, or fitting gears together to activate a system.

Mini-games are also sprinkled throughout. For example, the solution for a puzzle maybe found elswhere in a room and you’re able to make a rubbing, which will display when you go back to work on the puzzle. The game’s hidden artifacts now also require more than just picking them up. Some require you to break down a stone wall using your remote as a pick axe or to remove decades of crumbling build up using a trowel or brush. These little mini-games don’t add a whole lot. They’re nice to have there but don’t necessarily make the game better. That said, they don’t make the game worse, either.

The game’s quick-time events have also been changed to work with gestures that roughly approximate what Lara has to do. For example, if Lara has to dive away, you’ll have to push the Wii remote and nunchuck forward. These work well for the most part. The only thing though is that you’ll naturally want to perform these actions quickly, but when you do, the system has trouble detecting it. If you do them calmly then the game detects the action just fine.

Finally, the Wii version adds a room to Croft Manor where Lara keeps spoils from her travels, such as rubbings, artifacts, and hunting trophies from defeated enemies. A small addition, but still nice.

The level design in the game itself is classic Tomb Raider. What will catch many modern gamers off guard is the length of the levels. Each level runs about 45 minutes, but they feel longer because groups of three or so levels are bunched in the same location (I assume this was done in the original game in order to get more mileage out of the assets for each location) so you feel like you’re playing four three-hour levels instead of a bunch of 45 minute ones.

The storyline remains largely unchanged from the game’s original release, although the developers did make a few changes, including condensing characters together and adding a few new plot threads, especially in the final act. They’re not major changes, although I’m sure Tomb Raider purists will have problems with any changes so some people will never be pleased.

Overall the game stands up well against the other versions. Its not a completely different version from the other games, but its obvious that this wasn’t a rushed port job. The developers spent time, not just adapting the game to work on the Wii, but also went further by adding little Wii-wpecific touches that make this a solid third party Wii offering.