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Tomb Raider Remastered Is The Perfect Nintendo Switch Game — For Better or Worse

Despite its flaws, I couldn’t help but enjoy my time with Lara Croft.

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Since 1996, Tomb Raider and its nimble protagonist Lara Croft have been through a lot: 20 games, three reboots, three blockbuster films, and one million hours of back-and-forth over whether curvy colonizer Lara is any good for womankind. But it all started with the original Tomb Raider and its two rapid-fire sequels (released in quick succession in ‘97 and ‘98). Now, the original trilogy is back with a fresh coat of paint (along with some frustrating issues that probably shouldn’t be a thing in 2024) and available to play on the Nintendo Switch.

Each game in the trilogy spans across the globe — the Peruvian mountains, the Great Wall of China, some muddy rivers in India — and relishes in presenting Lara exactly how she is, wherever she is. They all feature short levels in which you have to conquer dastardly booby traps, roaring animals, and some easy platformer puzzles to open doors that push you to new levels and closer to stolen treasure.

With her pistols' infinite ammo, Lara reduces piercing tigers, spiders, and bears to light work. However, there is a second of resistance whenever Lara heaves herself up an angry slab of rock, a sign that, even though she can hold her breath for minutes under a waterfall, this scowling British lady is sort of a human being. Still, in every power pose, Lara's clothes cling to her bombshell body like otherworldly silk. I often find myself thinking: Even with the PS1's 25 frames-per-second, the developers managed to communicate that polygon-shaped Lara had a magnificent six-pack.

Like the 2011 first-person shooter, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Tomb Raider Remastered excellently lets you flip back and forth between the original games' grainy graphics and the Fortnite-style remaster, neither of which exhaust the Switch's weak processing power. You also have the option of choosing the original tank controls or updated camera controls while you play.

But here is the one major downside to Remastered's faithfulness to the original series: the controls, tank or otherwise, are as unresponsive as a concrete block. I played Remastered for a total of six hours on Switch and the controls feel like trying to walk through liquid glue. Swimming underwater often makes the game's camera stick to Lara's blank forehead, while climbing up ladders and standing in tight corners make it clip straight through her brain. Lara responds to the “action” button (X on the Switch) like she's sleepwalking. I eventually gave up on picking up “secret” gold and jade artifacts because, during a tense sequence in Tomb Raider II, Lara shuffled toward one after I commanded her to, exclaimed in surprise, and then got flattened by a spiked trap before even trying to grab it.

Though she can perform a number of beautiful flips and vaults, Lara struggles most with jumping. In many cases, she either responds late to jump commands or she doesn't jump at all, locking me into frustrating loops where timing, positioning, and taking deep breaths were all equally useless in getting Lara where she needed to go. Tomb Raider's platforming elements are essential to its adventure — medi-packs, silver keys, and collectibles are all hidden above or across dangerous, tiered terrain — so weak jumping is a massive gameplay setback.

You can play the game with its original graphics or upgraded.

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And yet, despite myself, I still thought Remastered was entertaining.

A huge part of that is Remastered's save feature. Unlike the original PlayStation games, in which you could only secure your progress when confronted with a glowing save crystal, Remastered lets you save anytime, anywhere. The total amount of content in Tomb Raider Remastered totals to around 60 hours. And since it retains the length of each game while allowing you to flit between titles as you please, Remastered is great both for primordial Lara-heads looking to relive the look and feel of the '90s and for newcomers curious about what made Tomb Raider such an incendiary classic.

As a newbie myself, I liked playing Tomb Raider with decades of conversation and perspective behind me. It's easier to accept the series' controversial protagonist and concept for what they are when you know that everyone, including the developer, acknowledges them as blemished signs of the times. Before you can play it, Tomb Raider Remastered warns that “the games in this collection contain offensive depictions of people and cultures.” Rather than removing it, developer Crystal Dynamics has “chosen to present it here in its original form, unaltered, in the hopes that we may acknowledge its harmful impact and learn from it.”

Lara Croft gets the Fortnite treatment.

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I can look past Remastered rough controls' for the same reason — these games are old, and they're hardly perfect, but there's an incredible trove of fandom that keeps them navigable. While playing, I often picked through detail-oriented blogs for help, like an overstuffed eagle provided with more and more bones to clean. There are few games in which people can help you across time.

So Tomb Raider I-III Remastered is perfect for the Switch precisely because it's outdated. Its upscaled graphics aren't demanding, and, like the repetitive cozy games the Switch is often known for, Remastered might require you to try and try again, but there's always a sense of safety. You know that, no matter what happens, your ammo is unlimited. You can load a convenient save. You can feel like, well, "girls and guns" is an outdated ethos, but it works.

Tomb Raider Remastered I-III is available on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5 Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

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