This past year has been a big one for both the Resident Evil and Tomb Raider franchises. Resident Evil 2 had a remake for 8th generation systems, and there was the release of the Definitive Edition for Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which included all DLC the game offered up to that point, and the new “Croft Fitness” outfit.
For two franchises that both debuted on the PS1 in 1996, and became trailblazers for their respective genres (Survival horror and Action adventure respectively), it is quite fascinating to see how they have had such different histories.
Polygonal Beginnings (‘93-’00)
Let us set the scene. At Capcom in 1993, Tokuro Fujiwara suggests remaking a game from the Family Computer (or Nintendo Entertainment System as it’s know in the west), called Sweet Home. A game that was based on a Japanese horror film of the same name, and was set in a mansion haunted by supernatural beings. The player must survive the mansion with limited weaponry and health supplies. Several twists, turns, and adjustments later over the next three years would give us Resident Evil in March of 1996 to critical acclaim.
Across the pond, and around the same time over at Core Design, Toby Gard had the idea for an adventure game where the player could choose between a male and female character. Realizing two player characters would double the workload, his team settled on just sticking with the female. While ultimately going on to be considered a female and British version of Indiana Jones, Lara Croft actually began as the cold-blooded, militaristic “Laura Cruz”, before changing her name to the one we know, as they found it more befitting of her background and audience. Tomb Raider would be published by Eidos Interactive in October of 1996 to critical acclaim.
Both series would go on to see many successful (if somewhat samey) sequels on the PS1 throughout the rest of the decade.
Growing Pains (‘00–’09)
Both series would lay low for the first half of the 2000s, mostly releasing spin-off games, ports and movie tie-ins, until coming back swinging with Resident Evil 4 in 2005 and Tomb Raider: Legend in 2006, respectively.
There was significant struggle leading to these breakthroughs, however. Resident Evil 4 was in development for six years and went through various ideas before the final product was released, and Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness was pushed out the door in 2003 by Eidos after three years of development, and in an unfinished state just so it could be cross promoted with the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider — The Cradle of Life. After the game’s disappointing reception, Core Design shut down, and Eidos moved development to Crystal Dynamics, kicking off the Legend Trilogy.
In the 2010s, the two franchises began to head in opposite directions. Resident Evil 5 was released in March of 2009, and Tomb Raider: Underworld released in later 2008, or early 2009 for PS2. While both games received positive reviews from critics, RE5 was criticized for being too action heavy, having poor co-op, and less than ideal controls. While Underworld was criticized for a shoddy camera and combat. What these two series did in response to this is key.
Going Separate Ways (2012-present)
In 2012, Resident Evil 6 was released, and with an even heavier focus on action, a lack luster story, and fewer scares than ever, many considered this the game that killed the franchise.
In 2013, TOMB RAIDER was released, and many declared the series back from the dead thanks to its completely new approach to Lara by making her a young survivor, instead of a globe trotting adventurer.
Then, as the 2010s went on, the two series seem to switch positions.
After the backlash Resident Evil 6 faced, the series would lay largely dormant for five years, until the release of Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, which brought in a new first-person perspective, and brought back the horror, with intense isolation and gore.
Following up this success two years later was the first Resident Evil remake since 2002. After 21 years, 1998’s Resident Evil 2 was finally given a much needed face lift. This remake was an amalgamation of everything the series had done right up to that point. While the game still had the same basic skeleton of the original RE2, it retained the over-the-shoulder perspective of the modern games, kept the corridors tight, the zombies hard to kill, threw in the occasional challenging puzzle, and made sure you knew how to manage your inventory.
Roughly a year later, Capcom announced a remake of RE2’s successor, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, now available for pre-order, due to come out April of 2020, and gamers everywhere couldn’t be more excited.
Meanwhile, 2013’s TOMB RAIDER would see two sequels with Rise of the Tomb Raider and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Two games that were considered just as good as the one released in 2013, but suffered from a frustrating lack of innovation and creativity. As of right now, no word has been made public what the future of the series is.
The silence on Square Enix’s end is rather understandable, considering they have the highly anticipated remake of another PS1 classic, Final Fantasy 7 coming up in March. Maybe it’s a sign of things to come?
Shadow didn’t make any “worst games of 2018” lists, it is leaps and bounds above the likes of Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn, The Quiet Man, and the predatory Super Seducer. But it didn’t make many “best of 2018” either. Not quite rising up to the levels of Red Dead Redemption 2, Marvel’s Spider Man and Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, among others.
Hopefully, Square Enix, like they seem to be doing with FF7, can take the Resident Evil 2 approach. Use what has proven to work for the franchise in terms of mechanics, gameplay, graphics, etc, and apply that to an older entry to bring it into the modern era.
With the only Tomb Raider remake being 2007’s Tomb Raider: Anniversary (a remake of the 1996 original for sixth and seventh generation systems), it only makes sense to bring the other PS1 games into the modern era. The time is ripe for a Tomb Raider II remake. With the reboot trilogy concluded, and previous games still stuck in the past, the timing couldn’t be better for Square Enix to follow in Capcom’s foot steps, like we know it can, and bring the first adventures of the lady of gaming into this new decade.