Lara Croft has come a long way from her PlayStation days, when you used to angle the camera to get a peek at her flat-polygon posterior. She’s gotten a makeover for the new generation of consoles (now based on model Erin Johnson), which adds so much detail to her character model that you can practically make out the dirty look on her face when you try to pose her in compromising angles. Lara’s exploits in Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition are joined by the 3DS JRPG game Bravely Default and the throwback skating side-scroller OlliOlli.
(3DS, $40, Teen)
Framed as a follow-up to the themes and dynamics of Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, Bravely Default has finally gotten an American translation after first releasing in Japan in 2013. The tale gathers four sassy heroes and tasks them to save the confusing, lavishly detailed, voice-rendered realm. A ton of charming aspects of JRPGs are here, such as a multi-layered, slowly unfolding story, bubble-headed, chat-happy characters. Thankfully, most of the drawbacks, including a need to grind and obnoxious random battles, are minimized.
One of the main draws to the game, in fact, is its turn-based combat system. You can make high-risk, high-reward gambles by choosing to “default” on a turn, locking down into defense mode while the enemy attacks you. On a future turn, you can exert your saved energy in an all-out, devastating chain of attacks. There is tons to see and do in the open-ended adventure, which only grows more engrossing as the hours fly by. It’s easy to argue that this is one of the best RPGs on the 3DS.
(Vita, $13, Everyone)
Skating games have fallen out of favor in the past few years, with the Tony Hawk and Skate franchise having face-planeted off the rails. Instead of trying to outdo those titans in the areas of convincing physics and background detail, OlliOlli goes the ludicrously unrealistic retro route. Using blocky characters that would have fit on the Atari 2600, you launch your side-scrolling character high into the air for ollies and grinds, racking up points as you pull off tricks on the fly.
OlliOlli isn’t ambitious, but manages to hit its spots with relish, making it fun to chain together impossible tricks, then go back to try to top your score. The mobile, touchscreen-friendly feel would have made the game a fit on smartphones, but it’s exclusive to the Vita, taking advantage of the precision of its thumbsticks and buttons. The asking price may seem a bit high for such a one-not trifle, but Vita fans who are into skating will probably want to give it a look.
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
(PS4, Xbox One, $60, Mature)
Lara Croft’s return from Celebrity Rehab won over hearts and minds with its breathless and high adventure, Uncharted-like take on the source material. The game catches Lara in her callow youth – long before she blossoms into an impervious, dual pistol-wielding chasm jumper – when she is stranded in the wilderness and forced to scrap for survival.
Now one of the best adventure games of 2013 gets a graphical, new-generation revamp and, oddly, a full-priced rerelease. The game looks even more beautiful than before, taking advantage of the increased power, but there’s not enough here to entice those who’ve already played through the game to re-up. Anyone who missed Lara on the first go-round, though, and is looking for a game that shows off just how pretty a PS4 or Xbox One game can look, should give this one a whirl, although it makes sense to wait for a price drop.