Shadow of the Tomb Raider: At least I think that's the right title. Can't keep them straight. How come no one uses numbers anymore? Anyway, I still vastly prefer sexy stone-cold badass Lara Croft from the old games to the little (literally - she's so small!) girl-next-door reboot version, but what can you do. Game seems alright so far - at least it's not set in the snow like the last one. Jungle > snow. Also, I always thought they were turning Lara into Katniss from Hunger Games, but it turns out they were actually turning her into straight-up John Rambo this whole time. In addition to self-treating horrible wounds, she gets covered in mud and stabs people in the throat with ruthless violence. There's even a trophy that references First Blood. But I just have one question: can we please get a game without Jonah in it? He's the most boring block-of-wood "character" of all time and a terrible sidekick. Lara shouldn't have a recurring sidekick anyway. She's a solo act.
These new Tomb Raiders are like the ultimate realisation of the weird trope with reboots where they go back before the original thing started, make a big song and dance about doing it differently this time, but then awkwardly transform themselves right back into the status quo right before the end. I don't know why they do this but it happens like clockwork. Fant4stic ends on a bad comedy skit about the team coming up with the name 'Fantastic 4' right before a smash cut to credits. DmC Devil May Cry begins with a joke about old Dante's white hair, then ends with Nu Dante getting white hair and having a bossfight with Nu Vergil over an ideological argument that literally pops up in the final mission. Apparently that new Guy Ritchie Robin Hood movie ends on a dramatic post-credits stinger of the real Sheriff of Nottingham accepting his title. Tomb Raider 2013 ended with Lara picking up a second pistol to become... THE TOMB RAIDER.
Except she didn't, though, because she went back to the bow and they basically just did the same story all over again in Rise of the Tomb Raider. And now we're up to Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and they did it all again! Poor old Nu Lara is stuck in this Groundhog Day loop of eking out the tiniest little shreds of character development in each game, ending on a tease of her becoming the thing we used to like about her, only to have it all reset to zero as soon as the new one comes around. I've played all three of these games and, I am being 100% honest with you, I don't know if she's supposed to be 'The Tomb Raider' yet. Like, genuinely, no idea. I absolutely do not understand what the writers are doing with this series. Three games in, a full trilogy of cinematic, story-driven games, and they just haven't gone anywhere!
I don't mind them trying to give Lara a new support crew, but, yeah, Jonah ain't it. I mean he'd be fine if he was just one part of a squad, but, again, we're three games in to this baffling continuity that keeps resetting itself and he's the only recurring character other than Lara herself. There's nowhere to go when you just have two people who are, polite, platonic friends at best. I'm not saying they need to give Lara a love interest, but jeez do something with it. This is why the Uncharted games kept introducing every new character as an old friend/enemy from Nate's past with ambiguous morals, because that's just such fertile ground for interesting storytelling. In Nu Tomb Raider every character is someone Lara literally just met that day... or Jonah.
So at this point I don't know if they're even going to make a fourth "____ of the Tomb Raider", because it seems like Shadow bombed pretty thoroughly. I feel like it's time for Tomb Raider Reboot #3.
Anyway, I'm still playing Judge Eyes, and I'm still absolutely loving it. The Yakuza games are all really enjoyable games about brawling, finding side missions, ticking off enormous checklists of open-world content, but I think their greatest strength is in their storytelling, and particularly the command the writers have over characterization. Whether they're introducing a new character or taking an established one to a new place, whether it's a shorter vignette or a long, game-spanning story, they excel at writing these immediately well-realized, compelling characters. I honestly think they're some of the best in the industry, right up there with Naughty Dog and Rockstar. They'll introduce you to a dude and within like five minutes you'll have the measure of him; you'll know his motivations, you'll know what kind of a person he is, you'll know whether you like him or not, and you'll fall right into the writers' trap when a few hours later he turns out to be something completely different because they were playing you like a fiddle the whole time. Character arcs for days, baby. It's so good.
But, much as I love Yakuza, there's only so far the writers can go with the kinds of characters that fit in a story about organized crime. It's a lot of father figures, sworn brothers, traitorous second-in-commands making power plays, initially hostile dudes who come around at the pivotal moment. That's why Judge Eyes is so exciting, because we've stepped outside the bounds of yakuza business, and the writers are getting to try their hands at all new kinds of characters and relationships between them. And, you guys? They're nailing it. Judge Eyes is basically a season of a TV legal drama in video game form, complete with a cast of regulars, a compelling over-arching story and smaller subplots that wrap up within an episode or two, even a cheeky little flashback episode. It's so GOOD! I love it.
So, yeah, when this game comes out in English next year I really recommend you all check it out. I can understand being reluctant to get into the Yakuza series when there are just so many games, but with Judgment I'm not accepting any excuses. This is an entirely new story, no lore or continuity baggage, just an absolutely wonderful game that you can pick up and play and love as much as I do.