Treasure Hunters: Tomb Raider II
Welcome to a new feature on the 25th anniversary celebration blog site – Treasure Hunters! I am Rodrigo Martin Santos, webmaster of Tomb Raider Collection and for the next few months we will be analyzing different objects and memorabilia of the franchise.
These blogs will be dedicated particularly to those staunch fans of Lara Croft so I want to go a step further and analyze official merchandising that are really rare or that have a cultural value within the history of Tomb Raider, and of course of the gaming industry.
The blogs will dedicate each month to a different character or game from the series. The objects that we will describe will not be limited to the launch year of the video game itself, but will be contained and inspired by the aesthetic features of the game to be analyzed.
Today we will start the section with Tomb Raider II, the second video game in the franchise that officially went on sale on October 31, 1997.
After the Tomb Raider franchise took off in 1996 and reached a resounding sales success (7 million units sold from the first game), Eidos Interactive wanted to repeat the formula for success with its sequel “TOMB RAIDER II” (1997) that managed to match the number of units sold of its predecessor.
Lara Croft was becoming an icon that transcended the world of video games and sneaked into popular culture, encompassing other areas of entertainment mediums. To her fans, Lara was not just a character but a celebrity.
Lara managed to become the first human-like cybernetic character to jump from a video game to start selling products that were moving further and further away from the reason for which she had been created. Different brands used picked up her fame to market their products thanks to the image that Lara Croft projected and the values that she represented. Inspired by Disney’s business model, the company actually began to capture the face of Lara Croft in different merchandising sub-products. This was something really unusual in the gaming world and that over the years would find its market niche causing an explosion of content that today is the most normal.
After video game sales came more opportunities, Lara Croft was now able to sell figures, t-shirts, pens, computer products, even her own musical CD played by model Rhona Mitra – as well as collaborations with advertising contracts.
We will analyze some of their products inspired by TOMB RAIDER II below!
First European edition of Tomb Raider II (1997) for PC.
This copy was signed in person by the Core Design development team: Gavin Rummery (Lead Programmer) and Heather Gibson (Level Designer), as well Lara Croft´s 2nd voice actress, Judith Gibbins.
Mymax Computer Collection
One of the first merchandising products developed by the British company Mymax under the Eidos Interactive license was a collection of computer peripherals for PCs. The complete collection consisted of: Mousemats, a CD Wallet, Mouse House, Wrist Rest, Mouse and Joypad.
Golden Tornarsuk Mask Replica
Based on the Gold version of Tomb Raider II with five bonus levels titled “Golden Mask”, this replica of the Tornarsuk Golden Mask artifact is made of 9k gold and was part of a promotional campaign for those who bought the rerelease in 1999. Some game boxes contained a winning ticket, and if you received one, you had the chance to answer trivia questions for a chance to win this replica. The mask was one of many bonus prize packages.
There are only 15 masks total, with Phil Campbell (project leader) owning one of them. The mask with the stand is 11 inches tall (28 cm).
1997 Promotional poster for Tomb Raider II
This poster was signed in person at the time by the development team. The signatures, made in gold, correspond to: Gavin Rummery (Lead Programmer), Neal Boyd (Level Designer), Stuart Atkinson (Lead Animator), Joss Charmet (Character Models) and Jason “JJ” Gosling (Programmer). Unfortunately, Neal Boyd recently passed away on March 7, 2020 – he is remembered for his amazing work on Tomb Raider I and Tomb Raider II.
Original Sola Wetsuit
This was the original wetsuit that inspired the design of the one used by Lara Croft in the underwater levels of Tomb Raider II. Belonging to the Sola Sports Ltd company founded in 1980, this wetsuit was designed in 1997 and had up to 3 similar reissues years later due to the success of its design and of course that of the video game. The image shows the first edition.
There was no direct collaboration between Eidos Interactive and Sola Sports, the programmers simply used the design. In the beta edition of the game, Lara was not even wearing this design, she was wearing a black wetsuit with red stripes on the ends. That model ended up being replaced in the final version by the SOLA one that all fans know today because it was more visually attractive and modern combined with the color palette of the levels.
Original Lara Croft Costume
The original Lara costumed was used by the model and actress Rhona Mitra who portrayed Lara Croft at events during 1997 and early 1998.
This outfit also served as a decoration for many years in Core Design’s offices in Derby until its closure.
The British model Rhona Mitra from Hampshire was selected by Eidos Interactive when she was 21 years old and after replacing her previous namesake, Nathalie Cook.
Rhona Mitra went on to record a musical album like Lara Croft that was produced by Dave Stewart and recorded under the Naked Record label with 11 songs plus 2 singles. The album was recorded in Jamaica and on the Amazon River, according to the actress.
Resin figure model painting kit
This resin figure model painting kit was made by Studio Oxmox in 1997 for Eidos Interactive. We can see Lara Croft kneeling with her pistols drawn as an attack with a rocky base where she has the Dragon of Xian engraved.
There was another version similar to this one but with a mummy that was never marketed because it was too big. This figure had a really limited run and nowadays it is practically impossible to get. In the last 15 years, counterfeit versions have appeared on the internet that sold the same kit, however the main differences between the counterfeit copies and the original lie mainly in these three aspects:
- The base of the counterfeit statue is flat while the original is hollow.
- Rock details are less elaborate in the counterfeit version, the original version features finely crafted details at the ends of the base.
- Pistols of the counterfeit version do not have a barrel at the end.
I hope you enjoyed taking a look at some of the older and rarer Tomb Raider II merch and hope to see you next month! Join me as I go over curious details of the memorabilia behind Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft (1998). Until next time!