The Last Guardian Preview

Team Ico lead Fumito Ueda shows off a tantalizing glimpse of The Last Guardian in motion on the PlayStation 3.

We've been pining for something more than a trailer since Team Ico's The Last Guardian debuted at 2009's Electronic Entertainment Expo. The game's intriguing tale of a boy and his large whatsit from the fan-favorite developer has had just about everyone hungering for more information on the game--if only to find out whether or not the enormous gryphon kitty is going to go out like Old Yeller. We recently got our wish with a visit to Sony's Japanese studios where Fumito Ueda offered some insight into the game and, most importantly, showed off the first few minutes of the game. The small taste of what the game had to offer left us excited, intrigued, and very curious at what else the game has in store for players.

Our visit at the studio kicked off with Ueda-san addressing the assembled press and offering some context for what we were about to see. The demo was created for the purpose of the media day and offered a small slice of the game that wasn't necessarily related to the final product. The key focus of the demo was on showcasing the visuals.

The demo kicked off without much preamble, so we didn't get too much of a setup to explain how the boy and the beast wind up together, and it opened up on a title screen that had the boy and his massive critter pal, named Trico, peacefully slumbering. The boy woke up and walked around Trico's massive frame to try to wake him up. The first thing we noticed was that Trico is not a morning person. The behemoth wasn't big on being roused as the boy gave his ear a yank, which called up a stamina meter, and then called out his name and eventually roused him. Ueda noted that the goal of the level was for the boy to escape from the castlelike structure in which the level was set. The first step to his escape was, obviously, escaping from the room he was in, which was where Trico came into the picture. As you'd expect, a young boy isn't best equipped for the physical demands of escaping a massive labyrinthine castle. This is obviously less of an issue for a creature of Trico's size but, from the look of things, he was less motivated to escape and a little flighty. So what's a trapped boy to do? If your answer is "manipulate the big guy" then you're thinking.

Ueda noted that one key element of The Last Guardian's gameplay revolves around you bonding with Trico so that he'll be more responsive to the boy. The demo we saw appeared to be showcasing what happens when Trico hasn't done much bonding with the boy. The massive critter went about its business, basically ignoring the boy, until Ueda showed off how players will have to use their surroundings to get what they want out of Trico. The initial path of escape highlighted for the boy in a cutscene was a balcony area with no clear route to it. The solution to the problem was, obviously, to get Trico up on his hand legs and form a massive, living ladder up to the target area. However, without a close knit bond with the critter, the only option was to get his attention by using a large urn that gave off fumes that piqued the creature's interest, probably along the lines of catnip. The boy collected the urn and took it to a second floor area directly across from the unreachable balcony and pitched the urn over the gap. This immediately attracted the creature and got him to get up on his haunches. One quick trip back downstairs and up Trico's back got the boy where he wanted to be, deeper inside the castle where Trico couldn't follow.

The new interior area showcased in the demo focused on gameplay without Trico that found the boy navigating an area littered with massive lumbering armored guards. This segment of gameplay expanded on scenes that have been shown off in trailers for the game that find the boy outmaneuvering the slow-moving guards by using stealth or speed. The short sequence with the guards saw the boy climbing to higher areas and goading the guards to follow him by running in place, just out of reach. Ueda noted that, while the guards are a legitimate threat, the boy is faster and nimbler. The biggest problem to contend with when zipping around guards appears to be ensuring the boy isn't cornered by more than one, in which case things get tricky. When the guards are close enough, they can grab the boy who will have to wriggle his way out of their grip within a certain amount of time. If players can't squirm free in time, the game will end. The boy's solo sequence came to an end as he climbed to a higher area and across a balance beam to a new part of the level that was high above where he left Trico. As the boy navigated another set of balance beams, a weak floor caused him to tumble to the floor below. The boy called to Trico, who immediately looked up to find him and, after getting agitated, leaped up to where the boy was, which allowed the boy to access a switch that opened a massive door so that the boy and creature could escape.

While the demo was, all told, just a few minutes that was stretched out some with Ueda's explanations of the gameplay, we were impressed by what we saw. The game appears as though it's going to be about balancing Trico and the boy's abilities to solve puzzles to allow you to progress. We're curious as to how complex the puzzles are going to be and how much game time the boy will spend away from Trico, as well as how much variety we'll see in enemies and locale.

In terms of visuals, the work-in-progress version of the game has a rich look to it. The graphics have a lush, detailed look that seamlessly incorporates the game's interfaces as they're required. The environment featured a broad array of subtle textures that gave it a lived-in look that fit well. The guards were suitably menacing, with a very high level of detail on their armor, which gave them a cold feel that suggested they weren't living beings. The star of the demo was, obviously, Trico, who looked stunning thanks to a boatload of little animation touches that brought the creature to vivid life. The monster's expressive eyes, a highlight of all the trailers we've seen for the game to date, were eerily lifelike as were its mouth movements. In addition, Trico's fur and feathered stubs were all on display to varying degrees of subtlety that sold the massive creature as a living, breathing monster. The boy didn't dazzle us in quite the same way, although, as we've seen in Team Ico's previous games, the team knows how to get a lot out of minimalist character design. So, while his character model wasn't exactly bursting with polygons the way Trico's was, little touches of detail and animation made him every bit as real as Trico. The only minor blemishes on the game's promising visuals appear to be some camera quirks and animation hitches that are to be expected in early versions of a game.

Obviously, the demo of The Last Guardian was way too brief for our tastes, but it was enough to get us excited for what's to come. The game looks to have a lot of potential and we're certainly anxious to spend more time with it. The gameplay mechanics were definitely interesting and have us curious about how they will evolve over the course of the experience as you bond with Trico. The visuals reflect an art aesthetic that's undeniably Team Ico, so we're definitely hungry to see more of the world. The only area of uneasiness we have is around Trico and the boy: We're still more than a little worried that one of the duo may be flying solo by the game's end or, worse, the pair goes out in some kind of Bonnie and Clyde-esque blaze of glory. Look for more on The Last Guardian in the months to come. The game is slated to ship around the holidays this year.

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Discussion

201 comments
bostadskontrakt
bostadskontrakt

If they decide to make an unhappy ending with this where this animal dies or something, then I will strangle someone. Possibly Fumito Ueda.

hellpolice
hellpolice

This is a sure buy for me as I was impressed by Shadow of the Colossus...This is the kind of games I want to make!

Krinnium
Krinnium

this year has a lot of crazy good games comin out. ima be broke :[

misterfuzzykins
misterfuzzykins

I'm gonna cry like a little b*tch when that cat griffon thing dies/the kid has to leave it behind. And you just know that something like that HAS to happen. WHICH SUCKS

DAFTArticuno
DAFTArticuno

Omggg i want this game soo bad! It looks beautiful and the story is going to be amazing i can already tell. If only i had a PS3 :'(

BigGhost_AJT
BigGhost_AJT

@that1guy67: "kitty griffin monster" LOL!!! I've just calling it cat-dog-bird. Much easier on the tongue!

mischiefmeerkat
mischiefmeerkat

wow, that looks simply beautiful...and definitely emotionally inspired. I can tell it's gonna be a real unforgettable (and probably real sad) game. looks like you're gonna get attached to Trico real fast =p I wish it was for PC though...i hate to have to get a PS3 just for this :/

that1guy67
that1guy67

ok lets be honest. the games probably gonna end one of 4 ways. 1. The boys gonna die. 2. The kitty griffin monster thing is going to die. 3. one of them is hurt or goes missing and we have to wait for another game. or 4. they both end up just fine, saved the day and start another adventure. i think the game looks great but games are becoming more predictable. if the story in this can throw me for a loop then i will be impressed. guess we will have to just wait and see. my hopes are high but still.........

maniksdi
maniksdi

animal? . . no no no . . its a monster lol . . if I saw one of those sitting infront of a pet shop . . I'd scream n leave the area asap apart from that comment by fumito . . . . . really nice game . . I resisted the ps3 for so long . . guess I cant do that anymore . . good thing the prices are down now :)

maniksdi
maniksdi

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

grim0187
grim0187

This will join my library of PS3 games, thats for sure

Barcafalcon
Barcafalcon

6 years for one game,gonna be sawesome(super awesome)

Vkain
Vkain

@VelcroJonze Same here. I have a sense of foreboding.

splash1788
splash1788

This game is going to be the sun in "Shadow of the Colossus"!

dw207
dw207

this game looks awsome

VelcroJonze
VelcroJonze

This game is going to break my heart, I can already tell.

SpedKnight
SpedKnight

@Philly04 couldnt have said it better myself lol

Jag-T1000
Jag-T1000

Is this game ever going to get released?

slimskelter
slimskelter

I hope they port this to the NGP somewhere down the line. It'd give me an adventure to work on while stuck on flights.

Philly04
Philly04

*puts $60 aside* Whenever they're ready, I'm already there.

TripSolidBounty
TripSolidBounty

Looks like the kind of story that would have a REALLY sad ending.

ShootumUP26
ShootumUP26

Hate the translator, love what he is saying

dragonrider0703
dragonrider0703

I am realy excited for this game i haven't played the previous one but i plan on buying the collections and grabbing this and with the part about choosing to bond with Trico or not i will most likely bond with him I just hope its not one of those the pet/creature dies

mrhagane
mrhagane

@INewIRave: lol, acctually, that "perverted game" one japanese type of game style, although i never approve them as "game". Acctually, that "perverted" game was targerted for japanese theirself, i even can't imagine something like that could sold so well (i mean in japan), but who cares? they are gamer too but they are Otaku (term for anime and manga fans, even i'm one of them).. they just like us, the only things that distinguish us and their are the different of taste. But, truly i never like that "perverted game". It isn't a game but it is only a fanservice, nothing more nothing less. Things I like about Japanese games only if they can make games with their different style of their own (okami, MGS, sotc, Ico and LOTS of the other)

isaacmj
isaacmj

Athough I absolutely hated Shadow of the Collosus (I believe it's a boring and dull game) and I was never able to get a copy of ICO, I'm very interested in this title. The gameplay seem like filled of puzzles and the story seems simple but deep.

IdolConverge
IdolConverge

It's always great seeing new stuff from Team Ico, one of the few Japanese companies that hasn't lost it's game.

ash162
ash162

It's interesting that one has to create a relationship rather than follow a pre-determined one. Looking forward to this..

dipsetboy17
dipsetboy17

the ps3 just keeps getting better and better just like the ps1 and ps2 did lol.

tamonix
tamonix

game of the year 2011 :)

DiamondSlicer
DiamondSlicer

Wow... I just know I will LOVE this game. Finding yourself being able to bond emotionally and really care about a game character isn't an easy thing to do, but by looking at this I just know you can't help but be attached to Trico.

Gohan_4
Gohan_4

I can´t wait for this game!!!!!

INewIRave
INewIRave

@mrhagane i agree with you, graphics wise these games were brilliant. They did engross you in the scenery which did leave you in awe and in the brilliant level designs but you have to conceed that these games were not games which would cause the gamer any trouble and which would not take long to master due to the limited gameplay features! I know thats not the point of them and maybe thats what makes them stand out from the crowd but its why ico didnt sell and why shadow of the collosus didnt attract as many people as it ought to despite being the more appealing of the 2 (collosus>kid with horned hat). As for their 'style' yeah its definitely not western but when i hear japanese games i do not think of shadow of the collosus...i think of zone of the enders, rpg's (with girls in made by perverted developers) and okami not Sotc or ico i dont know it doesnt seem like that much of a representation of japanese gaming to me.

razorfett147
razorfett147

@jemoedr Yes, I have, on occasion. I can understand celebrating (and/or defending) one's PS3 ownership in light of immature comments from Xbox or Wii fanboys.....but I fail to see the point when no such incursion has occurred yet in this comment section. All I'm saying is........be excited for this game (I am). Don't be excited because the Wii and 360 won't be getting it.

Psychokillaz
Psychokillaz

I have an eye on this due to ICO and SotC but to be honest the animal turns me off some. He/she looks goofy. I wish they used a different design. That said, I will still check it out and am looking forward to it.

jpf1138
jpf1138

@Erik729 I agree. These devs know what they want and they certainly take their time achieving it. Should be a memorable experience. Launch day purchase for me, as well as the ico/colossus hd bundle.

Erik729
Erik729

@jpf1138 That is very interesting, and it's understandable if it is inspired by Japanese artistic methods. Hopefully it will look good and fluid in the final product, and not break the atmosphere. I trust it will, Shadow of the Colossus is amazing and it seems that these devs cannot make a bad game.

johny300
johny300

The creatures name is trico, like ico, this will be GOTY 2011 and i'm going to buy 10 copies.

Steel_Rain777
Steel_Rain777

I seriously cannot wait for this. I'm also looking forward to the reboot(sort of) of ICO/SOTC for PS3. Never got to play ICO and didnt finish SOTC(im lame I know) and it looks like TLG will not disappoint. Sorry for all the acronyms, :)

Steel_Rain777
Steel_Rain777

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Sorrow_42
Sorrow_42

I'm not a casual console gamer although I own both consoles but I have to say that this picked my interest, the whole concept seems very "out of the ordinary" special and that can only be good(most of the time).Hands crossed for this one and I have high hopes for it.It just feels like a game worth buying.

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

If that dog/bird/hyrbrid thing dies at the end I'm going to be an emotional wreck. This game looks better every time I see it, can deffo see myself getting hooked.

mrhagane
mrhagane

@INewIRave: well, actually, sotc and ico was different for most of action, advanture, puzzle game.it is more "artistic" game rather than most of western game that relied to much for "cool action". Most of people don't understand to much for ico and stoc, but if you have sensitivity in order to understand the depht of fumito ueda game's, you will feel that the game was awesome in art direction. In my opinion, sotc and ico was the most unique game that i ever play. Anyway, the strong part in the game wasn't the story, but in atmosphere way, playing sotc and ico like watching moveable canvas painting, suddenly you will feel the silence, loneliness, the breeze of grass and winds, everything seems to be fantastic! unlike shinji mikami and the other game designer/director that game must be in western style, fumito ueda has his own style, it is japanese art style, the style of silence and loneliness

cameio
cameio

God i want this game so bad i want it now

jemoedr
jemoedr

@razorfett147 Do you also say this on xbox or wii exclusive games...

Dragard_Kaos
Dragard_Kaos

This game looks like it's going to be very sad... I already have that feeling in my stomach...