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Feature Article

The Last Guardian Has the Makings of a Bittersweet Masterpiece

Putting the Ico in Trico.

The Last Guardian is going to make me cry. I can already tell. I've only played the first 45 minutes of Fumito Ueda's latest adventure, but that was long enough to glimpse the emotional undercurrent softly smoldering beneath the surface. Like Ueda's earlier games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, Last Guardian delivers whimsy and wonder through its stirring soundtrack, fantastical world, and simple yet sympathetic characters. In this case, it's an unnamed boy and a creature called Trico, a feathered pastiche of mythical beasts that still manages to be emotive and adorable.

At the outset of my demo, the boy was sprawled unceremoniously across the floor of a grassy cavern. As he awakened, a narrator calmly explained the boy had no recollection of how he came to be there, nor did he remember where the black markings on his arms came from. Though the narrator's voice was deep and worn, it clearly belonged to the boy himself, though a far, far older version. I was initially concerned this narration would grow intrusive or bog the experience down with tedious exposition, but the voice never outstayed its welcome. Instead, it only punctuated particular moments, offering insight into the boy's thoughts while creating a sort of storybook framing.

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For example, once the boy realized he was lying near a massive monster, the narrator explained that although he was raised to fear these types of mythical man-eating beasts, he did not feel as though he was in danger at that moment. Trico, on the other hand, was clearly less sure about the boy. Unlike the friendly, affectionate Trico from the trailers, here he's covered in armor, chained to a circle of stones, and has two broken spears protruding from his body. As one of my first acts in the game, I scrambling up a nearby stone, leapt onto and grasped Trico's feathers, gripped a broken spear, and pulled it free--at which point Trico howled before kicking the boy into a wall, rendering him unconscious.

As the demo progressed, however, the game patiently developed a bond between its two characters, one that felt deeply authentic thanks in part to Trico's believable behavior. He'll crane his neck and cock his head inquisitively to look around a room, flinch when he hears a loud noise, and whimper quietly if the boy gets too far away. At one point, he even clung to the edge of a small clift, visibly reluctant to dive into the crystal blue pool of water below him. I eventually had to climb a dangling chain, retrieve a barrel of food, and toss it into the water in order to coax Trico down, all while the boy offered words of encouragement to his new companion.

The boy himself is interesting as well. Where most video game protagonists feel exceptionally powerful, the boy seems like, well, a child: somewhat capable, but ultimately still vulnerable. Whether he was struggling to pick up an object or clumsily hoisting himself up a ledge, his body language subtly and consistently reinforced the idea that he needs Trico to watch over him. But they do make an excellent pair. Trico proved essential to my progression throughout the demo. More than once, I called Trico over to my location so I could scale his massive body and leap to a higher platform. At one point, I retrieved a strange circular mirror shield from an icy chamber, which, when equipped and aimed, caused Trico to blast the targeted spot with lightning--the only mechanic I encountered that even remotely resembled a weapon.

No Caption Provided

While the platforming and puzzle solving made intelligent use of the minimal mechanics, certain aspects of the game still need some work. I noticed several objects clipping through each other--like Trico's collar clipping through his feathers--and occasionally had to fight to get the camera to cooperate. I also found the climbing controls to be somewhat awkward, though the aforementioned camera may have been partially responsible. And while it's not necessarily a problem, it's odd that the boy automatically crouches when facing small openings yet doesn't contextually grab ledges unless you press the grasp button. Why remove a fairly standard option like crouching only to complicate another relatively common mechanic like climbing?

These issues are minor, though, especially compared to the heartwarming innocence and empathy of the characters. The somber, almost mystical tone The Last Guardian established in less than an hour of play has me hopeful the final product will be well worth the more than seven year wait when it launches later this year.

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butterworth

Scott Butterworth

Yes, his mother is Mrs. Butterworth.
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Avatar image for sonypony4eva
SonyPony4eva

I want to play this so bad. If That screen at E3 said Feb. 2017, I would've literally cried lol. I'll be playing this and Battlefield 1 in October.

Avatar image for dogpigfish
dogpigfish

Looks boring to be honest

Avatar image for Bread_or_Decide
Bread_or_Decide

I'm not sure if anyone is clamoring for the old school team ico days of press X to grab ledge.

The look and style are classic team ico. I don't think the dodgy control system or camera had to carry over as well. Much like the tank controls in Resident Evil these not element fans want carried over into future games.

I preordered the collector's edition. Eurogamer's grim assessment of the controls and camera has me worried. I may have to cancel.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

This game has red flags in every direction. Preordering would be crazy.

Avatar image for louixiii
LouiXIII

@Thanatos2k: If you ever played ICO or Shadow Of The Collosus...plus read this preview, I think it's pretty safe to say this is going to be another masterpiece. Of course, you can check reviews first but I'm preordering. Worse case scenario, you can always move the preorder to another game

Plus it comes out 2 days before my birthday

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@louixiii: I don't care, the project has been mired in development hell for far too long. It doesn't matter who worked on it, there's multiple reports the team was repeatedly shuffled around with different people being put in charge over and over.

That's disastrous for the vision of a game.

Avatar image for louixiii
LouiXIII

@Thanatos2k: Well myself along with the rest of the world will enjoy while you look with a "I just ate 50 warheads all at once" look on your face xD

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@louixiii: What part of "don't preorder" means "don't ever buy this game"?

You wait and see if it's a disaster or not.

Avatar image for louixiii
LouiXIII

@Thanatos2k: What kind of proud Sony supporter are you? You're supposed to be encouraging people to pre-order this game. You're losing your edge Thanatos...

I forbid you from not only pre-ordering The Last Guardian...but I forbid you from EVER playing this bittersweet masterpiece when it's released to "turn-coat" sack of horse smit.

Now RUN to the shrine of Sony and beg for forgiveness...

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@louixiii: It's almost like I'm not a "Sony supporter" and never have been...

Avatar image for louixiii
LouiXIII

@Thanatos2k: Bullshit. You're Sony's 7tizz and you know it (no offense Tizzy lol).

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@louixiii: Oh, you're completely wrong. Got it.

Avatar image for louixiii
LouiXIII

@Thanatos2k: No I'm not. Anyone that checks out your post would know that you're a diehard Sony supporter. He make it painfully obvious. You're a brand loyalist. I'll admit...I like Sony too. They've made some very wise decisions this gen and I'm sure everyone can agree on that but...that doesn't stop me from playing games on both the Wii U and the Xbox One.

That's the difference between me and you...

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@louixiii: Yeah, you're clueless. That's the difference. Anyone who knows anything about me knows I'm not in the bag for Sony, but for PC.

Avatar image for louixiii
LouiXIII

@Thanatos2k: You must not know yourself then lol A few threads back you were backing Sony and trying to convince people not to get a Xbox...suuuuuuuuure you're not brand loyal lol

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@louixiii: Ah, I see, because at some point I said something bad about Microsoft I must be a pony. I see how your bad logic works now.

Avatar image for louixiii
LouiXIII

@Thanatos2k: Not just that, but it's been several other threads too. Matter of fact, the very first thread we bumped heads you accused me of not owning a PS4. I was like "if this bonehead only knew" but you came across as a diehard Sony supporter back then too lol Hey...I don't judge man. You like what you like lol

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@louixiii: I think you're making things up in your mind. Holding some petty grudge seems to explain your behavior though.

Avatar image for louixiii
LouiXIII

@Thanatos2k: lol Not at all...it's true. Why would I have a grudge against someone I will never see or know lol That's crazy. I'm just really observant xD

Like I said before, you don't have to lie to kick it lol Makes me no never mind.

Avatar image for toyo75
toyo75

I want to reserve a copy now. I can't wait for it to finally arrive for the PS10 in 2020 :-)

Avatar image for ibonedyourmom
ibonedyourmom

@toyo75: There's gonna be another 6 Playstations in the next 4 years?!?

Avatar image for toyo75
toyo75

@ibonedyourmom: Ummm....yes! PS4.5 followed by 4.75 , and then 5 and so on and so forth. Hehehe :-) Seriously though, I hope the game is worth the wait.

Avatar image for TheSeptopus
TheSeptopus

@toyo75: It's funny to see people still using 2020 as the distant future reference when it's only 4 years away.

Avatar image for Xristophoros
Xristophoros

@toyo75: still making jokes, eh? even with a firm release date you guys are doing your best to get a chuckle or two...

Avatar image for oakley2428
Oakley2428

@Xristophoros: This has been my most anticipated game for the last 5-7 years. I played the first two (ICO and SotC) at least a dozen times each while waiting for it, so holding out faith for this one was a real labor of love, but now that I know for sure it's coming out in October, I think all the delayed again jokes are pretty funny, because in the end we are FINALLY getting the game! Hooray, haha!

Avatar image for bdrtfm
BDRTFM

After ten years I would hope so. If they score 1 point for every year of production, it will be a masterpiece. But if the gameplay design was carried over from when it first started production, it may feel a little dated. But I'm guessing they've brought the game up to what the current market expects though. This game deserves it's own full length documentary. It would be interesting to watch what the hell went on for the last decade.

Avatar image for Xristophoros
Xristophoros

@bdrtfm: some interviews were released by ign last week. the director stated that the game did in fact go in and out of production several times... it was not in full production for 10 years is what he was getting at. since it was a joint production with studio japan, sony pulled resources and people from the project when needed and that slowed down the development process of the last guardian. i would say total production time was actually closer to 5 years all things considered, but we will never know the truth behind everything that went down.

Avatar image for 69
69

@Xristophoros: It almost certainly stopped production each time because it was falling apart and needed to be reworked, and not because it was a masterful product they just didn't want to release. Now they MAY have salvaged it and it COULD end up being a masterpiece, but the development of this game SHOULD make people wary. You know the old saying... "Hope for the best but prepare for the worst."

Avatar image for Xristophoros
Xristophoros

@69: even if it turns out to be a noble failure of a game, it has beauty and heart. there will be many things to enjoy, even if it doesn't completely come together in the best possible way it could have. i have enough confidence that the game will turn out well.

Avatar image for lonewolf1044
lonewolf1044

I hope it does not disappoint like Duke nukem did after so many years.

Avatar image for serialkisser
serialkisser

@lonewolf1044: my exact thoughts

Avatar image for cojuelodevil
cojuelodevil

I mean they have over a decade making this game (looks awful) so no one is expecting less than a master piece, expectation are to high but people think a react different than decade ago. It will be a total failure.

Avatar image for ibonedyourmom
ibonedyourmom

@cojuelodevil: Looks awful? You can't be serious. This is one of the best looking games I've seen.

Avatar image for Xristophoros
Xristophoros

@cojuelodevil: it does not look awful at all, actually and surely will not be a failure. it looks to be a spiritual successor to ico, which is a much beloved game. you should just say it is not for you. want to know what game will be a failure, both financially and critically? re:core. talk about unjustified hype for nothing.

Avatar image for cojuelodevil
cojuelodevil

@Xristophoros: the game has been in development since 2007, it have to be a master piece and in the case that is a master piece it wont make the money back, this is a business so the failure will be both financial for the time they have spend in development and critically cause the expectation are to high.

Avatar image for zerofrust
Zerofrust

I wonder what that thing tastes like...

Avatar image for brn-dn
brn-dn

Great, now when it is released and isn't a "masterpiece" people will hate it.

Avatar image for ArabrockermanX
ArabrockermanX

@brn-dn: Ya good luck telling people what development hell means for a video game...

Avatar image for o311rocks
o311rocks

Is there a release date or window for this yet?

Avatar image for Blumper
Blumper

@o311rocks: Unfortunately the link in the above article takes you to an article from 2015 about another release date that obviously didn't end up happening. Sony announced October 25 at their E3 press conference this year.

Avatar image for o311rocks
o311rocks

@Blumper: Yeh that's why I was wondering. It looks like they have since fixed the link.

Avatar image for butterworth
butterworth

@o311rocks: Last line of the article :)

Avatar image for o311rocks
o311rocks

@butterworth: Article was edited/updated to fix the link.