When I was first exposed to The Last Guardian during the 2009 E3 presentation, I thought, “It’s by the same people who made Ico? I’m definitely getting it.”
Imagine my disappointment when the game was cancelled. And as the years passed, I revisited the thought, “Man, I really wish that game came out,” every once in a while.
Fast forward to 2015, when the game was again revealed at E3. I screamed. No way. Is this really happening?!
The release was slated for October 2016, my birth month. I planned to buy it for my own birthday present, but then it was pushed to December instead. So naturally, I bought it the day it was released and deemed it my early Christmas present to myself.
And here’s my take on the game that I have been pining for these last couple years.
Similarities to Past Games
The director Fumito Ueda was responsible for Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. The Last Guardian draws some elements from these previous titles. One example is the unnamed boy’s ability to jump on and climb up on Trico (the gigantic griffin-like creature) is a callback to the protagonist in Shadow of the Colossus climbing up colossi during battle.
The boy wakes up in some ruins, similar to Ico waking up in a fortress. Trico follows the boy around the entire game, the way Princess Yorda followed Ico. But in a role reversal, the boy spends most of the game weaponless while trying to avoid being carried away from stone guards. He has to wiggle away and Trico does most of the work, stomping and biting the guards. This is in contrast to Ico having weapons to smack away at the shadow creatures that try to carry Yorda away.
Another feature this game shares with its predecessors is the lack of dialogue. In fact, you spend half of the game in the dark. As in, you have no idea what is even going on- until a long cut-scene explaining the story finally plays in the middle of the game. The only kind of dialogue you hear is from the narrator, who is essentially the boy as an older man, as this story is a flashback.
The Bond Between Boy and Beast
I have a soft spot for cute creatures, so admittedly, Trico was the greatest appeal of the game for me. The boy wakes up next to this creature who is at first hostile, until you start gaining it’s trust.. by feeding it. In fact, you spend a lot of time in the game trying to feed Trico. Sounds exactly like my dog.
Nevertheless, the bond that they develop as the story progresses is heartwarming. Trico is surprisingly expressive. It’s fairly obvious when he’s in an affectionate mood, or when he’s distracted by something. His pain is conveyed in his cries and his face when he gets attacked. I admit there were times in the game when I was anguished at seeing his pain and stressed out when I couldn’t help him right away.
The Beauty of the Game
One thing that stuck out to me during Ico was the beautiful art style, which was revisited in The Last Guardian. The architecture of some of the settings actually reminded me of Ico. The bright, lush colors of the outside were juxtaposed with the dark and dreary colors of the inside of the ruins. The outside was beautiful and looked so peaceful.
My Gripes with the Game
As with many people, I also had a problem with the controls- most notably, with controlling Trico. I guess you can say it’s a bit realistic with the struggle of trying to get this creature to do what you want it to do. Sometimes there was a miscommunication. Trico would jump to places that I didn’t want him to go to. Or worse yet- he wouldn’t budge at all. A lot of time was wasted because Trico just couldn’t pick up on my cues. I threw my hands up and yelled a lot in frustration, and sometimes had to take a break from playing. Since the game relies heavily on your interaction with Trico, it was impossible to progress further until he finally did what I wanted him to do.
Oh, and should I mention all the times I died because he failed at catching me? A lot of the game involves platforming. The boy has to jump over high, vertigo-inducing settings. There are times that you have to purposely jump off structures and hope that Trico doesn’t miss catching you. Whenever there are moments where Trico has to catch you in midair, everything is played in slow-mo.
Cue all the screams I emitted whenever his mouth clamped down on the air just above my head before I plummeted to my death.
And the camera was simply put, terrible. Especially when you sat on Trico’s back as he walked into areas with low ceilings. It’s like Sonic Adventure 2 all over again.
But despite all the gripes I had with the game, I still found it worth playing. The experience of playing with a giant and cute companion during the entire game made it fun. And if you ever found yourself stuck on a puzzle, the narrator or Trico himself would give you clues.
I’m truly grateful that The Last Guardian was released at last. I only wish that it was a longer game.