Nine years. It’s been nine years since The Last Guardian was first announced, and after numerous delays, almost leading to its cancellation, Fumito Ueda and his studio genDESIGN were finally able to bring this gem to life.
Assuming you never played Ico or Shadow of The Colossus, two games any respectable gamer my age has completed multiple times, The Last Guardian puts you in the similar shoes of a mysterious little boy, aided by a griffon-like creature, on a mission to escape the valley they seem to be entrapped in.
How did the little boy find himself in the valley? How did he end up being best friends with such a beast? These are two questions whose answers you will have to unlock for yourself–you really must witness it for yourself. No words are enough to explain how powerful the bond between these two grows throughout the 12 hours of this surreal journey.
The Last Guardian was, of course, being developed for the PS3, but the hardware proved too restricting for the developer. What was the next best thing? Abandon the project, then over time replace the members of the original team working on it multiple times, and announce it for the PS4 a good two years before its final release. You know, the standard process for games: Disappear for almost a decade, pull off a mea culpa, and expect a monumental reception.
Videogames are bound to the prevalent entertainment zeitgeists. Yes, you still have lots of pixel art games, and games inspired by the 8-bit/16-bit eras, but they are not representative of their medium: the act, and pleasure, of playing them is rife with anachronistic charm and nostalgia.
“The Last Guardian” was conceived for the gamers of the past generation, gamers who had not played any of the “Uncharted” or modern “Tomb Raider” games. Mechanics and design ethos have changed much over the years, and releasing this relic in this age is one part arrogant, and one part blindly ambitious.
The game still looks like a Playstation 3 game, and though you may not experience phenomenal cutscenes or state-of-the art graphics, the overall aesthetic and visuals are beautiful nonetheless. Whether you played its two preceding titles or not, you will appreciate the water color motif and the instilled surrealism of venturing through ruins and medieval castles.
The protagonist may appear young, but don’t let his youth and apparent innocence fool you: he can hold his own, and in the moments when he flounders, Trico, his beastly companion, is there on his side at all times.
Trico will help you overcome obstacles, solve numerous environmental puzzles, and assist you in defeating those weird enemies that keep coming at you. Usually when you are aboard Trico, it knows its bearings and which platform to hop on to next. Sometimes, however, Trico will be faced with multiple options, rendering him docile as he awaits your instructions. You can order Trico to perform simple things like bashing a gate, elevating you to higher platforms, and moving in any direction you point to.
Using an enchanted mirror you weild, you can also make Trico fire thunder and fireballs from his tail at the target and direction of your choice. This will come come handy when you are impeded by a wooden door, looking for hidden areas, or simply looking to defeat a wave of enemies.
But Trico isn’t invincible. He seems to have an innate fear of colorful mirrors, which is a perfect segue into the puzzles. Each time you encounter such a mirror, you will have to destroy it before Trico can follow you. Also, while in the heat of battle, Trico will get hit with spears which will weaken him. After the battle, it is up to you to remove them off of his body. Trico will also sit still when he gets hungry. In this case, you need to go and look for special glowing barrels that Trico may consume to regain energy.
These are all puzzle-opening mechanics, but they go the distance in defining your relationship with Trico. Though you may initially be following set cues when you are required to calm Trico down after your first intense encounter, it will become a habit that you will voluntarily tend to as the game progresses.
My only real gripe with The Last Guardian is the camera, an unfortunate caveat of many games of past, and that has sadly migrated to this generation. Have Trico follow you through a tight passage: camera Salsa.
There’s no clear storyline, and whatever is there, is recounted through the magic of cutscenes and flashbacks. The events do eventually build up to a crescendo near the end; take from it what you will. If you are privileged enough, play it on a home theater to immerse yourself more, thanks to a deep set of ambient sound effects accompanied by a captivating score composed by the talented Takeshi Furukawa.
Yes, it has been a long wait, but I truly enjoyed The Last Guardian till the very last scene. It is hard to find such gems that take you on an emotional roller coaster. Within it is a beautiful, untold tale of a friendship between the little boy and Trico.
The Last Guardian is a Playstation 4 Exclusive and was made available to us via a review copy from Playstation.