After a long, long, long wait, The Last Guardian finally has a release date! This October, the game many fans feared had been abandoned and would never be released is going to be playable on the Playstation 4. And it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that, given how long the game has been in development (nine years), this is probably the most anticipated release coming out of E3 2016.
Alongside the release date of The Last Guardian, we also got a new trailer for it. It looks as fun, unique, and mysterious as ever. But now that’s it’s finally almost here, the culmination of all the years of speculation are about to come to an end. So in the last few months before the nearly decade long wait is put to rest, we’ve decided to put together our wish list we’ve accumulated during all the waiting. These are the 15 Things We Want to See in The Last Guardian.
15. CHALLENGING PUZZLES
This is really the most basic request you could expect since, despite how exciting Team Ico’s games can be, they are puzzle games at heart. A big part of the difficulty in Shadow of the Colossus was just figuring out how to hurt each colossus and the most efficient way to do so. Executing your plan without getting killed was only really a concern towards the last third of the game. Obviously showing a player slowly pondering the best way to solve a puzzle wouldn’t be the most gripping trailer, so we’ve primarily seen a lot of action scenes in The Last Guardian. But it’s a pretty safe bet the game will have more in common with Braid than The Witcher.
While Braid had the gimmick of solving puzzles using time manipulation, obviously it’s the creature known as Trico who will be the key to solving many of the dilemmas we encounter in The Last Guardian. We definitely want moments of excitement mixed in as well, but this is a game we’re going into more for the slow satisfaction of finally solving a difficult challenge.
14. A GREAT SOUNDTRACK
If you ask for people’s favorite video game soundtrack, the score to Shadow of the Colossus is one that will inevitably be mentioned somewhere along the line. And understandably so. If you know anyone who doesn’t play games and who assumes the music is all just tinny beeps and boops, just put on the intro to Shadow of the Colossus to catch them up on how far things have advanced. Team Ico’s soundtrack is perfect for capturing the thrill and danger of finally getting a chance to attempt and maybe fail at something you’ve always been waiting for, or the subdued melancholy of a lonely silence.
Thus far, we’ve only heard the trailer music for The Last Guardian, but it already feels like it will capture the emotion of what’s transpiring on-screen. In the game’s debut trailer from years ago, the early moments of us seeing the boy and Trico interact are accompanied by soft instruments conveying the innocent wonder of these two crossing paths. It’s pretty incredible how well Team Ico is able to use the language of music to tell a story all on its own. We don’t know what the game’s soundtrack will sound like as a whole for a few more months, but if it’s anything like Team Ico’s previous games, it’ll be something to remember.
13. VISUALS THAT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE PS4
Most people are well aware that the original Last Guardian was actually scheduled to be a Playstation 3 game. Because it has now been postponed onto the next generation of consoles, obviously a lot of people are going to be asking what was so demanding about this game that it couldn’t run on the previous generation’s systems. And it’s a question Team Ico is going to have to answer, because, as demos for the game become more available, there’s only going to be more side-by-side comparisons with the Playstation 3 build to try and determine what was changed.
The most apparent source for a need in more power would presumably be Trico. Apparently it was only very late in the development cycle that Team Ico finally became satisfied with how the creature looked and moved, so perhaps the PS3 just didn’t have the hardware to allow him to appear as detailed and move as fluidly as they desired. But logically a new system should allow for all aspects of the game to see a boost in quality. So even though the game is clearly going for an art-style not meant to resemble reality, hopefully the amount of time and detail put into the project translates well into a game of incredible looking environments worthy of waiting for a whole new game system to come out.
12. STORY CONNECTIONS TO ICO
In terms of the goals in the two games, The Last Guardian and Ico already seem pretty similar. The boy in The Last Guardian has to solve puzzles using Trico, while the boy from Ico has to depend on Yorda to help him. Both games feature protagonists whose survival is near symbiotic with that of a partner. It’s not that surprising since both games come from the same company, but we know Team Ico is open to building more of a connection in their work than just similar gameplay.
The animal Trico also has broken horns just like the boy in Ico winds up with. While the boy in The Last Guardian is also trying to escape his captors like his counterpart in Ico. We know there’s likely to be a story connection between the two games that directly ties the titles together. So fans are already wondering where in the world’s timeline The Last Guardian will fit in, and whether it acts as a sequel to the game, or a prequel.
11. STORY CONNECTIONS TO SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS
Naturally we can’t talk about story connections to one of Team Ico’s games without talking about the other. The ending of Shadow of the Colossus, where Wander was reborn as a baby with horns on his head, heavily implicated that the game was actually a prequel to Ico. People probably had a hunch the games might be connected due to their similar art styles, fictional languages, and even a couple identical symbols and creatures to be spotted throughout the journey. But the ending confirmed these games are directly related, meaning it’s a fair assumption The Last Guardian will fit into that timeline as well.
The ruins we’ve seen the boy and Trico traverse look quite similar to the structures we saw in Shadow of the Colossus and Ico. And the development team already admits that in terms of gameplay, The Last Guardian is basically a fusion of the games. So why wouldn’t the stories fuse too? Trico certainly seems reminiscent of the colossi from Shadow of the Colossus. And if Trico is the eponymous last guardian, what happened to the other guardians? Were the guardians another name for the colossi that Wander killed? We’ll just have to wait and see what the connection is.
10. RELIABLE AI FOR TRICO
It looks like the boy and Trico are going to be working together for the majority of the game, basically turning The Last Guardian into an escort mission. That type of quest is notorious for irritating gamers, because it’s often executed badly, or in a way that hampers you by forcing you to protect someone who has the intelligence of a jar of mayonnaise. So anyone looking at trailers for the game has to be wondering how much of a challenge it’ll be working with the AI of Trico.
Team Ico has already said training Trico to be responsive is a deliberate part of the game’s challenge, and that like real animals, Trico may have to be commanded repeatedly before he obeys you. But we also know that Trico is supposed to become more obedient as the game progresses, so that’ll be the true test for when we’ll undoubtedly need precise timing to overcome the most difficult obstacles. But at least with Trico’s size, it seems like he’ll be pretty capable of defending himself. If anything, judging by the trailers, the player will be the one who needs protection.
9. AN INTERPRETATIVE PLOT
A lot of puzzle games have taken to not just making the gameplay a procedure of figuring things out, but the story as well. Popular puzzle titles like Braid and The Witness are both known for challenging the player to figure out what happened to make the world and characters as they are alongside figuring out how to get past the latest obstacles. It can be a fun mystery to leave the player with something to ponder years after they’ve beaten the game.
Team Ico’s games function the same way, and players still discuss the backstory and endings of both games today to try and piece together the most logical explanation for why things turned out the way they did. And while the development team is obviously being tight-lipped about their project that hasn’t even been put into the hands of players yet, they have at least mentioned that The Last Guardian will be similarly open-ended.
8. GETTING TO FIGHT ANOTHER CREATURE WITH TRICO
Team Ico has already hinted that Trico may not be the only creature of his kind in The Last Guardian. And in the recent E3 trailer, we saw what appears to be a second creature like him aggressively approaching the boy we play as. Nothing against Trico having some friends from his own species, but he has those talons for a reason, and with his size, we definitely want to see him go up against another creature at some point.
One of the most surprising moments in Shadow of the Colossus was you yourself getting to turn into a colossus at the end of the game, and even play as it to try and kill some humans. A lot of games would have had you just witness a moment like that in a cutscene, so it felt a lot more special to actually play it. It makes it look promising that if Trico does have a big battle in The Last Guardian, then we’ll get to be the ones determining the outcome.
7. MECHANICS THAT INNOVATE GAMING
This is a big request to ask of any game nowadays where there are so many different play styles that have been utilized over the years. But as games like Undertale show, some thinking outside the box still allows for some new ideas. And Team Ico is a development team that has proven capable of that kind of innovation with their past work. So while it might be hoping for a bit much that they can pull off that kind of work every time, it’s definitely something to hope for.
Ico was a rare instance of a 3-D puzzle game during the Playstation 2 era, and also integrated an AI ally in a way that was organic to the game’s mechanics. While The Last Guardian made each colossus fight feel like a cinematic spectacle by allowing the player to interact with these enormous creatures. The Last Guardian having Trico as its most noticeable gimmick appears to be a mixture of the two previous games. It’s hard to know how unique the game will play at this point, but with the amount of attention put into creating Trico, we’re expecting him to set a new standard for what to expect from video game animals.
6. GETTING TO FLY ON TRICO
There has been a lot of confusion and discussion over exactly what type of creature Trico is meant to be, but he clearly has some level of physiology borrowed from a bird. He has talons, feathers, and even wings. The latest E3 trailer even ends with the boy asking Trico if his wings are broken, which looks likely since we’ve only seen Trico running and climbing so far. Noticeably, we haven’t seen him fly. But that doesn’t mean he never will.
We know the boy can climb on Trico and even ride on him, basically using the creature as a means to reach areas a human could not normally access. To really make the most of that, it would make sense for Trico’s wings to heal at some point so the player can experience getting to soar through the sky. What eludes humans more than the ability to fly without using machines? Getting to fly on Trico at some point in the game would be a moment that would feel huge.
5. STORYTELLING THROUGH THE ENVIRONMENT
Show don’t tell is one of the top rules for any story. It’s often clunky and poorly executed when story makers worry too much about leaving things ambiguous, so they feel the need to explain everything the moment it’s encountered. It can take some of the fun out of the experience like someone sitting beside you while you’re watching a movie and explaining everything in advance. It’s nice to just experience things, and learn to notice the important details for yourself.
While we know The Last Guardian will have a narrator to it, at least to start the story, Team Ico has been good in previous games about giving you enough clues to start building theories without stating too much outright. The fictional language in their games tells us these aren’t meant to be stories of our world, and accentuated features can prompt you to know what to do without too much trial and error (like figuring out the weak point of a colossus that has enormous eyes). Games and movies have an easier time of transmitting information through visual cues than a book does, so we want to see that taken advantage of.
4. A LOGICAL IN-GAME REASON FOR THE PROTAGONIST NEEDING TO BE A BOY
While it doesn’t effect what a unique and fun looking game The Last Guardian appears to be, there is one aspect of the game’s development that has left a lot of people puzzled. The game’s director, Fumito Ueda, has informed the public that the protagonist was at one time going to be a girl instead of a boy. That on its own isn’t that odd since there’s probably all sorts of changes games go through that we wouldn’t suspect. What was strange was Ueda’s explanation for why the change occurred. He initially said they thought it could be awkward using a female character out of fear of the inappropriate views a girl wearing a skirt and a rotating camera could create.
An interviewer who spoke with Ueda said what everyone was thinking in response to that reason, and asked why couldn’t the girl have just worn pants? Ueda’s follow-up answer wasn’t much more encouraging, with him feeling a girl can not be as athletic as a boy, and stating, “Because it’s not easy for girls to make acrobatic movements—I think it’s unrealistic. Maybe that’s just my personal [opinion]. But also, many of the players are male, and it’s easy for them to use the boy character.”
Those answers left the interviewer disappointed, and it’s disappointing to fans as well. Make a game using whatever gender you like, but don’t base it off stereotypes. Even if there weren’t plenty of athletic women to refute that stereotype, and what Ueda said was true, this is a game featuring a giant winged bird/dog that’s already asking for a suspension of disbelief. So hopefully there’s something in the game’s story that provides a more satisfying explanation for why the protagonist had to be changed to a boy, like maybe Trico was captured by a cruel woman and now has an instinctive fear of anyone who reminds him of her.
3. A TRAGIC ENDING
Want to hear a crazy theory about this game that nobody else has said once since this game’s first trailer appeared in 2009? It could be possible this game has a sad ending due to the possibility of Trico dying. What? You mean everyone has said that? Well, darn.
Seriously though, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus both are known for their tragic stories, so it seems like a pretty reasonable expectation The Last Guardian will continue the tradition. And we’re okay with that. Some fans might find it masochistic, but sad endings can resonate more powerfully than happy ones sometimes. If Shadow of the Colossus had ended with Wander slaying each colossus and resurrecting Mono with no problem, yeah it would have been happy, but it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as thought provoking or memorable as the actual ending.
We’re not hoping Trico dies, since he basically is the most interesting part about the game as of right now. But if the story plays out that way and does it in a well told way, we can be okay with that. We know what we’re signing up for with a Team Ico game, and we’re ready for whatever comes.
2. TRICO PLUSHIES
Now while a tragic ending is the expectation, we know that there are still plenty of fans out there who will be heartbroken if something bad happens to Trico to finish the game. Though we’ve only had a few minutes of trailers to introduce us to this creature, it’s hard not to feel for Trico already. It’s a problem that afflicts lots of people, where we’re quite used to people dying by the hundreds in action movies and games, but animals? That’s the breaking point. Perhaps it’s just because they’re so innocent compared to what horrible things humans can do, or an aversion to seeing bad things happen to cute creatures, but a lot of people can’t take animal deaths in stories.
That being said, as we said in the previous entry, we’re not going to be surprised if Trico does die. So it’d be nice if Team Ico provided us all with our own Trico that we wouldn’t have to worry about being hurt. Yes, we’re talking about plushies, because why not? There’s inevitably going to be merchandise released based on the game at some point, like the figurines Shadow of the Colossus got. So why not a Trico plushie? There’s no doubt it would sell well, and it would be yours to keep no matter how sad the end of the game made you.
1. A GAME THAT’S WORTH THE 9 YEAR WAIT
Okay, amidst all the excitement for The Last Guardian finally coming out, we’ve got to be real about the fact that this game has a lot to live up to. This game was announced to the public in 2009, but it’s actually been in development since 2007. That’s nearly a decade on just one game! And some cynical fans are already grumbling about how this will probably be the next Duke Nukem Forever (which was terrible, for those of you who fortunately do not know).
Luckily, The Last Guardian doesn’t appear to have Duke Nukem Forever’s problem of bringing an outdated ‘90s action caricature full of misogynist humor into the more mature gaming climate we have. The Last Guardian took a while, and we’re definitely curious why, but it looks as fresh, captivating, and thoughtful today as it did years ago. Yeah, any gamer out there who thinks a decade of development time makes them entitled to the best game they’ve ever played, or will play, is probably going to be disappointed. But for everyone else who’s just been expecting a unique world, some emotional storytelling, and some fun, challenging puzzles? It’s looking like The Last Guardian will deliver.
The wait is almost over! Before The Last Guardian finally sees the light of day this October, tell us what you’ve been hoping for all these years. Do you think it’ll live up to everyone’s expectations? Share your thoughts in the comments!