The Last Guardian does, in fact, exist.
I got to see it this year at E3 2015, both on the big stage, and at the Sony booth. It has been a long time since The Last Guardian was first revealed, and it had become something of a joke in the past few years. Now, eight years after its announcement, is The Last Guardian still a breakthrough title? Are we still in love with this boy and his gryphon, like we were oh so many years ago?
The basic concept of The Last Guardian is simple. This boy and his gryphon Trico are stuck in a crumbling tower, a very slowly crumbling tower. Obviously their goal is to get out of it before they fall and die, but Trico, unfortunately, cannot fly. So they decide to escape the tower by using the next best thing: puzzle solving prowess.
If this story seems rather simple that’s because it is. Sony wasn’t ready to reveal deeper details about the story. There will obviously be supernatural elements and we hope that the game will somehow connect to the stories of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus , but until the game releases we will just have to be OK with, “Boy stuck in tower. Boy want out of tower. Also gryphon.”
An important part of The Last Guardian is a sense of scale. In fact, all of Team Ico’s games built themselves around scale. In Ico , everything was huge as a labyrinth extended around the protagonist that was far too big for him to comprehend. In Shadow of the Colossus , the enemies you fought towered over you in ways that defied biology.
In The Last Guardian , you kind of get a little taste of both. The crumbling tower is very Ico -like, in that the exit never seems close and you always have another puzzle to solve. Meanwhile, Trico towers over you the way that the colossi in Shadow of the Colossus did.
For that matter, he fulfills the same purpose as the colossi did, in that he is a thing you can climb on. This seems rather heartless considering a gryphon is a living thing, but Trico isn’t just a companion, he is a puzzle piece. You can climb on his fur, have him transport you in his mouth, use his strength to move items out of the way, and more.
Perhaps the best example of Trico being used as a game mechanic is the ending portion of the trailer we saw at the Sony press conference. There, our protagonist attempts to jump to Trico but falls short. However, Trico’s tail curls underneath the platform he is standing on, and our hero gets to latch on and climb up his fur. That sequence looked scripted, but it wasn’t. If you didn’t reach Trico’s tail, you would have fallen, and if Trico wasn’t there, you would just be completely out of luck. That being said, Trico will always attempt to reach out to you, with mouth, tail, or otherwise. You will always be given every chance you can to survive, and everything else comes down to your own forethought and ability to solve puzzles.
The thing about The Last Guardian that makes it hard to preview is that it’s deceptively simple. Press a button, order your gryphon around, press a button, jump, press a button, pull a block into position – lather, rinse, repeat. It’s not like you are doing anything very deep or complex here. The deepness of the game comes from its puzzles, which is really how the best puzzles are crafted. The puzzles in The Last Guardian aren’t hard to understand. All the pieces are there when you begin.
But putting them together gives you that satisfying EUREKA moment that we all look for in cerebral games like this. It’s just that the main puzzle piece is usually your gryphon, whether you are using him to bash through a broken wall, or as a platform to climb up to a higher area.
The one thing I disliked about The Last Guardian were the graphics. Frankly, it just doesn’t look that great. It still looks like a Playstation 3 game, which would make sense because it was originally being developed as one. But, at the same time, it’s only coming out for the PS4, which is a bit disappointing. I know people who purchased a PS3 specifically for getting The Last Guardian . I understand that Sony is using this as their big console exclusive, but it still feels like a large portion of Sony’s user base is being forced to upgrade for no reason.
But aside from this, The Last Guardian looks very solid, a worthy successor to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus . It will be released in 2016. No more specific release date has been given. Let’s hope it won’t be delayed once more.