I remember it like it was just yesterday, the day when The Last Guardian was announced. During that time, people wanted more of the magic presented by Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, two titles considered as modern art in video game format. Both games are very well grounded and their fame well deserved. The Last Guardian would be the same. So they said, thought that, and waited. And waited for more. Then nothing. The Last Guardian’s development cycle is one known for its bumps and unmet promises, but finally, here we are. The Last Guardian was finally released after almost a decade inside the development oven. But is it good?
A Boy and his Winged-Dog/Rodent
The story of The Last Guardian, if you’re not aware, is about a boy befriending a monster named Trico. While certainly not the best of first meet-ups, the pair find themselves trapped together inside a pit. The boy, not knowing what the hell is happening, decided to help the wounded Trico. The two unlikely partners decide to cooperate with each other to escape. What they’re in for is an adventure that’s full of twists and turns, inside a maze-like fortress that extends upwards into the sky.
Obviously, I won’t delve deeper into the story as plays a critical part in The Last Guardian. However, do not expect the tale to be given on a silver platter every once in a while. The Last Guardian story is similar to a fairytale, concise but impactful. It does provide the answers and the reasons as to the “whys”. But that’s not only what makes this game shine.
The player assumes the role of the “boy”, not a talkshow host, but a little boy, frail and thin, finding himself in the middle of an unknown land. With him is Trico, a beast of lore that at times, looks cute, but can be menacing if provoked. As the “boy”, the player can leap, do some things normal children can do, and also things that they usually can’t. Shimmying across ledges for extended periods of time is one, and also leaping to and from platforms situated extremely high above the ground is another. Also, falling from a four-story height is something that he can just shrug. This mad “skills” of the boy is necessary as The Last Guardian is an action/platformer/puzzle game.
Limping and manning up is just part of the game
Next, let’s talk about Trico. Trico can be deemed as the boy’s bodyguard and partner in crime. With his help, the player can solve puzzles and provide the “action” in this game. While mostly desolate, the Last Guardian has unknown enemies which the boy cannot, in his own capacity, deal with. That is when Trico comes in, a walking tank and problem solver.
“Feed me, little man.”
How did the situation become like this? Well, the Boy has to provide Trico with enough meals as time goes by. These pet food comes in clear blue barrels that must be served to Trico lest he stops moving. And that is where the game’s main caveat/charm comes in.
Tools of the trade.
As you can imagine, The Last Guardian is a giant escort mission. You can take it both ways, the boy escorting Trico, or Trico escorting the boy. The feeling is mutual. But, Trico is a beast with his own behavior, whims and wants. Sometimes he follows, and sometimes he doesn’t. As the game progresses, Trico can be commanded to do certain tricks to solve puzzles, but there are times when the player should just let Trico be to reveal secrets and funny scenes.
From PS3 to PS4
The Last Guardian has a brooding mystery about its surroundings, its purpose and reason.
As with all games made/supervised by TeamIco, the music in The Last Guardian is something to commend. The tunes change depending on the moment, a mix between good silence and rhythmic action. Silence plays a great part as standing in awe of the surroundings while thinking about the present circumstances creates a unique atmosphere. It shows that flamboyant tones just isn’t right for everything. In the times the music is on, expect something like Shadow of the Colossus, followed by a strange calm.
In most cutscenes, the boy is still under the player’s control. This resorts to some very awkward poses given the game’s intricate physics and collision engine.
For graphics, it becomes obvious as to why The Last of Guardian was delayed. We get to see great lighting and shadows that truly add realism, yet a distinct art style to the game’s overall storytelling. The surroundings play a huge part in setting the tone and this is where most of the design went in. In the game are scattered vistas and verandas where the player can view the surroundings. They serve no purpose but to remind the player of the loneliness and the magnitude of the mysterious structures. Noteworthy is how Trico’s fur/feathers flutter during action or simply because of a gush of wind. Oh and the boy? His image stands out in comparison to all the details, not that it’s bad but he does stand out against the more attended objects and doodads.
Comforting scenes like this act as an oasis after a climactic event.
Apparently, some scenes were too taxing for the base PS4. I encountered several scenes in which a significant drop in frames would occur in the first couple of seconds. Aside from a surprised “WTF!?” appropriately accompanied with an interrobang, I do hope that a patch would be released in the near future to remedy these situations.
Should You Play It?
You should. I do know that the prolonged delays and hiatuses were enough to stymy interest, but The Last Guardian turned out to be a very great game. That’s in my case and I feel that this game might be divisive. Partly because a lot of players might expect action similar to recent titles. If you’re part of that enclave of fellows expecting high-adrenaline action against towering monsters like in Shadow of the Colossus, this game is not that. The Last Guardian tells a story, be it in silence, or in exposition, and it does so splendidly. It borrows more on Ico’s solitary roaming and puzzle solving rather than the intervallic explosive skirmishes in Colossus.
Just look at that guy, wouldn’t you want to play with him?
The puzzles are well done and The Last Guardian does not hold the players hand during these challenges. Even the tips, read in the voice of an aged version of the boy, is quite vague. It teaches the player to scan the surroundings, look for openings, and figure out a way to escape. It’s also merciless as I’ve encountered false leads or areas where-in you expect something to happen, only for it to be solved in a very simple fashion.
A minor annoyance is Trico’s behavior. While it does try to resemble the behavior of a beast, often times, I found myself stuck despite knowing the solution to a certain puzzle. Despite repeatedly commanding Trico, the beast simply shrugged and decided not to follow. This scenario happened to me more than once, forcing me to wait for a few minutes in order to advance. Other than that, everything seems in order.
As with the Sony PS4’s tagline: “Greatness Awaits”, The Last Guardian is an embodiment of that fact. I enjoyed it as a game, and it emotionally hit me while playing as it banks on the bond between a beast and a human, something that pet lovers can definitely relate. It is challenging and there’s a strange charm to it that despite looking rough in terms of design, it feels huge and overbearing. A substance and a meaning that most games nowadays lack.
Oh, and it’s one of the best endings I’ve ever witnessed. Truly satisfying.
The Last Guardian is a Sony PS4-exclusive.