An awful lot has happened in the last nine years, especially to me.
Moved country (again), gained three kids, lost animals, gained animals, lost jobs, gained jobs, kept my kindred spirit happy, movies came and went, games came and went, I self-published books, wrote 4 screenplays that never won anything, fought off the daily black shadow of fear from the Big C and gave birth to this site.
Its been a ball, and in the middle of it all there was something I had to experience, something I yearned for year after year. Every Sony E3 presser I would sit and watch the internet like Batman waiting for Joker to pop up somewhere, I needed news, a whisper or even just a sign of life that Trico was still coming.
Trico, a legend amongst gamers – the product of Japan Studio and Team Ico, the powerhouse combo behind two of the most endearing Playstation experiences ever created and it was attached to the mysteriously titled The Last Guardian. Here are the 2009 and 2016 trailers.
Ico the first in a trilogy from the studio lived in my PS3 for quite some time (in fact the PSplus copy is still installed), a grainy and mysterious platformer where as a young boy with horns you had the noble charge of protecting a waif like princess. Leading her through the puzzzles of a huge and foreboding castle, dragging her away from shadow creatures and when required beating them with a big stick. In a time when games have, are and were demonised for violence and killing these games shone a light on a family friendly and imaginative adventure.
Shadow of the Colossus was just as ground breaking, but the team had challenged themselves, again bringing the player in to a rich and expansive fantasy world and offering up a suite of giant Collossi to be beaten. The creatures were the puzzles this time around, facing up to these giagantic Boss Fights, finding their weaknesses and living real satisfaction at beating them. It was a bit sad, but delivered in such classic Team Ico fashion that the experience dwarfed the games lighting up the charts in other more familiar genres.
Then somewhere near June in 2009, a video surfaced on what was a relatively new platform ‘Youtube’, the game was unmistakably Team Ico driven. There was a boy in familiar environs, running, jumping and doing Ico type stuff, but, and it was a big but. There was also a creature, a big creature, a beautiful creature that was all feathers, tail and character. It caught the imagination of people that knew what it would mean, we watched and rewatched, we discussed at length and we waited for more news. Then it vanished into rumour.
Years went by, release dates would often be loaded by retailers fuelling speculation, but nothing would eventuate. Hell, I even bought a PS3 on the expectation that I’d be playing Last Guardian sometime at the end of the last decade. E3 would come an go without a murmur, a few years ago there was another teaser reminding us that Trico was alive, but then upheaval at the studios threw the game’s arrival into doubt again. The world moved into the realm of the PS4 and still nothing, until E3 2015 when we got to see something and were given a reminder that Trico was on track having leapt onto a new console generation. It wasn’t until 2016 and the E3 Sony Presser that patientence was vindicated and Last Guardian was given a 2016 release date, a date which of course traditionally slipped by a few weeks.
Which kind of brings us to now, The Last Guardian released and reviewed. Guy did a great job over here, while I took on the luxury of playing the game slowly and that is where my problem begins. Most people take issue with the simple, outdated game mechanics or the camera being difficult. These are fair points, but are not major stumbling blocks for me. My problem is that giant feathery lovable beast, Trico. I have waited oh so long to get my hands on the experience and I find myself struggling to proceed in the game, because I can’t take my eyes of the marvel of my animal companion.
Touted as a Griffon/Dog/Bird hybrid – I see a mixture of cat and dog leading the way. Every faithful fun loving pet I ever had is in there, subtle nuances and behaviours that destroy your suspension of disbelief and make you believe in the creature. We have a relationship, I feed him/her and he/she follows me loyally. Trico protects me and I absently stop what I’m doing to pet Trico as often as I can. In comparison to my character Trico is the size of a bus, yet very fleet of foot leaping cat like and gently stepping around me. Seeing those huge taloned feet step over you, then watching joyfully as the creatures hunches down atop a pillar to scratch its ear. It may not be AI in the true sense, but there are so many behaviours in there that stack upon themselves to make Trico behave like an independent being that I can’t keep up.
Its this simple, The Last Guardian is a game from a quality studio and there is a game in there that will pull your emotional strings no matter how tough you are, but if you are anything like me Last Guardian is a beautifully imagined Giant Pet Simulator (with optional puzzles). Right now, not really bothered about the quest, not really bothered about the trophies I’m all about hanging out with my super cute statue killing behemoth.
Yes it took nine years and more, but its an achievement in programming that deserves something more than recognition. The Last Guardian has been right up my street since I first saw it and I’m so glad I waited patiently.