Hmm, will we ever see this game released?
The Lost Guardian
A single white feather floats in the darkness and alights next to a round stone structure which appears to be a well with a rusted chain disappearing into its depths. A blackbird lands on the structure, dwarfed by the seemingly huge white feather, caws and then flies away, startled as a giant creature with glinting eyes steps out of the shadows…
These are the opening seconds of a 2009 trailer for The Last Guardian, the third game from Sony’s own development team known as Team Ico, headed by Fumito Ueda. A game that has yet to be released.
Fans of developer Fumito Ueda are no strangers to patience. Early initiates into the cult of Ueda who picked up Ico for the PS2 in 2001 had to wait until October 2005 for spiritual successor / prequel Shadow of the Colossus. That said, when a third game was announced in 2008 (under the working title Trico) few expected that there would be no release in sight some 4 years later. There was a leaked trailer < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATl4RHYHm0w> around May 2009, and then a slightly different (but better quality and official) version of the trailer < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4E0e-ZCn14 >in June 2009 (originally shown at E3 that year). Speaking to Edge magazine in June 2009 about the leak of the “proof of concept” trailer, Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios boss, Shuhei Yoshida said: “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed [about the leak]…. But the reason we didn’t show early footage was because the team wanted to feel comfortable that the vision they created could be delivered. So everything we showed here was from the game engine, and they’ve got to the point where they know they can make this game and can see how it’ll be completed.”
And then we had a shorter trailer (originally shown at the 2010 Tokyo Game Show) <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxXmZbU9ez0 > which ended with a tantalising “Coming Holiday 2011”.
And then there was silence.
And then came the news in November 2011 that Fumito Ueda had left Sony.
Which made fans anxious.
And then came the news a few weeks later that he was working on the game on a freelance basis.
Which made fans confused. What exactly was going on with The Last Guardian?
Some clarity was provided last month when Shuhei Yoshida gave an interview to gaming site 1Up < http://www.1up.com/news/shuhei-yoshida-last-guardian-update > .
So here’s what Yoshida had to say: “Fumito’s vision is really causing a very difficult challenge for the developers, so there’s some scrapping and rebuilding – iteration in the process. That’s why [it’s taking so long]”. No detail on what exactly the problems are, but my money is on the creature AI causing them grief, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were also having trouble moulding a consistent and playable game around the unprecedented dynamic between playable character and a non-playable character AI which happens to be a 10 metre tall baby griffin / bird-kitten creature.
“Scrapping and rebuilding” are worrisome words, but I’d rather see them get this right than rush it out half-finished or imperfect. Of course this might mean that the final game differs somewhat from the trailers that we have seen so far, but then SOTC wasn’t quite the game that the proof of concept trailer for Project Nico (as it was originally known) indicated it would be. Check that out here <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMARK1AsJ6A > if you haven’t already seen it.
Ueda’s followers will also take some comfort from Yoshida’s statements that the contractual status of the Man with the Vision may have changed, but he is working on this title every day, and putting in some long hours on it. Which can only be good news.
What the reasons were for the change in Ueda’s contractual relationship with Sony, and whether it is connected to the slow development of The Last Guardian, we will probably never know. What we do know is that work on the game continues, and that Fuimito Ueda, who has transported us to lands ancient and mysterious in two compelling and haunting games, still has a guiding hand over the project.
And so the faithful wait.
For myself, I missed Ico first time round and only caught up with it on the recommendation of our friendly neighbourhood Geekzine editor in 2005, but the combined allure of Ico and SOTC induced me to buy a second hand PS2 just so that I could play these wonderful games. If you haven’t played them, don’t worry. Just go out a buy a PS3 and the HD double-pack reissue, and prepare to fall in love. And then one day, possibly, hopefully, you will wake up to the news that The Last Guardian has a release date and you, and everyone else in the cult of Ueda will breathe a sigh of relief, mutter a prayer of thanks, and pre-order a copy immediately.
Ico & Shadow of the Colossus collection is available exclusively on the PlayStation3 for approximately £30.