Developer(s) – Japan Studios
Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment
Director – Fumito Ueda
Producer(s) – Fumito Ueda & Kazunobu Sato
PEGI – 12
Released in late 2016 following a lengthy development cycle, The Last Guardian is a follow-up to Fumito Ueda’s previous PlayStation 2 masterpiece games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. In development since 2009, Ueda was inspired to create the game on the back of fan opinion that the connection between Wander and Agro in Shadow of the Colossus was much more emotionally charged than Wander’s commitment to reviving Mono. Ueda expanded upon this by creating a friendship between a young boy and a towering creature called Trico. Whilst I did experience some difficulties with the game’s controls, as did many other players, I found that The Last Guardian ranks in as second in my opinion of the quality of the three Fumito Ueda games; not as good as Shadow of the Colossus, but better than Ico.
Graphics – 10/10
In my opinion, it was well worth the wait to behold the transition from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4, as within that time, the graphics were given a dramatic overhaul to fit in with the standard quality of the eighth-generation gaming. But I found that both graphically and conceptually; the visuals far exceed the standards of an eighth-generation game; in particular, the creature Trico’s features are intricately detailed, with its feathers reacting to respective indoor and outdoor environments accordingly, and its eyes giving it as much of an impressive emotional and lifelike appearance. The individual environments and dungeons are also something to behold, many of which reminiscent of both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus; many of which interestingly posing the question as to whether or not they are the same areas just in a different span of time, tying the game in with the mythology of the other two games nicely.
Gameplay – 7/10
The object of the game is to guide Trico through many of the different dungeons and environments in order to both solve puzzles and progress through the game. There is also an element of combat to it, as the player is persisted throughout the game by the so-called suits of armor, and the boy must use both Trico and any nearby weapons to defeat them. The game borrows elements from both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus to deliver a very unique gameplay formula, with payers having to fend off the suits of armor using multiple combat methods, and the player having to manipulate, and even climb upon Trico in order to reach otherwise impassable areas. The game is better than Ico in that the combat is a lot more intricate than the latter, since players simply had to hit monsters with a stick and advance to the next area, but it doesn’t measure up to the quality of Shadow of the Colossus since it follows a linear progression as opposed to an open-world one, and consequently, there is less to do throughout. There is replay value to be had since there are achievements to unlock for playing the game more than once, but what I found, in particular, was that the world in which the game is set offered more than enough scope for it to be developed as an open-world game; especially judging by the opening sequence, which suggests that there were many more guardians in the world than Trico at one point. Nevertheless, what there is in gameplay is enjoyable as well as challenging, and there are a fair few secrets thrown in for good measure to uncover along the way.
Controls – 9/10
As I pointed out, I did have a couple of issues with the controls along with many other people who have played this game; most notably with Trico’s AI. Sometimes, the creature wouldn’t do what I either wanted or needed it to do right away in some given situations despite following the in-game instructions, and on occasion, this would also affect combat. But it doesn’t become as much of a problem as to hinder the flow of the game completely, and for the most part, Trico responds as well as what is needed to most commands given to it by the player. I particular, I do like some more subtle control features, like how the creatures instinctively catch barrels in mid-air when thrown. Features like that give the game a certain charm not found in every title in my opinion.
Lifespan – 6/10
One playthrough of The Last Guardian clocks in at around 10-15 hours, which is yet another improvement on Ico, as that game lasts only a fraction of that time. For a linear game, however, that is about the standard time, which whilst maybe fair, isn’t anything particularly out of the ordinary. Personally, I would have been willing to wait even longer if it meant the developers could make the game either last longer, or set it in an open world, which I’m hoping is what Fumito Ueda does with the next game he develops that ties in with the same mythology, if and when he does.
Storyline – 9/10
The story of the Last Guardian follows a young boy and the towering creature Trico in their bid to escape from a huge and elaborate prison. To do this, the boy and the creature develop an intricate and complete understanding of one another, which blossoms into a strong spiritual connection that becomes even stronger throughout the course of the game. Ahead of the release of this title, I had read articles expressing opinions and concerns that the game would not be released in time to fill a gap for games that primarily told stories, and consequently, it would not be as effective as it could be. In response to that, I say the game is as effective in terms of story as it can be regardless of the fact that it has been released after titles such as The Last of Us, Journey, and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and despite this, the game is better than any of those previously mentioned titles in my opinion. Regardless of the fact that there is no minimal dialogue with the exception of the occasional narration, the game is more emotionally charged and elaborate than many other story-driven games on the market, with the addition of offering more in terms of gameplay.
Originality – 9/10
The Last Guardian, in my opinion, is unique in story and gameplay, but most importantly, it’s unique in terms of the general concept. It may not be the first game released to do many of the things that it does, following on from releases such as Papo & Yo and Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, but it does these things better than both of these latter games, and more intricately too. I can honestly say that it is unlike any other game I’ve ever played and one of Fumito Ueda’s most outstanding efforts to date.
In summation, whilst it does have its flaws, The Last Guardian provides a solid gameplay experience, excelling in the aspects of story, gameplay, and visuals. It may not be as enjoyable as Shadow of the Colossus was, but it is worth at least one playthrough, and proved to be worth the wait of its development cycle, thankfully not succumbing to many of the complications that sometimes come with games that have had lengthy development cycles.
8/10 (Very Good)