Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Last Guardian: Why I worry so...

Team ICO, Oh Team ICO.

Why hasn’t this game been released yet? No, seriously. Why?

Do you hate us? Have we not used Shadow of the Colossus and Ico as glowing examples in the “videogames are art” argument? I will literally buy a PS3 to play this game – well, that and Final Fantasy versus 13 – because your pedigree means so much to me. I would buy this game before I would buy food.


Alright, how about a little back story. The Last Guardian is a game about a boy and his giant griffin released by the earthy manifestation of god Team ICO. Preceded by ICO and Shadow of the Colossus (the Nick Drake and Big Star of video gaming) Last Guardian has quite the reputation to live up to.

The Last Guardian was also announced in 2009 meaning that it’s been in the works since at least 2007. Well, after trailer after trailer and updated screenshot after updated screenshot, it’s finally going to be released in early 2012. Quite frankly, that’s ridiculous.

The ICO mythos has never been accused of being a story that’s over told. You could sum up the plot of both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus in a couple of paragraphs and I would be surprised of The Last Guardian is going to be any different. In fact, I’ll predict the entire story right now.

Boy is in trouble, probably because someone is trying to sacrifice him to something. Boy stumbles across giant bird thing and after some light tension they become friends. Bird thing saves boy from baddies. Bird thing dies.

What? They killed Argo. This doesn’t take rocket science to figure out.

What I think is happening is that The Last Guardian is being “Portal 2”ed. Portal 2 was an infinitely easier game than the first Portal. This is because they play tested the game WAY too much and it was made easier as too make sure no one’s brain hemorrhaged when challenged with a mildly difficult puzzle. This lead to a lot of really easy puzzles and a game that felt really padded out all for the sake of accessibility. On one hand this is okay – I want more people to play video games – but at the same time I feel like it took away from what, made Portal so great.

Here is a quote from Fumito Ueda, “I also want people who are not serious game players to try out this game. So I want the controls to be simpler than before.” This attitude usually leads to games being insultingly easy. In Portal 2 it was really hard to get immersed in the game world because you were being shuffled from one scene to another never really getting much of a chance to take it all in.

In Shadow of the Colossus there is a battle where you have to get a flying dragon Colossus out of the sky. As the player, you spend a lot of time staring at the sky trying to figure out how to get the big guy to come down. This is a carefully planned gameplay decision which is meant to give scale to what you are about to undertake. The Colossus seems so small in the sky and when it finally swoops down to attack you it feels much bigger than it actually is.

It feels like a Colossus.

I worry that they are in the process of trading accessibility for immersion and if that is the case then that makes me kind of apprehensive. Without immersion Shadow of the Colossus wouldn’t have been the game that it was. The same goes for Portal.

Sometimes you really need to just stare at a wall while figuring out a puzzle.

Sometimes it’s important to feel confused and lost.

My prediction is that The Last Guardian is going to good but not a successor to the games that came before. It happened to Return of the Jedi, it happened to Return of the King and it happened in other things that don’t have “return” in the title.


Silent Hill 3!


  1. I know...My proverbial video game naughty parts can't seem to get a decent erection while this game sits in wait. Sometimes I watch the trailer just to get that part of myself turned on. They are releasing a demo of it before christmas with the hd shadow/ico. But I already decided not to play it. I don't have a existentially good reason...but I feel like one is there.

    And remember Argo came back at the end of Shadow. I know it was kind of a cheap upper at the end but I was ok with it, since I was pretty f#@$ing pissed when he fell down that cliff....(there were tears).

  2. Oh, and because of loosing my horse because of that bastard, I beat the hell out him!