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Six Things The Last Guardian Borrows From Its Predecessors

by Joe Juba on Dec 13, 2016 at 02:40 PM

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The Last Guardian is an intriguing game by itself, focusing on the unique bond between a boy and a large beast called Trico. However, the game doesn’t exist in isolation. Players aren’t required to be familiar with the previous works from creator Fumito Ueda (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus) in order to appreciate the The Last Guardian, but having that background makes it easy to see a clear evolutionary path.

By taking elements from the two prior titles, the team behind The Last Guardian built a new experience based on the foundation of familiar lessons and strategies. These are some of the major pillars from the past that prop up the latest adventure.

1. Trico (Shadow of the Colossus)
The star of The Last Guardian hasn’t appeared in previous titles, but gameplay revolving around hulking behemoths was the core concept behind Shadow of the Colossus. You can see the influence of the earlier work in how easily Trico moves through the environment and interacts with objects; the team clearly leveraged its experience when it came to making a larger-than-life creature inhabit the world. Echoes of the various colossi are apparent in many of Trico’s actions, from the way it attacks enemies to its long leaps to precarious perches.

2. The Escort Bond (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus)
Both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus build relationships – the former with your companion Yorda, and the latter with your horse Agro. In both cases, the mere fact that you spend a lot of time with these characters is enough to form attachments, but they don’t go much deeper than that. Rather than overwrought writing explaining the significance of the connection, the lack of spoken communication creates some empty space for players for players to fill themselves. The Last Guardian retains the inability for its heroes to have conversations, but also does more to build on their bond by giving Trico lifelike mannerisms and behaviors that make it seem alive. You don’t grow fond of Trico just because you spend time with it; you develop a real sense of its personality.

3. Puzzles for Two (Ico)
The PlayStation 2 had plenty of puzzle/platformers, but Ico’s challenges stood out with the addition of Yorda. Since you must bring her with you, most of the puzzles weren’t about players merely finding a way forward for themselves; they were about finding a way forward that you and Yorda could use together. That sense of teamwork and cooperation carries over to The Last Guardian, where many of the obstacles rely on a back-and-forth between you and Trico. You open a gate, Trico passes through and then carries you over a large gap that you couldn’t cross yourself. These tasks help convey a sense that you and Trico are in it together.

4. Climbing (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus)
Ico has you climbing chains and ledges, while Shadow of the Colossus was primarily about scaling huge beasts. The Last Guardian uses both of these approaches in different situations. You climb Trico as if it were a colossus, though the mechanics have been simplified (you don’t need to hold a button down to keep your grip, for instance). However, when you aren’t riding on the creature’s back, you are shimmying across gaps and leaping between pillars in ancient ruins. Sometimes you need to climb on top of Trico first in order to reach a chain or rock to continue your ascent solo. All of this adds an impressive sense of verticality to the world, and you should always look up to search for clues when you’re stuck in The Last Guardian.

5. Controls (Ico)
In terms of directing your character’s movement, The Last Guardian feels most similar to Ico. The boy here has a sense of momentum of weight, which has advantages and disadvantages. For example, seeing him stumble when you rapidly change direction is cute and makes him feel authentic, but it interferes with your ability to make precise movements. The platforming can also feel cumbersome, making it hard to judge your timing when making a crucial leap. Also like Ico, your combat options are limited, so your main activities are running, jumping, and grabbing. If you see enemies, you either need to run or get Trico to protect you.

6. Sense of Scale (Shadow of the Colossus)
Not that Ico didn’t have big things in its world, but Shadow of the Colossus made it a centerpiece of the experience. The vertigo you felt while looking down from an ancient tower, or the rush from clinging to a colossus’ wing as it soared through air – The Last Guardian provides similar thrills in a different form. On Trico’s back, you scale buildings in a single bound, and then look up to see that you still have a hopelessly long way to climb. The environments of The Last Guardian and Trico’s prodigious size make you feel very small in a very large world.

For even more details on The Last Guardian, you can read our review and see the first hour in action.