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The Last Guardian

A Pairing Of Epic Proportions
by Tim Turi on Sep 28, 2011 at 01:50 PM

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Platform PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3
Publisher Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer Japan Studio
Rating Teen

The recent release of the Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection for PS3 has us experiencing two distinct emotions. We’re reveling in a high definition nostalgia trip with two amazing PS2 titles, but we’re also yearning for new information on Team Ico’s new upcoming adventure, The Last Guardian. Unfortunately, no new info emerged on the game at TGS 2011. Because we assume you’re as eager as we are for some Last Guardian coverage, we’re bringing you something you may have missed. Check out Annette Gonzalez’s preview on the game which was originally published in issue #211 of Game Informer.

Designing The Boy And His Trico
The current model of the Trico is meant to resemble a cat, which the team agreed to after scrapping previous iterations that looked more like a dog, or, in one case, a camel. Ueda says the cat and bird combo turned out to be most effective from a design standpoint because it can jump higher, duck lower, fit into smaller openings, and is more agile overall. This emphasis on the Trico’s ability to move and adapt to dynamic spaces was a direct result of level design. Instead of building environments around the size of the massive creature, the team instead decided to design levels around the size of the small boy to accentuate the Trico’s large scale. Thus, the Trico had to be flexible enough to fit into smaller spaces.

During early stages of development, the protagonist was actually a girl. But after discussing the design implications, Ueda says the team moved away from this concept because the girl would have smaller hands and a weaker grip, and a skirt-wearing protagonist would make for awkward camera angles since a large component of The Last Guardian is climbing. In the end, the team settled on an energetic boy who is much younger than Ico. To emphasize co-dependency when progressing through levels in The Last Guardian, Team Ico didn’t design the boy to be completely self-sufficient, but strong enough to hold onto the Trico’s feathers.

It’s been nearly a decade since gamers first felt the emotional bond between a young boy with horns and a mysterious girl as they traversed a world overrun by shadows. Though Ico wasn’t a blockbuster, critics were awestruck by its minimalist design and unique visual style that blurred the line between video games and art. The cult hit led to the development of spiritual successor Shadow of the Colossus, which further carried on the theme of companionship and testing the morally questionable lengths to which one man would go to save a lost love. Shadow is considered by many to be one of the greatest PlayStation 2 games of all time. Team Ico’s upcoming next-gen effort, The Last Guardian, follows the colossal footsteps of its predecessors. Players will witness a boy and a mystical creature develop an unbreakable bond as we discover which of the two is the true guardian.

In the early teaser trailer of the game that debuted a year ago, the camera pans into an ancient structure housing a dormant beast within. A young boy curiously examines the unidentifiable creature from behind a pillar and carefully tiptoes in its direction. When the boy gently pets the beast’s head, suddenly the feathered feline rolls over to expose its talons, props itself up, and playfully scratches behind its ear with its hind leg.

Team Ico has been tight-lipped about The Last Guardian over the past year since its reveal last E3, leaving many questions unanswered regarding the duo’s relationship and the identity of this mysterious creature. Now that the team has completed its research and development and locked down the core gameplay elements, director Fumito Ueda and Team Ico are now ready to let us delve deeper into this mysterious new world.

Connections To The Past
When Team Ico originally designed Shadow of the Colossus, the project began as an independent concept from Ico. It was only toward the end of development that Ueda and the team decided to connect the two. Both titles feature horned characters as protagonists, and both encounter shadowy figures. Ueda hasn’t confirmed whether or not there will be a connection between The Last Guardian and its predecessors, but you may have noticed protruding bumps between the Trico’s ears. Many have speculated that like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian will feature a heartbreaking ending, but Ueda says that the conclusion will be open-e

Gameplay videos of The Last Guardian showcase the heartwarming interaction between the boy and the huge creature, which we now know as the Trico. Throughout the boy’s journeys, the cat/bird hybrid assists the boy onto high platforms, rescues him when he slips off ledges, and destroys guards who threaten the boy with the force of its talons. The boy expresses his gratitude toward the Trico with a friendly, tender caress. Ueda says this type of harmonious relationship is something the player must work to achieve, as when they first meet the boy ruffles the Trico’s feathers.

Lost  In Translation
In Japan, The Last Guardian is called Hitokui no washi Toriko. This literally translates to “Man-Eating Giant Eagle Trico” or “Trico the Man-Eating Giant Eagle.” Ueda says the reason they chose this name because it signals that the boy will not know if the Trico is a friend or foe when they first team up. Though to us “man-eating” makes the Trico sound like a terrible creature, the term is commonly used in Japanese children’s books and fairy tales. The word “Toriko” is also worth noting. It can mean prisoner or baby bird, and may be a hybrid of the Japanese words for bird (tori) and cat (neko).

Part of team ico’s inspiration for building The Last Guardian around the dynamic relationship between a boy and an animal character was the powerful emotional impact the relationship between Wander and his horse Agro had on players in Shadow of the Colossus. While Ueda has yet to explain how the boy finds the animal bound in chains, we’re told the Trico is initially confused by the young boy and will not always respond to commands until the boy can gain its trust. Rather than adopt a fictional language as its predecessors Ico and Shadow of the Colossus did, in the Last Guardian the boy communicates with the Trico by calling its name or attracting its attention with a barrel or other object of interest. Getting the creature to follow instructions will present a challenge to the player in the game’s stages, but the Trico will warm up to the boy as the story develops.

Team Ico didn’t reveal any of the core story elements, such as why this unlikely duo is teaming up or what they are trying to accomplish, but the developers did open up about their level design and gameplay philosophy for the project. The Last Guardian’s level designs are very vertical, so in order for the duo to progress, they must cooperatively solve puzzles to make their way up a dilapidated, ancient structure. For instance, if the boy needs to access a room that is out of his reach, he must lure the Trico into a position that will allow him to climb its back. To do so, the boy must toss a barrel onto the level above, which piques the Trico’s interest. As it walks toward the

The Last Guardian In 3D?
At this year’s Tokyo Game Show, Sony officially announced the previously rumored Ico and Shadow of the Colossus: The Collection for PS3. The collection includes both PS2 titles on one Blu-ray with full support for HD, 3D, and trophies. Ueda says both titles were very 3D centric in design, so the move to 3D will fully bring these worlds to life. The jury is still out, however, on whether or not The Last Guardian will support 3D.

barrel to investigate, the boy has an opportunity to climb onto its back and successfully leap toward the platform above. The boy and the Trico are traversing an aged, crumbling structure, so environments dynamically change depending on your actions. This causes puzzles to increase in complexity as you progress.

Ueda won’t reveal many more specifics on The Last Guardian, which isn’t surprising. Anyone familiar with Ico and Shadow of the Colossus knows that the developer offers very little information to the player, leaving the overall experience up to interpretation. In fact, Ueda says part of the reason the team chose the title The Last Guardian is because it can be construed in many ways. Is the last guardian going to be the boy or the Trico? We won’t find out until it releases next year.

Read our review of the fantastic Ico & Shadow of the Colossus collection here.

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The Last Guardiancover

The Last Guardian

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