Nine years after Team Ico began development on The Last Guardian, the heartfelt adventure of a boy and his dog-cat-bird will finally be released on PlayStation 4.
Here's what we know so far about The Last Guardian.
Just the facts
Developer: SIE Japan Studio / GenDesign / Team Ico
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Release date: Oct. 25, 2016
The Last Guardian tells the story of a young boy who wakes up in the ruins of an ancient city after being kidnapped. He comes across a large wounded creature, and the two must learn to trust each other as they attempt to find their way back to civilization.
Asked and answered
What is The Last Guardian?
The Last Guardian is a spiritual successor to Fumito Ueda's Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. It follows in the footsteps of those quiet, minimalist adventures about boys exploring desolate worlds to save girls. It's a third-person game with platforming, including climbing and jumping alongside a griffin-like beast, as well as puzzles.
What will you be doing in the game?
Playing as a young boy, you get to know a shy but fierce fantastical creature as you try to escape from an abandoned city. The place has shadow guardians that can capture the boy, and you must avoid or defeat them.
work on The Last Guardian began in 2007
Hasn't this game been in development for a while?
You could say that.
Shadow of the Colossus was released in 2005 on the PlayStation 2. Team Ico began work on The Last Guardian in 2007, and announced the game for PlayStation 3 at Sony's E3 2009 press briefing.
What have they been doing for all this time?!
The developers worked hard to achieve their vision, but didn't make as much progress as they would've liked in five years of developing on PS3. "We had deployed lots of our central tech teams, and different studios' tech directors [were] looking at the code," said Shuhei Yoshida, then the head of Sony's first-party studios, to Polygon at E3 2015. "Like, [the] whole [of] Worldwide Studios was helping."
In early 2012, Sony decided to shift the project to the then-unannounced PS4. The team had to rebuild elements of The Last Guardian's underlying technology, and "it took a long time," Yoshida explained, "for the game to become really playable" on the new console. Ueda and the game's creative team, which left Sony's Japan Studio and formed a team called GenDesign, sat on the sidelines during that laborious technical process.
The Last Guardian didn't resurface publicly until E3 2015, when Sony kicked off its press conference by announcing that the game was coming to PS4.
Trico is a dog-cat-bird, you might say
That's one hell of a saga. Now tell me about this cute animal!
The creature at the heart of The Last Guardian is named Trico. It's a half-bird, half-mammal creature that most closely resembles a griffin, if you're familiar with the mythical beast. Trico appears to share qualities with dogs, cats and birds. It's a dog-cat-bird, you might say.
So it's your pet?
Not really. When the boy first comes across it at the start of The Last Guardian, the creature is wounded, with spears sticking out of its back. The boy's reward for pulling these weapons out of the animal is to be thrown into a cave wall by Trico, so it's a wild animal for sure. But over time, the boy and the beast build a bond as they scamper around the environment.
How does Trico factor into The Last Guardian?
You'll need to communicate with Trico, because the creature is instrumental in solving some puzzles and helping you get to places you otherwise wouldn't be able to reach. Of course, since you and Trico don't speak the same language, you'll have to figure out how to get the animal to do what you want. Perhaps dog owners will have a leg up here.
Trico can fire lightning from its tail
Trico is an inherently fearsome beast, but working together with it can make the creature even stronger. Early in The Last Guardian, the boy picks up a shiny shield that, when it touches Trico's tail, causes the animal to unleash lightning strikes.
You'll be able to ascertain how Trico's feeling by looking at its eyes. When they're yellow, the animal is cautiously investigating something. When they're purple, Trico is angry.
This sounds kinda like Shadow of the Colossus.
Indeed! Ueda has said that he wanted to explore a relationship like the bond between Wander and Agro in Shadow of the Colossus, and The Last Guardian is the fruit of those efforts.
Trico is going to die, isn't he.
Look, I mean, maybe. Who knows? But if you played Shadow of the Colossus all the way to the end, you know that [spoiler alert] Agro doesn't actually die when he falls off a collapsing bridge into a rushing river. So there.
But even with a change of platform (to PlayStation 4) and a long, long production, Ueda promised that the "core vision" has always remained the same. That's what makes finally playing The Last Guardian as it is today a strangely nostalgic experience.
Asked if The Last Guardian is the project that's been hanging over his head the longest, Yoshida affirmed that was the case "by far." But he said that after years of "really, really difficult technical challenges," the game is now "totally built" on PS4 and is on track for release [in 2016].