It's been over 11 years since video game auteur Fumito Ueda released his last game, Shadow of the Colossus and so after a protracted development period, which saw a whole console generation go by with no release, to say that I was ready to devour The Last Guardian whole in big gaming chunks on release is an understatement. As a huge fan of both Ico and SOTC I, like most of the gaming world, was excited to see what Ueda had been working so hard and long on but instead of playing it from start to finish I decided to savour it like a nice glass of Shloer and I'm glad I did.
The game itself is a slow, meditative game centred around the interactions between the boy and a bird, chicken gryphon-type creature called Trico. Their relationship is beautifully realised and the trust that builds between them feels well-earnt over time. Unlike other AI in other game I have played Trico feels like a real being with his own thoughts and feelings. As a former cat owner the love Trico gives you when you stroke, talk and pull out the spears from his flanks feels wonderful and has a truthiness to it .
There are times in the game where I have wanted to stay in the moment with Trico and not move forward, because I am afraid of what might happen to him. I know that Ueda creates wonderful narratives but they always end in a powerful downbeat way and I don't want that for these characters, maybe that's why I'm playing this game so slowly and cautiously. Instead I'm enjoying seeing Trico run through the fields after struggling through tight corridors, and I'm loving seeing him roll in a huge puddle and shaking himself dry.
Ueda is a world builder but he does it all through symbolism. In this mystical, silent world less is more but it feels like there is a whole mythos and backstory there if you look hard enough for it.
The music is beautifully subtle and complements the game, emerging at key moments and there is no onscreen HUD, except for controller hints which I wish I could turn off, and so the beauty of the world is there for you to enjoy.
The game has its faults and does feel unpolished which is surprising for a game which has been in development for over 10 years. The camera and controls can be clunky, some gameplay elements and transition scenes aren't smooth or clear and it's not always clear which route to take but all this didn't ruin the game for me. Ueda has created something, which like the rest of his back catalogue is timeless, it isn't perfect and many will gripe at it's shortcomings but for those willing to look beyond these it has been well worth the journey. I've enjoyed it so far.