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THE LAST GUARDIAN Charms Thanks to the Adorable, Awesome Trico (Preview)

THE LAST GUARDIAN Charms Thanks to the Adorable, Awesome Trico (Preview)

Can you believe it? The Last Guardian is finally going to hit shelves soon. Sure, it took much longer than expected (the game was announced back in 2009), and it will be on the PS4 now instead of the PS3, but it’s finally here. Sony was gracious enough to let us play the game for a bit, and we even got a chance to chat with the game’s designer, Fumito Ueda. Here’s what we found out:

I played about 20 minutes in total, starting from the middle of the game. I played the final build, so what I saw will be the exact build you’ll be playing in less than a month. I bring this up to say that at times, it was a bit rough around the edges. Some of the animations weren’t crisp. Trico (your AI pet-like companion) would also repeat certain of the animations several times during my short play session, especially when jumping onto a high ledge. Despite these small gripes, however, I did have fun during the short time I played. The emotional bond you build with Trico will likely determine how you feel about the game; I have to say, my imagination was instantly sparked when I picked the controller up.

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Starting off in some scalable ruins (seen in the images above), I stepped into the role of the young boy who was trying to lead Trico through the enviornmental puzzle. The only way to get through the area was to communicate where to go, what to do, and remove anything obstructing our path. Commands are as easy as holding down one of the bumper buttons along with a face command to tell Trico where we needed to head next. And that’s sort of the fun of this game, the connection you make with Trico. Your success solely lies in the hands (or paws) of this fantastical creature, meaning it’s not one giant escort mission.

Ueada-san explained that getting the connection between player and creature right came down to making sure that Trico felt real. As a result, animation was incredibly important, “Every sort of little motion is done by hand. The procedural animation system that we landed with has really helped the character come alive.” This approach is admirable, and could easily make or break the experience. Ueda-san also explained that moving over to the PS4 allowed them to do things with Trico’s expressions that just weren’t possible on the PS3.

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He continued, “I would want the player to feel as if Trico really exists.” Furthermore,”for you [the player] to feel the existence of Trico the character.”

After making the leap onto some far away platforms only reachable while on Trico’s back, the giant creature would not advance. Why? Because it was scared of a giant stained glass window that stood between the platform I was on and the one I needed to reach. I had to scale these ruins on my own to remove this deterrent. What the glass represents and why this massive being was afraid of it was not made clear, but it’ll surely be revealed in the narrative. But I was impressed by how much emotion was expressed by a character like Trico, who can’t speak and can only communicate with the player through  subtle movements.

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After scaling different platforms, and removing several of these stained glass pieces, I finally reached the end where I got a cut scene featuring another beast that looked eerily similar to Trico, albeit with some armor on. So there’s a lot more to this world than meets the eye.

Gameplay wise, it seems like platforming and puzzles will be at the center of it all. Ueda-san explained when compared to the two aforementioned titles he worked on, some of the differences came specifically in design. “From game design and level design there’s a lot more verticality in terms of navigation and movement,” he said. Another emphasis was to add more “range of communication” you have with Trico.

If you’re a fan of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, I have a strong suspicion that we are in for a treat. Of course that comes with the caveat that in the grand scheme of things, I only got a small taste of the whole burrito. And I say this only because we’ve been waiting since 2009: temper your expectations. No game is perfect, but I’m already a fan of Trico, the weird puppy/kitten-like hybrid that would probably be terrifying in real life.

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Are you planning on jumping into the game once it finally launches? How old were you when this game was originally announced? Are you a fan on Fumito Ueda-san’s work? Between Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, which is your favorite of the two? Let us know in the comments section below!

Images: PlayStation


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