The busy months of September – November are over, but even then December seems awfully quiet this year while January and February, which are usually the most quiet months in a gaming year look packed as hell. In the end, only 1 game made it on my list for this month so I am going to delve into that one in a bit more detail than usual!
The Last Guardian
It’s pretty ironic that only 1 week after the release of Final Fantasy XV, another game that has been in development hell for quite a while will finally get released. The Last Guardian was announced as a PS3-exclusive at E3 2009 with Fumito Ueda serving as the director. The adventure featuring a boy and the creature called “Trico” was seen as a spritual successor to Ueda’s 2 previous games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus and therefore players and critics expected nothing less than another artistic masterpiece. Unfortunately the project ran into serious development problems which was mainly caused by technical limitations on the PS3 and the departure of Ueda from Sony. Similar as with Final Fantasy versus XIII, the game went into hiding for a long time and countless rumours appeared that the game had been canceled, until it was finally re-revealed as a PS4-exclusive during Sony’s legendary E3 2015 press conference. I have the feeling that there is not much hype around this title so shortly before release, but I don’t think anyone could have expected otherwise. Ueda’s games were never meant to be AAA-blockbuster titles for the masses and I doubt that this game deviates from that. The question nonetheless is whether this game will be able to capture the same magic that caused Ico and Shadow of the Colossus to become cult classics among gamers.
When Ico and Shadow of the Colossus were released in 2001 and 2005 respectively, indie games were mostly non-existent and the minimalist design of both games was considered unique and unconventional which just made the games that more interesting for players and critics alike. One could argue that both games more or less kicked off the debate whether video games can be considered an art form way before indie hits like Braid, Journey or Proteus were even released. 11 years after SotC, the video game world has changed. Sure, AAA-productions are still as dominant as ever, but the indie-scene has grown exponentially and have provided us with countless minimalist and more artistic games than ever before. Will The Last Guardian manage to feel special in this day and age or just like one of the other similar games out there? In a recent interview Ueda was asked whether he was worried that players will not appreciate a minimalistic game for a full price these days (even used a No Man’s Sky example) and I think his answer exemplifies what kind of director Ueda is. He said that he is worried sometimes of course, but in the end he ultimately just wants to create a game that he himself likes to play and that it’s just a question of how many people out there are similar to him and enjoy these kinds of games as well. It’s basically the same approach as with his other games and both of them could have been critisized for lack of content as well, but he didn’t care.
Shadow of the Colossus is one of my favorite PS2 games and I can still remember being blown away by it as a kid. I don’t know whether The Last Guardian will be able to evoke the same feelings for me again, but Ueda and his team definitely deserve the benefit of the doubt!
Platform: PlayStation 4
Developer/Publisher: Sony Japan & genDESIGN / Sony
Release Date: December 6th (US), December 7th (EU)