Little is known about the highly anticipated release of The Last Guardian. Its Japanese developer is notoriously coy. To further fuel the mystery, only a handful of screens and footage have been released. There was a leaked trailer just before E3 in 2009, and then a lot of information from last year's Tokyo Game Show, but that's about all we know.
The game was recently delayed until 2012, with the much anticipated Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection. But delicious morsels of information do exist. To help you stay well-informed, here’s the meaty stuff.
- The game is being developed by Team Ico. This is a big deal. The studio’s first two games, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, reached cult status after scoring over 90+ in reviews. What’s more, the latter is widely regarded as one of the greatest PS2 games ever. So if you enjoy action-adventure games like Another World, Panzer Dragoon, or Zelda without the red tape, put this game on your radar. And if you haven’t played the predecessors, might I suggest the remastered combo pack coming to PS3.
- The game is a mashup of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. “Both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus were on PlayStation 2, and now that we're on PlayStation 3, rather than find a new game mechanic, I wanted to take the things we'd already made and make something amazing on this new hardware with higher specs,” director Fumito Ueda told CVG this month. In other words, if you liked the first two games, you’ll probably dig this one.
- The giant bird-like creature is named Trico... which is a portmanteau in Japanese for “bird” and “cat,” according to the crack-team of editors at Wikipedia. Basically, he’s a giant cat with feathers and claws. The opposite of Falkor from The Neverending Story in that he doesn’t fly and is anything but man’s best friend. Still a cool-cat, though. And a dinosaur-sized one to boot.
- The unnamed playable character hates confrontation. By that I mean he won’t directly engage his enemies (at least that we know of), and will either stealth his way past guards or persuade his giant cat-like griffin pet to do the dirty work for him. That is if he can get the cat-like griffin to obey his command. Fortunately for you, there’s in-game catnip to help you reach the finish line.
- It’s kind of like a PlayStation 3 version of Nintendogs. Cats are distrusting of new faces, not to mention independent. When you first encounter the imprisoned Trico, he will be hostile towards you. Probably because he thinks you’ll shoot him with arrows like other humans have. So building a relationship of trust and friendship with him is not only a means to an end, it may very well be the point of the game. And unlike Ico, the playable character is the more vulnerable one. “You will feel much safer when Trico is with you,” says Ueda.
- It has multi-tiered level design. Enjoy the great outdoors? The Last Guardian will feature expansive outdoor levels, not unlike the beautiful fields of Shadow of the Colossus. More of a homebody? Not a problem either - level design also includes an open-air citadel, similar to Ico. Told you the game was like those other two.
- The “campaign” is single-player co-op. If it wasn’t already obvious, you won’t be able to beat the game without Trico’s help. So think of it as a co-op game, only that your partner is non-playable, but still critical to not only beating the game, but enjoying it. The takeaway: If you hate working with others, you might not like this game. And if you hate when cats ignore orders, you might not like this either. But you gotta admit, that’s a pretty fresh twist on gameplay.
- The gameplay is linear. Bad news for sandbox fans. There’s apparently only one path to victory here. Most puzzles can only be solved a certain way, either mathematically or naturally, says Ueda. None of this “choose your own adventure” crap or dialog trees. That said, Ueda maintains that the story is "open-ended,” suggesting there may be different endings depending on your actions. Either way, the director hasn’t let us down yet. I trust him.
- Your PS3 will hate this game. Do you get off knowing that your console is sweating like crazy just to play your game? Then you’re gonna love The Last Guardian. Says Ueda, “In terms of (PS3) machine power, we are at the very limit.” Take that, PS3! Yeah—that’s right. Give me everything you got! Who. Do. You. Work. For??!!
- A demo may or may not be released. Still not sure if this is a game you’ll enjoy? A demo may be included in the upcoming Ico and Shadow of Colossus Collection disc. "We're considering it,” said Ueda in a recent 1up interview, noting that it’s happened with previous PS3 games. “But we haven't come to a conclusion," he, um, concluded. If not, you’ll still have the budget-priced collection disc to gauge your interest. Or do it the old fashioned way: wait for review scores and endorsement from friends.
- A worldwide release is expected in 2012. A final release date hasn’t been announced, so anything could happen. However. in January, Ueda committed to a worldwide release by the end of the year and we now know that's not happening. He says they’re putting the finishing touches on the game like minor tweaks and deciding whether or not to include a health meter or keep it HUD-less. For what it’s worth, Ico was released Sep. 24 2001 and Shadow of the Colossus arrived Oct. 18 2005. So we might see it in Holiday 2012. Fingers (and feathers) crossed!
Blake Snow is a freelance journalist, media consultant, and lover of listicles. He lives alongside the Wasatch Mountains with his family. Published works and “like” buttons can be found on his website.