A game we’ve been waiting for since its original 2009 unveiling, The Last Guardian predictably delivered some of the biggest cheers at Sony’s press conference this year. But did the behind closed doors demo of the game live up to the hype that the game has built over the last half-century?
The demo we saw was actually an extended version of the trailer presented on stage at their conference, but had an extended opener rather than additional scenes.
Beginning with a documentary video, Mr. Fumita Ueda talks about the process of bringing The Last Guardian to life and what drove story development. He wants it to depict a boy and his friend but in a very unconventional sense. The team wants to make sure you believe the creature is real, so each and every feather flutters in the wind. As does each blade of grass and butterfly wing. There is even an insane amount of detail spent on the light breaking its way through a window.
The area we’re shown is something similar to Uncharted or Tomb Raider: a desolate cavern that seems like it once housed the centre of civilization, now covered by an overgrowth of grass and vines. But this place is brighter than the ones you might find Nathan Drake or Lara Croft in. This is a place of serene beauty, and the art style does nothing but capture it perfectly.
And here’s this kid, taking care of his giant bird-like creature, Trico. The boy sees a splinter stuck in its feathers and removes it quickly; Trico squeals exactly as you’d expect, and it’s a heart wrenching moment, even for a split-second. And we instantly realized what makes The Last Guardian so wonderful: we can relate to it.
We can relate to a boy and his friend. To the feeling of pulling something painful like a splinter from your skin. Or to the sense of discovery as a kid. To the sense of playing around, whether with an imaginary creature or not. If The Last Guardian all ends up being a dream, we’re okay with it, because that’s what kids do. They dream.
Animations in The Last Guardian are incredible, especially considering the art style is not going for hyper-realism. It has a cross between cel-shading and full on 3D designs, almost like the new Zelda art that was shown off for Wii U last year. The game is no slouch, though. Little details, such as the positions of the boy’s fingers around the rungs of a ladder, and the way his legs rest on different steps on a set of stairs, are carefully crafted to make sure the game retains as much realism as artistically possible.
Throughout the demo, the boy calls to Trico, and he expectedly does as follows. When the boy wants him to jump across an opening, he jumps up, training his bird to jump. He does this a few times, then looks at the area he wants Trico to traverse, and he jumps again. Trico makes the jump, and the moment is wrapped up in a soft, poetic blanket.
From here, the demo picked up through the remainder of the demo shown at Sony’s press conference, and it is certainly worth watching again (so we’ve embedded it above). There is something about this game that makes us feel connected with our childhood, and it’s a thread that runs through the entire experience.
The Last Guardian helped us to dream again. What a thing for a video game to do.