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The Last Guardian Release Date: When Is It?

Steve Burns

Feature


Just what is going on with The Last Guardian - one of PS3’s most anticipated and delayed exclusives?

Published on Feb 16, 2012

 

The Last Guardian stands out from the crowd in a world dominated by the roaring gunfire of a thousand firs-person shooters. Probably not in terms of sales, of course, where it seems destined to sell about three copies, but in design.

In a console generation defined by ‘me too’-ism and regressive annual sports games, a title about a cat-bird thing and his relationship with a young boy seems like the equivalent of opening a window and throwing lots of pounds (or more accurately, yen) out of it.

Which we’re fine with, because despite its odd characteristics The Last Guardian looks like one of the most interesting titles slated to appear on PS3.

A fantastical adventure with an actual relationship between two characters at the centre of it, it’s pretty much the opposite of the shoot-bang-goal demographic that makes up a lot of gamers, much like Team Ico’s previous two games: Ico and Shadow Of The Colossus.

In truth, not much is known about The Last Guardian, but given the central theme of the last two titles – otherwordly, dreamlike lands and foes, a sense of desperation and desolation, and an interdependent relationship with another being – we’d expect and have already seen a very similar approach. In other words, a game that Johnny Public will probably decry as ‘crap’ and be on their way. 

The teamwork aspect of The Last Guardian still appeals.

So it’s a promising, if not exactly commercial prospect, which is fine: not every game can be the next Homefront (snigger). Thing is, The Last Guardian has been a long time coming. The announcement, in 2009, seems like a thousand centuries ago.

As one of Sony’s prized assets, Team Ico, creator of two of PS2’s best games, has been allowed to get on with the job quietly, and in truth there’s not a lot we know about it now that we didn’t know (or couldn’t have guessed) then.

Trade shows came and went, and as a first-party exclusive The Last Guardian, as one of Sony’s supposed big hitters, was always expected to make some sort of appearance, at least to the fans that had followed it from the start.

It hardly made a dent over the years, leaving people with many questions. The first, and most longstanding, is, ‘what has the developer been up to?’ The second, and far more worrying, is ‘why does its top guys keep leaving the project?’

The panic alarms truly went off around late 2011 when Fumito Ueda decided to quit the project. The guiding force behind the game and the studio, Ueda’s decision was seen as a distress signal by some but not all.

In true Team ICO fashion, it's safe to guess that one or both of these guys will die.

“A true leader always has in place a strong succession plan,” said Jesse Divnich, vice president of analyst services for EEDAR.  “I've always believed that one can mark the true brilliance of a leader not by the result delivered while sitting on the throne, but the results of a company after one leaves.”

Sony soon stepped in to calm the nerves. Ueda and the company both confirmed that he would finish the game, and that all would be fine and dandy.

Not a lot of people, NowGamer included, believed that everything was as rosy as it seemed, and then came another shock: executive producer Yoshifusa Hayama decided to leave in a very strange manner. Not only was another high-profile exec ducking out of the company, but he was leaving to make… social games? At a studio called ‘Bossa’? In the UK? 

The internet took the news badly. Ueda leaving was bad enough, but surely the departure of the exec producer to a social games company suggested that Team Ico had made something so bad, so catastrophically awful that it would make the opening scene of Terminator 2 seem like an outtake from Happy Days.

Why would anyone want to leave Sony, the one true videogame console company, and make games for kids and bored housewives and secretaries pissing their lives away sending bitchy emails? The Horror, indeed.

Is The Last Guardian in danger of being canned?

Or not. Things have changed massively in the videogame world since 2005, when Team Ico’s last game was released. Just because Hayama decided to leave for a social studio doesn’t mean that he’s passing the buck, it means that an exciting opportunity exists in an emerging sector.

If that all sounds a bit business-y, then put it this way: one of the key figures in one of Sony’s most important games probably thinks his (no-doubt excellent) work is done, and that the project will do just fine without him – even if it didn’t want him to go because of his quality.

“I was expecting them to be resistant to this,” laughs Henrique Olifiers, Bossa Studios co-founder. “I am fan of Team Ico, personally. I think Ico was one of the best games on PlayStation 2 and I can say with my hand on heart that The Last Guardian is the game I want to play on PlayStation 3. Knowing that anything can disrupt that is something that doesn’t ring well with me but I can safely say that Yoshi didn’t disrupt that, that it was a decision that was already made.”

What also needs to be taken into account is that just because a studio takes a long time making a game doesn’t mean it’s bad, or that they don’t know how to make it work.

Sometimes developers like to let ideas sit for a while, rather than simply knock out publisher-demanded milestones and get it onto store shelves. As has previously been the case, Team Ico likes to take its time on games.

It took four years for Shadow Of The Colossus to follow Ico. Granted, it’s then taken six years (and counting) for it to get The Last Guardian out the door, but so what?

Team Ico isn’t some massive studio, and everyone knows that the PS3 is difficult to develop for. Throw all these things together and you’ve got a good recipe for taking your time. And, as the developer has proven before, twice, it knows how to make a good game. Why is everyone so concerned? Should Sony be worried? 

When The Last Guardian will launch is anyones guess.

“For sure consumers are worried, but if they truly believe in the brilliance of Ueda, then they must believe that he likely inspired dozens around him to pick-up exactly where he left off,” said Divnich.

All first-party games are important. They are the essential drivers and differentiators of a console. Any failure of a hyped triple-A product can slow down a console’s momentum and cast doubt on a console's future.

Nobody likes to be let down, and there are definitely consequences when consumers are.  But I have faith in Sony and Team Ico – and you should, too.

We agree. For all of the delays, whispers, departures and shifted dates, The Last Guardian still stands tall as one of PlayStation’s most important titles.

As an exclusive – that rare commodity in the current market – it’s important to Sony because it gives it something that the other guy legitimately doesn’t have, as opposed to timed DLC or something equally as rubbish.

It shows that the console maker isn’t afraid to try new things, to throw money at projects that don’t have shooting or scoring in them.

Similarly, it’s important for Team Ico to prove that the loss of two key figures doesn’t mean that the developer is in trouble, that it can still deliver on all the promises made.  Given Team Ico’s track record, we truly believe that it will.   

 

 

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