Fumito Ueda’s new studio and another look at The Last Guardian

Timeless

I had a chance to get another, slightly extended look The Last Guardian demoed by creative director Fumito Ueda himself. Ueda left Sony in 2011, though it was said he remained on in a contract capacity. Ueda explained the game was in development between Sony Japan Studio and his new company, genDESIGN, which has a nifty little website up here. genDESIGN is largely comprised of former Team ICO staff.

The demo, which Ueda was playing live on a PlayStation 4 dev kit, started a few minutes earlier than the E3 trailer. The boy — who has been “kidnapped under mysterious circumstances” — walks over to a sleeping Trico (the catbirddog), climbs up and pulls some spears out from his hind eliciting cries.

From there the boy tossed wooden barrels at Trico, who happily ate them and eventually stretched up to a high perch, at which point the boy climbed his feathers and was able to access a previously gated area. After some whining, the boy opens a gate and the two both head outside, to the start of the E3 demo.

Ueda didn’t dish much while playing. It was as if time froze and the last few years of absence didn’t exist. You’ll have to “utilize the strengths and weaknesses of each of the characters,” he said. That is dealing with Trico’s animal nature, which can’t be directly player-controlled, and the boy’s limited physical abilities.

Of course there was stuff already shown off in the trailer. The boy’s delightful high-step running animation, along with a slow, adorable creep walk I didn’t see yesterday. I also noticed for the first time what looks like a blue orb at the end of Trico’s tail. And that second slow-motion jump where the boy grabs Trico’s tail? Ueda fell to his death and respawned at right before the purple windmill thing got pushed down, so it’s not a cutscene, you’ll still have to make the grab.

That fall was emblematic of the sense of height and depth Ueda likes to instill in his games. Trico serves as something of a “safety net” to help keep the boy safe, “overcome the psychological stress” of the fraught architecture.

ICO…was about the cooperation of the boy and Yorda,” while Shadow of the Colossus was “about the dynamic interaction” between Wander and the monsters. The Last Guardian is the “best of both worlds,” as if Shadow of the Colossus isn’t a decade old. I kind of appreciate that lack as lip service paid to the lengthy development, however interesting a behind the scenes story it may be. George Miller just came back and made a new Mad Max after 30 years. Ten ain’t shit.

I’ll likely have a pleasant time playing The Last Guardian next year, without mad hype or pent up disappointment. I hope Ueda manages to realize his vision after all the rigamarole, because his last two games are fabulous.

Steven Hansen