The Last Guardian Review (PS4) – A Timeless Masterpiece
Nothing quite like The Last Guardian exists today. It feels like something from the past – an idealistic representation of the word “Game”, and yet it is also incredibly refreshing because of how unique it feels. Born of a singular concept – “a journey of the bond between man and creature”, the entire game explores this in full. You are a little kid of unknown origins, awakening to the sight of a mythical beast chained and in pain. You free it from its shackles, and thus begins an epic discovery of the creature, its quirks, what makes it tick, what it dislikes, what it eats, and how it moves. It is entirely necessary for you to learn about the beast, for it is only with Trico’s help (the name of the creature – a cross between a rat, bird and cat/dog) that you can navigate the brutally desolate yet utterly beautiful ruins that lies before you.
For a game that took 10 years to make, and was plagued with delays, personnel departure, and more, it doesn’t feel like a game that is any worse for it. The creature is born of love, and heart and it shows. Trico is a fully realized being, and if it took 10 years for the game to make, it must be because the levels and environments took one year, and the beast was developed over nine. It feels incredibly real, inhabiting the game world like an actual, living breathing creature, from the way it ruffles its feathers/fur, to its lithe movement, and even down to the little things like when it decides to twitch it ears or cry out with a deep guttural sound. It will also inhabit a place in your heart, if you decide to let it in.
But as with any real animal, forming a real bond with it takes time – and the game is as much about the kid and Trico’s escape, as it is about understanding the creature better. You spend a good five to six hours of the game in some form of “tutorial” – the game never spells out that it is a “tutorial”, nor ever allude to such a thing (the game has zero hand-holding, nothing is told to you, there is no waypoint or direction pointer), but you feel like the early platforming and environmental puzzles requires a sort of working out of how to get the animal to look in the direction you want, calling out its name, mixed with stroking its large body and feeding it, just to get it to do what you need it to do.
Just like a real animal, its temperament is more at play so it’s not always that it follows your instructions, instead preferring to sniff at the grass, or turn its back on you and be distracted by something else. There’s a rhythm to understanding exactly when is the right time that you can call on Trico to do your bidding, and when you have to leave it to do its thing before it returns to your attention. The game has designed a true form of co-dependence. You need Trico to get through the game, but Trico needs you to care for it, to not leave it behind, and to help soothe the storm that brews within it.
There is a deep, dark narrative to the entire game – but true to Japanese form, the story is never spelt out for the audience. It is seen in the brutalist architecture of the grand, sprawling empty halls and structures you run and climb through, in the mysterious tattoos all over the kid’s entire body, and in the soulless automatons that roam the space waiting to capture you for an undetermined reason. And it is also weaved into the mystery of Trico itself. Where did it come from? Is it the only one of its kind? What is the true purpose of its existence and its fate tied to yours? Why does its horns grow and fall off and grow again? Why does its eyes glow different colors when its hungry, angry, scared? Why does it get agitated at the soulless automatons that try to kidnap you or scared at the stain-glass eyes?
There is a small amount of narration peppered throughout the game, of the boy speaking as an older man, and as you play through the game, the narration would complement your actions as if recounting the past. So there’s a clue to be gleaned from that.
Oh and the game’s sense of scale. Play this game on as big a TV as you can. The way you transiti