The Last Guardian Reviewed for PlayStation 4.
The Last Guardian carries the burden of great expectations. The previous two releases from Sony Japan’s Team Ico, Ico (2001) and Shadow of the Colossus (2005), are highly respected, cited often by those who consider video games as art. And when The Last Guardian spent nine years in development, fans began worrying if the spiritual successor to those beloved entries might ever measure up.
Guardian tells the story of a young boy who awakens to find himself trapped in a strange cave with a wounded monster, the 20-foot-tall cat-bird hybrid Trico. Your relationship with Trico evolves as the story progresses—he’s aggressive initially, but with patience you can earn his trust and help—and by the end of the game you bond so strongly, either of you would sacrifice yourself to save the other. It’s one of the most complex and rewarding relationships I’ve experience in a video game.
It takes patience to get there, though. The game is far from perfect mechanically, with a wandering camera that seems to slip out of position at the most inopportune times (like just before a crucial jump) and the sometimes nonresponsive behavior of your giant friend. Trico also gets annoyed if you try to charge through the game too quickly. Rather than screaming at him, give him a moment to lay in the grass or roll around in a puddle—you might end up appreciating areas you’d otherwise have sprinted past.
Director Fumito Ueda has once again constructed a beautiful world, with incredible structures and gorgeous soft light spilling over everything. Certain areas, however, seem hollow and sparse in comparison to other games released this year, a reminder that The Last Guardian was originally intended for last-gen systems.
In the end, though, the game achieves greatness atop the relationship it creates between its two primary characters. With Team Ico disbanded and Ueda gone from Sony, The Last Guardian stands as their final attempt to touch our hearts and teach us about ourselves. In that they have done an outstanding job.