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The Last Guardian
Steerpike
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December 7, 2016 - 9:14 am
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"Think Piece" is my middle name! Matthew Steerpike Think Piece Sakey.

Seriously though, and no one needs to read this since xtal already said it better, it probably is important to keep TLG's pedigree in mind when considering it, and re-reading both the Polygon review and the Eurogamer one, it's clear that Polygon's focus is on mechanical issues that (again, as xtal said) aren't really the... the point when it comes to a Team Ico game. Actually in this case it looks like some of the control "problems" are on purpose and, in fact, heavily mocapped to emphasize the movements of the kitty bear and the little boy. So maybe they're frustrating at times; the controls and camera in Ico and Shadow were also frustrating at times but to imply that the frustration seriously detracts from the experience suggests a perspective that's not really right for these games.

I'm really curious to see some of the stuff Eurogamer described at such length: the need to read the emotions of the kitty bear, to understand its expressions and the sense that they've really modeled animal behavior so carefully. I mean, think about Agro in Shadow of the Colossus, how impressively horsey he was, you can only imagine how much more they might accomplish with lots of development time and the PS4's processing power.

With luck, learning to incentivize the kitty bear will help me train my kitten to stop waking me up at 6am for breakfast.

Which one was the Eighth Colossus? Was that the one in the arena, the one Dormin described as a shadow that crawls on the walls? I should Google it.

(two minutes later)

Yes, it's that one. I had trouble with that guy, though I can't remember whether it was due to ineptitude or bothersome camera.

ANYWAY, Polygon's was the first TLG review I read and the more I reflect on it, the more it feels like it's coming from the wrong place, a place of not taking the Fumito Ueda-ness sufficiently into account and evaluating it as "just" a puzzle platformer, rather than a Team Ico game.

That it's finally here is strangely unreal. I always assumed it would turn up sooner or later, but I'd gotten so accustomed to the idea that TLG was going to be In The Future that I haven't quite grokked the fact that it's now In The Present.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

Steerpike
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December 8, 2016 - 9:22 am
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A great QA with Takeshi Furukawa, TLG's composer, at Gamasutra.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Synonamess Botch
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December 8, 2016 - 11:32 pm
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I admit to having less and less patience with crap gameplay as I get older.  I also admit to getting frustrated with the camera in both ICO and SoTC at time.  But the key point about those games is that the controls aren't crap.  What they are is unconventional.  Perfect example: once you learn to work with Agro and not treat him like a motorcycle, he controls wonderfully; only once you relinquish control does it start to feel right.  So I too have little patience for those who won't get past what they perceive as shoddy controls.  They're missing unique and fulfilling experiences.

I may have mentioned this before but I could swear they smoothed over some of the rough edges in the PS3 remaster of SoTC.  I breezed through most of the Colossi as I never did in the original.  Anyone agree with me on this?

Anyway, I completely agree with both of you on all points.  And am I going to offend anyone by saying that Polygon is shite?

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xtal
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December 9, 2016 - 12:21 pm
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Eh, not me. I like some of their stuff, and some stuff not so much.

But totally agree with that comment, the controls aren't bad, just different. From what I'd read I was expecting a nightmare with TLG's controls, but that's not what I experienced.

So I played about an hour and a half the other night ... I found the game utterly mesmerizing. The music is beautiful! And my god, for a game that was in production as a PS3 game for a good while I think the graphics are gorgeous. The design is gorgeous. You could play this game and just know it was related to Ico and Shadow somehow.

I've been having difficulty recently with games that seem like they're going to be long and a lot of work, despite how amazing they seem. Like Dishonored 2; I'm only in the second level but the world feels so alive and thoughtful. But while I'm playing it there's no ... I'm not sure how to say it; no unseen force that compels me to push forward.

The Last Guardian has that unseen force.

Can I also say something that I think goes unmentioned and is underrated: the GUI of the game; rather, the lack of a GUI. I think it can be a sign of a well designed game, having no clutter on the screen.

Also was not expecting narration! But I like it. The beast (indeed, "Trico," or Turico as it sounds to be pronounced) just sort of does what he wants, but I haven't felt annoyed by him not doing what I want. This is mostly due to me getting lost looking at every bit of scenery. This game is so beautiful. Hey, it may not be the most surprising thing you've heard this year, but I love this game so far.

I think I have to be one of the most patient people playing games in the world. I chalk this up to being an only child and having to imagine up much of my fun as a kid, not having brothers or sisters to play with. Hell, another game I picked up and enjoyed this year is Elite Dangerous, the definition of a game which requires patience and imagination.

In my heart I kept the faith for The Last Guardian; imagining that I would probably dig the game, no matter its flaws. What I didn't expect was how great it would look. I knew it would have that graphical feel to it, but I think it's genuinely one of the best looking games I've seen this year.

If being wrong's a crime I'm serving forever

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Synonamess Botch
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December 9, 2016 - 12:34 pm
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Dangit!  Amazon still hasn't even put my copy in the mail yet.

I have to say that I really lost faith in TLG, maybe even more than once.  By all accounts I trust, seems I was wrong.

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Steerpike
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December 13, 2016 - 9:11 am
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Normally this is one I'd go straight out and get (or Amazon) but people say I'm "difficult to shop for" and 'tis the season. Keep the impressions coming, though!

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Synonamess Botch
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December 15, 2016 - 3:03 pm
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My copy finally came and I have also only played briefly.  What a surreal experience.  I can hardly believe I actually have this game.  I could say more but it would just be a rehash of Xtal's initial impressions.

And as if to punctuate the delay, my PS4 wouldn't even recognize the disk initially until I power cycled it.

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geggis
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December 15, 2016 - 3:10 pm
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Synonamess Botch said
And as if to punctuate the delay, my PS4 wouldn't even recognize the disk initially until I power cycled it.  

Sounds like your PS4 had a Ron Burgundy moment.

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Synonamess Botch
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December 21, 2016 - 9:19 am
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I'm really enjoying it so far.  The bond between the boy and the beast gradually deepens.  In gameplay terms it increases the number of things you can coax the beast to do.  I think coax is the right word since the boy doesn't directly control the beast.  In any other game it would become frustrating trying to figure out what to do.  In this game it feels like relationship building.

Still, I would really like to see a detailed post-mortem about what exactly took so long.  I'm sure there's quite a bit of hidden complexity but 9 years worth?  That obviously doesn't account for all or even most of it.

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xtal
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November 6, 2017 - 1:12 pm
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Yesterday, in an Extra Life encore, I finished The Last Guardian. I just want to type those words again.

I finished The Last Guardian.

It was a game that had, I think, even more frustrating moments than Shadow of the Colossus; a game with infamously frustrating moments. And at the same time, The Last Guardian gave me what no other non-Ueda art has come close to giving me.

Not enough critical outlets, for my liking at least, gave this game enough credit during last year's GOTY-season. Specifically, for what an undertaking this project was, and what an achievement it is in bold video game design.

I felt an immediate nostalgia after beating the game, much like I did with both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. And time will undoubtedly sand off some of the rough edges in my memory. This was certainly a game with poor design in places, and I think it was way too long. I know it's fresh in my mind, but I don't know if there's another game for which my criticism is so black and white. I said this on my stream on Saturday evening, but this was a tale of two games: outdoors, it was a beautiful and unique platforming game wherein you try to wrangle your very fussy puzzle-solving partner, Trico. And despite the occasional frustrating moment outdoors, and the immense patience required, it was all worth it because this game had that Ueda magic. That Team Ico aesthetic and foggy glaze to the world.

There were so many outdoor moments that were incredible to behold. One influence (I think) that I was not expecting was Uncharted. Specifically, I think Uncharted 2 influenced some of the moments of brief, intense action. That also checks out development timeline-wise, since this game was being designed (or redesigned) in 2009. But The Last Guardian has some Uncharted moments that I think best many great Uncharted moments. That was a nice surprise.

The other side of the coin is the indoor moments. I understand that it makes sense to have moments where you go inside the massive structures in this world; there would be a lot less game if you didn't, and some of its puzzle tropes would have nowhere to go, but every moment of intense frustration occurred in an indoor section. Whether it was trying to avoid the other Trico beast in a poorly designed and utterly confusing action segment, or trying to pull on a chain quickly to open a gate before half a dozen of the statue guards attack the boy. They detracted from the experience greatly.

Ultimately though, this game succeeds for me because I think it's such a daring achievement. By the end of the adventure I deeply cared about Trico and its (his/her?) well-being. The fact that developers programmed every bit of that is amazing to me. Just amazing. Trico felt like a real animal, good and bad.

 

If this is the end of Team Ico, I would be fine with that. They've given so much to the artform of video games. So much. I think they're a team of absolute, uncompromised artists. I've never fully deciphered either of their previous works, and doubt I'll ever decipher The Last Guardian. But goddamn did they all make me feel something. In the context of each of their times, they had no right to exist. And they not only exist, but stand out starkly. Three unforgettable works that I feel fortunate to have experienced. Even just one of them would have been enough.

Whether or not there is a fourth, thank you, Team Ico. Thank you.

If being wrong's a crime I'm serving forever

Steerpike
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December 14, 2017 - 11:27 am
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Ueda, at least, is working on a new game -- he's said so publicly. It might not be under the Team Ico banner, but I suspect it will involve much of the same talent.

Okay, xtal, Botch, I need you guys to tell me what to do with TLG. I played and couldn't get into it. I never made it far. Something about it felt artificial. Should I just bull through to a certain point and my feelings will change, or am I doomed to be unimpressed by this one? Help!

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Synonamess Botch
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December 16, 2017 - 6:14 pm
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Hmm, not sure how to advise you.  Sometimes I'm not in the right mood to play certain games.  I think TLG requires something more than just "want to sit on my couch and relax now; kill some mooks 'n junk."  It is less an action game than SotC as well.  Can you put your finger on what exactly turned you off?

EDIT: Oh here's another thing: play it "coop."  Somehow I got more enjoyment working through the puzzles with my kids.  I also think the emotional impact can be greater with friends around.

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Steerpike
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January 1, 2018 - 11:21 am
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I have added it back into my rotation and I'm determined to give it another try. Your co-op suggestion sounds like it might work well, it feels like a participatory kind of game.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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xtal
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January 2, 2018 - 1:26 pm
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You can look at it like Shadow of the Colossus, there's often moments of frustration, while other times you'll find yourself in a sublime moment and glad you bothered with it.

There are a small handful of pretty bad specific gameplay moments, particularly one during the climax of the game, but I never regretted playing it. I do think it's several hours too long. That's probably it's greatest flaw. Well, that and the fact that there are two movement speeds for the boy: tip-toe sneak and delirious run.

If being wrong's a crime I'm serving forever

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