recently finished one of the games on my Backlog list. The Last Guardian. While some of the games on my list are made up of games that were released within a year or so, some have been on my personal, “must try,” list for sometime, The Last Guardian is a little different. It’s a much more recent game than those on my list and it’s a game I’ve been waiting for for many years, as many of us have. Through The Last Guardian new light has been shed on the previous two games from Team Ico, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. This game is not merely an adventure game, or a puzzler, or a platformer. It’s all of these things, but it’s more than that. In conversations with the podcast crew Alex mentioned a different genre that i had not thought about in some time, the Pet Simulator.
The first instances of this game are about building some semblance of trust between Trico and Boy. Trico is clearly injured and chained. Your job is to relieve Trico of his pain and free him from his shackles. There is a metaphorical wall that needs to be scaled here, a wall of fear. As a player you feel no fear, but Boy certainly does as you see the scenario play out. Trico though large and powerful seems to have more fear than either of the two and Boy’s fear stems from that, as Trico’s fear manifests as aggression. It, trust, is one of the most important steps to building the relationship between the two characters. Boy has to gain Trico’s trust.
Not long after freeing Trico you’re introduced to the “command” mechanics. Dealing with Trico was at first frustrating. You’d call to him and he would arrive slowly and with no sense of urgency. You needed Trico to stand near a wall so you could climb his body to a ledge or window. Sometimes Trico would line up properly and sometimes not. In the middle of frustration over controls and camera (as you may have read in reviews on other sites, the camera and controls have some real problems at times) this would appear to be another flaw in mechanics, and while I’m inclined to agree with that, I’m also inclined to think a little more about the subject.
Now I may be projecting on Trico, but it would seem that Trico really only follows for the possibility of being fed, at least at first. Both Boy and Trico are getting what they need from each other. Trico get’s to fill his belly with barrels filled with some glowing blue-green substance and Boy get’s a bunch of help with trying to get out of his geographic prison. Cooperation is necessary. Trico doesn’t always cooperate and it can be really really annoying. However, this is not unlike dealing with a live puppy. Try getting a puppy to ‘sit,’ a few days after bringing it home. Or getting your new best friend to stand on it’s hind legs. Not gonna happen. Within the context of a game, again, this is annoying, BUT what if this were part of the games design?
Consider, perhaps, that it’s possible Trico is actually getting better at responding. OR that you as the player are getting better at recognizing when and what to ask him to do. While the latter is more likely, the former is more interesting. Of course the other possibility is that BOTH are happening, and now we’re getting somewhere.
Trico and I, uhhhh…Boy… went through a lot together through the course of The Last Guardian. Oh Trico I remember that one time I was traversing those weird suspended bridges above an endless abyss and when they started to collapse you ran over to save me. I jumped towards you, you tried to catch me, missed, and I fell to my death. You saved me on the second try, though, and almost every other time I was in trouble. Thanks.
I, and I do mean ‘I’, began to care about Trico as one does a pet. It was through our time together that that happened. Whenever Trico was attacked with spears and I pulled them from his body, I massaged the spots around the wound until the blood disappeared. Trico seemed to like that. After some difficult puzzles we would spend a few moments together. I would climb Trico and pet him in a spot that would make him lie down. I’d dismount and approach his beak and he would nuzzle me gently but hard enough to push me back. Through all this there was a moment that “Boy” became “I”, I’m not sure when that happened exactly. It happens often when gaming and it’s always difficult to pinpoint the exact instant that it does. My best guess when Boy become I would be when I felt most connected to Trico. When the relationship between he and Boy matured.
Perhaps the perspetive shift happened when I began to believe that Trico was in fact more willing to respond. Quicker to rush to my aid. A partner in the adventure. While I was still unsure that Trico was responding better, I began to believe he was. I wanted to believe so. I have never played a pet simulator that was as convincing and compelling as this. A “real” relationship was developed, but it’s the combination of genres that makes this so successful. In Nintendogs while the pets are cute I was never convinced of them being actual pets. I’m not sure I even like pet simulators, but if this is what a pet simulator can be, I’m all for them.
The Last Guardian is a combination of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. It combines the the adventure and mystery of those two games, but with fresh eyes explains why I loved those games so much. They were about relationships. They were about responsibility to cause and character. The Last Guardian‘s strong suit is best seen through the relationship it builds. Through the experiences in the adventure, the forced mechanic of dealing with another independent character became a relationship. A relationship that would eventually come to an end, but would stick with Boy and I.