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E3 2015: The Last Guardian: Trailer analysis, guilt and sacrifice

The Last Guardian has finally been announced (and it looks beautiful) but what can the trailer tell us about how it will play, and how it will make us feel?

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The Last Guardian

The Last Guardian has finally been announced (and it looks beautiful) but what can the trailer tell us about how it will play, and how it will make us feel?

The Last Guardian has been in the works for a very long time. Many have dismissed it as vapourware a long time hence. Team Ico began development in 2007, and following the big reveal at E3 2009, we expected to be getting our hands on it in 2011. Then nothing happened.

Electronic Entertainment Expos came and went, and The Last Guardian – follow-up to critically-acclaimed smashes Ico and Shadow of the Colossus – was nowhere to be seen. Disappeared without trace. Almost forgotten. Almost.

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Fast-forward to E3 2015 and the high-stakes Sony presentation, that brought us news of Shenmue III, this epic Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End trailer, and the reveal of the actual, full remake of Final Fantasy VII. What else did Sony really have to give?

Enter The Last Guardian.

It’s a beautiful thing. With a soft an ethereal shimmer and the feel of a Studio Ghibli tale brought to life in a pseudo-realistic world, it’s hard to take your eyes off it. The Last Guardian feels more like a successor to Ico than Shadow of the Colossus – gameplay is less violent and combat appears to be non-existent, but the puzzle platforming and non-verbal communication effects mesh perfectly. This is what Journey would look like, after taking a course in animal husbandry at Jurassic World.

And – further delays aside – The Last Guardian should be with us sometime in 2016. Exciting stuff!

The Last Guardian: A lesson in guilt and sacrifice?

In the trailer, a small boy uses little chirrups and calls to his friend, a colossal dog-bird hybrid, to indicate where he wants him to go, and what he needs him to do. His friend obliges, and saves the boy from falling to his death; but he is still a wild creature at heart. When he sees a structure that upsets him, a windmill that causes him to hiss and recoil, the beast will go no further.

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The boy, desperate to continue, driven forward by some unspoken purpose, pushes the windmill structure from the edge of a wooden gantry. The gantry collapses under the strain and the boy makes a fearful jump to the beast, who saves him once more. The whole structure is collapsing now, and the beast jumps for a ledge, the boy gripping fearfully to his tail.

As the colossal animal hangs from the ledge, clinging with all his might, the boy climbs up his feathered back to the safety of the ledge… wait… no… what are you doing with that fallen pillar…? Don’t roll it towards your friend… it’s going to knock him off the ledge… no, stop! I can’t watch this anymore…

Remarkably, the beast uses the pillar to climb, and on this occasion he survives, but at no point in those final few seconds did I think the boy was taking action to save his gigantic companion.

Every bit of what transpired there looked like a quick-witted human sacrificing the stricken beast, who had been his friend and protector, to save his own skin. Watching that trailer, I defy anyone – even with the best spatial reasoning in the world – to combine rolling the stone pillar towards the dangling animal as an attempt to save it.

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This is where The Last Guardian starts to make me feel uncomfortable, and begins to remind me far more of Shadow of the Colossus than Ico.

The beast survived this time, but I don’t doubt that he – and others like him – will surely lose their lives over the course of the boy’s crusade.

So as beautiful a game as it looks, and as captivating to play as it may turn out to be, I’m not sure I can deal with that guilt trip again; hell, I can’t even handle the guilt of abandoning a Yoshi into a chasm to save Mario…

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Yoshi and Mario are best friends. Except they’re not, because Mario is a jerk.

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Tom is an itinerant freelance technology writer who found a home as an Editor with Thumbsticks. Powered by coffee, RPGs, and local co-op.