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Last Guardian triumphs despite flaws

December 16, 2016

By Alexander Cattani - G4 Canada

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The Last GuardianAfter a long, long wait, The Last Guardian is finally here! Sony’s follow up to the avant-garde PS2 classic, Shadow of the Colossus, begins with a nameless boy awakening next to Trico, a beast whose reputation isn’t the peachiest amongst the locals. Unbeknownst to how he got there, the boy must now find his way back home. Rather than venturing off alone, the boy enlists the help of Trico and the two begin their adventure.

As the boy gains the trust of the daunting beast, the two begin to from a heart-warming comradely. Witnessing Trico jovially approach the boy and being to subtly nestle him made for some endearing moments. Furthermore, the fleeting whimpers and yodels Trico will emit when in distress or pain raised so many emotions and made me immediately want to aid the beast.

The Last GuardianFans of Fumito Ueda’s previous works, such as Shadow of the Colossus and Ico are sure to notice thematically coherent story beats in each of the titles. In Ico, it was the helpless Yorda, the imprisoned princess that you must chaperon. In Shadow of the Colossus it was Agro, your trusty steed. In the Last Guardian, it’s of course Trico. The reoccurring themes of protection and companionship that have so prominently been featured in Ueda’s past works really make The Last Guardian feel like the man’s long awaited magnum opus.

The overall narrative unravels itself in subtle fashion. Don’t expect a whole lot to be explained upfront. Narratively and mechanically, The Last Guardian is a slow burn. If the game were to throw a bevy of explanation at me in the early goings, I probably wouldn’t have had the drive to see the title through. That great sense of mystery the game so subtly expands upon as each act comes to a close is what kept me going. Thankfully the story is appealing, as the gameplay doesn’t quite reach the level it should.

The Last GuardianSimply put, controlling the main protagonist is a hardship. Everything from timing jumps to grabbing ledges and subsequently shimmying along them feels loose. The controls feel like a late era PS2 title. Given the generation spanning development cycle, this is hardly a surprise. Still, tighter and more responsive character handling would’ve alleviated one of the game’s larger issues. When it came to interacting with Trico, I felt that my commands were obeyed most of the time. The odd time in which an order would go unanswered further gave legitimacy to the notion that you’re trying to build a rapport with a living animal. Sometimes they listen but other times they’re too busy sniffing out food or taking a nap.

When you’re not taking in your surroundings or feeding Trico, you’ll be progressing through each area by solving gradually more intricate environmental puzzles. Gamers who aren’t fans of puzzlers needn’t fret, the offerings found here are easy by in large. The incessant camera however will occasionally put a damper on things. This problem is further amplified in tighter areas, especially when Trico follows your every move in these confined spaces. Having the main point of view constantly whip around was annoying at first. Though I eventually grew used to the camera’s erratic nature, it still didn’t make the problem any less annoying during the outset.

The Last GuardianThe gameplay aside, the world that the developers have created exudes beauty and wonder. Exploring fortresses slowly being reclaimed by nature as decaying structures of a bygone area adorn the backdrop made for a breathtaking experience. Not exactly breathtaking in terms of raw technical fidelity but more so in terms of tasteful art direction. Think classical roman architecture, mixed with light fantasy and tribal iconography and you have The Last Guardian. Unfortunately, while the game’s a pleasure to look at, technical issues are ever present throughout the roughly ten-hour journey.

What’s found here is a beautiful tale of love, trust and sorrow. It’s plotting pace and slippery gameplay may turn off some but those who appreciate a weighty narrative and are willing to put with the above-mentioned issues owe it to themselves to give The Last Guardian a shot.

 

The Last Guardian: Fragments of the Forgotten Past The Last Guardian
Format: PlayStation4
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: genDESIGN, SIE Japan Studio
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Official Site: https://www.playstation.com/en-ca/games/the-last-guardian-ps4/

Rating: 8 / 10

 
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About G4 in Canada
G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.