The Last Guardian’s Long and Troubled History

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The Last Guardian started to become a bit mythical; a fabled video game, one that is perpetually in reach but you can never grasp with your greedy little hands and caress with your stubby fingers. Since development began by Team Ico in 2007, it has been delayed numerous times. It started life as a PS3 exclusive, the PS3. Think of how many people clambered to get their hands on a PS3 just to play that game, then only to realise that it will never arrive on that platform. Then, they went out and bought a PS4, so that you can hopefully play The Last Guardian. Livid, mate. Absolutely fuming.

Let’s cast our minds back to the 2009 E3 trailer for the Last Guardian. Was it not a magical experience, seeing everything we had been waiting for come to fruition, Trico in all his or her glory, helping the boy solve all those platforming puzzles and making us all a bit emotional in the process? Footage of The Last Guardian was curiously absent at E3 the following year but fears were assuaged at the 2010 Tokyo Game Show, when a 2011 holiday release was announced. Then, in March 2011, it was announced that The Last Guardian will not be making its 2011 release after all.

Fast-forward to November 2011, when the creator of The Last Guardian’s predecessors, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, Fumito Ueda, left Sony, but stayed on as a freelancer to work on the project. Soon after, one of The Last Guardian’s Executive Producers, Yoshifusa Hayama, along with several other team members, packed their bags and went home.

Sony went dark for nearly a year, with no showing at E3 in the summer of 2012, and in November of that year, Sony Worldwide Studios Boss, Shuhei Yoshida, refused to commit to a 2013 release date, adding that, “the last time we talked of a date for The Last Guardian, we had ultimately disappointed many people.”

We saw reassurances from Sony President, Jack Tretton, in June 2013, who said the project was on “hiatus”, with Yoshida adding more promising news that The Last Guardian was “alive and kicking.” Ueda added to this in August 2013, stating that games like Knack were “taking priority,” at Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Japan Studio, over The Last Guardian. Look at how Knack turned out. Who even remembers Knack? What even was Knack?

knack game

The next lot of news to come was that development of The Last Guardian was being moved over to the PS4, and, hey, it’s been a long six years since that original 2009 trailer, but here you go, The Last Guardian appears at E3 2015. Looking as beautiful as ever, Trico’s feathers majestically flowing in the wind, his large, sad face tugging at the old heart strings. 25th October 2016 was the date that they later gave for release. How could they screw with us on this one, we wondered, after all we’ve been through?

So, The Last Guardian has been delayed until December 2016. People, understandably, were a bit annoyed and a little bit concerned. Which is okay, providing you don’t send the folks at Team Ico death threats or something silly like that, it’s okay to be disappointed. The time that The Last Guardian has spent in development hell should be cause for concern. When something has been anticipated for this long, by such a large and passionate crowd of people, then expectations and hype tend to be high, and if 2016 has taught us anything, is that people tend to be upset if you don’t meet their expectations.

Now to be fair, I don’t think that The Last Guardian has set such high hopes as that other game which came out in 2016. But the sense of waiting is palpable. People want The Last Guardian and they don’t want to be let down.

That’s not to say that games which spend a long time in development hell turn out to be terrible. Look at Doom’s recent reboot. We were all anxious about that one and Bethesda’s new review policy set us on edge, causing us all to believe that Doom was going to be a failure which they wanted to hide until money had been put down. Thankfully, it turned out to be pretty, damn good. But then again, sometimes development hell makes games redundant, such as Duke Nukem Forever in 2011.

Yoshida said in a statement on 12th September 2016, that:

“The Last Guardian will launch on December 6, 2016.Fumito Ueda (gen Design) and Japan Studio have a wonderful vision for The Last Guardian’s touching, emotional journey of friendship and trust, and we want to deliver the most polished experience possible for our fans who have supported us for so long. A delay is a difficult decision, particularly with this game, but we have encountered more bugs than anticipated while in the final stages of development. To ensure that The Last Guardian delivers on the experience that the game’s creators have envisioned, we need to take the extra time to work on those issues.”

As Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto once said, “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” The history of video gaming has taught us this is true. Publishers looking to please shareholders will not budge on release dates and, such is the case with Assassin’s Creed Unity, the game suffers and fans end up being disappointed. So, let’s heed Miyamoto’s words. He knows from experience this is true. After all, Nintendo can’t get a new Zelda game out to save their lives.