Sony put on an incredible show during this year’s E3 Expo, debuting new IPs from Guerrilla Games and Media Molecule, as well as offering further glimpses at long-awaited titles such as No Man’s Sky from Hello Games and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End from Naughty Dog. Yet it chose to open its presentation with perhaps the most long-awaited title of all time, The Last Guardian.
The Last Guardian first appeared at E3 2009, and it was originally slated for the PS3, but over the last six years the game has had a troubled development. Director Fumito Ueda seemingly parted ways with Sony in 2011, although he admitted at the time that he would complete The Last Guardian, as he was contractually obliged to do so.
Ueda has now formed a new company, GenDesign, comprised of the original team that made Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Talking about his new company after his E3 appearance, Ueda said on Twitter, “Since last summer, I’ve been working from a smaller studio I formed with the original staff who helped make Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. (1) Together we hope to challenge our personal creative limits & the possibilities of what games can be, both with The Last Guardian and beyond. (2)” His new company is not tied to Sony in the same way Team Ico was, but for now, it seems Ueda has rediscovered his creative freedom, bringing The Last Guardian home to roost in 2016.
Yet, despite the title looking even more lush now that it is destined for the PS4 rather than its predecessor, and yanking on the heartstrings more than EA’s surprisingly moving platformer Unravel, part of me wishes The last Guardian had faded into obscurity. There is no doubt that the game will be brilliant, and I’m sure that there is a lot more to the Ueda-Sony story that we have yet to hear. But for a game that will be released seven years after it was first announced, can it ever hope to live up to that level of hype?
Had The Last Guardian failed to appear at E3 this year, it would have become more than a game; it would have passed into legend as something whispered among video gamers, joining the ranks of canceled projects like Silent Hills, Star Wars 1313, StarCraft: Ghost, and the Wii exclusive Sadness. The latter IP was the subject of news last year when it was reported by Eurogamer that HullBreach Studios had acquired the rights to Sadness. However, the initial report was quickly amended, as the rights to the original game were actually never for sale. Hullbreach changed course and decided to make a game inspired by Sadness (or the sadness of not being able to make Sadness). Like The Last Guardian, HullBreach’s Sadness & Solitude is also vying for a 2016 release.
The Last Guardian had to share space at Sony’s Press Conference with a pair of other titles that whipped fans into a frenzy, and reduced at least one Warp Zoned editor to tears. It is hard to believe, but after years of teasing, Final Fantasy VII is being remade for the PlayStation 4. Not only that, but Sony also used its E3 platform to kickstart (pun intended) a crowdfunding campaign for Shenmue III, a long-dreamed-of sequel to the ill-fated Dreamcast series. Announcing one of these titles alone would have probably stole the show, but revealing both alongside The Last Guardian managed to make the console’s tagline seem believable. This really is the machine for the players. These games evoke the highest, blood-pumping levels of passion in gamers, and perhaps by announcing all three together, it will lessen the pressure on The Last Guardian’s 2016 launch.
Ultimately, I am glad that The Last Guardian will finally see the light of day, as it looks to be one of the most emotionally-charged video games of all time, and should further serve as a reminder that games can rival films and television shows in the creation of engaging storytelling. Yet, for all the years that it did not appear, and even in the run up to E3 2015, The Last Guardian was something of a running joke in the video game community. The new trailer certainly served to silence some of those voices, but there is a small part of me that thinks, even now, having watched the trailer five times, that the game simply cannot live up to seven years’ worth of expectations.
After all these announcements, I was almost disappointed to see that Gabe Newell didn’t pop up at the end of E3 2015 to announce Half-Life 3. If that had happened, the public’s expectations for The Last Guardian definitely would not seem nearly as insurmountable.