The road to The Last Guardian: Top developers celebrate the games of Fumito Ueda

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The road to The Last Guardian: Top developers celebrate the games of Fumito Ueda

Shuhei Yoshida, David Cage and other luminaries offer their thoughts on a pioneering designer

As the highly anticipated release of The Last Guardian finally nears — yes, it’s a real game and you’re a mere few weeks away from playing it! — we’re hearing more and more from the community about how designer Fumito Ueda’s work has touched them.

Ico and Shadow of the Colossus seem to hold special places in the hearts of their fans, though the reasons why vary depending on who you talk to. We thought it a fitting nod to a decade-long wait near its end to celebrate the legacy that precedes The Last Guardian, as shared in thoughts and memories from people in the industry (a.k.a. gamers, like you). It’s also a nifty excuse for us to formally release this tribute video that Tokyo Game Show goers saw last month:

“Ico was the first video game that made me care about an AI character: Yorda. I couldn’t understand the conversations between the characters, just the behaviour of Yorda in reaction to what I did. The game presented situations that made me feel Yorda was a living person, thinking and feeling as an individual. This made playing Ico a very special experience, where I felt like I journeyed through the story with her.

“I believe, as a big fan of Ueda-san’s titles myself, that people feel Ueda-san’s games are special, because when you play his games you clearly feel it was designed from one person’s vision from beginning to the end, without much influence by whatever were popular genres or gaming styles of that time.”

-Shuhei Yoshida (President of SIE Worldwide Studios)

“Team Ico creates timeless masterpieces which reminds me of a long-loved picture book or a fairy-tale. I’m especially a big fan of their fantastic animations.

“We at Team NINJA also put many efforts into creating smooth action. I feel real and warm emotion from Ueda-san’s sophisticated animations.”

-Fumihiko Yasuda (Director, Team NINJA)

“When I played Ico for the first time I was struck by how well it conveyed scale and solitude. The game truly makes you feel like you’re left to your own devices in a huge and uncaring world – there are no armies coming to your aid, no inns to seek refuge in-between chapters. It’s just you and Yorda, a girl you know nothing about and whose language you don’t speak, trying to escape from a vast and ancient castle.

“That atmosphere of desolation makes certain forms of interaction all the more meaningful. My favourite thing in Ico is the way in which you save your game: you sit down on a bench together with Yorda and take a breather from all the jumping and climbing. It’s such a touching little moment, allowing you to reflect on everything the two of you have been through, and strengthening your bond.

“In Shadow of the Colossus, the sense that you’re facing down impossible odds is even stronger due to the ever-looming presence of the colossi. The first time I scaled and took down a colossus was a moment of pure exhilaration; I’d never faced a creature so much larger than myself in a video game, let alone defeated one. It’s one of those defining moments in games, and I think it’s fair to say that the confrontations between Aloy and the machines in Horizon Zero Dawn owe a huge debt to Shadow of the Colossus.

“I think Ueda-san’s games tell bittersweet, human stories that tap into universally relatable emotions. They’re minimalist works of art, executed with laser-like focus throughout – from the core game mechanics to the storyline. Coupled with the craftsmanship evident in the visuals, the animations and the music, it’s easy to see why they’re timeless classics.”

-Hermen Hulst (Managing Director, Guerrilla Games)

The Last Guardian

“What I love the most about Team Ico’s games is their unique sense of storytelling and poetry. They tell unique stories without any dialogue, and the player still gets a very clear sense of the story, who these characters are – and easily get emotionally attached to them.

“The little boy with horns in Ico is a very good example of an intriguing character created through very simple means. Ueda-san’s sense of storytelling is very elegant and subtle; it talks directly to the heart of players, which is something very difficult to do. His sense of poetry is something very few games manage to offer.

“I have many favourite moments in Team Ico’s games. I love both games’ finales in particular (I don’t want to spoil them). I remember standing in front of my TV absolutely amazed by these endings, so clever, moving, surprising, and at the same time so spot on. But both games are full of these incredible moments, from the discovery of your horse to this incredible feeling of climbing on the shoulders of a colossus. These games are about being a child again, and that’s really a miracle by itself.

“Very few creators have such a unique touch that makes everything they touch distinctive and special. Ueda-san is definitely one of them. His work has been seminal in many ways, and is still a source of inspiration.”

-David Cage (Director, Quantic Dream)

“I can’t wait to be sat on my couch, lights down, sound up and this game starting up on my screen. Ico is in my top game experiences – so gentle and yet unforgiving, so beautiful and yet bleak! I absolutely love the fantasies they created and I am looking forward to seeing what metaphors/emotions this rite of passage story explores. It’s so hard to get that stuff right. Basically looking forward to everything.

“Team Ico have brought us incredibly beautiful rites of passage experiences and for that I am very grateful. I am really happy that some of them have stayed together to bring us The Last Guardian, and with Ueda-san at the helm I am sure that we are in for a massive treat! I know that day one I shall be on my couch escaping the real world and immersing myself in theirs. I can only imagine the team’s own feelings getting this out after all the time and effort that they have put in, and so I wish them the very, very best and hope that they have had a big celebration.”

-Siobhan Reddy (Director, Media Molecule)

“Years after first playing it, the emotional impact of Ico tugging at Yorda’s arm still resonates with me. The hand-holding mechanic appears deceptively simple but was clearly constructed and with intense care and attention to detail. Through interactivity a deep bond is created between the two characters in a way that is wholly unique to games. It is one of many visionary choices that make Ico a classic and a master class in elegant storytelling and design.”

-Neil Druckmann (Creative Director and Writer, Naughty Dog)

What do Ico and Shadow of the Colossus mean to you? Do you have a favourite memory from your time with either game? Please share in the comments!

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  • How about move it to 2017? To many games this year

  • I remember getting the limited version of Ico on PS2 with the art cards and slip case the first week of release. Sitting down and turning it on I didn’t fully know what to expect, a Zelda clone maybe? After hours of constant playing I realised that this was way more than any other game I’d played.

    I think this was possibly the first game I ever played where I actually cared about saving someone, every time I had to leave Yorda to solve a puzzle my heart sank because I knew if I was a late getting back I would have failed her. It was a near perfect game, the level design, the art style, the emotional tug it was just way ahead of it’s time.

    • Yep, me too i bought this from electronics boutique , it was the first game that made me feel like game could be more than arcade pulp ( i love arcade pulp too) but i am worried about this one. the textures look very muddy etc, i know graphics aren’t all that matters but it looks like a early PS3 game i have come to expect more. i hope this isn’t Indiana Jones and the Crystal skull…..and more Force awakens :)

  • Thanks to this game, Gravity Rush 2 is now delayed to next year…

  • I just want to say this: Thank you Sony Interactive Entertainment for making these games und for supporting Ueda san and the development team of “The Last Guardian” – somehow – until the very end. Ico and especially SotC are two of my most loved games of all time. Memories of the subtle music and some of the sounds of SotC still give me goosebumps. The scale was extraordinary for it’s time. – Now I can’t wait to dive deep into the fiction of The Last Guardian.

  • Any duration of time is a fine time to wait for games that change the landscape, and touch lives. Keep making the games!

  • i still can’t believe this game is finally coming out! it’s gonna be great.

  • Now all we need is Deep Down….

  • I was never a huge fan of Ico, it was Shadow of the Colossus that really put this developer on my map. I might have been too young for Ico at the time, the game was a little too slow and puzzle-like for my tastes. In the Last Guardian this concept seems a lot more interesting to me because of Trico’s reactions and the kind of animations that can be portrayed in these times. This, and the fact that it’s an animal, will make it much easier on me to build that bond, as opposed to dragging a girl everywhere.
    SOTC blew me away in every way. One of my all time favorites. I sincerely hope they make a spiritual successor to that as well, I would love to go climb creatures the sizes of buildings and take them down with my trusted sword in modern day graphics.

  • All I would say to Ueda-San is, take a good holiday mate, it’s been 10 years or so of development for TLG.

    PS4 versions of ICO & SOTC please Sony!

  • What a bunch of hypocrites.

    • I’m not sure what you mean by hypocrites – are you meaning because everyone is excited now, after so much past negativity about it not coming out all this time? There are also plenty of people who have never given up hope for it!

  • The outstanding thing about Team ICO’s games for me, is how much the gameplay is a critical part of how you feel about the story – particularly, the relationship between Yorda and Ico isn’t just shown in cutscenes, but experienced directly by the player throughout the game.

    Because the gameplay made me care about Yorda in the same way that Ico cares about Yorda, I responded to the events of the game with the same emotions. When Yorda is in danger, of course Ico wants to rescue her – and I do, just as much.

    I feel like this is the real key to an “immersive” game – the protagonist doesn’t need to resemble the player, or be kept “neutral” so they don’t behave in a way the player doesn’t like: instead, guide the player to experience the character’s emotions, so they will want to act the same way the character wants to act in response to a situation.

    Shadow of the Colossus was a big contrast for me, after the deep emotional experience of ICO, because in many ways they are opposites – enclosed spaces vs. open land; constant threat vs. no danger outside the colossus battles; together vs. alone – but most importantly, I disagreed with what Wander was doing, and so in constrast to my feelings perfectly mirroring Ico’s and feeling closely connected, Wander was very distant to me. Which works in context of the game – an overall feeling of “vast loneliness” is a phrase I like to describe it – but still made it a very different experience.

    Still, it’s a beautiful game, and the gameplay – not only the battles, but the long rides across the empty land – are a huge part of the feeling of it. And the lack of ‘distractions’ such as minor enemies, meant that the rides are a time to ponder the events so far, and their implications, and wonder (or dread) what would happen next…

  • A few weeks???
    I thought it was delayed until 9th December.
    That’s a few months……….

    • Well, it’s 8-9 weeks, which could optimistically be described as “a few”… but it’s also possible that this was a scheduled post set up before the release date changed.

      Of course, given how long we’ve been waiting already, two months isn’t much at all! And time goes faster than you think it will – December will come soon enough!

  • Looks good!! but only as good as it did when it was announced at the beginning of the ps3’s lifecycle

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