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)
“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!