The Last Guardian - Real Men Report Review

From the second you select 'New Game', you can tell The Last Guardian desperately wants to be experienced. After a hellish development cycle that took the better part of a decade, the loyal gaming fanbase that didn't give up on Fumito Ueda's latest vision finally got what they deserved. You're not asked to adjust brightness or screen position. You simply wake up in a cave, next to a colossal creature. What follows is a wonderful adventure that doesn't come without its flaws.

Before we get into the heart and soul of this game, let's talk about visuals. Considering it was supposed to be released on the PlayStation 3, I didn't quite know what to expect from a graphical standpoint. To my surprise, The Last Guardian is very pretty. First off, it has an incredibly unique artstyle that can withstand the test of time. You can definitely tell it was reworked to fit within the new console generation ecosystem. Certain elements like vegetation and your companion's fur look absolutely stunning. To be completely fair, presentation is not flawless. Framedrops often occur in large areas and you'll notice a couple of blurry textures, but those minor issues are easily forgivable when you admire the jaw-dropping landscapes the journey has in store for you. That said, the real beauty hides within the game's narrative.

The Last Guardian's 12-hour story explores the relationship between a young boy and a giant half-bird-half-mammal creature named Trico. Their adventure features some of the most magical moments I've experienced this year. As soon as you wake up, you're next to the horrifying, man-eating beast, without a clue on how to proceed. Thing is, this 'monster' turns out to be a wonderfully adorable companion. From the very beginning, you begin to build a rapport with Trico. You find him hurt and upset, but after helping him to get back to his feet, he gratefully becomes your best friend. A mixture of different animals, his graphics are masterfully done. Observing his facial expressions and body movements will give you an accurate idea of how he's feeling. His animations and movements are totally believable. Plus, the mythical beast has an actual sense of weight and height that truly intimidates you.

Furthermore, Trico behavior matches that of a real animal. He'll continuously be distracted by specific objects or aromas. He'll irrationally scream in fear when seeing random things such as mirrors. Or, he'll playfully take a bath the second he sees a body of water, splashing liquids everywhere. All of that added with his animal innocence and faithfulness makes it almost impossible for the player not to have a genuine connection with him. The abstract narrative itself is well-paced and action-packed, with it only picking more steam and drama as the poetic ending approaches. Solidifying the bond between boy and beast throughout the experiences they live together is an aspect that The Last Guardian fully nails. Both members of the team learn to blindly trust each other, unlocking abilities that brings them closer together. It's a magical thing. Their backgrounds and cultures dictate for them to hate one another, but they find it within themselves to form a bizarre yet unforgettable friendship. The only way to survive and progress through the world is for them to stick together.

Gameplay-wise, TLG is a puzzler that shares many elements with previous titles Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Continuing on the friendship theme, most of the dilemmas put in front of you can only be solved with the help of your buddy. You'll interact with Trico, utilizing his tail as a ladder and climbing his body à la Shadow of the Colossus in order to guide him towards the next objective or to reach removed platforms. Outside of occasional hints, you're never explicitly told where to go or how to escape a tricky situation. Luckily, the game greatly balances difficulty and intuitiveness. I often found myself having to analyze my environments before the solution arrived in my head. It was time-consuming but never frustrating.

Now, everything until now should have you ready to close this link and play the game. Ultimately, the highs of TLG are extremely high. Sadly though, the lows are shockingly low. My main complaint with the game is that many of its gameplay mechanics are brutally antiquated. To start, the boy's movement is just so sloppy and stiff. I remember having the same issue with Geralt in The Witcher 3. But it is much more noticeable in here. Switching directions simply isn't as smooth as it should be. I shared a similar feeling whenever I climber Trico's humongous body. When you give him instructions, he'll sometimes ignore your commands, forcing you to reset position and try again. You could play it off as him acting like a typical animal, but it's frustrating nevertheless. Moving on, the fixed camera operates similar to the ones found in some of the worst PS2 titles. Highly clunky, it'll frequently spin out of control in small areas. If I was reviewing the game on the PlayStation 3 back in 2009, I would be much more forgiving. That said, the industry has moved past the key gameplay practices present in The Last Guardian.

Verdict: Your enjoyment of The Last Guardian will ultimately depend on whether or not you can move past its antiquated mechanics of a bygone era. If you're able to, a majestic tale of friendship awaits you. I continued until the end just to see the boy and Trico's narrative come to fruition, but the gameplay annoyances never fully disappeared from my mind.

The Good
- Gorgeous Visuals
- Magical Narrative
- The Boy/Trico's Friendship
- Fun Puzzles

The Bad
- Antiquated Controls
- Sloppy Camera

Developer: genDESIGN/SIE Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Format: PS4 (reviewed)
A review copy was provided by PlayStation


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