If you believe the marketing, The Last Guardian will be released this December. It’s a game that’s been highly anticipated for almost a decade, and is now – desperately, finally, unbelievably – coming to PlayStation 4.
To call it a surprise is an understatement; many thought this game would never see the light of day, and for so long it became almost a joke that Sony was still holding onto The Last Guardian as a real release, never mind something to actually sell consoles with.
What is The Last Guardian?
It’s a third-person adventure platformer developed by SIE Japan Studio, and is a spiritual successor to 2001’s Ico and 2005’s Shadow of the Colossus – both revered games in their own right.
Combining combat with exploration and puzzle solving, The Last Guardian essentially aims to capture the atmosphere and heart of its predecessors.
The real star of the game is Trico, a mythical bird/lizard/cat-like beast who acts as your companion and partner throughout the game, helping you with platforming, and using its “animal instincts” to solve puzzles.
The Last Guardian release date – When is it coming out?
After almost ten years of development some fans never expected The Last Guardian to see the light of day.
Originally scheduled to launch this October, The Last Guardian wil now be coming in December 2016.
"Hello PlayStation community. The Last Guardian development team is fast-approaching major milestones in production and has made the tough decision to delay the release of The Last Guardian by a few weeks. The Last Guardian will launch on 7th December 2016, across Europe and 9th December 2016 across UK & Ireland," Shuhei Yoshida wrote on the PlayStation Blog.
Where did it all start?
The game was officially announced way back in 2009, but before that the game was being talked and teased about as early as 2007. Nine years ago, at a Sony event in Germany to promote the latest Motorstorm game, a Sony employee confirmed to a fan that Team ICO was working on two unannounced projects.
This was never officially confirmed by the publisher or by Team ICO, but it’s enough to know that Sony knew a new game was on its way. It’s since become known that pre-development on The Last Guardian began after the release of Shadow of the Colossus, way back in 2005.
In 2008, Sony began teasing the game properly. Little hints on Team ICO’s website including some job openings confirmed the team ICO studio was in fact working on a new project, but there was no concrete information to form a real idea about what the game would be.
That same year, Sony boss Shuhei Yoshida commented on the development team’s mysterious activities, and added more fuel to the fire by saying “They haven't released a PS3 title yet—of course not—they'll take four years! But they have something really, really good on the way.”
Back in those days, it was almost a dead-cert that whatever Team ICO’s next game was, it’d be a PS3 game.
After so many rumours flying around, The Last Guardian was officially announced at E3 in 2009. As everyone expected it was a PlayStation 3 exclusive. The game stunned players – the hype was palpable, especially after so many teases at the game and after the intense reception that ICO and Shadow of the Colossus had received all those years previously.
After its unveiling, more info and images about the game sprung up in the months afterwards, but it was notably absent from E3 the next year, instead popping up at TGS toward the latter end of 2010. The game received its first official release date for the holiday season of 2011.
2011 wasn’t a great year for the game-making studio, and the promise of a 2011 release was completely abandoned around six months before the game was meant to release.
This worsened when ICO and Shadow of the Colossus creator, and the studio’s key driving force, Fumito Ueda, quit the studio in November. This threw the entire development into turmoil, and also raised questions whether The Last Guardian would ever come out.
Ueda stayed on as a freelancer, contractually obliged to finish the game, but several of his high ranking colleagues followed suit and quit the studio shortly afterwards, too.
In December, it was revealed that, apparently, none of these huge developments were hampering the creation of the game, and that The Last Guardian team were still hard at work on getting the game finished.
2012 started slow, with Yoshida once again commenting on the game: "The team's always been making progress, but there are lots of difficulties."
That same month, it was revealed that Sony had enlisted the help of some of its other first party studios – Sony Santa Monica being the most notable – to help with the completion of the game. This drove more skepticism, and more doubt about the happenings behind the scenes.
The Last Guardian was once again absent from E3 that year, but Sony’s VP of Product Development told Gamespot that the publisher would refuse to reveal anything on the game until it was truly ready. Ueda did similar – although coming from him it wasn’t necessarily an encouraging sentiment – saying that he “couldn’t really comment on the details.”
In September, Sony’s ownership of The Last Guardian trademark actually expired. It was almost a month before it was revealed that a trademark had already been refiled for The Last Guardian name, and in that time players and press alike were convinced that this was truly the end.
2013 - 2014
Amazingly, it wasn’t. At the start of 2013, Sony announced the PS4. Behind the scenes, Sony had decided at the end of 2012 – reportedly against the will of Ueda – to begin planning to move the game onto the PlayStation 4 hardware. This allowed the studio to fulfil their vision of the game on the new and improved technology, and PlayStation 4 lead architect Mark Cerny was even brought in to help with the transition between consoles.
There were no public Last Guardian details around at this time. The game was absent from multiple E3 shows, while more and more doubt mounted that this game was never, ever going to come out. It was at this point that the game’s status became almost a running joke akin to that of Valve’s Half Life 3.
Magically and miraculously, the E3 2015 heralded the return of The Last Guardian. It was publically announced that the game was now coming to PlayStation 4, and that it would be released in 2016. Gameplay footage wasn’t new, but rather an enhanced version of what was shown off on PS3.
This still resulted in some raised eyebrows – while the stratospheric hype was still at large, this is now a game that has far surpassed its initial release date. How would that affect how it played? Is it going to feel like an old game released at the wrong time?
A year passed and The Last Guardian’s release date was set for October 2016. Many didn’t take this seriously – after so long and after so many problems, why would you?
The game was once again delayed this September, pushing the game back to December. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the game got pushed back to 2017.
It’s still possible that this is a game that’ll never come out, and if it does, it’ll be interesting to see if it can live up to half of what’s expected after so, so long in development.
Are you excited to finally play The Last Guardian later this year? Let us know in the comments.