Remember those chains, the well, the mystery? That was way back in January 2008. It seems rather unreal and unworldy now, but it was four years ago when we got our first glimpse of what Team Ico were planning. It’s not nearly as bizarre, though, as the fact that we still don’t know a great deal about the game, let alone have the chance to actually own it.
The years have clearly been tough on the studio, the leak of an internal demo in May 2009 undermining Team Ico’s big E3 reveal, playtests have been secretive and hushed, and subsequent trailers amounted to little more than progressive enhancement.
And then, of course, there’s Fumito Ueda’s departure from the team’s principle line-up – a sign that development might not have been going terribly smoothly, we suspect that somewhere at Sony there’s a bin full of calendars with lots of Xs marked on them and a very unhappy bloke fed up of signing cheques.
Team Ico don’t rush games – that much is a given – but we can barely imagine the budget that must have already been spent on a game that, really, we’re all still struggling to quantify. The Last Guardian, then, is now hopefully finally limping towards the finish line – battered, bruised and already kicked off the pre-order lists of one retailer.
Let’s face it: it had better be damned good.
But therein lies the reality: it almost certainly will be. How much can you pre-empt a title given the developer’s track record? When it’s Team Ico, with but two games behind them and a still somewhat niche set of ideals, it’s a question that faced us yet again this year when putting together our top one hundred most anticipated games.
Not everyone voted this at the top, of course, but enough of us had enough faith in what Ueda had set up and put into motion to put our hearts on the line. Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are both magestic, towering examples of last generation gameplay brilliance, but does that necessarily translate to a third game?
Subjection’s an easy path, one of least resistance and yet questionable foundations. Personally, Team Ico rank up there along with a smattering of Nintendo’s internal teams and the likes of thatgamecompany as studios that really click with me: consistent, frequently inventive and always trying to do things a little differently.
Bravery is rare in the publisher-led climate that the industry is now enslaved within, and if nothing else we should be rewarding those that offer an experience that few others would even dream of. In a world of recycled annual fluff and safe bets, The Last Guardian stands out like a sore thumb.
I guess that’s why it’s here. Like last year’s Journey, Team Ico’s third adventure represents what gaming should be about: the thrill of the unknown, the sense of wonder, the moments that stick with you for years. The paradox is, of course, that we don’t know what the game is beyond the thematic clues we’ve been given over the years.
But then we felt like that about the previous number one, and have no regrets at all about ranking Jenova Chen’s staggering vision so highly twelve months ago. Let’s just hope that the irony of Journey still not being out doesn’t affect The Last Guardian’s chances of a release in 2012.