The Last Guardian Presents: A Boy and His Trico «

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For being one the most anticipated game of this generation, we know shockingly little about The Last Guardian. Over the past three years, details surrounding Fumito Ueda’s follow-up to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus have trickled out at a nearly indiscernible pace. A few trailers have been unveiled at various E3s and Tokyo Game Shows throughout the years, but these did little more than create an intense craving for a mysterious experience involving a young boy and his feathered raccoon-like buddy. Matt Leone’s phenomenal Cover Story on Ueda shed a some unprecedented light on the man as a creator, but The Last Guardian still remains as enigmatic as ever.

The question that continues to nag at me regarding the game pertains to the relationship between the young boy and the creature named Trico. Call me simplistic, but when I look at The Last Guardian, I see Ueda’s take on the age old story of a boy and his dog. The bond between a youngster and his canine companion is one that has been tackled numerous times throughout video game history, and perhaps by looking back during this seemingly never-ending wait, we may glean some understanding of what Ueda and Team Ico has in store for the final chapter of their thematic trilogy.

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While Mario may have discovered his creature companion in Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island provided a much more interesting take on their relationship. Instead of a presenting a boy and his dog story, it delivered the adventures of a dog and his boy. Being tasked with taking care of an ostensibly helpless Baby Mario, Yoshi evolved from being a mere mode of transportation to a full-on protector. Despite the fact that Mario’s incessant whining could pierce armor, you still felt the deep desire to rescue him every time Yoshi took a hit. Your role as the white knight in Yoshi’s Island is something that has already proven to be true of TLG as well. The TGS trailer from 2010 featured a short shot of armed guards advancing on the boy in a menacing manner. Trico’s protective instincts kick in, and the beast immediately disposes of the foes with a swipe of its talon. There is little doubt that the game will feature many more moments of the dog stepping up to protect his boy.

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I’m going to be real with you; if The Last Guardian doesn’t include the ability to feed your Trico a wide variety of jelly beans, I’m going to consider Ueda’s game a saccharine failure. Honestly though, despite A Boy and His Blob containing unflinchingly stubborn game design, the way you have to manage your limited resources while interacting with the Blob is a really neat mechanic that would seem to fit right in with TLG. The NES title encourages blind exploration from the player that is wildly frustrating until the point it clicks, which is exactly when it becomes extremely satisfying. I would love for TLG to contain some form of trial and error that rewards players for experimenting with the various facets of the game without becoming overly cumbersome. So many elements of Shadow of the Colossus could only be discovered through unnecessary exploration, and it’s a safe bet that Team Ico will reward similar reconnaissance

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No matter what you may have named them at the beginning of the game, Ness and his cowardly pup King provided one of the countless charming and hilarious relationships found throughout the whole of EarthBound. Despite the fact that Ness had a telepathic bond with King, the dog wanted no part in his owner’s misadventures. King joined your party during the opening moments of the game and actually proved to be a powerful ally, but he quickly grew tired of the journey and decided to just live the pet-life back at home. This playful and silly interaction between a boy and his dog is also on display in many of TLG’s trailer, providing some much-needed comic relief in what may otherwise be a very bleak world. Despite Trico’s massive stature and sometimes ferocious visage, it exudes the sort of whimsical curiosity found in the most docile of kittens.

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If you look past the game’s divisive reception, Secret of Evermore displayed a wonderful companion dynamic between a boy and his dog. As you traverse the various worlds in the game, your canine companion transforms accordingly with the theme of the area. Whether a snarling prehistoric beast or a Astro-esque robopup, the bond between the boy and his dog remained steadfast even as the characters evolved. It would be great if TLG displayed a similar transformative character arc, particularly for Trico. There is a rich trove of mechanical and thematic opportunities in having the relationship between you and your companion change throughout the course of the title. Taking this idea a step further, what if the union between the two characters differed depending on certain choices the player made throughout the game? It would be amazing to be able to share stories of TLG that were wholly unique unto your own personal play-style.

If you dig just past the superficial level of relationships in Pokemon, you’ll find a fairly sordid tale of poaching, servitude and unwarranted sacrifice. You can’t blame Ash Ketchum for being born into a world that resembles one of Michael Vick’s fever dreams, but his willingness to trudge on and watch as his serfs continually tiptoe on the precipice of death is more than a bit shifty. Nonsense aside, this sort of cold apathy regarding death is a defense mechanism that players were forced to develop throughout the course of Shadow of the Colossus. With each ancient beast you fell, the player was forced to develop a stronger ambivalence towards the harm that they were inflicting on the world. It’s safe to say that Ueda will wade through similar themes similar themes in TLG — I can only imagine that the relationship between the boy and Trico is far more complicated and emotionally tangled than the scant few trailers have led us to believe.

The most sensible place to search for TLG’s roots is in Shadow of the Colossus, Team Ico’s tremendous sophomore effort. The bond between your enigmatic protagonist (or is it antagonist?) Wander and his faithful steed Agro is the stuff of video game legend. Your companion’s unerring loyalty, even in the face of the god-like colossi, helped to forge the most pronounced bond of the game. Expanding upon the relationship between Wander and Agro exponentially seems to have been one of Team Ico’s goals for TLG all along. If The Last Guardian is able to harness this particular magic from Shadow of the Colossus, then the never-ending wait will certainly have been worth it.

 

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