A decade in the making – the long journey of The Last Guardian and FF15

By Neil Merrett

We are told that good things to come to those who wait.

Of course, this can also apply to the average, terrible or utterly atrocious things too.

Patience may be a virtue, according to medieval allegory at least, but it didn’t stop the fierce critical mauling that Duke Nukem Forever received following 15 years of development it took to produce a true sequel to its 1996 forbearer.

Considering the increasingly rapid rate of technological advancement, can games with such a long ranging development cycle ever prove to be the epoch defining titles that reshape the videogame industry forever when they are released up to a decade later into an uncertain future?

The question may be pertinent this week considering the latest delay to the long awaited game The Last Guardian, which is being put together exclusively for the Playstation 4 as a sort of conceptual sequel to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.

Originally intended to be launched on the Playstation 3, the game essentially lookesto create an effective pet/dragon dynamic by granting the player control of a young man who must assist, nurture and over the course of the game, train a giant furry AI creature to battle and explore new lands.

Is the main character a protector of, or protected by Trico, the centrepiece creature identified in the game’s Japanese title as a “Large Man-Eating Eagle”.

A boy and his flying dog as it were, but could the game ever live up to its ambitions to create a genuine sense of companionship and camaraderie between man and beast and will its semi-realistic fur effects and artificial intelligence be enough for gamers who have waited ten years?

Just short of a decade after initially being announced, the title, which at points has faced uncertainty over whether it may ever see the light of the day at all, is being held back until December 6 at the behest of its developers to tackle bugs in the game.

Shuhei Yoshida , President at Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios, said the additional few weeks of development were needed for unspecified fine tuning by Fumito Ueda and his team.

“Fumito Ueda, gen DESIGN and JAPAN Studio have a wonderful vision for The Last Guardian’s touching, emotional journey of friendship and trust, and we want to deliver the most polished experience possible for our fans who have supported us for so long,” he said.

“A delay is a difficult decision, particularly with this game, but we have encountered more bugs than anticipated while in the final stages of development. To ensure that The Last Guardian delivers on the experience that the game’s creators have envisioned, we need to take the extra time to work on those issues.”

While still beautiful looking and massively ambitious, have the ten years that have now passed, and the explosion of open world games into the mainstream blunted the likely impact, financial appeal and revolutionary nature of the game?

Particularly for the console audience, The Last Guardian still looks likely to be unique, whether or not it can match the ambition for an emotional and complex adventure game mixed with pet simulator.

Certainly, it is credit to the scope of the game, as well as the appeal Fumito Ueda’s previous games such as ICO and Shadow of the Colossus, that fans were both disappointed, but also seemingly understanding of a few more weeks of development time after years of waiting.

Well, there were some notable exceptions of course…

#TheLastGuardian gets delayed by a month and a half, I get worried when a #Game in development for this many years requires another 40 days.

— WinKills (@winkills) September 12, 2016

Beyond original IP, the development period is likely to be far harsher on straight up sequels, notably Square Enix’s Final Fantasy 15, which have undergone a similarly long development cycle.

First touted some ten years ago under the name of Final Fantasy Versus XIII, the game was likewise switched from previous generation’s consoles to PS4 and Xbox One over the intervening years to make use of upgraded hardware.

Now part of the main series of one of the most high profile gaming franchises of all time, the game hopes to completely overhaul the use of turn-based combat of previous titles with a single player arcade-style combat system granting full control to the player of a single character.

Looking to build on the huge epic battles that are a staple of Final Fantasy games – long cherished or derided depending on your view point – the game will likely mirror the style of Square’s Kingdom Hearts series with the hope of reinvigorating mainstream interest in Japanese role playing games.

Taking on the form of a sort of road trip movie with a couple of dudes in a car, hunting down creatures and slashing things with impractical weapons and magic, many of the elements of classic Final Fantasy seem to be there, albeit it with a more action orientated, hack and slash control scheme.

Menus and stastistcs will now be hidden through in game menus as the player instead has to battle monsters in full 3D environments.

For a number of gamers it would have been a dream proposition in 1997, or even 2007, but we will soon find ourselves in 2017. Will the game be enough to sate the demands of gamers post ‘The Witcher 3’ or ‘Dark Souls’?

The game will no doubt sell huge amounts, but having been in development for ten years, there is always a chance developers will end up just polishing a formula that is in danger of becoming dated when many new open world, fantasy-tinged games are already out with complex ambiguity and voice acting.

The ambition and scale of both titles has kept hope in their eventual release alive, but should they ultimately have been released, earlier, on less ambitious or even stripped down terms to meet the original hunger and excitement that awaited their delayed release.

In then trying to keep up with advancing technology and expectations, the games are then expected to have to be masterpieces. Simply being average, if overambitious titles no longer being good enough in timeframes where major global conflicts have been resolved in less time.

Fans will hope that all the care and attention will create something unforgettable and tear inducing. Let’s hope they got what they want.

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One response to “A decade in the making – the long journey of The Last Guardian and FF15

  1. Great post! As one of the fans awaiting the ever-delayed release of The Last Guardian, I would be satisfied if the developers don’t fumble the ball, as happened with Duke Nukem, and be so stuck in outdated tropes that the game is no longer relevant. However, thinking on the kind of games ICO and Shadow of the Colossus were, it doesn’t seem like the main pulls of the game could become outdated. Developing a relationship with a non-playable or animal character who is integral for your survival and progress through the game could still be a relevant feature. The art style and mechanics don’t need to be fast-paced like The Witcher 3. After all, ICO was released in the same year as the likes of GTA III, Final Fantasy X, Silent Hill 2, and Jedi Power Battles, and it did very well for itself, prompting the development of Shadow of the Colossus, a great game in its own right.

    Also, in regards to being outdated, I think as long as the game doesn’t try to be something it’s not, or try and force the players back in time socially, it won’t fall into this trap (at least I hope not!). I would guess that most gamers like when games are genuine and well-crafted, and not just a knockoff of fill-in-the-blank game.

    I suppose we’ll find out in December!

    Liked by 1 person

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