Ico After 15 Years, Last Guardian Expectations

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As we head into fall 2016 we head into the 15th anniversary of fall 2001, which was a pretty major year in video gaming. Two console launches, and the absolutely monster lineup of exclusives for the PlayStation 2. One console will probably never again get so many major exclusives in such a short amount of time. One of the first of these anniversaries seems to be Ico.

Ico touched a lot of people in a way they didn’t expect from console video games at the time which cemented it as a cult classic and inspired a thousand artsy independent games. It’s one of the games that firmly established the idea of a Japanese auteur in this industry. I think IGN in its original review said Ico was as important to games as Akira Kurosawa was to film. Not only did it communicate its story and character relationships in a shockingly subtle way, I think Ico made its mark because full-blown puzzle adventure games were and still are a rarity in the space of retail console games.

One thing I always found peculiar about all the praise for Ico and all the games inspired by it is no one ever seems to bring up the games that inspired Ico itself. Director Fumito Ueda openly admits the games that inspired him were the original Prince of Persia and Another World, in which you can definitely see Ico’s roots. I’m not even sure it’s a matter of relative popularity. Prince of Persia of course spawned a famous franchise and Another World is a sort of cult hit in its own right. Maybe the fanbases of each of these games don’t really intersect. For whatever reason I’ve almost never seen Ico fans connect it to the other two games.

I’ve only just realized it but The Last Guardian is going to land right on top of the 15th anniversary of Ico’s Japanese release (it actually launched in North America first). Recent previews based on Guardian’s Tokyo Game Show 2016 demo suggest it really is going to be the sequel to Ico.

Preview writers seemed a bit taken aback by how “PlayStation 2” Guardian feels in terms of things like the controls. On the last episode of the 8-4 Play podcast Phillip Kollar said it’s turning out to be lees of a 2016 game and more the sequel to games that came out in 2001 and 2005 (Shadow of the Colossus). I guess that’s what we should have always expected, given Guardian’s decade-long development cycle. Personally I’m not concerned with that, but I wonder if others will be caught off guard. The way console games are made has changed since the PS2 era, and some people have gotten used to it while others want a sort of return to PS2-era design. You’re not going to be getting Uncharted when you play Guardian.

In my experience Ico plays just fine in 2016. Even at the time people found the control configuration awkward, but nothing about its camera or the way the titular character moves feels objectively outdated. Newer doesn’t always mean better.

BULLETS:

  • I did my N64 anniversary post a while ago but the system just hit its North American anniversary. That’s where the system was the most successful.
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