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In discussions about video game director Fumito Ueda and his works, you’ll often hear the terms “innovative,” “poetic,” and “beautiful” pop up. Some might even call the man a visionary, but one word you can’t use to describe Ueda is “prolific.”

After releasing his directorial debut, Ico, in 2001, Ueda followed up with Shadow of the Colossus in 2005, which remains his most recent finished product. But six years since its initial announcement, Ueda’s latest project, The Last Guardian, is finally nearing completion, and the creator recently sat down with reporters to discuss the game’s numerous delays as well as what fans can expect when they finally get the chance to play it for themselves.

In talking with Japanese video game publication Famitsu, Ueda revealed that it’s actually foreign gamers who kept their torches for The Last Guardian burning the brightest following the game’s first preview, which was shown in 2009. “In the past, it was mainly people from overseas who would send me messages on Twitter saying ‘Tell me what’s going on with The Last Guardian’” he recalls. Since the announcement at this year’s E3 that the game is indeed still being made, though, there’s been a renewal of domestic interest in the title.

The Last guardian’s E3 trailer

Ueda insists that the game was never cancelled. Hard as it may be to believe, given the current state of video game marketing which is so often intent on providing a constant trickle of teasers, preview videos, and beta versions, Ueda simply didn’t have much to say about the game during the past few years.

Still, the decision was made in April to put The Last Guardian front and center in Sony’s E3 presentation, a full two months before the show. Diligently avoiding any major leaks that would spoil the surprise, Ueda felt “an excitement like the night before the school festival” knowing that soon enough gamers all over the world would get a peek at what his team has done so far.

Getting that trailer ready, though, was a tough task for genDESIGN, Ueda’s development unit. The easy route would have been to just grab the character models, spruce them up a little from the angles they’d be shown from, and slap together a proof of concept video, but Ueda wanted to give gamers an honest preview of what they’ll be playing. “We recorded actual gameplay and released the footage as is,” he revealed.

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The emphasis on gameplay footage is especially appropriate, since contrary to how things may look, Ueda says there aren’t any cutscenes in the trailer, either. Even when the as-yet unnamed boy who serves as the main character reaches out to grab monster companion Toriko’s tail when leaping across a chasm, Ueda explains that the player still has to perform the action of grabbing the tail, lest he plummet to his demise.

And as helpful as Toriko may have looked at E3, Ueda is quick to point out that he’s not always so friendly. “The scene shown at E3 is from the mid-point of the game…but he won’t listen to you like that from the very start,” he asserts, a gameplay element similar to the hero’s often recalcitrant horse Argo is Shadow of the Colossus. “It’s not like Toriko and the boy get along at the beginning.”

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As a matter of fact, the game’s Japanese title, Hitokui no Owashi Toriko, translates to “Toriko the Man-Eating Great Eagle,” and the director says that when the monster first appears, it’s more frightening than cute. That powerful nature will come in handy, though. Ueda’s games are often shrouded in an atmosphere of lonely isolation, but The Last Guardian isn’t a pure puzzle-solving experience. The player encounters enemies during the adventure, and while the boy is no match for them, neither can his foes withstand Toriko’s onslaughts.

Given the artistic scope of many of Ueda’s titles, one might expect that the reason Last Guardian is taking so long to make is because it’s yet another system-taxing epic, like Shadow of the Colossus with its giant map and bosses. Ueda, though, claims that his team was making steady progress getting the game to look and run as desired on the PlayStation 3 hardware. Unfortunately, though, it was time for the next generation of consoles to come out, and by the time The Last Guardian would have been finished the PlayStation 4 would be Sony’s primary system. Ueda cites the transfer from PS 3 to PS 4 as being a huge time and manpower drain. “During that time, creative work ground to a halt,” he ruefully recalls, “and it was a very difficult period for me.”

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The storylines of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus had a nebulous connection, with some elements of Ueda’s second game suggesting it might be a prequel to his first. No plot details have been revealed for The Last Guardian, but if nothing else, it shares the same objective as those two other titles. “The number-one goal is for the player to feel like there’s a real world, with real, living characters inside the monitor,” Ueda says.

Still, at some point over the last six years, there must have been times where scaling back that vision was sounding mighty tempting, right? Ueda admits that there are times when such thoughts flash across his mind, but when they do, he thinks back on the original creative spark that led him to start making the game, and asks himself whether or not such a compromise is loyal to that vision.

“Even if we, as the developers, get sick and tired of playing a portion of the game every day as we check its progress during development, for the gamers playing the finished product, it’s their first time,” he says.

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So just when exactly will that first time be? The director isn’t revealing anything more specific than 2016, but in the case of The Last Guardian, a maximum of a year and a half more really isn’t that much longer to wait.

Source: Famitsu
Images: YouTube/PlayStation