Feature

The Last Guardian: everything you need to know before release date

The Last Guardian release date is almost upon us. After nearly a decade under the hammer at SCE Japan Studio, Team ICO’s upcoming action-adventure romp will finally touch down on PlayStation 4 in the U.S. on December 6 and internationally a few days later. It hasn’t been an easy ride though. In fact, a few years back the ambitious project had become synonymous with PS3 vaporware, a feat rivalled only by the likes of Final Fantasy Versus XIII until Square Enix pulled it out of the mire back at E3 2013. 

With Fumito Ueda’s griffin-beast-meets-boy buddy puzzler now gold and presumably being printed to disc as we write this, PSU thought it was a good time to reflect upon The Last Guardian’s tumultuous development history, and reveal just how close the game had come to getting canned outright. 

The Last Guardian: Everything you need to know before that magical release date

As hard as it may be to swallow, The Last Guardian is actually Team ICO’s first proper release since 2006’s western launch of Shadow of the Colossus. Yes, we did get the ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Collection back in 2011, but that wasn’t strictly a brand spanking new project; it was a remaster, and one that went sadly under the radar. Development on The Last Guardian is believed to have started around 2007, although we didn’t get our official look at the title, known then as Project Trico, until E3 2009 during Sony’s press conference (an event you may recall also birthed Rockstar’s Agent, which is presumably kicking its heels somewhere in development hell as we speak). 

Although the initial trailer leaked before Sony’s presser, it did little to dampen spirits as we caught our first glimpse at the upcoming PS3 behemoth, which looked utterly gorgeous running on Sony’s chunky last-gen machine with its sumptuous vistas and, oh blimey, those feathers on Trico’s body—didn’t they look bloody brilliant? Eager to capitalize on the hype, Sony quickly followed with an announcement that The Last Guardian would be present at the 2010 Tokyo Game Show, where the title was slapped with a holiday 2011 launch window alongside the aforementioned ICO Collection. We also got a shiny new The Last Guardian trailer too—see, it wasn’t all bad news back then, was it? 

Sadly, The Last Guardian’s fortunes soon became a precipitous fall into oblivion. Fast forward to early 2011, and in wake of a massive info dump from Famitsu Magazine, Sony confirmed that The Last Guardian had been delayed and would not commit to a release date. The game missed out on any trade shows for the remainder of the year, although in December it was rumored and then confirmed that Ueda-san had jumped ship and would now continue working on the game in a freelance capacity. People initially jumped the gun; GameStop proclaimed The Last Guardian as canceled, although this was far from the case, as Sony was keen to point out. Still, the future wasn’t looking too rosy, with its developer admitting the game was making slow progress.

The next couple of years presented a wealth of minor updates, with no one really knowing just what was going on at SCE Studio Japan. The Last Guardian again missed out on E3 due to technical hiccups, although GameCom later provided some assurance that the project was still very much in the mix at Sony. More development woes continued however, with producer Kenji Kaido leaving Team ICO and the studio later suggesting the title was announced too early. Things switched gears with the unveiling of the PS4 in February 2013 however, with murmurs stating that Sony has had its eye on a next-gen release for The Last Guardian for some time. Still, it was made clear the game wouldn’t be shown off until it was properly ready, though Jack Tretton’s infamous E3 slipup that the game was on hiatus definitely set tongues wagging until Sony stepped in to correct the misinformed executive. 

Indeed, development of the game was ‘alive and kicking’ and had ‘never stopped,’ even if Shuhei Yoshida, head of Sony Worldwide Studios, had trouble remembering just what platform the game was being made for. So, that’s another year of not seeing the game, and things pretty much remained as such for 2014, though PS4 rumors continued to gather pace and Famitsu even suggested a release date was imminent—it wasn’t. After yet another absence from E3, Sony at least promised to tell gamers that if The Last Guardian was ever canceled, they’d let us know. Cheers guys. 

Sure enough, cancelation rumors did resurface yet again after the game’s trademark was seemingly abandoned, although these were quickly dispelled by Sony, who assured us they were ‘working diligently’ on the project. 

Fast forward to E3 2015, and the unthinkable happened. The earth began to shake, pigs were spotted cruising at low altitude, and gamers rejoiced as Sony opened its E3 extravaganza with The Last Guardian. Only now, it was a PS4-exclusive. Following an impressive debut trailer, a bevy of new info and screenshots emerged—the first concrete update on the game in years—and Sony pinned a 2016 release window on the long-awaited title. Finally, things were moving again. Hell, even Microsoft sent over its congratulations.

RelatedThe Last Guardian E3 2015 Preview – PS4 

In the months that followed, Sony admitted that The Last Guardian would probably have been canceled if it were not for the support of fans. The game also put in its first appearance at the Tokyo Game Show in years, complete with a life-size Trico. Curiously, the format holder revealed it had been holding back on PS4 footage of the game. Sony later confirmed a sumptuous Collector’s Edition release for The Last Guardian as the new year rolled around, and reiterated that the game is still targeted for release that year.

E3 2016 rocked up in stylish fashion with another stellar presser from Sony, and once again, The Last Guardian put in an appearance, complete with a release date: October 25, 2016. A new batch of screenshots followed, and Sony later felt bullish enough to suggest the game would indeed live up to our expectations. Of course, this being The Last Guardian, things couldn’t run quite smoothly enough; the game’s release date was pushed back to December 2016, although it wasn’t long before the project finally, after almost a decade in the works, officially hit gold status. As a nice bonus, Sony also confirmed that the title will be among those to support PS4 Pro.

And so, here we are folks. We’re mere weeks away from The Last Guardian’s long-anticipated release day, and all that’s left to do is to wait for the game to turn up so we can deliver our definitive verdict. Unsurprisingly, Ueda-san has recently admitted he never expected the game to take this long to make, although whether the game will live up to everyone’s expectations probably the only thing people are concerned about right now.

Regardless of the outcome, one thing’s for sure: The Last Guardian will definitely be one for the PlayStation history book. Stay tuned for The Last Guardian review at PSU shortly.