Decade-long development cycles rarely end well, especially when a rabid fanbase has passed the time by elevating a project's expectations to astronomical levels. The Last Guardian, launching some seven years after its original announcement, was always going to have a huge battle on its hands, then – not least because it has the unenviable task of following acclaimed masterpieces ICO and Shadow of the Colossus.
But director Fumito Ueda – the genius behind all three games – rarely disappoints, and while this bizarre tale of boy and bird may have its feathers firmly fixed in a previous generation, its idiosyncrasies stick out in an industry awash with identikit open world adventures and copy-and-paste first-person shooters. It certainly has its own curious quirks, but the release's rigid commitment to a single creative vision is to be admired.
"Few games feel as fresh and focused as this one, and the end result is timeless in a way seldom seen in this ephemeral industry"
Indeed, in spite of its awkward controls and camera, there's no question that this puzzle platformer has more to say than many of 2016's best titles combined. Trico – of which the boy's colossal companion is named – may never utter a word, but the beast stands steadfast as one of the more relatable protagonists of all time. Much of this personality is imbued through outstanding animation work, but the way that gameplay is married to storytelling is mesmerising.
Many have criticised the catbird's contrary nature, but it's a fundamental part of making the animal feel real. As the plot progresses, the relationship between the two disparate entities deepens, and it's this growing camaraderie which leads to the crescendo: a tear-jerking conclusion that will live long in the memory, much the same as ICO's beach scene or Shadow of the Colossus' dismally dark final act. You will well up.
Embattled it may well have been, but it's clear that little about The Last Guardian changed during its ten year development cycle; Ueda, and indeed Sony, were just waiting for technology to catch up. Few games feel as fresh and focused as this one, and while it may frustrate on occasion, the end result is timeless in a way seldom seen in this ephemeral industry. Like the bond between boy and bird, this is a game that won't be forgotten in a hurry.
Did you fall in love with this unusual outing, or did its eccentricities put you off? Flap your wings in the comments section below, and be thankful that this one's finally out.