I’m a staunch defender of The Last Guardian, Sony’s long-delayed final entry in the Team Ico trilogy. While not without issue, I challenge anyone to see it through without admiring the archaic scenery — a Team Ico hallmark — and biting their lip at climactic moments. Moreover, it’s impossible not to have your heart melted by the endearing bond that grows between your character and the beastly-but-gentle Trico creature that accompanies him on his journey. The two start off as unlikely partners, steadily growing their trust in each other as they make it through thick and thin to become one of gaming’s most beloved duos.
Naturally, bringing that relationship into VR is a dream come true.
The Last Guardian VR may be just a brief teaser of what a full game could be like (though, sadly, will never be), but it was still one of the most joyous and emotional experiences I’ve had with PSVR all year. In fact, I love it so much I’ve left my embarrassing gawking at its majesty in the audio to the gameplay video above.
Taking two scenes from the original campaign, you embody the young boy that navigates the ancient ruins with Trico. These are scenes smartly selected, providing moments that tug at the heartstrings and just a bit of nerve-shredding tension, too.
Developer Sony Japan doesn’t waste any time; you’ll meet your beloved bird-dog within 20 seconds of jumping into the experience, and what a meeting it is. Being dwarfed by Trico’s enormous form as he curiously stared down into my eyes was, quite frankly, one of the most overwhelming experiences I’ve had in VR. I found myself overcome with disbelief as he kneeled down to gently rub his face against mine; this is the ‘real’ Trico, not some watered down version to fit on PSVR. He’s shaggy, easily distracted, a little agitated and absolutely everything I remembered him to be.
It’s testament to just how incredible a creation the beast is. Trico just feels believable, especially in VR. Everything from the way he lazily scratches his head to the moments in which his ears dart in one direction, seemingly picking up on a distant sound, just seems so authentic. When he stands, I duck my head in concern that this clumsy claws might scrape over me, though I never close my eyes in case I miss the majestic sight of his feathers swaying in the barren breeze.
But, for all the joy there is to revel in at bringing Trico to life, there’s a pang of frustration too. As I gleamed at my beloved companion I felt a strong urge — the strongest I’ve ever had in VR — to reach out and hug him to at least reciprocate the affection he was showing me. Sadly, the game only supports the DualShock 4, and my aimless arm-waving was just that. I longed to grab a pair of PlayStation Move controllers and pet him for an hour, but even then I knew I’d find the lack of haptic feedback wanting. Never have I so desperately wanted a VR world to be real, which made the gap between virtual and reality more agonizing than it’s ever been.
Still, there are plenty of moments where the friction between these two is less apparent. Chucking barrels Trico’s way and watching him attempt to catch them in mid-air reminded me of unsuccessfully trying to teach my cats tricks with treats. Riding on the beast’s back, meanwhile, invites you to stop and gawk at the astounding architecture that surrounds you. Nobody builds worlds like Team Ico, and the second half of the demo, set on a rickety bridge connecting two towers, is proof of that. Simply being in this rustic world feels like a privilege.
The Last Guardian VR is unequivocally for the fans. Without the bond between player and Trico pre-established, I doubt it’s anywhere near as memorable, but that need not be an issue. As short as it may be, standing in the presence of the sometimes majestic, often clumsy creature is one of the most powerful and memorable things you can do in VR provided you’ve done the reading. While I’ve love to see a full game, this little snapshot gave me more than I could ask for and leaves a brighter flame in my heart for one of my favorite games of the past few years. Now if we can just convince Sony to do the same for Shadow of the Colossus, VR will have peaked in my book.