It’s still hard to believe The Last Guardian is finally upon us. After many years in development hell, the long-awaited Team Ico exclusive resurfaced during Sony’s E3 conference in June with a targeted 2016 release date, stunning gamers worldwide. Over the course of its long gestation, the title generated considerable hype, having been first announced at E3 in 2009. In the latter years of this period, many believed the project dead. Whether or not The Last Guardian would appear at E3 each given year became something of an inside joke within the gaming community, and remained that way for a long time.
Any other title would’ve been dismissed long ago, but many held on to hope for one reason and one reason alone: it was the spiritual successor to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, two of the most critically-acclaimed PS2 games ever made. Ico, a fantasy adventure title originally released in 2001, quickly gained cult status. Telling the story of a young outcast and his meeting with a mysterious girl, Ico had players exploring a ruined landscape, protecting and guiding the ethereal Yorda along the way.
2005’s Shadow of the Colossus not only met Ico‘s achievements, but surpassed them, going on to become a favorite in the ‘games as art’ argument. Featuring a minimalist narrative, Shadow subverted the traditional video game structure, tasking players with tracking and defeating a series of gargantuan entities known as colossi rather than handling the usual waves of weaker enemies. Both titles featured a similar aesthetic and atmosphere that set them apart from everything else out there, and to this day, their art style is still very distinctive. In the years following their respective releases, both titles went on to be regarded as two of the most artistically meritorious games ever made, warranting an HD remaster collection on PS3 in 2011. This re-release not only helped the games look prettier than they ever had before, but allowed a greater number of players to discover them for the first time.
It’s no understatement to say that both titles reflect important developments in the history of videogames, and are now viewed as modern classics. Regardless of where you stand on remasters and releases, they’re undeniably important in at least one sense: they allow for the preservation and propagation of titles such as Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Both games are absolute gems in the PlayStation catalogue, and they belong on its lead platform. With The Last Guardian right around the corner, the time is ripe for a PS4 remastering to introduce new players to the worlds of designer Fumito Ueda – especially those who have only recently jumped across to the world of PlayStation from the Microsoft camp.
PlayStation Now Vs. Port
PlayStation Now could allow both games to be replayed and discovered anew, of course, but allowing access to them this way wouldn’t have quite the same effect as a true rerelease. Any marketing that would run alongside such a remastering, not to mention the press coverage, would bring the games to the attention of the industry again and make them a talking point once more – a condition they absolutely deserve. The Last Guardian has all the hype it could wish for, which will no doubt ensure it has a successful release, but it might be useful for newcomers to understand why all this hype built up in the first place, and for long-time fans to be reminded.
Remastering would also enable these games to shine brighter than they ever have before. PS3 brought both games into the HD era, but PS4 has the potential to do a lot more, smoothing their framerates out and improving their overall visual quality. Like Journey or Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, rereleasing the titles on PS4 would not only preserve these important games, but it would bring them into the spotlight once more, showcasing exactly why they became so well-regarded and strengthening the perception of PlayStation’s portfolio even further. If you have a gem or two in your collection, let them shine up front and center.
The Last Guardian may feature several aesthetic and thematic similarities with its predecessors, but is it absolutely necessary that new players experience these games first? Of course not. It will undoubtedly feature a self-contained, standalone narrative which should work fine on its own. Sony would be wise, however, to showcase Team Ico’s previous achievements beforehand. Newcomers might feel more tempted to invest if they already have a decent idea of what they’re getting into, but more to the point, people should play these titles – especially if they haven’t done so already, for these colossal games are begging to be discovered again.
written by Gary Alexander Stott