Monday, August 24, 2015

Shadows of team ICO

Team ICO has brought many beautiful things to my life. My first occasion with it was Shadow of the Colossus, a game which I have talked previously in this blog and the only game which has produced art I wish to have on my wall, second and more intricate meeting being Ico.

Having played the first two games I think I see a pattern in Fumito Ueda's thoughts. All three games feature a companion: In Ico, our companion is Yorda, a mysterious girl clad in white and in possession of door-opening powers. In Shadow of Colossus, our companion is Agro, a loyal (albeit derpy) horse who is pretty much the only creature not judging you for trespassing in holy land. In The Last Guardian, our to-be companion is Trico, the man-eating eagle.

In all three games we guide, call and ask help from these companions, and in all three games they seem somewhat clumsy. Yorda has brought me to the brink of despair more than once, and about Agro... let's just say that I prefer going anything but linear long distances by foot. My view on Trico is based only on the trailer so it might be that they will improve his movement for the actual game, but I somehow doubt that.

It is pleasing how different three games with similar atmosphere and tones can be. One of the less underlying themes of these three is escaping. In Ico, the main characters attempt to escape from a religious castle; in TLG the escape happens from an extensive ruined building and in SotC you escape from the oppressive people who sacrifice little girls with cursed fate. The last setting differs from the two previous games but the underlying theme is there.

Ruins are a thematical landscape following through each and every one of these games, but none of them features death and destruction in them. Quite in the contrary: every landscape, every place is overtaken by nature. Ruins grow moss and ferns, and even the world of SotC, scolded (and loved) for its emptiness, features animals, nature and life.

I think that this abundant presence of life is a reflection of how Ueda has been intrigued about fish and birds his whole life: he likes watching "things that move", something which is beautifully realized in the games he writes.

The Last Guardian is the kind of game a person like me needs in her life. I need a certain amount of beauty to be able to function properly, and all three games of the trilogy share common elements of aesthetics and thematics.

Still, compared to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, the trailer looks more like it's aimed for a more general audience. To mention one example of why I think this, the trailer features guards. Ico and SotC were both (in)famous for their lack of any kind of NPC characters. It will be interesting to see how the guards in TLG will be realized; will they be like the shadows in Ico, or general all-purpose guards to sate the run-in-the-mill-player's need for interaction with something?

Maybe I am being overly critical here. It could be as easily said that shadows of Ico are just the same - are they not aimed to sate the need for interaction and action, too? I try to keep an open mind and not make any hasty conclusions before actually trying out the game.

A part of me feels very protective towards the poetic emptiness featured in these games as many dislike it. But if I know anything about Ueda, he is not going to let critics silence his inner voice.

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