From my perspective, 2011 has quickly become the year of three, simply because a great deal of my most anticipated games are approaching some form of the third iteration. BioWare's conclusion to the Mass Effect trilogy, Naughty Dog's continuing adventures with Uncharted 3, and Team ICO's latest project, The Last Guardian - largely considered a spiritual successor to their two previous titles, ICO and Shadow of the Colossus - are all at the top of my list. In the end, out of the three, The Last Guardian has to get the edge as Team ICO consistently produces outstanding artistic landmark games. Not to mention, there is still so much mystery surrounding this long-awaited title.
I know I'm not the only one excited for The Last Guardian. The game has got substantial hype behind it, and for good reason. Fumito Ueda and his team have reached iconic status within the gaming industry, delivering experiences with stunning art direction, clever puzzles and mechanics, and an unrivaled ability to tell stories purely through gameplay. ICO and Shadow of the Colossus did not need to rely on text or speech to get their message across, as your realtime interactions within the world spoke volumes. This subtle approach to storytelling requires considerable skill to achieve, which is likely why it's so rarely seen.
Based on the relatively little information disclosed so far, The Last Guardian appears to be a natural evolution of Team ICO's previous works. Focusing on the ongoing bond between a young boy and a gigantic and strangely charming creature, the game seemingly combines the intimate relationships of ICO with the scope of Shadow of the Colossus. Naturally, The Last Guardian's art direction looks fantastic, from the grand vistas to the detailed architecture and the griffin-like creature's animations are incredibly realistic. It's a very ambitious concept, but one that appears to be in capable hands.
That being said, Team ICO has been quietly working on this project for quite some time, further fueling fan anticipation and leading to various theories as to the secrecy behind it. Some believe they have bitten off more than they could chew, while many would argue current generation console development simply requires more time than Team ICO's four-year cycle on PlayStation 2. The much discussed state of Japanese development, which has generally lagged behind the West, could also provide some answers. Many high-profile titles from Japan - Kojima's Metal Gear Solid 4, Square's Final Fantasy XIII, or Polyphony's Gran Turismo 5 to name a few - forced gamers to wait, with varying results. Whatever the reason, I'm more than willing to put faith Team ICO's ability to deliver.
The Last Guardian appears to be another classic in-the-making from Team ICO - an experience I'm looking forward to above all others this coming year. The promise of a gorgeous, meticulously crafted game, with storytelling perfectly suited to an interactive medium, is something well worth waiting for.