The Last Guardian (PS4)


Tia, a German Shepherd/Akita/Other mix, came to us by way of mail. No, not in a box. Our mail carrier found Tia walking loose in the neighborhood and brought her to our door. Once the door opened, Tia jumped on the living room couch and in that instance, she was ours.

She didn’t enjoy containment. Enjoyably free, Tia routinely jumped our fence and adventured in those first days. We can only assume her irresponsible previous owner – who lived nearby and let her out repeatedly on purpose – didn’t treat her well even when she was home. Once the diet of treats, tennis balls, butt scratches, and beds sunk in, Tia never left our sight again.

Trico can fly. It takes time though. At first, this ambiguous cat/dog/bird/rodent, the heart of Last Guardian, doesn’t reveal its aerial talent. Stubby wings can’t lift the some 25-foot creature from the ground. Part of this is shyness – Trico doesn’t trust its new human master, a young tattooed boy with equally ambiguous origins. It takes work to build trust, like butt and head scratches.

The boy coerces Trico, feeding him treats of sorts, glowing wooden barrels containing what appears to be a liquid life force. He rides and pets Trico, knocking down stained glass eyes which frighten the creature, giving Trico room to live, play, and jump.

Want a stubborn dog? That was Tia. Her ability to integrate into the routines of the house were impeccable. Break from that routine and she’d let you know. Things needed to be done her way, on that exact schedule. She didn’t move either, and if not the couch, Tia enjoyed sleeping in doorways or the highly trafficked areas of the floor. You moved, not her.

I suppose all spoiled dogs follow that routine – a dog’s life, if you will. Comfortable, calm, and everything by their rules, on their time. Tia seemed an extreme case, but she loved it. I assume that’s why she stayed and always looked on with a curious, awkward looking smile.

The stupid cat/dog/bird/rodent doesn’t listen. It only does what it wants to when it wants to. The boy climbs on Trico’s back like the kid in Neverending Story, then he shouts a command. Move, jump, fight. Trico looks around, thinks about it, and probably sits down. Or, Trico turns around and starts going the wrong way.

Shout, point, stomp; Trico plays by rules and instincts set in place long before this kid arrived. Expect the camera view blocked by Trico’s size, and frequently. It’s a happy, curious animal much of the time though. Last Guardian draws a player in through its ability to relate to those creature around us, and the mannerisms suit a plethora of archetypes. Cat/dog/bird/rodent; add in a lizard too. Last Guardian finds a powerful asset through a believable, empathetic, and appropriately awkward digital being.

Tia’s passiveness was never logical, despite being a roamer. She never hurt anything, nor did she try to (except squirrels, those territory-breaching bastards). When given stuffed toys, she pruned their cotton fur rather than chew, one of her odder behaviors. In 2007, a friend brought us Sophie, another roamer, and after four prior homes, she was ready to fend for herself. Tia relented in total.

Sophie routinely poked, prodded, and shoved Tia. Some of that is Sophie’s breed, an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix. A smart, working, herding dog, which for Sophie’s sake meant Tia was the perfect step-sister. While never violent, some intervention was often needed to keep them separate. No matter the circumstance, Tia wasn’t up for a fight, and stepped aside to let Sophie handle the guard duty, or me to handle Sophie.

Trico’s feet mirror a hawk’s. They’re enormous, the claws equally so. This is a dangerous animal. If not the claws, then the beak which is clearly designed to rip open flesh. If Trico’s ability to smash wooden barrels is the indicator, cat/dog/bird/rodent can kill at will.

In time, Last Guardian introduces other cat/dog/bird/rodents. Trico’s curiosity seems peaked, part of the lovely narrative style, flowing and organic. Later, their presence is clear. Trico is the non-alpha cat/dog/bird/rodent. Fights ensue. Trico relents. In these scenes, Trico instantly falls into a submissive state, beaten and battered until the boy comes to its help via imaginative puzzle design – smash the tail in a gated door, drop a bridge. Passive solutions, non-violent even in the natural order sort of way. Trico must like that.

About a month ago, Tia lost the ability to handle steps. She took a bad spill around 4AM, the expected impact of what the vet suspected for some time was liver cancer. This spry, quick, and former champion of tennis ball chasing finally slowed down. She wasn’t a physical fighter, but after months of what the vet referred to as a “miracle” time, it was clear she saved her strength to fight in other ways, to give us additional time to cope with the impending eventuality.

Tia usually spent most of her days with me, watching movies, playing games, or chasing tennis balls. She laid in her favorite chair, sprawled on beds, or plopped onto one of many old blankets. In the last month, the stairs off limits, none of this was possible – the media room is located in the basement. So I went up with her, stayed up late reading while she laid on a rug in the kitchen or on one of her favorite blankets, now moved to the living room. It was mutual.

Without the boy, Trico wouldn’t be alive. The creature begins Last Guardian unable to walk. Spears in its hips prevent Trico from standing. Once removed, Trico limps softly, eyes still glowing in fear and pain. The boy opens doorways for Trico, beginning their adventure together.

Without Trico, the boy wouldn’t be alive. Trapped in ruinous catacombs, the ledges are often too high. It’s a wonder who built these and for what purpose. After a long fall, the boy limps from an ankle injury. Often, Trico carries the boy from danger or swats at ghostly soldiers attempting to kidnap him. It’s mutual.

We lost Tia on December 7th, age 12, one day after Last Guardian was released. Her back legs were now too weak to stand on her own power. It was time.

Last Guardian ends with a fight, but in a decidedly Last Guardian way. Trico, overcome by other cat/dog/bird/rodents, needs help. The boy assists. Afterward comes a series of poignant images, Trico soaring toward a heavenly sunset, then landing in the boy’s village. The residents attack. The boy, too weak to help after the previous battle, sadly tells Trico to go. It was time.


Thanks Trico. Goodbye Tia.

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