Monday, September 4, 2017

Fruits in the Forbidden Lands

We have all travelled around the forbidden lands in search of fruit at one time or another. It may be that you had beaten the game and time trials and wanted to gather up all the fruit shown on the map, or you just wanted more health in order to fight the colossi? In the PS3 version there is a trophy awarded for this task called 'Cornucopia', which means a symbol of plenty, or an abundant supply of good things, usually featured in a goat's horn overflowing with flowers, fruit and corn, hence the name.

Cornucopia

In any case, it involves a long journey around the lands seeking out those special trees with magical fruit ; ) You get to see vast areas of the map you would have missed if you had just visited each colossus in turn, and it's quite satisfying when you have completed the task and see that all the fruit icons have disappeared from the world map.


So here I have quantified all the fruit in the forbidden lands so we can see for the first time how many pieces of fruit exist per fruit tree, and how much fruit you can gather in each map square. You start the game with 100 health points, and although you can't see this value unless you use a memory editor, it allows me to see how many health points you earn for each piece of fruit taken. 

I had originally thought that some fruit types might provide more (or less) health points than others, but I learned a long time ago that each piece of fruit gives the same number of health points, which turns out to be 5 (five). You do not get any grip points from eating fruit, this are obtained by harvesting the white-tailed lizards throughout the lands, but unfortunately you only get a single grip point per tail.

Note: There are eight different types of fruit to obtain in the game and these can be found either individually on a particular tree, or sometimes two different fruit types exist side by side (on individual trees) - see chart below:

Map of fruit trees from the art book

Map of fruit trees in game

You can see from the two maps above that they have separated the fruit tree icons in the art book to make them easier to see. There are 33 fruit icons on the map and each icon can represent up to 6 pieces of fruit. So let's look at each piece of fruit up close. The following images also show the top and bottom views.

Fruit_A - this is the most common fruit found in the forbidden lands

Fruit_B - a rockmelon type of fruit?

Fruit_C - a pink banana?

Fruit_D - a pineapple type fruit

Fruit_E - a pear type fruit with two pieces

Fruit G - Three pieces per batch - resembles Jackfruit

Thanks to an 'unknown' user, I was introduced to the Jackfruit which resembles fruit G and H quite well, although it's native to south India, not Japan. I had expected that all the fruits we see may have been native to Japan, but I guess any fruit that sparked the developers interest could be from anywhere in the world? But the Jackfruit is significant in two aspects, 1) it resembles the G and H fruit, and 2) its seeds are almost identical to Fruit_A and Fruit_K. 

A species of the fig, mulberry and the breadfruit family

A jackfruit tree from India - its branches are bursting with fruit!

Fruit H - Same as Fruit_G - but only two pieces per batch

Fruit_K - same as Fruit_A but with three pieces instead of one

Note: Fruit_K is the fruit we find in the secret garden that reduces Wander's health instead of increasing it, more about this later. It appears to resemble the seeds taken from the Jackfruit! Notice how similar the seeds are to Fruit_A and Fruit_K.

A Jackfruit with its orange seeds exposed

Individual seeds of the Jackfruit - closely resemble Fruit A and K

Fruit_F (Watermelon - the Missing Fruit)
This is the only fruit that is still in the program code for Shadow of the Colossus but doesn't appear in the game, perhaps a leftover from Ico? You can see from looking at the two models from both games that they are identical, just with different lighting effects.

Watermelon model from Shadow of the Colossus

Watermelon model from Ico

I recently got in touch with a very clever player named 'Wisi', which by some programming magic, managed to actually make the watermelon model appear in Shadow of the Colossus! He did this by replacing one of the existing fruit models with the watermelon model, so when the game was played you would see watermelons hanging from the fruit tree instead of the previous fruit - simply amazing that he could pull this off ; )

So I made a video about this curious effect which also includes the watermelons in Ico:

The Other Missing Fruit
Featured in the video above, I briefly mention that there are two 'missing' fruits that may still be accessible in the game's program code. These are the I and J fruits, I only mention them as the fruit models in Shadow of the Colossus are labelled in alphabetical order, from A to H , then for no reason, it jumps to Fruit_K (the secret garden fruit). Perhaps there is no mystery here, just a decision by the programmers to add an extra fruit later in development, and for whatever reason, they labelled this last fruit as 'Fruit_K'.
Fruit I and J are missing from the sequence

But these two missing fruits have peaked my interest, so I'll endeavour to try and find them in the program code (perhaps with the help of my new friend and genius hacker 'Wisi' ; ) But don't get your hopes up, in reality there's most likely no secret fruit, and these two letters were bypassed for reasons unknown. Proof of this is by using the 'SotC viewer', which allows you to view and extract all the models from the game.

Fruit models as seen in the SotC viewer - notice I & J are missing

However, the watermelon fruit (Fruit_F) was found by searching for the name 'watermelon', so perhaps if we knew the names of these other two pieces of fruit we might have something to search for?

Climbing Fruit Trees
All the larger fruit trees in the forbidden lands have climbable moss growing up their trunks. Wander need only jump and grab onto this moss to climb up, much like the moss he uses to climb up the east side of the temple, or the ledges at the first colossus.

Wander climbing a fruit tree

Wander at the top of a fruit tree - Fruit_B can be seen from this vantage point

Sometimes it's hard to see the fruit from ground level and as much as you run around looking up at the branches of a fruit tree, that last piece of fruit can elude you! I'm sure many players have experienced this - I know I have ; ) You can tell by looking at your game map that a fruit tree icon still exists, this means there is still a piece (or pieces) of fruit yet to discover. So it's a good idea to climb the tree and have a look around. In most cases, that last hidden piece of fruit will reveal itself.

Chart of All Fruit Pieces
Below is a chart I made which shows the map square, fruit type and number of pieces of fruit in that map square. You can see that up to three fruit types can be represented in one map square, all on individual trees. One rule I have found is that only one type of fruit exists on each individual fruit tree, that is, you will never find a single fruit tree with two different types of fruit hanging from its branches.

Note: When you see the same map square label repeated (i.e. C1, C1) this means there are two individual fruit trees in that quadrant. For instance E3 has four individual fruit trees where you can gather up fruit.

Fruit chart showing number of fruit per map square 

To make things a little clearer, I have made a map showing all the fruit types plus the number of pieces in each map square (see below). So according to my count, there are 126 pieces of fruit in the forbidden lands (not including the secret garden fruits). As mentioned above, each piece gives you 5 health points so that works out to be 630 health points you can obtain just from gathering all the fruit in the lands. In the PS2 version, this will make Wander's health bar nearly fill the bottom of the screen, but in the updated PS3 version, they reduced the length of the full health bar to about two thirds of the screen.

Full health bar in the PS3 version

Map showing all fruit types and numbers

You will notice on this map a small red circle in C3, this is the only area in the forbidden lands that have fruit trees which are devoid of fruit! Why these trees are different to the others is a mystery, they appear to be the same type of fruit trees we see all throughout the lands, they even have the climbable moss growing up their trunks, but there is no fruit to be found here?

C3 - Six fruit trees next to the fish filled pond - notice Agro is feeding

No fruit to shoot down here?

The one thing I noticed about this area is that Agro seems to feed a lot more than usual. That is, here Agro will stroll away from Wander, but when she returns she will immediately start to feed on the grass, over and over again. Not sure if it means anything... it was just something I noticed while standing here.

Agro seems to feed more in this area?

I really love this little area btw. It's nestled between the pond and some some grass covered hills that surround it, like a little hidden, verdant oasis ; ) One of my favourite areas in the game!

A little further away is a seventh (7th) tree... still no fruit!

Fruit in the Secret Garden
This fruit is unique from all the other fruit we find in the forbidden lands... for one thing, it's the only fruit that does not show up on the fruit tree map. As mentioned above, each piece of fruit taken in the forbidden lands gives you 5 points of health, but in this mysterious secret area high up on the temple, the fruit is 'forbidden'. Here we are reminded on the Genesis story from the Bible, where Adam and Eve lived in a garden paradise, but were warned not to eat the forbidden fruit of knowledge or be banished. Wander has no such warning, and if he has the huge grip meter that allows him to climb up this enormous edifice and reach the garden, his first instinct is to shoot down yet more fruit! 

Forbidden fruit in the secret garden (PAL version)

Another very different aspect of this fruit is that it affects both your health and grip points at the same time, and as we all know, has a negative effect when consumed. That is, this fruit takes away from your hard earned health and grip meters. In fact the effect is doubled! Each piece of fruit taken in the garden reduces Wander's health and grip meters by 10 points each.  

Ueda states in the official art book that 'Within the garden grow 37 pieces of fruit that decrease your max health and grip meters. Though they seem to have a deeper meaning, collecting them doesn’t change the story or the ending. If you return to the ground and save after eating one, you’ll be sure to regret it, so be careful'.

This statement is completely wrong! Far be it for me to go against what the creator says... so perhaps Glitterberri (our resident translator) got it wrong? But I  don't think so, as her work is impeccable, she knows how to translate Japanese into English with ease... this must be an error on the part of Ueda or Team Ico - the first of it's kind as far as I know! There are actually 48 pieces of fruit in the secret garden! I've tested this in the NTSC (US) version, the PAL (European) version as well as the pre-release (Preview) version... all have 48 pieces of fruit in the secret garden.

This can't be a coincidence! The number 48 is very significant to this game and its history, representing the original number of colossi Ueda planned when the game was first conceived. Later they cut the number in half to 24, but in the end even this number was reduced, eight colossi were discarded due to problems getting them working the way Ueda envisioned and other technical issues, so they ended up with 16.

Quantifying the Secret Garden Fruit
Back in July 2010, I had the crazy idea that the number of fruit you ate in the forbidden lands from the fruit trees might relate (inversely) to how much your health and grip values reduce when you ate the forbidden fruit in the secret garden. That is to say, depending on how high your grip and health values were when you entered the garden, how many pieces of forbidden fruit would it take to bring you back to normal - that is, the value you started out at the beginning of the game?

Forbidden fruit in the secret garden (NTSC version)

So I came up with these tables to show the exact health and grip values you would need to reduce Wander's health back to 100 (the value you start the game with). Here are the results:

Game 1 values

Note: You can see in the 'Notes' column how many pieces of forbidden fruit you must eat in order to reduce your health and grip values back to 100 (starting values). Depending on how high your health and grip values are, you can work out how much forbidden fruit you must ingest to return to the normal human state by counting the number of pieces you take.

Game 2 values

Game 3 values

Game 4 values

If you have played through four games in normal or hard mode (doesn't matter which), you will return to normal (human mode) by eating all 48 pieces of forbidden fruit. The last piece of forbidden fruit you eat ends up at #13 Phalanx in game 4. So this got me thinking, could this be some kind of 'long con' secret the developers had put into the game? That is, you would have to play through the game normally 4 times (without collecting any fruit in the forbidden lands - just killing colossi) > then climb up to the garden >  then eat all the 48 forbidden fruits?

Forbidden fruit in the secret garden (Preview version)

So you would need 576 health points at this stage, which I think is the maximum your health can reach in the game. This makes your health bar stretch all the way across the bottom of the screen (in the PS2 games). And this takes us to Phalanx in game 4... the only colossus that has a temple with the same symbols we find on the Shrine of Worship, the huge stone bridge, and the Entrance temple that adjoins it. All three structures are connected, the temple, bridge and Entrance temple... no other area in the forbidden lands features these symbols, except the ruined temple at #13's arena (Phalanx).

Temple at #13 has the same symbols as the Shrine of Worship, bridge & Entrance

At the time I thought I was really onto something here! There must be a connection between the Shrine of Worship/Bridge/Entrance temple to this lonely southern outpost (Phalanx temple)... Phalanx's temple seems to be really old, perhaps centuries older than the other ruins found in the forbidden lands. It is heavily eroded and much of its original structure is now missing - now just dust swirling around the southern desert.

Southern temple may have looked like this eons ago!

So I tested my theory! I played through the game 4 times to reach the #12th colossus (Pelagia) > I defeated it, then conveniently, the 'after #12' cutscene occurs, where you see Emon and his loyal soldiers approach the Entrance temple from afar... 'Only a little more to go' Emon says. This gave me hope! There was a cutscene that delineated the previous colossi I had defeated (in 4 games) based on the 48 forbidden fruits I had gathered in the secret garden! Perhaps something amazing would now reveal itself, like a new cutscene, or the 17th colossus? 

So I then climbed up to the secret garden and reduced Wander's health back to 100 (starting value), then made my way back to the #13th colossus to see if anything was different. But no matter what I did, or how hard I tried, the level played out exactly the same way as it always had. Wander (or Agro) would stand on the stone platform, triggering Phalanx to rise up majestically from the desert sands.

Phalanx frozen in mid flight during its intro cutscene

Oh well... at least I tried to see if something impossible might be possible in this enigmatic game ; ) As always, it turns out that our grandiose ideas are reduced by Ueda's subtracting design concepts, the basis of all his games. So sad... if I was a game developer, I would put as many hidden secrets into the game as possible - even those that would take hackers (like me) years to find! Perhaps by encrypting the code so that no hacker could understand what the program code was doing? 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Last Guardian - Thoughts & Comparisons

So here we are, post game release, and as of this moment I have played through the game four times. The first playthrough took me three days to complete as I was playing blind and really took my time to savor every little detail, the second was much quicker - around 11 hours I think... but there is a trophy (Lightning Emissary) for finishing the game in under 5 hours! But I'm happy to announce that I finished the game without any help or hints, if I got stuck I just kept playing until a solution presented itself ; )

I have to say that I was not disappointed by The Last Guardian in any way, in fact it exceeded my expectations! Sure, the camera can be frustrating at times but once you know how Trico behaves there's no need to climb it in those tight spaces, like narrow corridors etc. This is where the camera has a hard time trying to pan in on the boy. In open spaces the camera works OK. Players also complained about framerates, but I saw no evidence of this whilst playing my version, although I bought a PS4 Pro 1TB, so perhaps the game runs better on this console?

Note: The following contains major spoilers so if you haven't finished the game do not read this.

Shrine of Worship style ruin (shot by Len Allwood)

The first thing I really fell in love with (apart from Trico of course) were the landscapes. I mean you just have to look around to be awed by the majestic towers and enormous arches surrounding you. Some of these arches would make the massive stone bridge in Shadow of the Colossus look small in comparison, which is saying a lot! Almost every time you look around the scene is wallpaper worthy, simply breathtaking!

Enormous arches tower above


Temple facades reach up to lofty heights

Intricately detailed stone towers

The enigmatic white tower! Notice the windmill in this shot

Closer view of the windmill

Here we see our first homage to Ico, a windmill perched high up on a rocky ledge. You see this when you first leave the cave and arrive out onto the sunlit ledge, it's the first time you are outside in the open air. The camera pans up to the white tower and the windmill appears, tiny against the enormous structures that tower above it. But I could get no closer to this windmill? I looked for it in all subsequent levels but could see no sign of it.

I was informed by a user named 'Tomi nator' that you can actually destroy this windmill with Trico's tail lightning! So it appears the windmill does have a small role to play in the game, although it makes no difference to the outcome of the story.



Sunlit ledges are beautiful to behold ; )

The other areas that really peaked my interest were the sunlit ledges we see at various points in the game. Especially the second one after you enter the first temple. A wonderful sad piano piece starts playing, aptly named 'The Forest' from the OST. Its soft melody took me back to my memories of Secret Garden in Shadow of the Colossus. A beautiful hidden garden oasis in the midst of an unfathomable wonderland. See here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDUEboC1DUU#t=36m19s

Origin Story
In both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus we see an opening cutscene which reveals how both protagonists first arrived in their respective lands, the Castle in the Mist and the Forbidden Lands. But in The Last Guardian we have no such opening, in fact it's not until around 4 hours into the game that we finally see how the 'unnamed' boy ended up in the Nest via a flashback sequence once he has been swallowed by Trico.

Opening cutscene of Ico

Opening cutscene of Shadow of the Colossus

The Last Guardian cutscene - we see a village in the midst of a vast forest

We are inside a room with a small lamp illuminating the darkness

A group of children sleep soundly - save one

turquoise glowing butterfly flutters above a sleeping boy

Could the turquoise iridescent butterflies have a connection with the Trico creatures? We see them fluttering around the barrels we feed Trico, perhaps there is some symbiosis going on here? The boy seems distressed, in a nightmarish state. It's like he is dreaming about the terror that approaches, a monster that will appear from the darkness. This ties in with Ico who had a similar nightmare during his unconscious state after being expelled from his sarcophagus. 

The next scene shows the forest flying under us at an extraordinary speed, as if something is speeding towards the boy in his feverish state. A small patch of cleared forest emerges and the camera moves quickly towards the village.

An aerial view of the village

We get a clearer view of the village here

This is the first time since 2001 that we actually see what one of these villages may have resembled! We know both Ico and Wander came from a village of some sort, Ico was kidnapped against his will and taken to the Castle in the Mist, Wander set out on his own vowing to avenge his beloved Mono's death. So we can assume that their home villages may have approximated this type of medieval wooden style construction. However, we have no timeline to go on, for all we know the events in The Last Guardian may have occurred millennia before or after the events in Ico and Shadow of the Colossus?

Suddenly a huge bird like creature swoops down and lands on one of the houses

It pokes its head through the window shutters - red eyes glowing

It seems drawn to the boy in his feverish state

Red eyes glowing - close up view

Here I think something strange happens. The beast is focussing on the sleeping boy, the camera pans in on the large red eyes of the beast... it's as if the beast is hypnotizing the boy in some way, sending some archaic knowledge via telepathy to subdue him perhaps? This influence the beast has may explain how they are able to immobilize and capture innocent children for their nefarious purposes. Or to be more scientific, perhaps the boy already possessed a special gene that the beast was drawn to? Something passed down to him over the generations.

The boy stops fretting and opens his eyes - they are now red like the beasts

It's important to note that at this stage the boy has no tattoos, he is just a regular child like any other in his village. Only after Trico has ingested him do the strange markings appear on his body. It should also be noted that each time Trico swallows the boy you see more of these markings appear on his skin. Here is our first comparison to Shadow of the Colossus, as Wander gains more darkness from killing the colossi, his skin and hair grow darker, his features more unkempt and bloody.

Wander has ingested too much dark energy in Shadow of the Colossus

The beast gently scoops up the boy into its mouth


The beast inadvertently knocks over an unlit brazier which gains the attention of one of the village women to investigate. Here we see one of the village caretakers of the children appear with lantern in hand, perhaps she is a teacher or grandparent? She screams at the sight playing out before her, a monstrous head swallowing up one of the children in her care!

The children wake up and run wildly away from the beast

The woman shields some frightened children - aghast at what she is seeing!

The villagers are alerted to the danger and raise the alarm via a large iron gong

Inside some villagers threaten the beast with spears and torches

Trico is attacked

There are soldiers here with arrows and spears. One of them hurls a spear into the beast's upper back, causing it to rip its head out of the window and land on the ground below to face its attackers! But the villagers are too fierce and too determined, and they outnumber the beast, so it has no option but to flee.


The beast flies away into the night

The boy's father?

Here the camera focusses on one of the men of the village. He seems a strong leader, perhaps a noted warrior among his tribe. I think this is the boy's father as at the end he is the first one to pick the boy up after Trico delivers him back to the village (more on this later).

The village elder

This old man says the words 'Be among the chosen ones...' as if he is both sad and proud of the boy's fate. Here we see a comparison to Emon in Shadow of the Colossus, a village elder who holds great respect in his community.

Emon - the village elder from Shadow of the Colossus

Trico flies away into the oncoming storm clouds

Here another beautiful piano piece begins, much like the music 'In the Land of Happiness' by Kow Otani at the ending cutscene from Shadow of the Colossus, but I couldn't find this track on the official Last Guardian OST? Perhaps we need to wait for the full track listing to appear later on? In any case, I think Kow Otani's soundtrack for Shadow of the Colossus is far superior to Takeshi Furukawa's The Last Guardian soundtrack. There are some notable piano pieces that I love, but it fails to compare to what Kow Otani accomplished for Shadow of the Colossus in my opinion.

Trico flies back to the Nest with the boy held captive in its mouth - a beautiful scene!


Trico dives down on its approach to the Nest

Ominous storm clouds surround the volcanic cone like temple complex

Suddenly Trico is hit by a bolt of lightning!

And is stuck down from the heavens

Trico's tail is dismembered during the lightning strike!

This can also be compared to Ico. Both Ico and the boy are released from their captivity by a freak of nature. Ico manages to shake his sarcophagus loose and free himself, or could it have been an lucky earthquake that freed him? The boy is released from being absorbed by the Master by another quirk of nature, a lightning strike!

You will notice when starting the game that Trico's tail is a little shorter than it is at the final cutscene. This is because during the lightning strike, Trico's tail is cut off! It's hard to notice, in fact I only noticed this by going through the video frames one by one. But this explains why Trico's tail is shorter at the start of the game compared to the end. Indeed, when the armoured Trico rips off Trico's tail at the end cutscene, you can see it's the same size (length) that we see in this cutscene.

Trico falls helpless into the dark pit below

Landing hard on the rocky ground below

Here we see another Ico reference. One of Trico's horns is snapped off in its massive collision with the ground, just like how Ico lost his horns when he stood up against the dark Queen in his final battle with her. Wander also gained his horns at the end of Shadow of the Colossus, after he returns from his battle with Malus and once Mono retrieved him from the pool as a baby, he had grown tiny horns as a remnant of Dormin's dark influence. So the horns concept is prevalent in all three games, Ico, Wander and Trico. It also shows how half of Trico's helmet is destroyed, when it collided with the ground the impact broke part of its protective headgear away.

Guards carry Trico back to the cave

The next morning, a group of guards find the injured beast, having no idea that the boy is sequestered in its mouth, they move it to a secure location via a large sled. It takes eight guards to lift the heavy beast which they cover in a huge tarpaulin. 

Trico covered in a tarp as the guards move it to a new location

Using a pulley system - they lower the beast down into a crevice

Trico is lowered down into the cave

Notice one of the guards accompanies Trico down to the cave floor

Trico lies inert on the cave floor - unconscious and bleeding

Here the game begins - with a drop of water hitting a small plant

Again, there is a comparison to Shadow of the Colossus here... in the opening cutscene, Wander arrives in an area that later in the game Emon and his soldiers also appear, after defeating the 12th boss (Pelagia), a cutscene shows a similar plant (in this case a fern) being hit by drops of water from the rain.

Rain drops bounce off a fern in the opening cutscene of SotC

Trico expels the boy from its mouth

The strange green bubble bursts - releasing the boy

The boy is now covered in tattoos

Here the game begins, but now the boy is covered in strange tattoos. It must be part of the process in which once placed into a Trico's mouth, a weird transformation takes place. Each boy or girl swallowed by a Trico gains strange skin markings that help the conversion process by the Master. This cursed tattoo idea actually first appeared in an early build of Ico, but at the time it was Yorda who had the tattoo.

Yorda's cursed tattoo from an early build of Ico

Early Yorda with horns cradling her cursed tattoo
Comparisons to Ico
As mentioned above, both Ico and the boy are saved from their respective fates by accident. Ico manages to free himself from his casket, rocking it hard enough that it fell to the ground breaking open. He was lucky that the supporting structure under the casket was so ancient that it finally failed, leading to his escape. In TLG the boy's escape was also an accident, this time due to a lucky force of nature - a lightning strike! Trico is hit and crashes to the ground far below, the boy was cushioned from the impact by being safely concealed within the beast's mouth. In both cases the boys would have ended up like all the other poor souls, being turned into shadow people.

Both boys are saved by sheer luck
Shadow People & Guards
The guards in The Last Guardian are much like the shadow people seen in Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, being ethereal smoke like entities, except this time with a hard outer shell of amour and turquoise glowing horns. In Ico & SotC the shadows are dark with a turquoise outline, and here the guards seem to be made of the same turquoise smoke. You can see this when looking at their legs, part of which is exposed, and also when Trico smashes them to pieces - they dissolve in a puff of smoke!

Guards are ethereal smoke like entities encased in suits of armour

But I believe all these entities are made of the same stuff, being some kind of spirit that can change form at will. In Ico there are many different varieties of shadow creature from the large muscular bull like shadows to the smaller skeletal and spiky kinds. All have turquoise glowing eyes which Ueda reused in TLG for the armoured guards. The horns the guards have are similar to Trico's horns being turquoise, so perhaps the essence of the turquoise goop the Tricos feed on has some relationship to growing horns... however how this is possible is a mystery to me.

Four different kinds of guards

Shadow of the Colossus however had a different kind of shadow creature, being human shaped and with no turquoise glowing eyes or horns, so even though Dormin has horns, his dark minions seem to be something else, perhaps they were people that Dormin ingested and as such retained their human form, or perhaps these entities can't change shape? It seems Ico and TLG are more closely matched when it comes to the shadow entities. 

Shadow people comparisons

Soldier from the opening of Ico

Although not very similar to the stone guards in The Last Guardian, I thought I would add this image to compare the design style of the guards used in Ico. Of course, we know the soldiers/guards in Ico are humans, not supernatural beings, but the headgear is significant I think. Both are covered in alien looking helmets with horns and I think the Ico guards look even more sinister as they have no eyes!

Guard's Doors are like the Black Pools in Ico
Once the boy first encounters the strange armoured guards you start to see these strange blue doors that they emerge from. They are always locked tight and seem to be part of the wall. When a guard grabs the boy it always tries to take him to one of these doors, much like how the shadow creatures try to kidnap Yorda and pull her into the dark portals they emerge from. In TLG, if you get close enough, you can actually see the door open with a bright blinding light beyond. What is inside these doors in unknown at this point.

Both Yorda and the boy are grabbed and pulled into a portal
Focussed Energy Beams
The Last Guardian's main item/weapon is a smooth black mirror which can focus a beam of light. Trico uses its tail to shoot out red bolts of energy to destroy certain materials, mainly wood and glass... it doesn't seem to be able to destroy stone. But this device comes in very handy throughout the game. In Ico, the satellite dishes focussed energy into a beam of light which opens the main gate. 

Mirror acts like the satellite dishes we saw in Ico

Ico Spheres Resembles the Master of the Valley
A user on Reddit named 'zionner' made a very keen observation which I had missed, he noticed that there is a remarkable similarity between the large electrical spheres in Ico which open the main gates, and the Master of the Valley sphere in TLG. Although not identical, they do have the same style of design, so this makes me wonder if the Master of the Valley is nothing more than a machine, not an artificial intelligence but more like the spheres we saw in Ico? Perhaps the Master is just a mechanical or biological machine running a program and has no awareness of its self or its surroundings?

If we compare these two globes we can imagine that the Master of the Valley is an updated version of the Ico globes, so this would imply that the events in TLG come after Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, once they had refined how the globes work?

Ico main gate sphere compared to the Master of the Valley
Push Towers
As mentioned in my 'Last Guardian History' blog post, Ico has to push heavy metal tower like structures along rails until they caused a switch to activate some other device, allowing him to move on. In The Last Guardian they serve the same purpose, only this time by destroying the sinister 'eye' barriers, allowing Trico to move on. See here: http://nomads-sotc-blog.blogspot.com.au/2016/11/the-last-guardian-history.html

Push/pull towers seen in both Ico and The Last Guardian
Climbing Ledges
In both Ico and The Last Guardian both boys must climb along ledges in order to reach new areas. Both games feature ledges that exist above huge chasms, one false move and you will fall to your death. Of course in TLG the ledges are much higher up giving you a terrifying sense of how far down the fall would be... I mean you can't even see the ground in most instances!

Boys hanging from precipitous ledges
Switches
In both Ico and The Last Guardian you use switches to open gates. So it seems Ueda liked this idea and decided to incorporate it into his latest game. There are two types of switches in TLG, one opens heavy metal gates, the other requires the boy to pull a long chain wrapped around a cylinder to open gates.

Both Ico and the boy must pull switches to open doors/gates
Chains
Both Ico and the boy must climb chains to reach higher significant areas. In Ico this was paramount as the game couldn't progress without him reaching these out of the way ledges. In The Last Guardian this is also the case, however one major change is evident! The boy has no ability to 'swing' on the chains, he can only climb up and down.

Both boys need to climb chains
Jars
In Ico and The Last Guardian you will notice a variety of empty jars lying around the game in various places. They appear to serve no purpose which is why I always referred to them as 'Red Herring' jars, as they entice you with their presence, as if there is something unique about them. In Ico all you can do is throw them against a wall and they break into a multitude of pieces, in TLG they don't seem to break, but you can throw them at the guards to knock them off balance, and there's a trophy 'That Hits the Spot' for throwing a jar or barrel at a guard 20 times.

Jars serve no purpose in Ico but can be used in TLG
Hanging Cages
Both games feature similar hanging cages. In Ico they were found hanging way down under the main bridge, that is the enormous stone bridge that extends once both electrical spheres at either side of the main gate were activated. In The Last Guardian they are part of a vertiginous climbing puzzle which requires the boy to destroy one of the hanging eye barriers. Both cages don't seem to have any purpose, that is they were never meant to act as cages for prisoners etc. So I was always intrigued why these cages were hanging suspended in these areas for no apparent reason. It seems their only purpose is to act as interesting platforms to reach other areas.

Both games feature cages that act as jumping platforms
Crates/Boxes
Both games feature crates or wooden boxes you can push around. In Ico these are used to activate pressure switches in the ground but in TLG they are slightly different, some having one diagonal crossbeam on each side instead of the 'X' design we see in Ico. Others are just a wooden frame which houses food barrels for Trico. Admittedly, these are very different kinds of crates, but both need to be pushed by the boys to achieve an end.

Both boys need to push crates
Floating Crates
Both games feature buoyant wooden crates that can be pulled or pushed in water. In Ico the crate is used to reach a chain in the underground water gears section (after he has fallen from the bridge and miraculously lands on the cages as seen above). In The Last Guardian the boy falls into a pool of water as he is pushing a huge vat of turquoise glowing liquid away from Trico. Note: Trico seems hypnotized by this liquid which appears to be the same stuff found in the barrels and the one unique receptacle the boy hangs on a chain in order to open a large metal gate. It seems this liquid not only acts as food for the Tricos, but also a regenerative agent that restores them to health.

Both games feature floating crates
Walking on Rafters
In both games the boy must carefully navigate walking on top of narrow wooden beams. In Ico this is apparent in the Chandelier room as he must climb high up to the rafters in order to reach the chandelier, at which point he jumps onto it, causing it to crash to the ground below. In The Last Guardian, the boy must navigate a series of high wooden beams to reach the pull switch that will open a gate releasing Trico, all the while hiding from the guards. There are also other wooden rafters featured in the game at various places.

Climbing rafters comparison
Ladders
Both boys have to climb ladders in order to reach a new area. Some ladders are broken providing no access, but most of the ladders are placed in significant places which lead you to the next location. Of course the ladders are far more detailed in TLG compared to the crude graphics we saw in Ico.

Both Ico and the Boy must climb ladders to reach new areas
Elevators
Although very different in style there are elevators in both Ico and The Last Guardian. There are three kinds of elevators in Ico - the first can't be accessed and are just for show, but they resemble the antique elevators we are used to seeing in old movies, that is with shuttered metal gates that you have to manually pull open before entering. In the image below you can see the up/down buttons recessed into the wall.

Old style elevators seen in Ico

The second kind is the elevator you take up after securing the Queen's sword. The only way into this elevator is to use the sword's sword to bypass the idol statues that stand guard at the entrance. You next take a second smaller elevator up to reach the Queen's chamber, again bypassing more idol statues.

Top down view of the elevator that leads to the sacrifice hall

Elevator tower from the outside

The third kind requires Ico to pull a switch in order for the elevator to raise or lower, these pull switches are found throughout the game. We see these elevators at the waterfall level and the Plaza level in Ico.

Pull switch type elevator seen at the waterfall level

Pull switch type elevator seen at the Plaza level

However, in the Last Guardian they took a very different approach. This elevator is far more advanced in technology, but one could argue, not as comfortable ; ) Here there is no need to use an item or pull a switch to gain access, you just have to move towards it and the door will magically open for you. Of course, this is not the type of elevator we are used to, in fact it's just a large cage... seems more like a trap than a convenience. 

Strange cage like elevators in The Last Guardian
Geckos (Black Lizards)
As in Shadow of the Colossus, there are a multitude of geckos roaming free around the ruins in TLG. However, these are only the black tailed type, there are no signs of the white tailed lizards. What is little known is that Ueda also planned to put geckos into Ico as well as some other minor animals, but due to memory restrictions he had to leave them out. In the sketch below from the Ico art book you can see the first early designs of the geckos.

Sketch showing Ueda's desire to add Geckos into ICO

We can also see Ueda planned to add bats into Ico

Gecko lizards in The Last Guardian
Caskets and Bird Receptacle
In Ico the boy is placed into one of the 54 stone caskets lining the walls by the soldiers of his village and left there to meet his death alone. Luckily he escaped, but for all the other previous horned children they weren't so lucky. What happened to them is unclear, but the caskets seem to act as some kind of chamber that siphons off the dark energy in the children and transfers it to the caskets. 

Remember, Ico had already vanquished the shadow spirits of all the remaining 53 shadow children (see video here: https://youtu.be/mplwjCTiFNQ), yet at the end cutscene we see the caskets shoot out bolts of white lighting into the inert stoney form of Yorda. So this suggest that the sarcophagi are the vessels that are used to store the dark essence of the horned children, much like the idol statues in Shadow of the Colossus. Whether the caskets store light or dark energy is confusing as Yorda is transformed into another shadow entity, perhaps it's like two negatives equal a positive? Yet she still remains loyal to Ico and in fact sacrifices herself in order to save him. 

Stone caskets act as conversion chambers for the Queen

In The Last Guardian we see a similar process taking place in the final cutscene. Instead of human soldiers putting a child into a casket, we see a Trico regurgitate a child into a strange bird like receptacle at the top of the enormous white tower. You'll notice that this strange bird like statue resembles a baby chick, perhaps fooling the Tricos into believing they are feeding a young Trico? The child is encased in some kind of bubble, much like what we saw earlier with our Trico when it was injured in the cave. Interestingly, the bird head statue is surrounded by broken pieces of wood, as if the Tricos have placed them around it in some form of nesting behaviour.

Strange bird nest receptacle made to entice Tricos

The statue's mouth opens ready for another sacrifice

Another nest?

Some players have found what look like other 'nests' at various places in the game. The one above is just under the windmill you see when you first leave the cave at the beginning of the game. It's hard to notice unless you look closely - this one was found by my friend and collaborator Morlun91, but it seems there are others scattered throughout the game.

Another smaller nest?

This one is on top of the first 'Antenna room' you encounter in the game (credit to a Reddit user: coaron), but this pile of broken, jumbled wood seems way too small to be a Trico nest! But it clearly resembles the wooden nest we see at the top of the white tower during the end cutscene. Perhaps these 'other' nests are precursors of what we will see later on in the game? Or they could actually be real nests for other Tricos? Again, we are at the mercy of GenDesign and Ueda's ambiguity, leaving us (the players) to imagine what they actually mean.

The child is covered from head to foot in those weird tattoos

Here we can see where the barrel shoots out

Once the child has been deposited into the bird's mouth, a barrel shoots out from the back of the statue as a reward and flies up in a high arc for the Tricos to catch and eat. This would explain the multitude of barrels we find around the temple complex. Over the years many barrels have been missed by Tricos, or perhaps the barrels overshot the top of the tower, falling all the way down to the valley floor. This would also explain why some of the barrels are half buried in the dirt requiring the boy to pull them out. Of course, many barrels are found inside rooms of the temple or boxed together in crates, so obviously these barrels have been placed there for some other reason.

Room below the Master of the Valley is littered with broken barrels

At the top of the elevator we find ourselves in a large white hall littered with broken and decaying barrels. I wondered how these empty barrels ended up here? Most are almost intact which suggests they weren't chomped up by Tricos as barrels are completely shattered once a Trico finishes with them. So the only logical reason I could think of is (as above) these were also reward barrels shot out from the bird receptacle that have been missed by the Tricos, they fell through the spinning fan blades and were smashed open on their way down to this room, dispersing their precious contents to the four winds. By the sheer number of these 'missed' barrels we can imagine how long this reward process has been going on, perhaps centuries?

Towers Collapses at the End
At the end of Ico we see the Castle in the Mist fall apart and sink dramatically into the ocean, once the Queen is vanquished. This reminds me of the end of The Lord of the Rings, it was the Dark Lord's power that kept Barad Dur standing over the centuries, once his life force was scattered with the destruction of the one ring, there was nothing left to hold the tower together and as such, it collapsed into ruin. 

Castle in the Mist sinks into the ocean

In The Last Guardian, we see the white tower starting to collapse after the strange 'Master of the Valley' has been destroyed, but later (after the credits) we see the tower still standing, although heavily damaged. So although the white tower doesn't collapse as such, the same idea was used in the final cutscene.

White tower falling apart in the final cutscene

Ico & the Boy Saved in the Final Cutscene
Both Ico and Trico are badly injured at the end of the game. Ico gets slammed against a wall after his final devastating blow to the Queen, his last remaining horn breaks off and rolls away covered in blood. Ico lies unconscious as the castle starts to fall apart around him, but at the last moment, Yorda arrives in her shadowy form and carries him to safety.

Yorda saves Ico at the end of the game

At the end of The Last Guardian in a very moving moment, Trico carries the boy back to his village, even though it is so badly injured it can hardly fly! It crashes into the ground and regurgitates the boy in a final act of devotion... such a wonderful scene. But the boy lives and sadly orders to the beast to fly away. 

Trico saves the boy at the end of the game

Comparisons to Shadow of the Colossus
The first thing any dedicated Shadow of the Colossus fan would have noticed is the amazing similarity the room where we first find the mirror has to the pool room in SotC! That is the room where we pick up the items after the time attack trials. They are virtually identical except there is a low ceiling and the room seems to be like a freezer. There appears to be an entrance to this room that has been sealed off, but strangely it's at the East side of the pool whereas in Shadow of the Colossus, the entrance to the pool room is to the North. The only way into this strange room is via a small crack that the boy can just squeeze through, perhaps created by an Earthquake in years past? 

Pool room from Shadow of the Colossus

Mirror room from The Last Guardian

I find it significant that both rooms in both games provide us with items! In Shadow of the Colossus we collect all the time attack items from the water in the pool, in TLG we find the mirror in this similar room. The difference is we only find one item, the mirror, but it acts as a skeleton (or master) key for a lot of later events in the game. Both pools have water, but in TLG it's not as deep, just a few inches of freezing cold water. There are also cryptic designs covering every square inch of the room, and most imortantly, a strange sarcophagus like structure.

Seems a giant was entombed here!

What could this strange structure represent I wonder? Could it be where Dormin was laid to rest? It certainly looks like a human form with arms folded over its torso, feet at the bottom and the head housing a circular depression where we find the mirror. Significantly, we see this structure in the ending cutscene, as the white tower is starting to collapse, the camera pans in on this unusual giants tomb. This tomb reminds me of the Egyptian and Viking kings of old, they were buried with their most treasured items i.e. swords, shields, gold etc. so here we can surmise that this warrior king (if that's what it was) wanted to be buried with its most prized possession - the mirror.

View of the giant's tomb from the ending cutscene

There is also a pipe leading out from the head of the giant ending at the far wall, suggesting perhaps that this thing is receiving something from another part of the temple complex? Could the sacrificial children's energy possibly be routed down into this thing? It's hard to tell as we are given no information about how the Master of the Valley distributes the children's energy. All we know is they are fed into the bird like structure at the top of the temple by the brainwashed Tricos.

Some players have suggested this is the grave of Dormin, or if not, a place where Dormin once lived in eternal sleep. If it is Dormin, then this gestalt entity seems inert in this incarnation of the story, and it would seem has no impact on the Tricos or the boy. The strange Master of the Valley seems to be running the show.

Mysterious 'Master of the Valley' entity
Focussed Energy Beams
In Ico we saw how the satellite style dishes focused sunlight to open the main gates, in Shadow of the Colossus the sword does the same job except its purpose is to find the next colossus, and in The Last Guardian the mirror has a dual purpose, it focuses light to destroy obstacles or open specific doors. All three games have the same source of power, just in different forms. Both the sword and the mirror feature an ornate cursor icon.

Wander's sword also focuses light

Mirror focuses light
Climbing Vines
In both games the protagonist can climb up vines/vegetation/moss. In Shadow of the Colossus this is only used at the Shrine of Worship in order to reach the secret garden, but in The last Guardian they expanded this idea and introduced multiple places where it is necessary to climb up to reach a higher platform.

Wander & the boy climbing vines
Petting Agro/Trico
One of the unique features in Shadow of the Colossus was the ability to pet your horse, Agro. It made the relationship that much stronger as you had a way to reward Agro after a particularly stressful battle with a colossus, such as Quadratus or Phaedra. Agro would nod its head up and down in appreciation ; ) In The Last Guardian GenDesign took it a step further as petting Trico is so much more satisfying! Trico mews and squeaks as you rub its face, much like a dog when you stroke its back or underbelly. It's a wonderful moment when you share this intimate connection with the huge beast!

Petting Agro & Trico
Spiral towers
There are several spiral towers in TLG, most are evident in the 'high wire' level where you have to climb up onto narrow cables spanning the massive spaces between crumbling towers, looking down into the misty depths. This level is very stressful, especially if you are afraid of heights! If you have a large television screen you can almost feel the vertigo climbing around this area. In both games there are broken sections of the staircase, revealing their great antiquity.

Spiral staircases in The Last Guardian

Similar spiral staircase at #7's lair (Hydrus) in SotC
Butterflies
As we know there are many butterflies in The Last Guardian, they are everywhere, especially around the food barrels, but what you may not have noticed is that there are also butterflies featured in Shadow of the Colossus. Strangely, they only appear in the final cutscene when Mono and Agro enter the secret garden (PAL & PS3 versions only). The other addition to these versions was the squirrel/chipmunk which does not appear in the earlier NTSC version; this is also true for the butterflies. So when Team Ico updated the game to the European version, they added butterflies and the chipmunk to the end cutscene. These butterflies are white, not the iridescent turquoise and yellow we see in TLG.

Butterflies in both Shadow of the Colossus & The Last Guardian
Geckos (Lizards)
In Shadow of the Colossus there are both white and black tailed lizards in the game. The white tailed lizards increase your grip meter slightly, the black tailed lizards have no effect, and as such are just the same as the other minor animals in the game, i.e. turtles, birds, hawks and fish. In the Last Guardian the lizards also seem to be part of the background as you have no way to interact with them. But I find it interesting that Ueda added them to the game, I guess he was just being consistent.

Geckos in SotC and TLG
Bats
I was surprised to see bats in The Last Guardian! You see them in dark areas of the game, for instance in the cave we start in and other underground temples. In Shadow of the Colossus they only exist in one place in the forbidden lands; in the caves leading to the 10th boss (Dirge). The bats are very similar in both games, except in TLG they have added turquoise glowing eyes and they also hang from the top of ledges as real bats do. In SotC, the bats are just flying around randomly.

 Bats exist in both SotC and TLG
Circles of Light
When the Master of the Valley calls the Tricos, you see a wave of turquoise concentric circles expand out from both from the antenna source and the horns of the Tricos. Due to the conditioning of the Tricos, they have no ability to resist the call. You see this clearly when the boy is trapped in the rolling metal cage and the other Trico is attacking it; suddenly a low drone like sound can be heard in the distance and the Trico's horns reverberate with turquoise circles. It turns tail and disappears through a large metal door.

It should also be noted that the antenna on top of the white tower is identical to the ones we find in the antenna rooms where Trico is overwhelmed and swallows the boy. They appear to be made of a translucent glass like material which can amplify the specific frequency that calls and controls the Tricos.

 Concentric circles of light emanate from the antenna in TLG

Main antenna is like those found in the antenna rooms 

The other Trico is called by the Master

The same circles of light can be found in Shadow of the Colossus. When you shine the sword onto a weak point or a sigil of a colossus they both emanate rings of light. The weak (or vulnerable) points give off a black light, the sigils give off a turquoise light. This is interesting as it shows a balance between the light and dark forces held within a colossus.

Rings of light and dark in Shadow of the Colossus
Climbing Ledges
In both Shadow of the Colossus and The Last Guardian both boys must climb along ledges in order to reach higher ground. In both cases, the main tower plays an important role in the game. In SotC, the Shrine of Worship can be scaled by Wander in order to reach the secret garden; although not necessary, it's an integral part of the game if you want to acquire all trophies in the PS3 version. In The Last Guardian, the boy must also climb along precipitous ledges of the white tower to help Trico destroy two eye barriers. Both the Shrine of Worship and the White Tower are the main buildings in both games and act as the depository for both dark entities, Dormin and The Master of the Valley. Both feature cryptic symbols embossed on the outside of the temples.

 Both games feature ledge climbing
Useless Ledges
One of the most disappointing things in Shadow of the Colossus were a number of climbable ledges that led to nothing significant. That is you would find what you thought was something that might lead to a secret area, you'd climb down some vines over a precipitous ledge and find that there was nothing special there but a dead end! 

Three useless ledges in SotC with map references

In the Last Guardian there are a few similar ledges with vines that the boy can down down, but this time there is no ledge to walk on, the boy just stops suspended on the vines with a huge drop below him. So if I had to compare the two games I would prefer the useless ledges in SotC, as at least in that game you had something to actually walk on, in TLG the vines lead down to less than nothing... except maybe a nice view.

Vines lead to nothing but pleasant views
Ancient Ruins
It's hard to say which game has older ruins as we have to take into consideration when the games were released. In 2005 Shadow of the Colossus was released on the PS2 and as such, the graphics of the time were limited compared to 2016's PS4 The last Guardian. It seems everywhere you look in TLG there are ruins of some description, old and dilapidated buildings and towers that are crumbling all around us. Trico's weight causes many of the platforms to collapse as they are at the end of their structural life, which suggests they are many hundreds, or perhaps thousands of years old. So I would say from a visual inspection that The Last Guardian seems to be more ancient, but this is open to interpretation.

Both games have ancient ruins - it's hard to tell which is older

Both games feature collapsing structures
Soldiers & Villagers
The soldiers that accompany Emon (their leader) into the forbidden lands are armoured and equipped with specialised weapons, such as crossbows and swords. They appear to be part of an army that may protect their village from intruders or criminals etc. When Emon realises the ancient sword has been stolen, he chooses his best soldiers to ride with him and seek out the thief. Presumably, they followed the tracks left by Wander until it led them to the forbidden lands.

Emon & the soldiers from Shadow of the Colossus

In contrast, the villagers we see in The Last Guardian don't appear to be soldiers as they are not dressed for battle and only have crude spears, fire and arrows to fight off any intruders. But we can see that the weapons technology in both games is similar, suggesting there may not be a great time gap between the events of SotC and TLG. However, none of the villagers have steel swords or crossbows which may imply that they are simple farmers trying to live a peaceful life in their secluded forest village.

Villagers have crude weapons
Collapsing Structures
As mentioned above, in Ico the Castle in the Mist is destroyed by the Queen's departure and in the dramatic final cutscene, it sinks into the sea. In Shadow of the Colossus, another enormous structure is destroyed, not the Shrine of Worship, but the massive stone bridge that links it to the Entrance temple and the outside world. This theme is apparent in all three games and seems to suggest the passing of something, some great evil that has been vanquished from the world, or at least the beginning of a bright new era. 

We can surmise that all three games are based on a history that was unchanged for hundreds or even thousands of years, an empire ruled by a powerful sorcerer or immortal being that existed by sacrificing innocent people and children for its energy and nourishment. This explains why we always see such ancient ruins in all three games, broken masonry, holes in stone ceilings with debris littered all over the place etc. These are not shiny new constructions, but rather we are seeing them for the first time at the end of their stories, at the end of their long existences.

Both games feature major structural collapse at the end

The Boy & Wander Comparisons
At the end of both stories, the protagonist is badly injured after suffering a long and difficult journey. Wander is so tainted by the dark energy he ingested that he is barely recognizable as a human anymore... his face is haggard, his clothes dirty and torn, his eyes have turned turquoise and he has grown two small horns. The boy is covered in dark tattoos which grow darker each time he is attacked by one of the guards, and at the end when the Master of the Valley is vanquished, he is peppered by a multitude of what could only be described as 'iconic shrapnel', that is all those weird symbols that the guards and the Master of the Valley use as weapons.

Wander and the boy badly injured at the end

Controllable Characters at the Final Cutscene
In Shadow of the Colossus it's possible to control baby Wander in the final cutscene after Mono picks him up from the dried out pool. You use the four main controller buttons to produce cooing and crying sounds along with his cute little baby gestures. In The Last Guardian, Ueda also used this feature as you can control the boy after he is regurgitated from Trico's mouth. One of the villagers picks him up and in a final desperate attempt to save his beloved companion, the boy whispers commands to send the beast away.

Baby Wander & the boy are both controllable at the end

As mentioned above, I believe this man to be the boy's father, but that's just my interpretation, for all we know he could be just some guy who happens to be brave enough to snatch the injured boy away from the jaws of the beast? There doesn't appear to be any kind of genetic similarity between them, but it's hard to tell as we see the boy as an old man at the end of the game (after the credits).

The boy (as an old man) and his father?

Wander & the Boy Saved in the Final Cutscene
In the same style as we saw above when Yorda saved Ico from the imminent collapse of the Castle in the Mist, Wander was also saved by the female protagonist in Shadow of the Colossus, Mono. After she wakes up on the altar she meets Agro and they both make their way to the back of the temple where she discovers a small baby lying naked in the stone pool. She must be totally bewildered by what she has seen since waking up in this strange land, as the last thing she remembers was being sacrificed and dying! But without Mono's help, baby Wander would surely have died from exposure and starvation.

In The Last Guardian it is Trico who saves the boy... a wonderful and emotional moment in the game for sure! Trico is badly injured after its encounter with the other ravenous 'brainwashed' Tircos - I mean it's tail was ripped off for God's sake! Yet after they have departed, it has enough sense left to search for the boy, finding him unconsciousness at the bottom of the well, along with the remains of what was once the Master of the Valley. Near death, it crashes to the floor and again scoops up the unconscious boy in one final brave act of loyalty! It will grant the boy's most cherished wish, and take his back to his village. 

Baby Wander and the boy are saved at the end

Shrine of Worship & the White Tower
Both Shadow of the Colossus and The Last Guardian feature an enormous tower (or temple) as the main building where all events coalesce at the end of the game. However, the Shrine of Worship, as massive as it is pales into significance against the grandeur and size of the white tower. This structure is truly beyond imagining in scale and architectural reality... it really seems to defy any of our known laws of physics! Of course I have no way to measure the height of the white tower, but if I ever get the chance, I can guarantee it will be at least twice or three times the height of the Shrine of Worship.

Shrine of Worship & the white tower

Below we see the boy hanging onto Trico's tail when we reach the elevator at the top of the white tower, below him it doesn't seem that far down... in fact if you look close enough you can see the bottom. I've tried to drop down there but the game resets, so it's too far for the boy to fall. But there is something down there in the very centre of the circular floor that seems to pulsate with light, glowing on and off at intervals! If you shoot this debris with the mirror you will see that it's just the remains of the guards that have fallen into the pit. The floor is concave so the remains of the guards will always roll down into the centre of the pit.

The remains of the destroyed guards far below

Unique to The Last Guardian
Compared to Team Ico's previous two games, The Last Guardian has some unique additions that only apply to this game, that is, they have no precedence in Ico or Shadow of the Colossus. Of course it makes sense that Ueda would add new features to his latest game as he had a lot more memory to play around with using the PS4 platform. But even so, we can see in some new additions a resemblance to his two previous games.

Stain Glass Eye Barriers
Unique to The Last Guardian are the strange 'eye' designs that are littered about the temple complex. They remind me of the stain glass windows we see in churches to impress their parishioners, so it makes sense that these eye barriers might have a religious meaning to them. Perhaps they are in some way praising the Master of the Valley? Or perhaps they have no meaning at all, just a device to frighten the Tricos?

They are found in all areas, some at ground level, some placed on walls, others mounted on elaborate trolleys and some hanging suspended high above on cables. A few of these symbols seemed to have fallen down and landed on the ground below, which is why the boy finds some already broken at ground level. Conveniently, they have handles which allows him to push them over the edge into the vast void below. Note: The stained-glass eyes were inspired by objects hung in Japanese rice paddies to keep crows away.

Stain glass eye barriers arranged to scare off the Tricos

As mentioned in my previous blog post about the history of The Last Guardian there is a similar eye design in Shadow of the Colossus (credit to Reddit user coaron). Of course this is just a nondescript wall texture found at #15's desert temple and in no way has any significance to the game, so I think any similarities here are spurious at best.

Strange 'Eye' designs seen in Shadow of the Colossus
The Black Mirror
One of the most interesting elements of The Last Guardian is the strange black mirror we receive at the start of the game. This is unlike anything we have seen before, both in style and design. In both earlier games, the only item we received (beyond what we start with) was a crude wooden stick. The mirror is something completely new and amazing as it has the ability to blast open doors (via Trico's tail) and also turn the guards back into their dormant state. That is, when you shine the mirror's reticle onto one of the armoured guards, they suddenly stop and revert to their original 'null' state. You can see these null states in the level where the boy has to navigate narrow wooden beams above the guards who look like a circular metal disc with their helmet (head) protruding above.

Guards in their dormant 'null' state

If you think about it, the guards in their 'null' state could be compared to the colossi before Wander triggers them. They had existed in their arenas for centuries (perhaps millennia) before Wander arrived, waiting out the eons until someone intruded into their domain. The armoured guards seem to behave in the same way.

The mirror is also used as a key to open and control various mechanisms in the white tower, such as opening the front gate, controlling the elevator and stopping the huge fan that controls the main antenna. Without this item, Trico and the boy would have had no chance to enter and destroy the Master of the Valley, and would have been forever trapped in the Nest.

The mirror is buried in the earth until it is discovered by some children of the village

This is the one detail in the game that I thought was a little hard to believe. As we know, the mirror was lodged in the earth when Trico regurgitated the boy at the end cutscene, there it lay for uncounted years until the next generation of children found it by chance. Perhaps a heavy rainstorm eroded the soil, exposing this ancient artifact? But surely the boy - once recovered from his long ordeal would have gone searching for it? 

I mean he had a full lifetime to consider the ramifications of his amazing experience with his beloved and enormous companion Trico! Surely, during his long years living at the village he would have gone searching for the mirror? All he had to do was to dig a little into the soil where he was found by the villagers when he was a boy. His amazing experience would have been the focus of the villager's lore for generations to come, a chosen one that was actually returned to his home!

Yet we don't see this? It's as if he boy has no interest in his childhood experience, it's only by a chance discovery by the next generation of some children that we finally rediscover this very important artifact. Then, and only then, does the boy, now an old man realise the importance of the discovery! He cleans the mirror back to its original sheen - a perfect uncontaminated piece of technology, unable to be corrupted by time or ware... 

The mirror also acts as a master key to operate and open various devices

Strange Sphere
Below we see this strange sphere jutting out from a completely separate room in the temple complex, far removed from the mirror room that has the same cryptic markings. What is this sphere doing here and what is its purpose I wonder? It seems to be part of the same technology as the mirror room, the entombed giant and the white tower, but its location makes no sense to me. In fact, apart from the mirror room and the white tower there are no other examples that have the same markings in the game that I could find.

So this sphere seems to be significant in some way. There are a couple of narrow pipes leading from it into the adjacent walls, but apart from that it looks like just another random thing in which the boy has to use in order to reach the bottom of the chamber. In fact, you can bypass the sphere altogether and jump straight to the hanging cage next to it. Perhaps this is a stone rendition of the Master of the Valley, like an idol statue that could be worshipped?

Stone statue of the Master of the Valley?

Another globe - this one looks metallic

When you are being chased by the other Trico at the 'rolling cage' area, the boy has to make his way down a couple of ladders and through a hallway that leads to a large well shaft. If you look up here you will see this metal globe suspended above. Could this be another representation of the Master of the Valley? Or does it have another purpose, perhaps an astronomical globe of the Earth?

Early image of the metal globe

Here we see the same globe from an early screenshot (circa 2011) which reveals some more details. It appears to have some dark and light patches which would strengthen the argument that this is a globe of the Earth and not the Master of the Valley, however until we can get a better look at the globe in the well shaft this will have to remain an open question for now.

Stone globe on pedestal

There are also these strange spheres mounted atop ornate stone pedestals which may or may not represent the Master of the Valley? Perhaps it's just the ancient architect's design choice xD. But the sphere is carved with cryptic symbols, so who knows? I find it interesting that the pedestal has what looks like an outlet that perhaps at one time was used to collect water? The well the boy climbs out of to reach this area is nearby, so we can imagine that it was once possible to draw water here.

Lifting Door Beams
A few doors are barred by heavy wooden beams that the boy has to lift with both hands in order to remove them. You can see how heavy they are by how the boy struggles to lift them. This is another unique feature that only appears in The Last Guardian.

Heavy wooden beams must be removed

Strange Glowing Turquoise Vessel
As revealed in the demo videos and images released for the game in years past, we had always seen this unique large pot/jar that the boy carries up some stairs. It's an unusual item as it only appears once in the game which suggests to me it was an early idea that somehow made it into the final release of the game. You find it hanging on a chain which you can lower by pulling a switch. Although the vessel is almost as large as the boy, it seems remarkably lightweight, as the boy has no problem lifting and carrying it. 

Another anomaly about this item is that it appears to hold the strange glowing turquoise liquid that seems to be leaking out over the rim, yet if you drop or throw it anywhere, the liquid doesn't spill out. It's like the liquid is a solid mass that has hardened and become part of the vessel that contains it. The glowing turquoise quality of the substance appears to be the same stuff we find in the barrels we feed to Trico, but why this large vessel exists on its own and is found nowhere else is just another mystery.

Unique vessel holds mysterious glowing liquid
Food barrels
In the early trailers and images of the game (since 2009) we always saw how the boy would feed Trico with the barrels. But what do the barrels contain? Is it one of the kidnapped children that has been minced and refined into a sick human soup, another incarnation of the 'Soylent green' idea? It has been suggested that the body of the child is processed into food for the Tricos, but the 'soul' or life force of the child is channelled to either the entombed giant in the mirror room or the Master of the Valley. 

But there is a lot of ancient mining equipment scattered around the temple in various places, great rail tracks with metal carriages, the remains of refineries etc. It seems there was a great effort to mine and process something in the past, perhaps this is where the turquoise substance comes from?

Boy carrying two stacked barrels - very tricky to pull off
Elevator Cages
I mentioned these above in the Ico section but as these strange cages are so unique, I thought I would add them here also, even though you only see them in one part of the temple. They appear to be based on the same weird alien technology we see in the white tower, with glowing icons powering up as soon as the boy walks onto the circular platform. As soon as the boy approaches one they automatically open, then close once the boy steps inside. You hear a low droning sound associated with their activation. But as advanced as these cages are they look simple from the outside, just a metal cage attached to a chain.

Strange alien looking elevator cages
Trico's Call of Nature
One of the stranger aspects of The Last Guardian is the fact that Trico can poop! I guess Ueda put this into the game as all mammals (including humans) take this for granted but avoid discussing it, but when our pets release their bowels we think nothing of it, we just see it as a natural thing animals do.

Trico's droppings

In one of the earlier trailers you see Trico raking the ground with its hind legs, throwing up dust and causing the boy to lose balance... this is exactly how cats behave after they expel their waste... they scratch the ground with their back legs to cover up and bury their leavings, very neat and tidy compared to a dog who just craps anywhere then moves on. The boy can even pick up and carry Trico's leavings, which appear to be translucent balls of liquid. Whether they smell or not isn't revealed in the game... the boy seems unperturbed by the experience ; ) See video here: https://youtu.be/DSO_PeuwYU4

Trico raking the ground behind it

There are some stacked rocks in Shadow of the Colossus that some players used to joke about being colossi droppings! It was never a serious subject, but once you visit these rock formations you can see how they might be interpreted as such.

Rocks look like colossi droppings ; )
Pull Heads off the Guards
Once a guard has been knocked down by Trico you can run up to it and grab hold of its head (helmet) and by holding down the CIRCLE button can pull it free. I've found that most of the time when I attempt to pull a head off, Trico arrives and smashes the guard to pieces before I have a chance to finish it off! But I did receive the 'Losing Their Minds' trophy which requires removing 10 or more heads ; )

Pulling heads off guards

So I wondered if this could be a weird homage to the earliest (OPM) demo of the Shadow of the Colossus? In that demo, and only that demo you can find an untextured and unfinished model of Mono in the secret garden. It's one of the rare glimpses of Team Ico's test areas that was not supposed to be seen by players. But thanks to a glitch in the demo, it was possible to climb all the way up to this inaccessible area and see this unfinished model of Mono. She is headless with her arms extended in the so called T stance.

Headless Mono model from the OPM demo
Vertiginous Heights
One of the most memorable experiences of The Last Guardian for me were the immense heights the boy had to endure in order to help Trico move on. Some of the high wire cable crossings actually caused a virtual 'vertigo' for me xD. Especially in the area where the boy has to navigate a series of high wire cages, metal platforms and cables to reach the suspended 'eye barriers' that restrict Tricos movements. This is unique to TLG as the highest we ever achieved in Shadow of the Colossus was riding the back of the two flying colossi, Avion and Phalanx. But compared to TLG there is no comparison... the immense depths we see below us in TLG really drives home how high up we are, and how far we have to fall if we slip or make a mistake!

Dizzying heights must be braved to help Trico

Same view from Trico's perspective (not seen in game)

Climb up to Higher Levels via Trico
This feature is unique to The Last Guardian, sure we could climb up the colossi in Shadow of the Colossus, but there was never any way to jump up to a higher platform from a colossus. But in TLG it's different. We have our own stupendous colossus that obeys our commands! If only we could command the colossi in SotC, think of the possibilities! The sad thing is that TLG is in essence a linear game, we are forced forward via Trico's movements, this is not an open world game like SotC, it's much more like Ico in style as we are limited to the design of the temple complex and where Trico can move.

The boy needs Trico to climb higher
Pull out Spears from Trico
Trico has two spears lodged in its body when the boy first wakes up in the cave next to the beast. This concept is based on the old Greek myth of Androcles and the Lion. The story goes like this: 'Poor Androcles was in despair; he had not strength to rise and run away, and there was the lion coming upon him. But when the great beast came up to him instead of attacking him it kept on moaning and groaning and looking at Androcles, who saw that the lion was holding out his right paw, which was covered with blood and much swollen. Looking more closely at it Androcles saw a great big thorn pressed into the paw, which was the cause of all the lion's trouble. Plucking up courage he seized hold of the thorn and drew it out of the lion's paw, who roared with pain when the thorn came out, but soon after found such relief from it that he fawned upon Androcles and showed, in every way that he knew, to whom he owed the relief.' 

So we can see where Ueda might have gotten his idea of Trico being helpless and wounded and why it 'fawns' upon the boy instead of eating him! It's an ancient concept, help given will be rewarded with help, or more colloquially 'You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours'. Ironically, the first two spears the boy pulls from Trico's body are the same ones thrown by his village friends to try and save him from the beast!

The boy must gain Trico's trust by removing spears
Crawling through Tunnels
In The Last Guardian the boy is forced to crawl through narrow tunnels in order to reach new levels. There's no evidence of this feature in Ico, but in Shadow of the Colossus there are a couple of drains in the secret garden where this is possible, but only by hacking the game and even then it's very glitchy... not worth even mentioning really. But the tunnels are so narrow that only the boy is small enough to squeeze through.

Narrow tunnels that only the boy can crawl through
Antennas
The main antenna in The Last Guardian is featured in the final cutscene, it is activated once Trico and the boy reach the top of the white tower. Somehow the Master of the Valley senses that there is a danger to its existence so it sends out a homing signal which draws in the other Tricos. At first our Trico seems to be in no danger, one of the Tricos smells our Trico then moves away, but another notices the boy and reacts violently! It starts to attack the boy, at which time our Trico steps in and protects him. This draws the attention of all the other Tricos, and suddenly our Trico is outnumbered and in very great danger.

Master of the Valley sends out a homing signal to the Tricos
Trico's Die!
Once the main tower antenna has been destroyed by the amputated Trico tail, the Master of the Valley implodes and almost kills the boy in its death throws, as so much debris is expelled when it is destroyed. The boy is ravaged by a multitude of shrapnel thrown off by the Master of the Valley. Up above, we see the other (brainwashed) Tricos stop attacking 'our' Trico and look around as if they are experiencing their first gasp of freedom in as long as they can remember, many have forgotten what their life was like before...

The shift in their consciousness is so puissant that they have no means to deal with this new found realization of what they are or why they exist! Overwhelmed by this new revelation, they all lose their mental faculties and drop like stones from the heavens. We see the Tricos on the edge of the white tower start to drop, while the others flying around just stop and begin to fall down like so many raindrops in a heavy downpour of rain. 

Tricos drop from the sky once the Master of the Valley has been destroyed!
Trico Statues
It appears there may have only been 16 Tricos in the game, our Trico, the other Trico we see that fights us, and eight more we see in the final cutscene (makes 10) and six more we don't see. This was noticed by a user 'Nightwind's Top Gaming' who found an image in the TLG artbook showing an early sketch of the Nest with 16 Trico statues perched on the outer rim of the crater. 

16 Trico statues around the rim of the crater

So I was wondering if there is any relationship between the Trico statues we see scattered around the temple complex and the Tricos themselves? Could they be the same golem type entities we see in Shadow of the Colossus? That is, when a Trico dies does it revert back to clay and stone like the colossi did? As we don't actually see any Trico remains this has to remain an open question for now, but perhaps some of the broken statues we see might be the remains of dead Tricos... or they could just be fallen Trico statues.

GenDesign website shows a Trico skeleton

On the GenDesign website you see a skeleton of Trico suggesting this was indeed a living, breathing creature and not an animated golem. We don't find any evidence of these skeletons in the game, but if it's part of GenDesign's website then we can be confident that the Tricos don't revert into a pile of stone, as we saw in Shadow of the Colossus.(Credit to tahk0).

Trico statues can be found in various parts of the game

We also find fallen and broken Trico statues

Update: There are actually 32 Trico statues around the rim of the volcano/crater, not 16 as was shown in the above Collector's edition art book (double the amount of colossi in SotC). It was Morlun91 who drew my attention to this, so I decided to test it by running around the rim of the white tower and taking hi-res snapshots of each statue from a distance. As long as you stay away from Trico you can run all the way around the rim of the tower without triggering the cutscenes. Interestingly, a Reddit user (jira89) noticed that there are also 32 birds at the final climatic cutscene in Ico.

32 Trico statues line the rim of the Nest complex


32 birds at the final cutscene in Ico
Fighting Tricos
The one thing fans always wanted to see in Shadow of the Colossus was a fight between two colossi! In The Last Guardian we finally see a what could only be described as a battle between two colossal creatures! Trico and the 'other' helmeted Trico. However, the battle seems one sided, with the other Trico having the upper hand. Our Trico doesn't seem to have a chance against this superior armoured Trico, and indeed needs the boy's help in order to survive. There are several stages to the fight, all requiring the boy's help in order to save Trico. However, I think seeing two of the humanoid colossi battling each other would have been even more exciting!

Battling Tricos

Photoshop montage of two colossi fighting each other
Guard's Weapon
The stone guards close their hands together in order to throw out a multitude of archaic symbols which seem to penetrate and subdue the boy. Only by mashing the controller buttons can you escape from their magical incarnations. It's even worse once they grab hold of the boy, now you have to really mash the controller buttons in order to escape, if you take too long you will be taken into one of the mysterious blue doors and never seen again! I guess the closest comparison would be the sigils we see in Shadow of the Colossus, however in TLG there are many different types of icons, in SotC there's just one.

Archaic symbols from The Last Guardian

Sigil from Shadow of the Colossus
Overlords
All three games feature powerful overlords that are nourished in some way by dark energy. Players have long discussed if these entities are truly 'evil' but they definitely have their own agendas and don't seem to have a problem if other people (especially children) suffer the consequences of their laws. In Ico, the Queen sacrificed children in order to prolong her own selfish life, in Shadow of the Colossus, Dormin used Wander in order to escape its imprisonment, and in The Last Guardian, the enigmatic Master of the Valley somehow uses the life force of children (also sacrifices) to create guards and make more food for its Trico guardians. They all use the same dark energy as a power source which seems to glow with the turquoise (blue/green) light, the shadows eyes and horns and the black tendrils in SotC for example. 

All three games feature powerful dark overlords
The Ending
I think most players of this game would agree that the ending was an amazing and emotional experience. Several popular Youtubers such as Pewdiepie and Jacksepticeye both were brought to tears at the end, I think most players (myself included) had a similar reaction. I'm not sure how many other games have elicited this response in players, some have said they felt an emotional response when Agro fell from the collapsing bridge in SotC, but compared to TLG's ending Agro's fall seems much less emotional in my opinion.

I think this is the first real example in the history of video games where a game can really move the player to tears, which is quite a leap when you think about it. Of course there are many movies that can move the audience to tears, but these are real people acting out real scenarios, video games are just digital pixels on a screen, so it's that much harder for a player to invest him or herself in a computer character.

The boy near death at the end

The great fear most fans had while we waited out the long years of the game's development was whether Trico would die at the end or not. I always said that the ending would be the same as Team Ico's previous two titles, that is it will appear the main companion character has died, but then will miraculously survive against all odds. This was true in Ico when it looked like Yorda went down with the Castle in the Mist, only to then wash up on beach, alive and well and hungry for watermelons xD. In Shadow of the Colossus, it looked like Agro died when she fell from the collapsing bridge but then later arrived limping to the Shrine of Worship, and in The Last Guardian it appeared that Trico was so badly injured after its outnumbered fight with the other Tricos and its strenuous effort to return the boy to his village, that it didn't have long to live.

Trico near death

But it appears my prediction was correct! But you have to wait until after the staff roll ending credits to see what happened. This is what I think happened after Trico delivered the boy to the village. Trico managed to fly back to the Nest and found a place to rest up and heal. Some of the armoured Tricos might have died once the Master of the Valley had ceased transmitting its homing beacon, but we have to remember that our Trico fell a 'long' way down into the Nest when it was hit by lightning and survived, so perhaps most of the other Tricos also survived? Trico could have mated with any one of these, but based on the final cutscene, the camera pans in on one particular Trico, which is the same one we had to fight earlier in the game.

If you remember, the boy pushed a heavy metal trolley down onto its head, breaking off its helmet and one of its horns, it's eyes change colour from red to normal, indicating that its dark influence was inadvertently removed... a happy accident. So when the homing signal was transmitted, this Trico only had one horn to receive the signal and as such wasn't drawn up to the top of the tower like the other 'armoured' Tricos were.

The other armoured Trico survived the ending

Now comes the question, was our Trico a female? I'm not sure about this as both Tricos seem to have the same genitalia, that is they both have an anus above and below a vulva urinary tract opening. I know this is an uncomfortable subject, but in order learn the truth we must make a detailed study of both Tricos' sex organs.

Our Trico's genitalia - you can see it has two openings

The other 'armoured' Trico's genitalia - again two openings

Other Trico appears to have 'teats'

But our Trico has no teats

One user on GamesF&Q (burqawitz) mentioned he had seen a number of teats on the other Tricos underbelly, so I checked this in my last playthrough and indeed I found this to be true! The other 'armoured' Trico appears to be a female as it has what look like teats, our Trico does not... so we can only concur (until we have more evidence) that our Trico is indeed a male. This goes against the previous two Team Ico games, as Yorda and Agro were female.

Trico with its pups

So we can assume that these two Tricos, now both free of the Master of the Valley's influence can behave the way they were intended, to procreate and live together as mates. This is the last scene we are shown in the game after the credits, the camera pans back to the well where we (the boy) first woke up, suffused with the light from the top of the cave we see two green glowing eyes, then a pair of smaller eyes appear next to them... at first you might think this is Trico and its mate, but then we hear the high pitched yelping of what sounds like pups! Grief is transmuted to joy ; ) Trico is alive and well, indeed thriving with its mate and pups in its old habitat. It's interesting to see that it chose this location to raise its pups, perhaps it had a strong connection to this place due to its memory of the boy and the adventures they shared?

Update: It appears there are actually three pairs of eyes in the final cutscene but you have to look very closely to see them. This would imply that our Trico is the one on the right (as you can make its horns glow by pressing the CIRCLE button), the pair of eyes on the left could be Trico's mate, and the smaller set of eyes in the centre might be the baby Trico? See high-res image here: http://imgur.com/7Qawrju

A third pair of eyes between the other two - hard to see
Timeline
I've not yet formulated a concrete timeline of the trilogy... my initial feeling is that The Last Guardian may be the first chapter in the trilogy, then Shadow of the Colossus, then Ico. My reasons for saying this is based on the entombed giant we first encounter in the mirror room. It seems to me that if this is indeed Dormin, or what was the precursor of Dormin, it received its life force from the Master of the Valley, which may have been an artificial intelligence or some kind of advanced program that held the entombed giant's mind and consciousness. It's no coincidence that in the final cutscene GenDesign makes a point to home in on this giant's tomb - there must be a reason for this! It seems this entombed giant is very special and may be the central nexus for the entire temple 'Nest' complex.

Entombed giant as shown in the final cutscene - very important to the story

But what happened after the Master of the Valley was destroyed? We have no way of knowing of course, but perhaps its demise initiated the giant's awakening? There must have been a failsafe device built into the Master of the Valley, if and when it was destroyed its accumulated knowledge would be sent back into the entombed giant as a last resort. Perhaps this was the trigger that finally made it possible for the giant to awake, after centuries of being asleep? The Nest was now devoid of all life except for the remaining Tricos, all the guards would have evaporated into nothingness once the Master of the Valley was vanquished, so in effect you would have another version of the forbidden lands, with nothing but the colossi (Tricos) and other minor animals.

 The 'Nest' temple complex devoid of life (image credit to CandykillerArt)

Note: CandykillerArt has updated this map with higher resolution and annotations! See Reddit link here:

This powerful spirit now looked for a new home, and found a hidden peninsula surrounded by ocean and occupied by primitive tribes... a fertile new land that it could exploit for its hunger for power and dominance. So begins the next chapter.

Note: There is also another theory which places the events in The Last Guardian 'after' Ico, that is SotC > Ico > TLG. This is based on the observation that the boy has no horns, suggesting the bloodline of the horned boys is now so diluted that only a small fragment of Dormin's bloodline is left, not enough to grow horns, but just enough for the Tricos to identify these 'special' children. We also have to consider how similar the Master of the Valley 'sphere' is to the globes seen in Ico above the main gates. As mentioned above, it seems the Master of the Valley is an updated version 2.0 of the Ico spheres.

The Last Big Secret
In Ico there was a special 'secret' room that could only be used once you had hit a random tree with the sword. There was a false door on a wall that you could push open... the wall had a different texture to the surrounding walls so it was a clue. Even then, you had to find the tree outside of the room and then swipe at it many times with the sword in order to make contact, at which time a large metal ball fell down out of the tree to the ground. You then had to pick up this ball and take it to the room, and throw it into a large metal container to claim your reward! Which was the mace in the NTSC/US version, or the lightsabre in the PAL version.

Secret room and item in Ico

In Shadow of the Colossus the special secret was climbing up to the Secret Garden which required the player to have a massive grip meter in order to accomplish this feat. Once there you realised that this beautiful garden paradise was the same thing we saw at the ending cutscene, where Agro and Mono with baby Wander in her arms travelled to.

Secret garden in Shadow of the Colossus

But in The Last Guardian, we have yet to find such a significant secret... if you hold down the CIRCLE button at the final screen of the end cutscene (that is after the end credits) you will see our Trico's horns glow. Could this be the 'big secret' in The Last Guardian? If so, it's a disappointing 'big' secret in my opinion. Both previous games had secrets based on hidden or inaccessible areas, that's what us fans want, not a mere push of a button, but a cleverly hidden off limits room or cave etc.

Last Guardian 'easter egg' at the final screen of the game

So I'll keep on searching, perhaps in vain for a secret location. Perhaps it's something we haven't considered yet, like climbing down Trico's tail to an unseen (off limits) area? It appears there may be a few places that might be accessed by this method... only time and the diligence of players will tell ; )