30 in 30: Team ICO
7th Dec 2011 | 17:30
There are very few developers who have such a distinct style that you could identify one of their games simply by looking at it.
Team ICO may only have two titles to its name, but it's already developed a rich identity thats testament to the uniqueness and innovation packed into both.
Team ICO's work actually started out on the PSone. In 1997 director and lead designer Fumito Ueda came up with an idea for a unique game revolved around a 'boy meets girl' mechanic. The idea was to form a special relationship with these characters, having them hold hands throughout the adventure and help each other through difficult spots.
But two years into development Ueda and the team he'd assembled realised that his innovative idea outstripped the technical capabilities of Sony's grey box. He needed more power and so, rather than dilute the idea to get it working on old hardware the team switched development over to the then insanely powerful PS2.
Ico was born. Its debut game was met with mixed success at retail, but there was no doubting that this small team of game designers in Japan had crafted one of the most unique games of the generation.
Fast forward today and Team ICO has a loyal following as passionate about its games as die-hard Nintendo fans. Its work on the latest project, The Last Guardian, may be completely shrouded in secrecy but for those fans it doesn't matter - it's already a day-one purchase.
While teams like Naughty Dog and Polyphony create some of the best games in existing genres, Team ICO invents its own genres entirely. I calves its own path. Team ICO is Sony's top innovator.
Killer Quote: 'I'm always thinking about creating a game that I'd want to play but that doesn't currently exist - I want to make that happen. As a creator, I think that developing a truly immersive experience and creating a believable reality even within a fictional world is very important and unique to the interactive nature of gaming.' - Fumito Ueda
Director and lead designer Ueda majored in arts in college in 1993 before getting into the video game industry, so it's perhaps no surprise that he has created some of the most artistically stunning and unique video games in existence. You have seen Shadow of the Colossus, right?
Ueda's career however, could have panned out very differently if his initial venture as an artist had been more successful. Deciding instead to work in video games, Ueda landed his first gig with developer WARP as an artist on Sega Saturn game Enemy Zero.
In 1997 Ueda scored a job at a first party development team, and has been a key creative force behind the fascinating sights and sounds that make up Team ICO's PS2 masterpieces. Which is why it was such potentially devastating news when unconfirmed reports of his departure from Sony emerged last week.
Without actually addressing these reports, Ueda has thankfully confirmed that he's still hard at work on the studio's third game, The Last Guardian, be that in a freelance capacity as reported or otherwise. Either way, The Last Guardian looks incredible and we can't wait.
Producer Kenji Kaido has a further-reaching career in games than Ueda, having begun his gaming works back in 1987.
Kaido started out in the arcade business, as lead designer on titles such as Bonze Adventure, Night Striker, Warrior Blade and more at Taito.
Kaido later helped create a home karaoke console called the X55 before serving as lead designer for another arcade title, Cleopatra Fortune.
The part you'll care about though is his work with Sony, which started on Ape Escape before switching over to the producer's chair on Ico and, later, Shadow of the Colossus.
TEAM ICO GAMES WE LOVED
A game so good the developer is named after it. Ico tells the intriguing tale of a young boy who meets a mysterious girl trapped in a cage.
After rescuing her players set out on an artistic and unique quest, holding the hand of their new friend as they lead her safely through epic landscapes haunted by a dark evil.
We don't want to say too much because you if you don't already know what it's all about you need to go out and buy the Team ICO Collection for PS3 NOW. It's the game that defined Team ICO's 'less is more' minimalist approach to massive adventures, and that distinctive sense of lonely isolation, intrigue and wonder.
Shadow of the Colossus
If you had a PS2 and never played Shadow of the Colossus we pity your life. There's no other way to say it; Shadow of the Colossus defines the word 'masterpiece'.
It's artistic in ways you can only understand if you played it. Its world is desolate and almost morbid, yet it somehow manages to be beautiful and deeply interesting. Its plot unfolds via the most minimalist dialog between just two characters and yet is emotional and gripping every step of the way.
Your objective - to kill 16 spectacularly large Colossi - given to you by your only ally, the voice in the sky, is clear yet dubiously suspect. And as such, the immense satisfaction of your victory over such enormous beasts is inexplicably marred with sorrow and even guilt.
What the hell is actually going on here? We implore you to find out for yourself. Trust us - you will not be disappointed.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Team ICO is deep into the development of its third game, The Last Guardian, and all signs so far point to another quest set to live up to the pedigree set by Shadows of the Colossus.
Seemingly inheriting elements from both its spiritual predecessors, TLG follows a small boy and his intriguing relationship with a giant bird-cat crossover animal, known as Trico. Although the actual plot remains a mystery, trailers of the game have showed boy and beast working together to overcome spectacular obstacles in another distinctively Team ICO world.
Previously expected for release this year, TLG was a no-show at all of the year's major games expos, signaling its inevitable delay into next year.