Ico’s PS1 Build Revealed On Its 20th Anniversary

Ico launched on the PS2 in Japan twenty years ago today. The game was dreamt up by Fumito Ueda, based on his concept of a young boy and a slightly older girl escaping a castle in which they are abandoned and confined. Ico would go on to become a cult classic. On its Japanese anniversary, genDESIGN, the studio formed by Fumito Ueda and former members of Team Ico, has released a video showing footage of an early build of Ico.

While Ico would debut on the PS2, the just-released footage shows off a build developed on the original PlayStation. Ueda's story of a boy with horns, equipped with a wooden sword, leading a willowy girl around the castle was minimalist, while the vividly drawn environment and clever puzzles drew players in. Ueda's enchantment was strong as every piece of his game seemed to amplify the essence of his story and worked together to become more than the sum of its parts. The three-minute video shows a combination of CG and the first PlayStation video. The description, which is in Japanese, details which software was used for motion and modelling, and elaborates on Ueda's purpose with this initial development video at the time.

"What kind of game will ICO become?" reads the description, via Google Translate. Ueda tells that he was "groping in the dark" when he was working on this build, and that there are scan lines and noise in the images and sound, but it seems like this wasn't his priority. "I want you to feel the atmosphere of the time," he says to the viewer, adding that he hasn't modified or edited the video for current display purposes. This is the original. In the description there is also a detailed anecdote about why the song that plays throughout the video, Momus' Summer Holiday (1999), was so important to the emerging developer since it seemed a match for the designer's vision for his debut game.

The video is fairly close to the final game. We see the castle environment, waterfalls, bridges, and even the blocks that the horned boy pushes in puzzles. But there are noticeable differences, such as in the design of the girl who accompanies the boy. For a PS1 build, the environments Ueda built still seems to hold up, with the unique atmosphere and look of Ico instantly recognisable. The game designer would go on to make artistically admired classics Shadow of the Colossus for the PS2, and The Last Guardian for the PS4.

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