In preparation for my review—going live on Wednesday, June 5th at 7 A.M. Pacific time!—I’ll be playing a little game from Sony and Naughty Dog called The Last of Us.
The game is the story of Ellie, a young girl with dreams of joining her high school’s chess team—a dream that seems as if it’ll go unfulfilled, however, as the all-boy team scoffs at the idea of taking in a girl. Ellie runs home crying; unbeknownst to her, the sight of her tear-stained face is caught through the window by Joel, her quiet and somewhat mysterious next door neighbor. Ellie is also unaware of Joel’s greatest secret: in his youth, he was a world-renowned chess player.
The trouble was, his power over bishops and pawns was too great, and he ran afoul of a group of Russian thugs determined to make sure their homeland retained the title of world chess champion. Joel went into hiding, changed his name, and hadn’t thought about the game for years—until now, that is. Unable to stop himself, Joel takes Ellie in as a protege, and makes her a promise: if she can beat all of the members of the chess team with her new skills, then there’s no way they’ll be able to deny her entry into their club.
Thus sets the stage for Naughty Dog’s long-awaited follow-up to their popular Uncharted franchise. While I’m not too far into it yet, I can already promise you that The Last of Us is a gripping tale of ambition, heartbreak, oppression, determination, perseverance, and—most importantly—love.
“Our kind…those who truly love the game of chess…we’re a dying breed,” Joel says to Ellie early in the game, as the scene shows him digging into a long-forgotten box of items from his youth. “Those boys in the club, they see it as a hobby, as a way to reassure themselves that the reason they aren’t off living their lives in other ways is because they’re there for the game—not because they have no other lives.”
Joel finally finds what he’s searching for: an old, weathered queen. He hands it to Ellie, who takes it, not fully aware of its significance. She gentle moves the piece around in her hand, looking at all of its sides, until she comes across a name on the bottom: Bobby Fischer.
“We’re the last of our kind Ellie, but that’s even more reason to fight,” Joel finishes, a smile coming to his lips as he does. “They’ll never be able to beat the last of the true chess players. They’ll never be able to beat the last of us.”
…wait, hang on. Hmm. Maybe I’m getting The Last of Us confused with something else. It’s about chess, right? Or was it something about mutant fungus zombies? I guess I should indeed play more of it before my review next week.