Sony Computer EntertainmentDeveloped by:
Third-Person Adventure Players:
October 18, 2005 Written by:
Shadow of the Colossus, the spiritual follow up to Ico from Sony Computer Entertainment, can be somewhat of a difficult game to describe, as you can’t really talk about what makes the game so cool as easily as with many other games. But I’m still going to try. It’s a game that is simple yet at the same time can be grand enough to leave players in awe and this is what sets the game apart as well as makes it worth playing.
In Shadow of the Colossus you play as a young traveler who has come to a “forbidden land” in order to restore the life of the girl he loves. The nature of the young man’s relationship to the girl is unknown, but what soon becomes known is the length to which he’ll go in order to bring her back, as he’ll have to track down and kill 16 Colossi spread across the land.
As soon as the game starts you start to realize that there is something different about how Shadow of the Colossus looks and feels. It’s a bit hard to describe but whether it has something to do with the cool motion blur effects that seem to amplify the sense of action and intensity during colossus fights, or just the way the camera positions itself to give a different sense of perspective in the game, there is something about the look of Shadow of the Colossus that makes it feel almost as if you are playing a movie or playing a cutscene. This is one of the things that makes Shadow of the Colossus a memorable experience.
What’s simple about this game is that all you really do is travel across the game world and fight 16 bosses. There are few obstacles and no enemies in between. Just you, the land, and 16 bosses. That’s it. You start out in a sort of temple in the center of the game world from which you set out equipped with only a sword, a bow, and a trusty horse with which to find and kill each colossus.
Once they get out into the game world, players should soon realize that it is incredibly vast and expansive. Simply riding around the land is part of the fun of the game as players are treated with beautiful views of mountains, waterfalls, and many other features which they’ll encounter. In order to reach each colossus players will have to traverse through vast planes, around mountains, over hills, through deserts and forests, across lakes, through misty geyser fields, and into deep caves and ruins, all of which constantly stream off of the disk in the same game world with virtually no load times.
These landscapes are big and very nicely rendered, but are also not at all densely populated, with almost no animals bigger than maybe a lizard or a turtle. Every once in a while players might find items like fruit from trees or lizard tails to increase health and stamina, but not much else. The overall effect this sort of “emptiness” has on the game is almost completely up to the player. The relative barrenness of the game world is probably due to the fact that the traveling part of the adventure is really just about trying to find each colossus by exploring the landscape itself, which is mostly done on horseback. Using the horse in this game is pretty much the only way to get around in any reasonable amount of time. However, because of this game’s somewhat awkward camera which can be hard to control while riding or while fighting a colossus, the horse can sometimes be difficult to control when going through the less spacious parts of the game like land bridges or forests. While this problem does get frustrating at times, it is far outweighed by the game’s stronger points.
Eventually, players will find a colossus and have to kill it. Let me first say that these things are GIGANTIC. The Colossi in Shadow of the Colossus are simply some of the biggest character models I have ever seen in a videogame, ever. On top of this, they come in some pretty varied designs that SCEI obviously spent some serious time on. Players will fight various forms including a Minotaur, a bird, and even an Eel. A lot of the fun in this game is in simply looking at a 5 or 6 story-tall monster and saying “I have to kill that.” The last two colossi literally scared the hell out of me.
Actually fighting and killing each colossus can be a pretty big and complex undertaking too, as players must first find out where the weak point on each colossus is, and then somehow figure out how to get to it by making it reveal its weak point or by getting past its armor somehow. A lot of the challenge in this game is just figuring out how to kill each colossus while trying not to get killed. If players get that far, they’ll have to climb onto it by grabbing footholds in its armor or by grabbing its hair (which is rendered quite beautifully by the way), then they’ll have to find the weak point and stab it until the colossus dies. Doing this is no easy task, as you’ll have to keep grabbing onto it with the R1 button as the colossus constantly wiggles and shakes around trying to throw you off of it. While this is happening you also have a sort of grip gauge which is constantly being depleted as you are holding on. If it runs out, you fall off and must climb up again, oftentimes repeating an entire elaborate process of getting onto the colossus. Actually encountering a colossus, then figuring out how to get onto it and kill it can be a true struggle, and can give off a genuine sense of accomplishment after each battle is over.
Each colossus fight is complimented with fully orchestrated music from the game’s excellent soundtrack. The dramatic music in this game perfectly captures the sense of conflict and struggle in each battle and changes to fit the changing mood with each stage of a battle, which makes for a varied soundtrack that sounds great whether you’re playing the game or just listening to the OST. Definitely one of this game’s integral strong points.
As much as this game goes for a solemn sense of isolation, there is actually a little voice acting in Shadow of the Colossus at the beginning and end as well as a few words in between. It’s all done in a different language (probably made up for this game) that fits in with the game’s style and is pulled off well.
After killing each colossus the cycle of exploring the game world, finding, and killing the next one repeats again until all 16 are dead and the first playthrough, which will probably only last a few hours, ends. After the first playthrough, players are presented with the option of starting a new game in hard mode or going through the game again with a time limit on killing each colossus. Through this, players can also unlock a bunch of special items like new weapons and other equipment.Closing Comments
As soon as the game starts Shadow of the Colossus amazes with an incredible aesthetic presentation and sense of scale that can leave players in awe, far outweighing the game’s few weak points. With an expansive, vast game world and ridiculously gigantic bosses to fight, Shadow of the Colossus is without a doubt one of the most memorable gaming experiences of this year.8.8/
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