Monday, September 19, 2011

Shadow of the Colossus Review

Shadow of the Colossus is coming out in a HD PS3 collection pack, with ICO, on September 27th. It originally came out in 2005. As a prelude to it's release, I will be reviewing Shadow of the Colossus; the excellent and artistic giant slaying Playstation 2 game. ICO, the game it is combined with, was the game that Team ICO made before Shadow of the Colossus. ICO also had a lot of artistic flair, great graphics, shadowy monsters and strong emotional aspects, but it didn't have the same success or following that Shadow of the Colossus has/had. Shadow of the Colossus is about a nameless (some call him Wander) boy/hero that travels to a forbidden area of the world in order to try to save his loved one, a woman named Mono. People from the civilized world are on his tail and trying to capture or kill him. The area that the boy comes to is empty, but it has remnants of civilization all over the place and is filled with sleeping creatures. Creatures that he must awaken and kill in order to save his love one. It is a silent tale, but a tale of sorrow, guilt and beauty.

ICO & Shadow of the Colossus- HD TGS 2010 Trailer 

You start with a simple UI, showing a health bar and a sword. The hero has his trusted horse, a sword and a bow and that is all he needs to conquer all adventures before him. Your health bar can be increased by finding fruit trees around the world, by eating fruit you can increase your maximum health up to a limit. If you are a explorer like me, then you will easily max out your health, especially since you don't need to find all the fruit trees to max it out. You can unlock different swords, bows and special items by doing time challenges throughout the game, but other than that you are stuck with just your original horse, bow and sword. You must travel through the very large area, most of which is open to you right from the start, and find the first colossi to challenge (they must be fought in order). The only talking in this game is done by a unidentified presence in the temple that you start in. The presence tells you about colossus and guides you on your way in a mysterious manner. The first collosi is everything you would think of when thinking of a generic giant; huge, humanoid-ish in shape, slow and very strong, except this colossi looks more like it was made out of stone than flesh. You find this first colossi by holding up your sword to the sky, your sword will shine and show you the direction of your target.

The gameplay is a bit complicated at the start. Sure it's easy enough to learn how to whistle for your horse or  to move around, but when you have to figure out how to fight your first colossi, with no instruction, then you have to use trial and error to succeed. Each colossi in the game requires you to look at it and learn, quickly, how to approach it. All of the colossus require you to climb them in some way and once you latch onto a colossi then they will try to shake you off. Each colossi is unique and requires different tactics to conquer it; some colossus are large cumbersome creatures, some resembling agile serpents and some block out the sun, all of them are different and all of various difficulties. Shadow of the Colossus handles the pacing of colossus excellently, making their difficulty correlate directly with your knowledge of how to defeat the particular colossi.Fighting a colossi feels like a mix between an action game a puzzle game, and it mixes the two very well. You usually climb a colossi and find it's weak spot, or spots, and strike it with your sword continuously until it falls, but other colossus may require you to specifically use your bow or you may have to use both in conjunction. For example, one of the colossi requires you to irritate by shooting arrows at it and then it will get angry. Once the colossi is angry, it will try to smash your body into a bloody pulp and when it swings down to destroy, or stomps violently in your direction, then you can take advantage and latch onto that body part to start climbing towards it weak spots.

Every time you conquer a colossi, of which there are sixteen, in Shadow of the Colossus it feels like a great achievement, one that is accompanied by guilt. Through the story you see that the Colossus are just creatures, one's that you need to kill in order to save your love. If not for that objective, these Colossus would be untouched, unharmed and free to roam and live in the beautiful world they live in. This is an area of the world that has been taken over by nature, something that it feels like you are harming by destroying these creatures. It makes it worse when you are fighting Colossus that aren't even fighting back, merely just trying to shake you off their bodies, Colossus that seem peaceful. It all must be done, and whether the defeat of a Colossus is a great achievement, or a great sorrow, is up to you. Surely the end justifies the means.

The graphics of Shadow of the Colossus were excellent at the time, above their station, something that people didn't think the Playstation 2 had the hardware to achieve. Now, the game is coming out in HD, and it does look great. It's obvious that this isn't a PS3 game, but if you can get past that you should be able to thoroughly enjoy the vast landscapes, detailed colossus and ancient overgrown ruins. With the HD they are also adding trophy support for the PS3, which no one will probably care about, but it's worth noting. The world that is presented to you is very large and very fun to explore. It is devoid of sound, other than the sound of your horse, nature and the colossus. There is music in the game, but it is only presented during cut scenes. The game has orchestral music, music that fits the cut scenes quite well, but the lack of music from the other portions of the game actually adds to the feeling of isolation.

The HD collection will be coming out on Septemeber 27th and it is $39.99, containing both Shadow of the Colossus and ICO. There are reviews for it already, the only one I've seen so far is from IGN, but I'm sure there are others out there as well. Shadow of the Colossus is an experience that no one should miss and now it's even better looking, and feeling, thanks to improved visuals and improved controls. If you have the money, or time, you should definitely check this out. I will be reviewing this as a classic corner game and not with a normal number score.

A good  PS2/PS3 comparison video by IGN

Shadow of the Colossus is unquestionably Legendary
Thanks for showing me that art and emotion have a place in the video game world.

Thanks for reading, be back later tonight with some more gaming news.
-Written by Sean Cargle


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