Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus is one of the decade's most unforgettable games.

By CallMeLuke, Posted 01 Jan 2011

In 2001, Team ICO created a game for the PlayStation 2 called ICO. It was about a boy who was trying to escape from a castle with a girl named Yorda. It featured wonderful environments and excellent level design. Shadow of the Colossus, released in 2005, is considered to be the spiritual successor, and it brings gamers a much larger world with giant enemies to climb and conquer. There really hasn't been another game like it since then.

Shadow of the Colossus Review

Shadow of the Colossus begins with a young man named Wander riding on his horse Agro. They're making a journey to a shrine, and with them is the body of a woman, Wander's lost love. When they arrive to the shrine, he places her body on an altar and is met by a collective of spirits known as Dormin. They see he has a legendary sword, and asks why he has come to their shrine. Wander wants the soul of his love returned to her body, and the spirits are willing to do so, but they ask him to slay 16 massive colossi. Without hesitation, Wander mounts Agro and begins his search for the first of the 16 colossi he must kill.

Back then, Shadow of the Colossus was a technical achievement simply because of how massive the world was. There have been giant worlds in games before, but Shadow of the Colossus was one of the first to offer a spanning land without any load times. Anything you saw in the distance you could approach, never once being interrupted by a single load time. This meant you could enjoy every breathtaking sight you came across without being taken out of the game.

In this ancient land are hidden 16 colossi. They vary not only in size, but in shape and behavior. The most common are giants, wielding clubs and cleavers that cause earthquakes when they strike the ground. There's one fashioned after a huge bird, soaring high above the lake. A couple are ferocious beasts that charge after wander, while others occupy sand-filled caverns and sun-baked sand dunes. Some of the creatures are docile, merely roaming around their stations, while others will try to crush Wander or shoot deadly energy at him. One thing remains constant: they all need to be destroyed.

Simply swinging your sword at one of these colossus monsters isn't enough to bring it down. You have to find a way to climb them and then look for their vital weak points. They all have hairy surfaces, which allow for Wander to grab hold of them. Some can be climbed by merely approaching them, while others will require the use of the environment in order to get on to them. Once you're aboard and you've found their weak point, you then raise your sword and strike. The longer you charge your attack, the more damage you'll do. Some colossi also have multiple weak points, requiring you to traverse their entire body to pierce them all.

Shadow of the Colossus Review

Shadow of the Colossus differs from ICO in the fact that the main character actually has stamina and health. There is a pinkish circle that represents Wander's grip meter. The longer you're holding R1 to grip a ledge or a colossus's hair, the smaller the circle will become. Once it empties, Wander will lose his grip and fall. It replenishes quickly provided you can find a stable surface to stand on long enough. They will try to shake you off every chance they get. There's a red bar that signifies Wander's health, and it depletes every time he takes a bad fall or is attacked, stomped or rammed by a colossus. Like the grip meter, it also replenishes but at a much slower rate.

As majestic as the game is and as wonderfully fun as it is to play, it's dragged down by some serious technical issues. Wander controls fine, but sometimes his climbing can prove to be cumbersome, as jumping can be a bit unresponsive at times. Agro is very awkward to control, because you can't control his rate of movement. You press X to kick him and each time you do, he goes faster. You then pull back on the stick to stop him, but he just can't stop on a dime. It would have been better if his movement was entirely dictated by the left analogue stick.

Shadow of the Colossus's most heinous problem is the camera. Moving it around takes a bit of work to do, and it's complicated further by how close you get to some of the colossi. When operating on its own, it very rarely gives you the optimal angle you need to make that critical jump. When exploring the environment, it's designed to provide you with some fantastic shots but not necessarily the best views for navigation. The camera doesn't make the game impossible to play, but it does make it a bit frustrating at times. Still, it's not something you can't get used to. The game's just too good not to forgive this flaw.

Graphically, you can actually hear the PS2 groan under the immense strain the game puts on its engine. It's such an ambitious project to make the game render a vast environment all at once while also animating what is essentially a living, moving level. This means the game's visuals are bogged down by stuttering frame rates, and the texture resolution is rather low. Still, the artistic direction more than makes up for the technical faults. The game's beautiful in its design and the colossi are so majestic, you can't help but be in awe of their presence. The direction in general is absolutely fantastic, making you feel pangs of remorse for killing such incredibly wondrous creatures.

Shadow of the Colossus Review

The game has no problems at all, though, in the audio realm. The sound design is superb, with its greatest effects coming from the colossi themselves. Every earth-shaking stomp they take and every groan and roar they utter instills a fearful respect in you. Other sound effects such as the grinding of stone on stone and roaring waterfalls are all terrific. When riding through the land, no music plays allowing for environmental sounds like wind and rain to come through crystal clear. Music kicks in when you find your colossus, and then it changes tracks seamlessly when you finally manage to start climbing it. As with ICO, all spoken dialogue is in an entirely foreign language, cementing Shadow of the Colossus's otherworldly feel.

If you never played Shadow of the Colossus before, you're missing out on a phenomenal game. The atmosphere is incredible and the story telling is simple, yet marvelous. Bearing witness to these colossi and then finally conquering them is such a magical feeling very rarely felt in games today. If you own a PS3, Shadow of the Colossus will be rereleased in a few months in the upcoming ICO collection with improved hi-definition graphics, so you should make it a note to pick that collection up. Even if you previously owned it on the PS2, it will be worth experiencing all over again without encumbered visuals. If you don't own a PS3, you definitely need to own Shadow of the Colossus on your PS2.

Lucas Stephens, Noobfeed

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  • Sounds like an incredible game.

    Posted Jan 18, 2011


General Information

Platform(s): PS3
Publisher(s): Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer(s): Team Ico
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Fantasy
Release Date: 2005-10-18

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