Shadow of the Colossus – PS2
Platform: PlayStation 2
Developer: Team Ico
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date (NA): October 18, 2005
Nerd Rating: 6.6 out of 10
Reviewed by Dovahkyle
Steeped in adventure, you should play this game just for the scenery if nothing else. Although the play style is unique in this game with boss fights similar to the God of War series, the environments are mind-blowing and awe-inspiring. The character I took on was a man called Wander, who is sent to destroy the Colossi. To imagine the stature of these creatures, picture the Titans, like Cronos, from the Greek stories of Olympus. These Colossi are easily the size of skyscrapers, and figuring out how to bring them down becomes more of a challenge than actually killing them.
With only a sword, a bow, and a horse named Agro, Wander must defeat 16 of these massive beasts. Using the environment to your advantage becomes the only way to defeat many of these creatures. One interesting factor in the game was Wander’s relationship with his horse Agro, who was programmed to react to commands more like a real horse:
“A real horse, doesn’t always obey. It’s not like a car or motorcycle; it won’t always turn when you say, ‘Turn!’” -Fumito Ueda (Lead Designer)
This idea had to be balanced so as not to sacrifice playability for realism, but this definitely made the things more interesting. I remember being blown away with each new encounter as if I was enjoying a great J.R.R. Tolkien film instead of actually playing a game. There are no enemies in Shadow of the Colossus except for the Colossi; there are no dungeons or towns or even NPCs to interact with. The game is 100% focused on the hunting and destruction of the colossi – that is it.
Gameplay: Now you may start to think, “with nothing else to do, this game sounds boring.” FALSE! this game is exciting from the first moment you jump on the back of Agro, to the falling of the last Colossi. I was really disappointed when I realized this game was not going to have a direct sequel, but instead was itself an unofficial prequel to Ico.
Like I mentioned before, the gameplay is entirely about defeating the Colossi, and the puzzle solving to reveal and reach the beast’s weak point(s). If you have ever defeated a boss on any of the God of War games, then you will catch onto the battle real quick – for example, the beast will shake and Wander will swing to the front of its body. Just then, the screen will prompt the player to hit “triangle,” and if successful, the battle scene will continue with more prompts, which can include, partial or full rotation of a joystick or combinations of buttons. If unsuccessful, Wander could be cast down or could fall to a lower level. The beasts are gigantic, so getting to the weak spot (which can be anywhere, but is usually not in a location easy to get to) can prove timely and difficult.
The sword Wander carries can point the player in the right direction (by reflecting sunlight) to find the next colossus to defeat, or once the monster is found it can reveal the weak point(s). The surrounding environment can be used (has to be) most of the time to help the player reach the colossus and climb on it, as most of the colossi battles require Wander to ride atop these beasts to defeat them. I believe it was the first encounter that required Wander to ride Agro to the colossus and then leap from the running horse onto the leg (or foot) of the beast while it is walking during the battle. These are extremely fun to figure out and attempt correctly the first time; as the game progresses, the colossi become more difficult to defeat.
Story: Wander wants to revive a dead girl named Mono, so Dormin (who has the power to revive the dead) agrees to help him if he travels to the forbidden land and defeats the sixteen colossi. Not much is said about Mono or why Wander wants to revive her, but it gives a purpose for the killing of the sixteen. I wasn’t impressed with the story, but they could have not even had one and this game would have been just as good. The whole fun of the game goes way beyond any fathomed storyline, so I really didn’t care either way – I still loved it.
Controls: This is one of those games where fluency with the duel shock controller becomes extremely useful. I’m not saying that someone with little to no experience couldn’t learn to play the game, but being comfortable with the PS2 controller will really make this game more of a timing game and less of a “hit the right button” game.
Graphics/sound: The galloping hooves and slicing of the sword, in combination with the mighty roar and foot stomps of the colossi, make this game sound amazing. I mean, I know it’s just PlayStation 2, but really, this game blew me away with the sounds and visuals. The blaring sunlight when looking up at these giants and the fur blowing in the wind really put me on the edge of my seat every time I was on one of these monsters. I felt such a sense of satisfaction after a successful defeat, I could just sit back and watch it fall – truly awesome.
Replayability: As much as I love Shadow of the Colossus, there is really little to no replayability here. From start to finish, it will put you on the edge of your seat, and push you off, but once it’s done, it’s done. I could see playing it again in a couple of years when I don’t have anything better to play, but other than that, not really.
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