Shadow of the Colossus
Developer: SCEI
Publisher: SCEA
Release Date: 17/02/2006
Players: 1
Words By:

I am finding it really hard to review Shadow of the Colossus. On the one hand, it's a very simple game; you run towards an area, fight a boss, kill it, mission complete, and repeat. Sixteen times. That's the game summed up, in the most basic form. However on the other hand I believe this is the one of the finest videogames of all time. If this were the last game ever made, my hobby would be ending with the most perfect delivery possible. I really, honestly believe that...

Shadow of the Colossus has touched me in a way no other videogame has done before. It is the most enchanting, and beautiful world I have even seen in a game, with a story that is simple and sweet, and is very much a fairytale. It’s the way that the story is told and how you care about the characters that make it so different. Shadow of the Colossus is an epic beyond all expectations, and without doubt it’s my Game of the Year for 2005 (This review was done from the NTSC version last year).

The game begins with a young boy on horseback, riding through various landscapes and environments, heading towards an ancient temple. He reaches the temple and lifts off the body of a deceased maiden, and lays her carefully on an altar. He believes the temple holds magical powers, and that the young maiden can return back to life again. A conversation with the boy and an unseen character called Dormin confirms that indeed it is possible to bring the deceased back to life, but it will require the slaying of sixteen Colossi that reside in the world.

You take control of the boy, and the game begins. For those that have played the amazing Ico, which obviously isn’t that many of you, the game controls in a similar way to that. Left stick makes you walk and run, and ‘triangle’ is jump. Pressing and holding 'R1' allows the boy to grab and hold onto ledges, and ‘Square’ is attack. Pressing ‘Circle’ will hold up your sword, which you need to do so you can reflect the sun off of it, and find out where the next Colossus is located. It’s also used to locate weak points on the beasts, but more of that later. Camera control is with the right stick, and the shoulder buttons give you further adjustment too. Finally, pressing ‘X’ makes the boy either shout for ‘Agro’ (his trusty horse and loyal friend ). But if Agro is far enough away, the boy will whistle instead, and Agro will hear and come galloping, skidding to a halt.

The first thing to do is to get on Agro, and ride out into the world. You then hold up your sword, and the sun shines off of it. Rotate around and you will get a bright beam of light shoot off into the distance. This is showing you where to go next, so you must follow that to get to the Colossi.

Shadow of the Colossus has a huge world to explore. You often have to travel for several minutes to get to places, and you’ll come across many different environments; vast valleys, gorges, waterfalls, and dark forests to name a few. Nothing much ever happens here, and you never meet anyone, or have any additional battles with enemies. You just travel... At first I thought it might be like the sailing in Wind Waker, which got rather dull and annoying with all the constant attacks from enemies and need to change the direction of the wind. Here, it’s incredibly peaceful, and really quite relaxing to ride through the world, and rather than being a dull time-filler it's all part of the experience. The scenery is stunning too, and you never get bored of seeing that huge bridge span across the land into the distance.

You’ll eventually find one of the Colossi and it’s not until you play this game yourself that you can actually appreciate the scale of the Colossi – THEY ARE HUGE. These things are seriously big, and they move like they're seriously heavy too. The Colossi animation is incredibly smooth, and very realistic. They look amazing close up too, whether it is battle armor, leathery skin, thick fur or even scaly wet skin, in-game models have never looked so good.

The most important thing to do first is find the Colossus' weak spot, which is highlighted by a bright-blue symbol once you have held up your sword and shone sunlight over the enemy to “scan it”. The first Colossus is very easy to beat, and his weak spot is simple to find, however later on they become more and more taxing. The challenge with the Colossi isn’t usually damaging the beast, but actually getting on to it in the first place! After seeing the ankle glowing blue on the first one, you’ll think you’re going to be for a fairly easy ride, but later you’ll come across incredibly fast running beasts, then others swimming, ones with battle armour and even flying Colossi, and you’ll wonder how on Earth to tackle them... It’s at this point that the environment plays a huge part in the game, and you have to stop and think about what you are doing, where you are, and how you will use the landscape to your advantage.

The Colossi are ingeniously designed, and each and every one being cleverer, more impressive, and yes, more enjoyable than the last. Once you have seen the last few Colossi in the game, you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about when you raved about the first one. Having just completed it, I informed everyone that one of the Colossi was “The best Boss Ever™” - only to tell them that the one after it was even better!

The game’s story is very simple, yet unbelievably deep and engrossing. However, apart from the initial cut scene at the start, and of course the ending, there is virtually no story being told throughout the rest of the adventure. In fact just one storytelling cut-scene plays around the halfway point. Other than that, the only other voice you ever hear is from Dormin, who gives you hints at where the next Colossus is (you return to the temple after each battle), and occasionally gives you hints on the bosses' weak points - but only if you’re taking too long to work them out. The game doesn’t need 35 minute cut-scenes and long dialogues though, the beauty of it, just like Ico before it, is the simplicity. This way when you reach the finale of the game, the last Colossi and ending cut scene will astound you like never before in a videogame. It’s an unforgettable moment, and I'm not ashamed to say it made me cry – an emotion that I don't normally associate with videogames, unless they're awful.

Technically the game is exceptional. As previously stated, the Colossi's animation is fantastic, and the environments are beautiful. Where the game excels, and where I think nothing else touches it (even the next-generation games I have played) is the quality of the art. Colours, style and lighting are the best out there, and shows that the developers who work on this are some of the most talented in the world. The boy and his horse look so pretty, with very stylistic lighting on them – they are ether lit or not lit. It’s almost like cell shaded lighting at times, and it really does look special. Blooming, over saturated texturing, and incredible blurring effects really add to the visuals too. Then there is the attention to detail; dismount from ‘Agro’ and leave him alone. After a while he will walk off, find some grass or nearby water and he will lower his head and start eating or having a drink. If you go near him and press 'Circle', the boy will pat the horse and say a kind word to him. Or if you take a huge jump off rocks, you might get thrown off of Agro and if you do, he may take a fall too, and if he does he will limp for a while afterwards - it’s detail like this that makes a difference. It’s such an engrossing experience; you really feel part of the world. There is much attention to detail in other areas too, but you’ll have to discover that for yourself.

The musical score is about the best my ears have witnessed in a game. From soft acoustic guitar solos, to the awesome orchestral score that plays when you are riding a Colossus. It is an amazing soundtrack, and gives the game and the story a very special edge. Just like Ico, Halo, and Metal Gear Solid the audio does wonders for the game's overall feel.

However one criticism is that the developer may be pushing PlayStation2 too hard. The frame rate can be quite choppy at times, although due to the generally low speed nature of the game, it never affects game play. The camera occasionally get’s it wrong too, and you have to do some manual adjustment, which during a huge battle can be quite tough. But unlike a lot of games, I never once died or failed because of camera problems. There is a “boss camera” button, which locks onto the Colossi and makes it easier to see what you’re doing. It works similarly to the ‘Z’ targeting in Zelda.

So there you go. Shadow of the Colossus is better than anything I have played in years. This generation has had some absolute classics, and I believe this is better than all of them. Game of the Year, Game of the Generation - Shadow of the Colossus is essential whether you own a PlayStation2 or not. And just to think a lot of people might have sold their PlayStation2 because Xbox 360 arrived - the fact is that Microsoft would kill for a game this good on their new console right now, and you need this game in your life, you’ve never played or experienced anything like it.

Best Bits

- The Colossi designs are genius
- The world in which the game is set is beautiful
- Enchanting and unforgettable story
Worst Bits

- Occasional choppy frame rate
- Camera can sometimes get it wrong

by: DC

Shadow Of The Colossus
Developer: SCEI
Publisher: Sony
Release Date: 17/02/06
Players: 1
Words By:

You know when something is so good that you get totally wrapped up in it, the time flies, you're completely addicted and you wonder where the day(s) and all the other people went? Well that hasn't happened to me lately (not when playing a console game anyway), but the sequel (or is it actually a prequel?) to the brilliant but widely ignored Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, has done a lot to renew this gnarled old reviewer's faith in gaming (faith that had taken a few knocks since the launch of the Xbox 360).

I can't really add much to what DC said above, but SotC takes everything that Ico did and makes it bigger, more exciting, more thrilling and more captivating. 'Excellent' and 'Superb' and lots of other superlatives are much overused these days, but unless you have an aversion to imaginative excellence, this unforgettable and magical game will suck you into its dream-like world like few others. In oh, about 250 years of gaming only Zelda Ocarina of Time and Ico have immersed me like this before.

The Colossi are without doubt the stars of the game, but special mention has to go to your trusty steed 'Agro', without whom none of this would have been possible (unless you had a quad bike and a jet pack). He's not only beautifully animated but also possesses the single most convincing set of physics and AI that I've yet to see in a game - he literally feels alive under you, and the corresponding lack of complete control feels a lot like riding a real horse. He won't jump over cliffs and kill you, he comes when you call him, he finds his way to you from miles away and he saves your life on numerous occasions. He stubbornly won't always go exactly where you want him to but despite this fact (or maybe because of) you'll become unnaturally fond of this superb collection of horsey-polygons, and if you don't then you're a stoney-hearted weirdo, and should sod off back to Socom or Killzone forthwith.

If you've read any of my reviews in the past it's entirely possible that I moaned about a stupidly tough or unimaginative boss battle - a tired old element that is clearly put in many a game just to pad it out, or because the designers ran out of ideas, and I think it would be fair to say that this sort of lazy game design has made me come to HATE most boss battles. So a game that is basically a collection of 16 boss battles should be sheer hell for me yeah? - well it probably would have been had they not all been varied and so damn cleverly designed. Yes a few of these massive machine-beasts look vaguely similar or move in a similar way, but the techniques and puzzles that you have to master to beat them border on genius. The solutions are often obvious, but actually doing what you want to do may be difficult. Or conversely sometimes you might not have the foggiest idea what to do (although Dormin will give you a cryptic clue), but when you do suss out the way to take the Colossi down you slap your head as it was staring you in the face all the time! The Colossi are all impressive in their own way, either with massive grace and nobility, savage violence or downright menace. Without wanting to wax too lyrically about the game or sound too pretentious (pretentious... moi?) one of the strangest things that struck me about the battles with these monsters is that their aura of ancient awe and mechanical beastliness actually made me feel guilty when I killed them... something they all seem to have in common (with the possible exception of the final one, who is a complete git and deserved all he got).

What really surprised me was that when I'd finished SotC I wanted to go straight back and play it again, a rare thing these days. What surprised me even more is how much stuff you'll likely miss on you first journey through the game and its massive, sprawling landscape (it took me a good 10 hours on the game clock) and how much fun the time attack mode is (which unlocks lots of new weapons and useful goodies). There are some amazing lighting and particle effects that belie the fact that the PS2 is on its last legs, but it'd have been nice if the frame rate had been slicker, or if there had been a few less trademark PS2 graphical glitches, or if the camera didn't sometimes seem to become possessed by the Colossi themselves. DC already mentioned that the only enemies you fight are the Colossi, and maybe it would have been a good idea if you'd had a few human-sized guardians to battle along the way too, it would have kept reinforcing the awesomeness of the Colossi (you do get a bit blasé about their size after 4 or 5)...

But anyway - back to the point; what we have here is a genuine Playstation 2 classic, a remarkable game that can both thrill and calm you, and you really should play it just to see what can be done if imagination and talent combine. And while you're buying yourself Shadow of the Colossus, why not give yourself a real treat and go pick up the re-released Ico at the same time too.

by: Diddly

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