Shadow of the Colosuss was originally released in 2005 for Playstation 2 and the game itself has a legacy which lived on to this very day. Developed by Team ICO with direction from Fumito Ueda the game has received endless amounts of acclaim from critics and gamers alike and it is often considered one of the greatest games ever made for the Playstation 2. The game is a unique experience relying on visual storytelling and an minimalist approach to tell an emotional story about resurrection, love and companionship.
I won’t be reviewing the original PS2 version instead I will be talking about the PS4 remake which released in February 2018 and was developed by Bluepoint Games. Bluepoint are well known for developing remasters of older titles such as the God of War HD collection on PS3, Metal Gear Solid HD collection for PS3 and Xbox 360, Uncharted Nathan Drake collection for PS4 and ironically the Shadow of the Colossus and ICO collection for PS3.
The first thing that struck about the game was it’s amazing introduction, I loved the soundtrack combined with beautiful visuals and a smart way to introduce Wander our main character. He is travelling alongside his loyal companion Argo through a range of dangerous cliffs and tall mountains which culminates with them arriving at old dilapidated building called The Shrine of Wisdom. I especially love how the soundtrack swells as Wander heads across a long winding towards the entrance of the shrine, it’s a beautiful scene to watch.
The opening feels grand and ambitious and this continues into the many boss fights we encounter against the colossi, but before we get to that let’s talk about the plot. Wander has arrived to this mysterious land with more than just Argo as we can also a young girl laying unconsciously on the back of his horse. The girls name is Mono and she has a major influence in the game’s story, we see Wander approaching a tall altar and he lays Mono down on it. Unexpectedly a group of blackened ghosts rise from the ground which startles Argo and we see Wander reach down for his sword.
Before things get out of hand Wander quickly defeats the ghosts using his ancient sword and afterwards we see a large white cloud appear from a hole in the ceiling, this cloud is accompanied by a voice and this voice talks to Wander about why he is here. Mono is apparently cursed and Wander demands that her soul be returned to her body. He is told by the voice that he needs to defeat different sixteen colossi in order to achieve this. Wander is also warned that doing this will come at a cost to himself although despite knowing that he continues on with Argo by his side.
We know little of these characters although this seems to work with the game instead of against it, Wander has a clear motivation to save Mono and he is willing to do anything to be successful. That’s all the story needs to hook the player and after leaving the shrine we are excited to go up against our very the first colossi named Valus, I like this fight because it feels epic in scale as well as being accessible to new players learning the game mechanics. For me defeating Valus brought up a combination of different emotions, I felt satisfied to defeat my first colossi although this was combined with guilt.
This feeling of guilt does gradually eases off as the game went on although I still feel that to murder so many of these beautiful creatures makes Wander seem like the bad guy. The game provides with a wide range of colossi to fight from huge axe wielding giants to smaller dog shaped colossi, some other colossi are shaped like scorpions whilst others resemble the beautiful elegance of birds, I love the variety of display and this always kept me on my toes before each fight. I think if I was to name my favourite colossi fight it would have to be the thirteenth named Phalanx, the creature itself has the ability to fly and in order to defeat it Wander has to climb onto it’s back multiple occasions to attack it whilst avoiding a painful death. Other highlights for me would have to be Avion the fifth colossi, Hydrus the seventh colossi and Basaran the ninth colossi.
I found the game play to be a little clunky at first, for example moving Argo around can feel unbearably slow and I felt the melee combat was too far light and fluffy to have any real impact. Pretty soon I dd manage to pick up the control scheme and began to successfully navigate myself through the game although the clunkiness still remained. I did enjoy using the ancient sword and I found using it as a compass to be a smart move which allowed the game to continue flowing instead of pausing the game all the time to look at a map, I also found the bow and arrow to be a useful weapon especially with identifying the colossi’s weak spots and inflicting small amounts of damage.
Shadow of The Colossus is a surprisingly simple game in terms of it’s structure and pacing, Wander is told about his next foe by the voice, he points his ancient sword in a specific direction, he leaves the shrine and proceeds to go out into the world to find the next colossi, the game follows the structure throughout most of it’s run time. Initially this didn’t bother me as I was completely immersed in the beautiful world and mysterious characters although towards the end to did start to become a bit repetitive. After a while I found myself falling back into a predictable cycle where I knew exactly what to expect, this doesn’t mean it sucked I just wish there was more variety to keep the game fresh.
To me Shadow of the Colossus is a very good game, I don’t think it is a masterpiece or one of the greatest games ever made but I still enjoyed my time. Perhaps playing the game in 2019 was detrimental because it shows off how outdated the controls are and how simplistic the game is compared to modern day releases. Despite this I would still recommend Shadow of the Colossus, the game is unique, has beautiful visuals, a wonderful soundtrack, epic boss fights against the colossi and intriguing characters which I cared about.
I am envious of anyone was able to play this game back when it originally released back in 2005, what an incredible experience that must have been.