Shadow of the Colossus: Revisiting an Epic Adventure - Tyler Lee Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Shadow of the Colossus: Revisiting an Epic Adventure

With the latest release (or re-release) of Ico/Shadow of the Colossus’s for the PS3 (in HD no less), it seems like a perfect time to revisit SOTC. I came across my copy and knew I had to put it in and live through that epic adventure once again. As I like to do with most of my older games, I like to see from time to time how they hold up against the new wave of current generation games today. Though Shadow of the Colossus isn't really that old, coming out only a few years ago in 2005, the gaming industry has had a few leaps in technology, what with graphics and more advanced gameplay mechanics. Well I wasn't disappointed, or surprised. Gaming may have had several leaps forward, but Shadow of the Colossus set the standard back then for how to make a hugely adventurous and immersive game. This isn’t a review of the HD version, just a revisiting of a favorite. If you haven’t played it, hopefully this will convince you.

Shadow of the Colossus tells the tale of a young boy known only as Wander who makes his way into a mysterious and forbidden land with only one mission: to restore the life of a young deceased girl who's body he has brought with him. To do this, he must follow the instructions of a mysterious deity. The instructions are to slay sixteen colossi, larger than life creatures of stone and landscape. Not much more is known about the story other than eventually you learn that you are being pursued by men who don't like that you are in the Forbidden Land. Wander's motives are not brought to light, nor are the true motives of the pursuers or the deity. That, however, works so well for the game. 

Though you're not given this in-depth, Final Fantasy-like storyline, that doesn't make it any less enthralling. With only a bit of information, the player is forced to make up their own mind of what is really happening and why. However, even with this lack of details, you still feel for the protagonist and his cause and do your best to help him succeed, not to simply beat the game, but to see him accomplish his goals.

Though the story may lack details, the environment is nothing of that sort. Even by today's standards the environment in this game are incredible. The landscape is massive and has almost every kind of environment from dense forests, to wide open plains, to a desolate desert. The particle effects are as amazing now as they were when the game first came out. It was just as enjoyable this time as it was the first time I played it when a giant monster shot lasers at me (yeah...lasers) and stirred up a great deal of sand around me or when sprays of water where thrown all around. The effects are so great that they can actually strew your vision and perception, making you have to be careful of just running into combat.

The gameplay, like the environment, is something that probably wouldn't get old no matter what technology comes out. The gameplay itself isn't overly complicated, and by that I mean it is extremely simple. You can use the magic sword you are given to pin point the location of each colossus. After you hop on your REALLY BIG F***ING horse, you ride off to do battle against a monster that will more than likely take up more than the whole screen. You can run, jump, climb, swing your sword, and shoot arrows. All of these skills must be utilized differently for each beast since each colossi is unique to the environment that it is in and the shape it has taken. Each one is beautifully designed and daunting to lay eyes on, even the smaller (yet still bigger than you) ones.

Fighting each colossus is like solving a puzzle.  The main objective, however, is to climb onto them and stab their two to three or more vital areas to bring them down. This makes for one of the most enjoyable and rewarding gaming experiences possible.  The shear act of climbing the colossi is an act of patience of skill all in its self. You have a grip meter that drains as you hold on to things such as the colossi when climbing them. When this drains, you fall. This adds a bit of what I've come to call panic!!! As the meter drains you start to rush and have to improvise in order to get where you need to go.

So with such great gameplay, the controls must be awesome right? Not completely. Though, usable and accessible, the controls are sometimes stiff and clunky. I can't tell you how many times I would try to jump from one platform to another and fly off in a direction I did not specify, or the camera would zoom way in or turn the wrong way and send be into a blind fall. Riding the horse is another thing that could've been better. The horse riding is like controlling a boat being driven by three obese rhinos while the boat is running out of gas (I just thought of that). Trying to turn is quite a bother and the camera seems to have a mind of its own in these situations. All of these issues do get better with practice and by the end you don’t even notice; however, in the first hour or so it can make for some frustrating adventuring.

The gameplay, though definitely one of the highest point in the game, is not the only thing that will draw you into this epic world. Emotion plays an important role within Shadow of the Colossus. As mentioned above, you feel and cheer for Wander as he accomplishes his goals. However, the majestic nature of each beast and the slow and mournful way they die after you puncture their final vital area present you with something else: pity and sorrow for the ancient creatures you have slain. With each accomplishment, each victory, you cannot fully enjoy it as you weigh it with guilt and sadness of slaying such an ancient creature who more often than not was just defending itself and its territory.

Despite a few control issues Shadow of the Colossus still offers a deep, immersive, challenging, and just plain fun gaming experience. If you haven't played it...good god, I thought everyone had by now. This is a game that all gamers should experience, especially if you feel that games should be recognized as art.  You'll enjoy it if not just for the beauty of the game itself, then for fun of slaying all sixteen of the monstrous colossi.

 

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