on October 22, 2005
Shadow of the Colossus is one of those all-too-rare titles that defies easy description and doesn't really fit comfortably into any existing genre. Is it an action game? Yes. Adventure? Sure. Puzzle? Yep. Platformer? Yeah. It even has slight horror elements.
On the surface, Shadow sounds simple: search for the colossus, find its weak spot, and stab it. Sounds easy enough, but that's like saying that To Kill a Mockingbird is a legal drama, or Platoon is about the Vietnam War - it's not the whole story. Even Shadow's story - boy wants to save girl - slowly reveals itself to be something much more complex and mysterious.
Where Shadow excels is in its design. Finding each colossus requires travel through a landscape that can only be described as dreamlike, yet it feels real. You'll seamlessly travel from a cliff overlooking a river to a thick forest, and then you could find yourself in the middle of a desert or at the edge of a lake. Since the land is so vast (and, besides the colossi, relatively uninhabited), you travel by horseback, courtesy of Agro, perhaps the best-animated animal character ever seen in a game. Controlling Agro is initially complex, yet intuitive, and thankfully his A.I. is sophisticated enough to keep you from riding him off the edge of a mountain. You're armed with only a sword and bow (with unlimited arrows), and there's no way to upgrade your weaponry. The real upgrade lies in the learned experience of defeating each of the colossi hidden in the valleys and mountains.
Each colossus is haunting, fantastic, ominous, and awe-inspiring, and there's even a slight sense of innocence. I won't go into specifics because the sense of wonder and discovery is vital to the gameplay, but if you avoid walkthroughs and spoilers (and you certainly should) you will constantly be surprised at each one. Defeating them requires careful thinking, experimentation, and trial-and-error, and there's not always one way to achieve victory. Just as the brilliant bosses of the Gamecube's two Metroid Prime games demanded quick thumbs and quick wits, the colossi are masterfully imagined, rendered, and designed, and get more complex as you progress. They had to be, as the game is basically sixteen boss battles. Still, there's nothing like the rush of finally discovering the key to each beast, but that's only part of the battle, as you then have to put your plan into action. Simply put, the colossi are some of the most cinematic and exhilirating experiences in gaming, and each one is unique and memorable.
If you have a PS2 and want something challenging, beautiful, and unlike anything else you've played before, Shadow of the Colossus is an absolute must. It's an instant candidate for Game of the Year, and should at the very least get recognition for its design. Games like this don't come along often - enjoy it.
on October 20, 2005
This is a perfect game for people who like a very artistic, environmental, and unique game. Most games can be decribed by referring to other games, but this one definitely stands alone.
The visuals are outstanding. The graphics almost look like they were painted onto your screen. (If you have a TV with component inputs, it's worth getting the cabling for it for this game.) The colors shift from soft to sharp at different points in the game, and they do a great job of drawing you into the experience.
The story turns out to be an incredible part of this game. As you hunt down these lumbering hulks, you begin to feel a sense of sympathy with some of them. For a game to invoke any kind of emotion is quite an accomplishment. I'd love to continue talking about the story, but I don't want to give any more away...
The score works perfectly within the game. As you approach, survey, and finally begin combat with these giants, the music changes to fit the feeling of the action. The developers obviously put most of their efforts into creating an enveloping experience, and they succeeded.
There is very little that is at all negative about the game, but I've hit a couple of points where the action gets heated and the frame rate dropped rather low. Fortunately, they designed a rather clever workaround: if the frame rate drops, the frames start to blend together smoothly so that you don't get any kind of stuttering.
The gameplay is solid, although adjusting to the controls takes some effort. The fact that there aren't armies of meaningless enemies between you and the collossi just adds to the ambiance of the game. The fact that you don't level up, find new weapons, gain new strengths, etc. really adds to the feeling that you are nothing but a tiny fly compared to these hulks.
Overall, it is an outstanding, artistically brilliant game that really draws you in and doesn't distract from its very single-minded focus. Add to that a brilliant score and a great sense of atmosphere, and you've got a great, unique game.
on November 9, 2005
You want something different in the world of video games? Are FPSs, licensed movie games, and cheap knock-offs a tedious affair for your entertaiment, and you want something that's inventive AND fun? Well...WHY DIDN'T YOU READ OTHER PEOPLE'S OPINIONS ABOUT THIS?! Why me?
There's something to be said about the story in "Shadow of the Colossus." Quite simple really: a young latin-speaking man called Wonder goes to the forbidden land to kill 16 colossi for the revival of a dead girl. Who is she really: his girlfriend? His sister? A victim of unspeakable circumstances? All we known is that he cares for her so much that he'll stagger against gigantic, monstrous beings, with only his magical sword and his trusted horse. It was satisfying to defeat colossus after colossus, but it became heartbreaking as it reaches its closure. Full of doubts, confusion, and questioning on who's good and bad, I was almost in tears by the end of the game. This is the most compelling story I've ever played, and that says a lot, since this game has very little narratives.
"Shadow of the Colossus" succeeds in ways that "ICO", the game made by the same company, haven't. Sure, gamers love "ICO", but I personally find that game to be very limited in game and value. Here, they've done almost everything right in "Colossus." It's not only a game with artistic value, but it has an unique AND (importantly) entertaining gameplay. Davey-boy might have defeated Goliath with a stone, but can he and his stone defeat 16 other "Goliaths"? I don't think so.
The scale alone makes this game awesome to recommend; everything that's small from a distance instantly becomes big as I get close, like in real life. The land the main character journeys is a HUGE land, and it takes quite a long road to encounter a colossus, one at the time. Speaking of Colossus, the colossi are gigantic. No one reviewing this game is kidding: the colossi are, like, godzilla. Some are as big as the Tokyo Tower, but few are no bigger than a bull. Some colossi live on land, in the air, by the sea, and one that's simply inbetween. Not to mentioned, each of them are unique to defeat.
This is a thought-provoking game, in which you actually used your thoughts to provoke your way from one objective to another. As you get on your horse and ride the way into lengthy roads and obstacles, you'll come across with the colossi, all with own unique ways to kill, so you can't simply slash them to their demise; this may be an action game, but it's also a puzzler (I learned it the hard way). Each has its own weak points, and you have to find them using the sword reflecting the sunlight to point their whereabouts. Then you have to climb the colossi from their hairiest places to stab them in their weak spots, but sometimes you have to depend on the environment to provoke some collosi to show their weaknesses. It'll take quite a while for anyone to get used to the game's controls, especially when trying to jump grab the horse's saddle after 20-something times, but all that time and adjustment is rewarding.
Did people already mention the presentation of this game looks incredible? Of course they did. How can any gamer complain about the graphics in this game, it looks beautiful, and I just love the art direction, the design of the colossi, and most of all, the blur effects on the camera controls. Even thought it looks great, the graphics isn't technically-refined (what with the chuggy frame-rate and collision issues). The audio, however, is what I love more than the graphics. The sound effects are small but naturalistic, the voice actors, even in a Latin/Japanese mixed language, is excellent, and the orchestrated music is so emotional and thematic, I wanted to buy the soundtrack of this game! (I know I'm not the only one who reserved the game's OST)
Evidently, the developers have yet to learn their lesson from their last game. It's still a short game (7-9 hours, less if you're a better gamer than me), and even with the inclusion of hard mode, the magic can only last for so long. Normally, the limited replay value subtracts a star off my rating, but I just couldn't. My mind couldn't shake off the experience I have with "Shadow of the Colossus." I rented this work of art, and now I want to buy it, just to relive the story in spirit of a Disney/New Line film and the thrilling enjoyment of fighting against a colossus, which is also tragic when I realize that these monsters are living wholesome beings. A hard truth to know in the aftermath...that's the effect of a great game.
This is Del Keyes, saying "The bigger they are, the harder to put this game down"
on December 2, 2005
People in the gaming industry have been talking more and more in the newer generation systems about games moving beyond their traditional trappings, with even venturing as far as to mention "art". While this is a nice idea in theory, the reality of games are much different; the vast majority of them are mindless exercises in sadism and violence, where we tear through legions of enemies for no reason or remorse. And even though many can execute that violence in a unique manner, most games function off the tried and true formula of fighting through a bunch of smaller enemies to get to a more challenging section, after which you get better weapons or abilities and return to laying waste. This has been the accepted and commonplace standard for not only action games, but rpg's, first-person shooters, and even puzzlers. There is a certain human element that is disconnected from games, an emotional distance that never truly involves the player with what's happening on screen beyond his button mashing adrenaline rush. This is part of the reason many old-school gamers are becoming disillusioned with the current industry: games have not fundamentally evolved since the 16-bit era. They have gotten prettier, more expansive, and more in-depth, but core gameplay still relies on the standards established by Nintendo in the infancy of gaming. And the lowest common denominator of all these standards is a reaction to the moment, still treating games as exactly that: games.
But once in a great while, something transcends the mundane and standard, taking us beyond the normal into realms never before explored. Shadow of the Colossus is one of those. It's a truly unique experience in gaming, that so drastically departs from some of the most standard of video game characteristics that it creates a class all it's own. It's focus is not on gameplay, but rather feel and style. That's not to say there's not substance; the gameplay is extremely satisfying, but not from huge combos or technical skill, but rather the unique experience the player becomes encompassed in. The game is direct in it's approach, and bold in it's choices. No minor enemies, no weapons upgrades, no savage enemies, sparing story; all of these are radical new directions found nowhere else in gaming. But what makes Colossus great is not that it's daring enough to go in it's own direction, but rather that it exhibits greater purpose. In any other game, the absence of small enemies might just be a gimic, but in Colossus it's an essential element behind the concept. Ask yourself while you're playing: Why are there no smaller enemies? Why is the whole map open to me from the beginning? Why does certain music occur at certain times? Why is my character a scrawny, and even clutzy, regular guy as opposed to a raging badass? Why is there no backstory to the main character and his female acquaintance? Why are the colossi more like beautiful animals than incarnations of evil? Why do their physical characteristics seem to give the impression that they came right out of the landscape? Why, when you attack them, do they scream like injured creatures rather than all powerful bosses? Why, when you kill them, are you forced to look right in their evocative faces as you bring these gorgeously rendered gods-on-earth to the ground forever? Why is all this so different than any other game?
The reality is that Colossus is much more than a game. There are no superfluous sidetracks or diversions, no showy garbage that really has nothing to do with the theme. Everything is put there for a reason, everything has a purpose. It's a cumulative work, designed more to create an experience and make a statement rather than test your thumb dexterity. One could analyze the elements of this game much the way we criticize great works of literature or visual art. It may be a game, but it's theme's and perfection of execution allows it to move beyond the trappings of it`s medium into the realm of the intellectual and emotional. This represents the future of gaming, where we will finally move past mindless repetition and imitation of formulaic models, to making games that are meaningful and evocative. This is not merely a game, it's art.
on May 24, 2006
Even if you had your breath, though, you'd still be hardpressed to comment on this game as it is indescribable.
I was randomly looking at video games in the story when this title caught my eye, and I remember a friend telling me about how great it was. It looked interesting enough and I rented it. I had to admit, I found the first ten minutes or so fairly boring because it was all exposition and I was itching to go out and fight. So when I finally did get to the battle and saw the first colossus, my breath was taken away.
Just the visual of it became impressed into my mind for eternity, and when my mind finally came back all I could think was: I have to fight this thing?! If you wanted to play, though, you'd have to steel your courage up and run out there to engage it in battle, and the next forty-five minutes was the most intense "fighting" I have ever experienced in a game.
Despite being a long-time gamer, I don't think there's been one single, recent game I haven't had to look a study guide up on. There are just so many weapons and special abilities and skills and magic that it gets overwhelming, and you eventually feel you have to look up the elemental weakness or some obscure nuance just to beat a boss that has given you grief a dozen times. To say I was surprised at Wanda's(that's what people call him)equipment--a bow with unlimited arrows and a magic sword--is an understatement. But upon seeing this I was determined to beat all the bosses without looking up the little trick in the study guides. Quite frankly this is one of the few times I've really had to test my wits to the limit, and the satisfaction at find you are actually smarter than these colossal monsters is worth all forty dollars for this game.
I think this is the first time I've played a game where the main character rides a horse, let alone one almost the entire time. Agro is a gigantic warhorse who willingly totes you around on his back toward each colossus. You are with him after each colossus fight and before each colossus fight, and though you don't say anything beyond "Agro" to him or patting him he becomes an invaluable companion, both literally and emotionally. It takes several colossi for it to strike you, but you will see time and again his unquestioned loyalty and willingness to stay by your side in spite of the danger.
I have read all the reviews on here and I see some people complaining about flaws. Maybe I just don't have perfectionist expectations, but I didn't find the camera bothersome at all, and actually found the loose controls very useful. And the travel time; when I was actually playing the game the first way through I did find this dragging, but it only made the battles that much better because, though you know you've fought the colossi before, you still don't know what the next colossus could challenge you with. It's less of an inhibition and more of a tool to keep you playing the game. The time is more than worth the next fight.
One unfortunate flaw that I cannot explain away is that there really isn't much replay value. You know all the tricks, so the likelihood is that if you're playing again you're trying to see how fast you can go through. There are incentives, such as normal time attack mode, Hard mode unlocked (where you have more wounds to stab), and possible items and even unlockable colors for Agro for doing the time attacks. Despite this, I find myself drawn to the game every single day and take out an hour or two just to explore the place, something I neglected in my first run through. I think exploring the land becomes a more enjoyable pasttime after you know what to expect from each colossus, and you'll be surprised at the time you'll spend trying to go around just the out-line of your map. There are beaches, fruit trees, and even a place where a huge hawk will swoop down near you so that you can grab it and be carried away by it for some time.
I'm a huge fan of Square-Enix and role-playing games, so I went into this one with a critics eye, but high expectations. Despite how high those expectations were it still exceeded above and beyond them, and it continues to blow my mind.
I recommend this game to everyone: young or old, new or experienced at gaming. It is magnificent, but take it with a grain of salt. I realize there are some people who will /not/ like this game, but I beg of you to rent it at least once before pushing it out of your mind. The simple plot, the simple equipment, and the simple objective, I think, are considerably refreshing in this age of gaming where you expect a character to know magic, hundreds of abilities, be entangled in at least three intrigues, and surround himself with an array of likeable characters.
SotC just shows that you don't need any of those things to make a fantastic game.
Another note: Don't look up how to beat each colossus 'cause that's literally half the fun!
on November 21, 2005
About a week ago, I went on a little spending rampage (3 games = about $130) because I am currently very bored after the work day is over. I picked up the game not expecting much since I hadn't heard of it before I saw it on the shelf, but it had a horse and a guy with a sword and some mythical monsters in need of slaying, so why not?
I popped it in for the first time three days ago. I haven't been able to tear myself from it (besides to go to work and chow, of course). The graphics were, I feel, unbelievable for anything else I've seen on the PS2 console. As at least one reviewer mentioned, I as well have never seen such well done graphics on fauna, especially when it comes to horses. I definitely give two thumbs up to the person or team in charge of Agro (the horse). I grew up with horses, riding/breeding/training/showing until the age of 16, and the personality and traits of this horse are far from unreal. I'm very impressed with how well the horse was done, from the hooves to the tips of the ears to the muscles in his shoulders. Also, he nudges on the main character a lot, in a sort of endearing way, especially when you pet him. Ok, enough about the horse...
Indeed, the controls are something to get used to in the beginning but during your search for the first colossus, it is all explained to you and most people learn quick. I didn't find it difficult at all. What's really helpful is that you can always focus the camera on the colossus during battle, which helps for the keeping track of the quicker ones.
When I confronted the first colussus, I thought there was no way a little flea like my guy could bring down that mountain. But this little guy is actually a lot tougher than he looks, though certainly not invincible. There was almost a certain feeling of accomplishment and excitement when I brought the first one down.
I won't go into the story or plot too much because it really shouldn't be spoiled.
The landscape is another amazing thing. It feels like you could ride forever, and it looks so much more real than in many other games. You don't just navigate on a map, but you actually pretty much explore these amazing places atop your trusty steed which, if you dismount, is rarely far enough away for you to have to whistle for him to come. He's actually necessary as well to defeat some of the colossi.
I'm still not finished with the game but I'm returning to it in another few minutes, after I finish writing this, but I'm not to eager to finish this adventure, this quest.
Now, for the very minor negatives. There isn't too much detailed background information, which leaves you with questions, but it does add a certain dark, mysterious quality to the game. Also, I find this game is perfect for those who are bit more of an introvert. I have yet to come into contact with any other humans, which, personally, I find refreshing. There are just times that I don't feel sociable, not even in a video game. And it's very quiet, with great music (also mentioned by another reviewer) soft, yet exciting during battles and not overdone or overly dramatic.
It definitely has puzzles. Before you seek out each colossus, you are given a sort of riddle or hint about the creature, which can reveal the way to defeat it if you are a thinker. You have to have at least a little brain power and patience (mostly with yourself) in order to defeat each colossus. They are all in different surroundings and are different in form. Their environments also play a big role. Pretty much you have to outsmart them.
Overall, I will finish playing, and then replay this game just for the simple-yet-beautiful quality, and the introvert in me that it comforts. I recommend this game to anyone (wielding just a little brainpower) who wants to seem something entirely unique and play a game that really, totally draws you in. For the ingenuity, the art, and the personality of the game (and everything else), I give Shadow of the Colossus the full five stars.
on November 3, 2005
If games want to be an artform, then they should learn some heart and emmotion. True, many games have given players memorable rides and evoked deep feelings but so rarely has a game woven pure and base emmotions within it's design and aesthetic. Wonder, solitude, heroism, mysticism, conflict, attrition, loss, and hope are plainly laid bare in it's quiet minimalist storytelling. Without smacking us over the head, we feel deeply within so tied to our wandering hero that his wounds become our own, his scars become our own. We are made tired, exhausted, and even truly begin to forget why we are on this epic quest. In any other game, in any other story, that would be the worst of reviews. But here, it is it's highest accolade. We cannont leave this journey once it has begun and the game grips and holds onto your heartstrings like no other. As we gather the sun into the blade and mount our faithful but hardheaded steed, the memories of your true love fading fast, we take our courage and our wits with us to conquer mountains that are not climbed but are slain.
But how does it play? Before I go on to the second half, let me reiterate that I believe this game deserves it's five stars. But more than once have me and my friends exposed ridiculus flaws and tradegies that befall such a beautiful and fun game. Consider these more as warnings then as serious detriments. Rule one: Learn your horse riding skills. It should become obvious as your playing that your horse truly has a mind of his own and will not obey every single one of your commands to the letter. While I believe this is a sound decision and many times have seen people have no problems with it. I have seen this in some cases lead to utter frustration. Rule two: It's really hard to get proper footing on a moving monster. While it is immensely challenging and exhillirating. Many players too used to what I call "first person shooter invisible feet complex" will complain that the character is not responding to commands. This is hard to justify and other reviewers have a right to say that in any other game, this is unforgiveable. Rule three: Use your head! Too many times have I seen players puzzle and yell at the screen, "There's nothing I can do!" Again, if it were any other game this sort of frustration is unforgiveable. Some clues on defeating the beasts might not be obvious enough, or just too cleverly hidden, or just plain old too clever to work our naturally. Lateral thinking outside of the box is often called for but being out puzzled and killed over and over again isn't always fun. And there's a small sense of shame that comes about whenever the game's spirit guides you towards the proper clue. Rule four: Patience is a plus. The colossus animation is gorgeous and for the most part perfectly natural, but my nitpick comes when ever you're baiting some of the colossi and they're taking a good solid thirty seconds to turn in your direction. Again it's part of the size and scale perspective that they do so perfectly in terms of appearance, but it can get irritantly slow. Rule five: Watch where you're goin. it can be tricky to concentrate on a fast colossus and that cliff you're about to fall over at the same time. It requires some practice and a good internal memory of your surroundings. But again, I've seen it lead to frustration.
Then there are the graphics and the art direction. I think I need not repeat the praise that has been given this game. It deserves every hyperbole. But there are some stand out bugs that come to mind, like bits of flawed brushwork on a canvas. The framerate, while on the whole is more than playable can dip into the horrid. Dropping below ten frames per second is, say it again, unforgiveable in any other game. Then there are a few big graphical flaws, like the absorbing shadow effect which looks more like splotches of ink splilled onto the canvas and the painter was too worried to approach the unshadowed borders. Most players I'd seen didn't have a problem with it, I did. And one big error a friend had encountered where a colossi in the midst of his animation simply fell through the ground plane and reappeared above it in an uncharacteristic blip. Again I have quibbles about the music too. Goregeous, perfect, harmonic, serene, and epic can all come to mind. The score is incredible. But it's implementation can range from spot on to a little broken. The game makes a heroic effort of transitioning from the desperate songs of being below a massive enemy to the exhillirating fast paced songs as you climb upon their confused heads. But more than once the transition will not be smooth enough, all the music goes dead for a little too long, and it all will hurt the atmosphere.
There, the last of my quibbles. Be forewarned if you choose to embark on this unforgettable experience. For unlike many even perfectly made games, this one I'm ready to carry on with me.
p.s. Go play ICO too. Take this review, repeat most of my first paragraph. Eliminate the flaws. Ico has none.
on November 11, 2005
All this game is fighting huge cratures known as colosuss and getting to them,which may not sound like much but after you fight the 1st colosuss you'll be begging for more fights aginst bigger colosuss! I beat the 1st one at night and couldn't wait to encounter more the next day
I'm not an expert on graphics,but the colosuss look really good to me....and the whole world is quite a sight...
The music seals the deal,once you start a battle some really great battle music that goes really well with whatever colosuss you're fighting (there are a number of different tunes) AND when you start to climb the colosuss and reach his weak point,the music changes,and it makes all the battles a lot more enjoyable.
The story,it really doesn't seem to have one,its just 'defeat all 16 colosuss to bring your lady friend back to life"
But all is explained in the end,but I won't spoil any part of this great story
There's much to do after you beat the game,time attack mode is unlocked and if you beat it a certain amount of times you can explore new areas that where previously unreachable. I'm almost done with my 3rd time beating it...
Highly recommended! At $40,it's a steal!
on October 28, 2005
"Medium" is defined as "An agency by which something is accomplished, conveyed, or transferred." This can be done in many ways, but primarily it is done through the use of books, movies, music and interactive media (video games). All of these are capable mediums of conveying something (In the case of this game, immersing oneself in a fantasy world), but there are drawbacks to these various mediums: Books, movies and music are linear in the sense that you cannot make a decision for the main character, or stop and examine something that you have seen. You cannot play any part in the plot, except as a spectator. You are merely peering into this imaginary situation and you watch it unfold. Your job is to turn the page or turn up the TV or stereo. Your influence stops there. But this is where games are given the potential that these other mediums do not have.
Games allow the player not only to be immersed in a fictitious world, but they have the ability to control a character(s) and take part in the unfolding of the story and overall plot; and although the events contained within may be the same regardless of what one does, you are given the opportunity to immerse yourself in the situation, and feel like you've really played a role in this plot. This is merely potential, however; and although this potential exists within this medium, very few video games will truly use this potential. All-too-often this potential is squandered, and video games become a portal of tasks (and often chores) that suck hour after hour away. With what started out as getting the "high score," all too many modern video games are concerned with satisfying "variable x." Killing x number of people, collecting x number of coins, becoming x levels stronger. You end your video game session after hunting for items, people, etc., and do not feel a sense of accomplishment, you do not feel that you have benefited from spending the previous hour(s) in front of the television, nor do you feel as if you have really been "taken on an adventure." For this reason, I have recently stopped playing games as a whole. Aside from a "quick fix" to do something after hours of studying, video games seem to be an expensive waste of time to me. I have a Playstation 2, but I have not sat down and played it by myself for quite some time; and I am perfectly content with this.
But in all of my years playing video games, there is only one that stands out as truly immersing me in a fictitious world, and this game is ICO. ICO is the other game on the Playstation 2 made by the same company and design team that is responsible for "Shadow of the Colossus." For this reason, I was very edger to get my hands on this game, one that might be my last true "video game experience." I bought it, and I have had the adventure of a lifetime.
You might already be aware of the plot. As the main character, the girl whom you love has died. As a human, when someone dies, they cannot come back to life. But, as the introduction in the game manual states:
"...in an undisturbed land, protected by a bridge of unimaginable design and a temple of untold fear, a legendary myth of colossal beings exists. Miles of peaceful land plays host to these creatures resembling mountains, both in size and intimidation. As these Colossi roam the unbound land freely and peacefully, it is said that within each Colossus holds a secret to an unimaginable power of brining the dead back to life..."
You therefore set out in a journey to locate and destroy the 16 colossi roaming the land. This is the structure of the game from start to finish, and in terms of goals, it is very straightforward. There are no items to collect, no other enemies to fend off (Aside from the colossi themselves), no score that you must beat.
First, you must locate the colossi. Do this you use your sword as a compass that leads you to its location (This is done by holding up the sword in the sunlight. The sunlight reflects off of the sword and points you in the direction of the next colossi). You never have to talk to a villager to get hints about where to go. You have the means to find the colossi on your own. The land of this game is vast (Many miles of terrain), and you must use your horse (Named "Agro") to get around. It is important to note that Agro is your only companion throughout your gameplay experience. You will meet no other human throughout most of this game.
Second, once you find the colossus, you have two weapons you can use: a sword and a bow and arrow to destroy the colossus. The bow and arrow is used mainly to get the attention of the colossus, as the arrows do little damage (There is no limit to your arrows, by the way). Your sword is the tool you use to truly inflict damage and bring the giant down. But seeing as you can't simply stand in front of one of these giants and swing your sword to kill it, your job is to climb atop the colossus and find an illuminating weak spot (Usually in a hard-to-reach area) that you stab with your sword. Stab the weak spot(s) enough times and the colossus is defeated. Such is the case with all 16 of the boss colossi.
Again, this task sounds very simple, almost so much so that it might hurt the game; and it would hurt the game if the execution of this wasn't as good as this.
The Landscape: This is the most beautiful game I have ever played. From sand-covered dunes to luscious forests, the scenery of this game is unsuspectingly real and believable, a quality seldom seen in video games. While I was very edger to destroy the next colossi, I probably spent at least 2 hours simply looking at the scenery along the way. Never before have I spent as much time as I have looking at nonessential things in a video game as I have in this one. Keeping in mind that you are on no time constraints, you have the freedom to roam the beautiful and barren land. The architecture of the various empty buildings reflects this same quality. They look very real and believable, and enjoyable to explore.
The Colossi: I have played many video games in the past, and when I was a child there were certain bosses that I as afraid to fight, because I felt intimidated by them. Now being 18 years old, I have a more balanced view of situations within a game. Although in the past I might be afraid to die in a game, I now figure, "If I die, I can always come back and fight it again." But this game is a shock to that assumption. The colossi in this game are truly towering in size, and when you see it you FEEL small, you FEEL intimidated. "How can I take THAT down?!" I asked myself many times.
You must climb atop these towering structures of fur and stone and stab them while they try to shake you off (Climbing to the top of each becomes a puzzle itself).
And from colossi that walk on the earth to those that fly to those that swim, the 16 colossi that you will fight are all unique and a joy to look at in their own right.
You must also note that your sword and bow are never "upgraded" or become more powerful throughout the game. From the very beginning you are given everything you need to take down every colossi in the game. So one cannot attribute their losing to their equipment; "my sword wasn't strong enough, it didn't have the 3.5x Fire Attack" or "I didn't have enough arrows." The task comes down to the skill of the player, and this is something that (1) gives you a greater sense of accomplishment in that "I did it," and (2) takes away another barrier that has always separated the "video game world" from the realm of [even distant] believability; something you can understand and relate to.
Graphics: I am extremely impressed at what the PS2 is capable of doing in this game. Although not the most technically "impressive" game when it comes to framerate or polygon count, the nearly unparalleled art direction has created an experience that feels like walking the landscape of a surreal painting. Clouds, fog, light, shadow; everything in the game looks realistic and alive, adding to the sense of immersion. The colossi move in a manner that reflects their size and weight, they aren't simply a regular game model blown up in terms of size. Your horse companion (Agro) is easily one of the most realistically animated animals in a video game, and any other characters you encounter also are superbly animated. This game pushes the PS2 to it's limit, though; so you will noticeably see mountains "pop in" from time to time.
Controls: While they may take some time to get used to, once you are accustomed to them you will have no problem. Although the camera can be your foe from time to time (I recall saying on a couple of occasions "you stupid camera" while playing), but in no way does it hinder the overall enjoyment of the game.
Sound: The sound effects suit the rest of the game perfectly. Only during cutscenes and fights with the colossi will you hear music that matches the tone of the situation. I eagerly await the release of a soundtrack.
Story: After the game's introduction, very little is told to you (And very little happens in terms of story development) until the end of the game. You do not speak to anybody (except to call your horse) during the large bulk of your gameplay experience. But this lack of information and connections leaves you to wonder about what they are, and what will happen. You're working towards a goal, but will it really work (You are told that on the outset of the game)? How will the girl react if/when she comes back to life? Along with an ending that nearly brought me to tears, this was one of the most complete overall gameplay experiences I've ever taken part of. I have played many games, but this game is one of the first that has truly taken me on an adventure.
This game is like a storybook come to life. Every aspect of this game immerses you in this world, and by the time you have completed the game, you will be left changed.
Is this the best game ever made? I certainly think so. But that's simply my opinion. Play this game and see for yourself, but don't expect to be thrown into a world of points, frags and ammo. Expect a beautiful and impressive adventure. See what the medium of video games is truly capable of doing, and you will experience something only comparable to a well-told fairy tale during bedtime as a child.
on December 19, 2006
Shadow of the Colossus is easily one of my top 10 favorite games of all time. I've played all the greatest games through the ages -- from 8-bit classics like Castlevania and Mario all the way up to the newest and most popular titles like Metal Gear Solid 3 and Resident Evil 4 -- and Shadow of the Colossus has just earned a spot among elites.
But that's not important, because this is a very unique game aimed at an equally niched audience. Depending on your gaming preference, Shadow of the Colossus is either a beautiful, indescribable work of poetry; or an uneventful, melodramatic trudge with only sixteen things to kill. I'd be willing to bet that if you think games like Halo and Grand Theft Auto are the best games of all time, then you almost certainly won't appreciate anything about SotC. However, if titles like Panzer Dragoon Orta, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Gunvalkyrie, and Ico have stolen your heart, then you will be absolutely awestruck by everything about this game.
On the one hand, just the opening movie alone may move you on a level you haven't experienced since Final Fantasy VII. The music is hauntingly beautiful and forebodes a tragic and lonely tale about a desperate young warrior willing to die in battle for the soul of his lover. Finally, the title screen pops up, and yet you hesitate to press Start because you're still taking in the epic scope of the scenery laid before you. You can't possibly fathom that this is a real-time shot of the game's world being rendered before you, and that it's all being done on the PS2's meager hardware. After a moment, you begin the game where another cinematic unfolds, laying bare the foundations for a very minimalistic story where you, as the player, are allowed to use your imagination to fill in the gaps that weren't already explicitly explained. What you begin the game with is what you will end the game with: a bow and quiver of (infinite) arrows, your ancient sword which doubles as your compass, and your best friend and trusty steed Agro. The cinematic scope of this game is remarkable - you needn't bother with annoying and contrived lifebars, ammo counters, timers, maps, radars, etcetra, etcetra. Instead, whatever graphical interface you require to play the game only shows up when you need it to so that you're not otherwise inhibited to fully appreciate every expertly-crafted tree, cliff, and ancient ruin you may come across. And the handcrafted animations are simply breathtaking. The first time you see Agro in action is just as amazing as taking control of Mario for the first time when he debuted in 3D on the N64. In fact, all the characters in the game -- yes, the colossi are so spectacularly individual in design that they warrant being referred to as actual characters -- move with such grace and fluidity that really conveys the feeling that these are living, breathing creatures that are actually anchored to the game world with mass and purpose. And as I stated earlier, the music is completely unforgettable. The score is as sweeping as it is dynamic; the pace of the music changes right along with the pace of the battles. For example, when you finally face the first flying colossus the music takes a slow, eerie tone while you watch the beast fly around overhead. But once you get his attention and are able to latch on to the creature, the beat picks up and a full orchestrated array of instruments comes in to lend some excitement and adrenaline to an equally exhilarating aerial battle.
And on the other end of the spectrum, the action-seeking, bloodthirsty, trigger-happy player will be appalled at the lack of CG cutscenes, voiceovers, power-ups, and constant slew of enemies. Yes, it's true: there are sixteen enemies in this game. Not sixteen TYPES, just sixteen separate and individual entities for you to slay. Even the most desensitized of players can appreciate the variety in the colossi, but I imagine the average gamer would find it very boring to do nothing but ride a horse for twenty minutes to the next battle without so much as a floating platform or spike trap to navigate. The story also probably leaves much wanting in the way of plot development, romance, and humor. Sorry, the colossi aren't plotting to take over the world. There are no aliens to kill, no ninjas to slash, and no spies to execute -- so what's the point? And the closest you're going to get to leveling up is your gradually-increasing grip gauge which measures the amount of time you can cling for dear life on one of these lumbering beasts.
So that's it: Shadow of the Colossus is an inspiring, boring, beautiful, sappy, intriguing, mind-numbing game of epic battles and drawn-out horseback riding. It's not visceral, but it's stimulating and provocative. In short, it's a bargain-bin masterpiece. I totally and completely adore this game, but I won't take it personally if you don't.