Every so often a game comes along that makes you stop and say “THIS is why I love to play videogames.” Unfortunately, most games don’t possess this type of feeling. Many games have their moments, but only a few can inspire a sense of awe and appreciation. Shadow of the Colossus is just such a game.
The second game released by Fumito Ueda and his team, Shadow of the Colossus sent reviewers mad with praise, but for the most part videogame fans ignored it, missing out on quite a bit of fun and, more important, seeing what gameplay can be in the hands of a true sage. Quietly and behind the scenes, much like Katamari Damacy, this is a game developed by people who “get it,” people who raise the bar for everyone to follow.
Shadow of the Colossus has you on a quest to rid the land of 16 Colossi (larger-than-life creatures) in order to bring your bride back to life. Basically, the game is a series of boss battles, with the twist that you have to jump and hang on while climbing these immense creatures and attacking their weak spots. Although the game takes place in a vast land that players must traverse to locate the colossi, the colossi’s bodies actually amount to the games “levels.”
You start the game armed with a sword, a trusty (but testy) steed, and later get a bow and other weapons enabling long-distance attacks. With these weapons in hand, you climb the colossus’ body, attacking its weak spots all the way while the colossus tries to shake you off and smash you. The first order of business is to find the beast’s weak spots, which is accomplished by holding your sword into the air, at which point the bright reflection from your blade will highlight each point. Then it’s up to you to figure out how the heck to get up there.
When you climb the colossus, you only have a certain amount of grip strength that slowly drains as you hang on to something (the beast’s hair, for example). Once that strength is gone, your grip will slip and cause you fall. The grip meter replenishes itself when you’re not griping anything, and, after hitting a certain weak spot repeatedly, the colossus may also take a short breather, enabling you to quickly recover enough grip to continue up its body. Think of playing a game like Prince of Persia, only set on the back of Godzilla, and you get the idea of the gameplay throughout Shadow of the Colossus.
I’m pretty sure this game maxes out the PS2’s CPU, as the graphics in Shadow of the Colossus are truly a sight to behold. The Colossi are HUGE and, more important, convey their size with a slow, lumbering gait that all giants have had throughout the history of storytelling. Truly, the first time you see one your jaw will drop, and your brain will say “holy crap that’s big!” When a colossus attacks you with a weapon, it appropriately takes five to eight seconds for it to rear back, an animation effect that’s so natural and believable that I actually watched myself die several times just to see it again. Moving from each colossus to next, however, is a pretty spartan experience, as the landscape is not rich with a lot of detail. Still, the game makes up for it in the colossi’s detail.
If there’s any sort of knock against the game, it’s probably the controls. Controlling your character and his horse seems to be a real love/hate kind of thing, and there’s definitely a learning curve involved in getting the feel of the controls, but you eventually get used to them. Once you’re used to them, the horse controls can still seem a bit dicey, especially in the thick of certain battles, but once the learning curve kicks in the controls feel a bit more acceptable.
Aside from the desire to replay the game itself, Shadow of the Colossus also has outfits, a hard mode and a time mode, but that’s about it. Granted, the game really doesn’t need any more, as it stands well enough on its own. Sadly, Ueda’s next game will probably take another three or so years to complete, so if the single-player options can tide you over that long, the sequel will probably be worth it. In the meantime, Shadow of The Colossus is a must buy for any PS2 owner to truly see the evolution of the platforming genre to the next level.
- Gameplay: 9
- A refreshing take on the typical platform game with some minor control issues.
- Graphics: 9
- Awe-inspiring goodness that pushes the limits of the PS2.
- Sound: 9
- The soundtrack is perfect for the game, and the sound effects pull it all together for an amazing adventure.
- Replay: 7
- Two additional modes and some things to unlock, but most are in a Metal Gear type of cosmetic vein.
- Overall: 9
- A brilliant concept that’s perfectly executed, resulting in a must-play game.
— Phil Vollmer