The Never Ending Realm

Shadow of the Colossus Review By Samuel Rivera

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Shadow of the Colossus is the closest thing I have played to 1998’s GREAT The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, in this generation. Colossus, is innovative, huge, and simply a work of art. It also features a guy with a sword, a bow and Arrows, that rides on a horse across the open fields.

The game which is created by the team behind the cult classic ICO, delivers what can possibly be defined as the most ambitious, and best looking PS2 title ever. In no other game in the system will you find huge open areas, with magnificent vistas, all done in full 3-D with out load times, or any kind interruptions. (The Jak and Daxter series features a system similar as this, but the world doesn’t look as realistic.)

If you can see it on the screen, you can go there, that’s the best way I can describe this, think Morrowind (XBOX/PC) but without load times, and much better graphics, more impressive landscapes, and really a much more impressive visual package overall.

There are effects that simulate individual blades of grass and the water effects are very well done. Most importantly the animation of the main character and his trusty horse are unparalleled, the horse here is the Epona of 2005, the animation is impeccable, the horse itself looks damn near photo realistic. In short the world of Shadow of the Colossus is the kind of world most of us would like to live in.

The game doesn’t quite pull the great magical feel of Ocarina of Time (then again Wind Waker didn’t do it either) as the game doesn’t have (which is really a shame even though you need the sun to be out for you to use your blade to locate the Colossus) a day/night cycle, towns with people or actual places with people. Yep! This is a lonely adventure, the game also, while it allows you to explore the world freely and swim underwater (YAY!), it doesn’t let you swim very deep. Also the game lacks the full interactivity with the environment that Ocarina allowed. Perhaps we should blame it on the fact that the developers were shooting for realism, rather than lazy programming.

To put an example, in the Gerudo Area in Ocarina of Time, you could dive head first of the cliff into the water, try doing that in one of the Massively epic cliffs in shadow, and you will surely meet your death at the bottom. So while you can probably find a way to get to that body of water that you see 500 feet down below of your character, you can’t get there by just jumping.

That really has to be my main complaint on the freedom of exploration department, which might or might not be valid depending on who plays the game. I mean by all intents and purposes no one can survive a jump of a massive cliff like the ones in Shadow, so I guess that’s okay to die from the jump.

However some of the Colossus are gigantic, and I fell a few times from some of them, and never died, so maybe the blame for not allowing players to jump from cliffs, or swim very deep in the water, must fall on the technical deficiencies of the PS2 rather than on the Developing team.

Last but not least, you haven’t seen the true power of the PS2 until you see one of the mammoth bosses in this game, they are huge, and not only are they huge, but they move and act surprisingly (can I say Jaw ‘droppingly‘?) real, I mean they move just as you would expect a 200 feet tall behemoth to move, and they do it with grace and brains.

By brains I mean AI, they don’t move like mindless robots, they move like living beings, that will try to squash your puny tough resilient hero, at any opportunity they can get.

The game is a true visual display of the capabilities of the PS2, whether you are traveling the open plains on your way to a boss, while admiring the beauty and artistry of the environments while drooling over the magnificent animation of the hero and his horse , or whether you are picking your jaw of the floor as you battle the beautiful and epic sized bosses, this game has that ‘it’ factor that makes it unforgettable.

The PS2 is indeed, a very powerful machine, there is some slowdown and some pop up in the environments, but when a game does this much, those are easy to forgive and forget hiccups.

Aurally the game is near flawless, the music couldn’t have been better composed. It had an epic feel comparable to the music found on the Lord of the Rings movies, the sound track in Colossus is that good. Unfortunately the music is pretty sparse and only happens during in game cut scenes and boss battles, most of the time, galloping through the field the only thing you will hear is the horse, your character and the amazing ambient sounds.

That being said, the game (at least my copy of the game) at some places would mess up the waterfall sounds, for example at the one part if I would turn my character to look into an specific direction in the screen (even if it wasn’t the direction where the waterfall was) the sound of cascading water would come alive, even though I was pretty far from the waterfall, and I wouldn’t hear anything unless I turned. This could be caused either by me owning a faulty copy or because of a small undetected glitch that apparently found its way through the game testing process before release.

The voice acting is well done, you will have to read the captions though, because as it was the case in ICO, the characters in this game speaks a fictional language.

The story of the game is simple, your character (the hero) ventures in to a massive temple that oversees a barren wasteland. In an effort to revive a girl ( his love interest perhaps). It seems this girl was unfairly sacrificed or so the hero believes.

When a godly voice in the temple asks the hero whether he is willing to do anything to save this girl, the Hero says he is willing to literally go to any extreme for her. Thus he is sent on a quest to defeat the 16 towering mystical Colossus. After this, there is little to zero story scenes to be seen, in other words the game tries to sell the story of “Undying love” through the Hero and his horse and the gigantic bosses.

It’s a weird way to tell a story, and to tell you the truth I didn’t know what to feel as I kept killing bosses. It was clear to me that the hero must have felt an amazing love for this girl in order to take on 300 feet tall mystical beasts, and it was clear that there was a sense of desperation, in him as he struck his horse in order to speed through the epic, and lonely fields in order to reach the next Colossus.

But really it wasn’t until the credits rolled, after witnessing the amazingly well done and heart crushing ending that I understood, and came to conclude that the developing team behind Colossus, had created a true masterpiece.

The game made me feel wholeheartedly for a hero that barely ever spoke, for a dead girl that well, was dead before the game even started, and hell I even had some feelings for the horse. The game is one of those games that does everything right, even things that you can’t quite explain in words, like the silent story told here.

The best description I can use here is that the story was meant for your heart to read rather than your mind.

Moving into the gameplay, I will quote a Gamestop Sales representative when he was asked what the game was about: “Its basically 16 huge boss battles.” The description while a bit crude, on the surface at least seems about right.

While the world in Colossus is amazingly Huge and lacks amazingly any load times, besides the pretty vistas, and open environment, there is nothing but your character, your horse, some salamanders, and the 16 bosses. This might seem boring and the fact is this game isn’t for every body, it’s a game that tries to something new, a lot like Ico, and probably because of this; it will meet with the dismal sales that ICO did.

However I will say this; the bosses are huge and challenging. While you basically have to simply “climb” your way up every boss to them stab them to death, the challenge and fun comes in figuring out how to do it. All of them are puzzling, but not to the point of frustration.

The game Controls a lot like Zelda OoT, even when riding the horse, the Hero has a sword and a bow and arrows. Unfortunately, you can never shoot the bow and arrow from first person view like you can with Link in the Zelda games.

The main additions here are that the Hero here can jump at will with the touch of a button and he can also hold on to things, such as hairy spots and ledges in bosses and the environments. Which brings us to the use of the clever “Grip Meter” by pressing and holding R1 you can hold on to a boss’s hairy spot in order to reach his vitals, in order to well… kill him. However bosses aren’t stupid, they are powered by some nifty and clever AI, which will make them realize that you are holding into them the moment you come in contact with them.

So Naturally they will start shaking and moving violently all over the place, your goal is to play a bit with the grip meter, in order to stay on the boss as long as possible to deliver the lethal blows. If the grip meter runs out, you will fall off the boss, and will have to repeat whatever steps are necessary to reach the vitals of the boss again.

The gameplay really follows a simple pattern, you ride the horse, and follow the beam of light that reflects of your sword into a boss fight, and repeat 16 times. That’s it. I know it sounds tedious, and it would be a boring exercise in frustration IF the game wasn’t so finely tuned., in every single aspect (except the camera). The artistry, the technical mastery that developers show over the PS2, both Visually and Aurally, and the polished gameplay, make it a near flawless experience.

The game also ends so quickly, that the routine never really gets the chance to become annoying, which is smart on their (the developers) part, I must say it was 13 hours of visual splendor and some unforgettable jaw dropping moments.

That being said Colossus is a game any serious video game player should at least experience once, however I do have a few complains about the game, that are not really complaints but more like hopeless wishes.

First of all with that sweet engine, which created a huge lush and detailed world, I have to wonder, how good this game could have been if it would have been an action RPG in the vein of Zelda. I mean considering this is the closest the PS2 will ever get to Ocarina of Time, I cant help but wonder, what if there would have been towns and NPCs, and massive dungeons before the bosses?

In the end the only twos reasonable things anyone can complain about Colossus is the fact that besides killing the Colossus and wandering around the beautiful world, there is nothing else to do. Sure after you finish the game once you can enter in time trials (timing you in how fast you can kill the bosses for special items.) Other than that, there is isn’t much to do in the game after you finish it, which is a downer and seems like a waste of a great world.

My other gripe is the god awful camera while in combat, while part of the problem is that really no 3-D game has really ever gotten this part perfectly right except Ocarina and RE4, in Colossus, in some battles specially when the boss is huge, you cant see what the boss is doing while moving the character.

This is a flaw that can be forgiven, because the game is trying to do something that no game has ever done, which is presenting building sized bosses for you to fight, so obviously the camera wont be perfect, but there were plenty of frustrating moments where I was stuck under a boss and I couldn’t see what the boss was about to do since the camera wasn’t adjusting it self properly. Not only that in some instances it was tough to hold on into the bosses griping area, because simply I was having a hard time in getting a good angle in which to jump and go for it, so I had to trust in lady luck rather than in skill to accomplish that.

Other than those gripes I was very satisfied with the game, in pretty much every aspect, so much that I might now go to Gamestop to pick a used copy of ICO.

That being said however, is a shame that Sony hasn’t pushed any of its developers to develop and action RPG (in the vein of Zelda and Alundra) for the system considering that the system, as it shows in this game has more than enough raw power to accomplish the trick with flying colors.

Shadow of the Colossus is a must play experience for anyone who owns a PS2 the game delivers thrills and more unique memorable moments than any other game I have played in the last 2 years, with the possible of exception of RE4. However, like ICO, it might be a game that might turn some people off.

Gameplay: 9.0-A massively huge open world to explore, polished controls, innovative gameplay idea of fighting 16 huge (sometimes ridiculously huge) Bosses. Give the game a unique feel that no other game can give which earns the game a ‘must play’ status at least once. However the wild camera with provided me with some frustrating moments will take the score a bit down along with the fact that there could have been more plat forming sections in the game.

Graphics: 10.0-Amazing. Yes there is pop up and yes there is slowdown. But this world is almost as big (it feels even bigger) than Morrowind, and looks amazing. The bosses and the character animations (especially the horse’s) are flawless. I never though the PS2 could produce visuals like these.

Music: 10.0-There is not a great variety of tunes, but what’s there is near flawless up there with anything you have ever heard in films like the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Story: 9.0-Ok consider this, by the time this game reaches the credits you will experience a vast array of emotions, and there are not many if any cut scenes where character development occurs and even I almost cried in the crushing finale. While it is not a mind boggling story, it amazingly sets the events for ICO, and something tells me this isn’t the last we will see this wonderful universe, being used.

Addictiveness: 7.0- Make no mistake this is a must play the first time through, but it will be hard to keep coming back to it after seeing the credits once, because there is so much to see in this world and so little to do.

Overall: 9.5- Yeah the game is short, yeah there is nothing to do besides killing the bosses, but the no other game out there even comes close to emulating the scale of the environments and the bosses of this game. The sense that you are doing something epic never leaves the game for as long as it lasts. Its not perfect, and its not the next coming of Ocarina of Time, but it’s the closest thing PS2 owners will get to it.

2003-2006 RicanSaiyan. All works here are copyrighted by their respective authors.