"With the release of ICO in 2001, a hidden gem emerged out of nowhere. With the game mainly consisting of escorting a young lady around with various puzzles and little combat, the word that may come to the mind of some is ďboring.Ē But this is not true. It was a truly original concept, and it showed that not everything needs to be about blowing away enemies in first person shooters or managing an army in strategy games. This has been carried over to Shadow of the Colossus, with many characteristi..."
With the release of ICO in 2001, a hidden gem emerged out of nowhere. With the game mainly consisting of escorting a young lady around with various puzzles and little combat, the word that may come to the mind of some is ďboring.Ē But this is not true. It was a truly original concept, and it showed that not everything needs to be about blowing away enemies in first person shooters or managing an army in strategy games. This has been carried over to Shadow of the Colossus, with many characteristics that look a bit familiar to the previous work that SCEI conjured up. There is one big difference though, and it can be somewhat picked up in the title and from pictures seen. This is a game like no other, and should certainly raise a few eyebrows and turn some heads because of it.
The body of a young woman lies still in a deserted temple, only populated by a warrior and his horse. A large, booming voice tells the man that the only way she can be revived is to destroy the collosi that roam around the lands near by. With the introduction of the story, many questions arise. Who is this man and woman, how are they connected, and what will happen if all the collosi are brought down? The sense of anticipation bottles up inside as you embark on a journey to bring back this lady, and answers to the previous inquires swirling around the heads of many are revealed.
In your quest to rid of these foes, you will travel on horse with your sword and bow as weapons. When ready to fight each next colossus, you will go to that location on horseback, with a light from your sword showing you the way, acting like a compass. The controller vibrates once you have it aimed in the appropriate direction. This is a nice and easy way of getting from point A to point B, and riding your horse is always fun seeing as how you rarely do it in any games. The controls for it are a bit shaky, but once you get the hang of it, you may find yourself doing it just for fun. From there, the game consists of simple plat-forming elements; jumping, climbing adjacent cliffs and whatnot. All of this is like an opening act for the main attraction, the grand finale.
Whatís best about Shadow of the Colossus is, of course, the battles with the colossi. The enemies are monstrous in size, each of their steps quaking the earth, sending chills down your spine. The fights are epic in size and scope, and are very rewarding. You really feel like youíve accomplished something once defeating them, and well, you have. Itís just tiny little you, with your sword and bow against these stone-like mammoths. The question forms, ďHow do I kill these things if theyíre ten times the size of little olí me?Ē Every time you face off with a colossus, theyíll reveal their different weaknesses which are called vital points. Itís required that you climb up them as if they were a mountain, and pierce your sword through the thickness of their skin. Itís important that you ascend strategically, as thereís a circle meter which whittles down to nothing eventually, resulting in you falling off. You could be holding on for dear life, but it wonít save you. It is a bit odd though, seeing as you take little damage falling from such a long height. Then again, if it were more realistic, youíd probably be dead after one tumble, and thatís no good. What really makes all of this work is that each battle doesnít feel too familiar. Every colossi is different, from its placement of vital points to the look of it. At some points in the game, youíll find yourself facing colossi that resemble a horse, knight, and so on. This is very important seeing as how you have few of them to face off against.
From a technical standpoint, Shadow of the Colossus does have its fair share of problems. Most notably is the frame rate and camera. While on the backs of the colossi, the camera can become a hindrance, hiding behind your enemy. The frame rate also gets fidgety, especially when in the heat of the battle which can be frustrating. There is, however, an upside, and thatís the animations. The look of your warrior climbing up each colossus, the fumbling around with each crushing blow of huge feet impressing themselves to the ground, and everything else is very well done. The negativity on the technical side of the spectrum is made up greatly with the artistic touch to the game. You can definitely notice a cinematic quality to the gameís visuals, and the art direction is incredible. Youíll be traveling large, barren lands, with a dark hue spreading through, wrapping around the world. Just watching the opening cut scene, you can tell this is going to be a visually arresting game. Itís like a piece of abstract artwork. To some, it may not look good at all, but look closely and itís a thing of beauty. Itís like a painting moving seamlessly in various images.
The orchestral score in the game is amazing. Soothing music follows as you travel towards each colossi. Itís very low-key at first, helping flesh out the great sound effects such as the whispering wind and the clattering of hooves. Once engaged in combat, the music starts rising, fitting the mood perfectly. Dialogue in the game isnít present very often, but the voice instructing you of what to do is in an entirely made up language, which seems very believable. And having the voice in a different language was a good move, because English wouldnít have conveyed the look and feel of the game as well. Sound is certainly one of the gameís strong suits, and helps embody the presence of darkness.
However, gameís length is unfortunate. There are no other enemies in the game other than the colossi, and while that seems like a move the developers were going for, it does chop the gameís replay value. There are sixteen colossi, and each of them offer satisfying and fairly long lasting encounters. The colossi arenít aggressive, but it is a difficult task to take them down. In the latter part of the game, the difficulty cranks up quite a bit. But at the end of the day, Shadow of the Colossus only clocks in at about 10 hours. You can go back and fight any of the colossi you want once finishing the game, which many people will want to do. Still, itís a shame it couldnít last longer, because whatís there is so good.
Shadow of the Colossus can be loved easily, as well as disliked. Itís something that no other developing team has ever attempted, with just boss fights. But it works, and is actually better than many would have thought or hoped for. The unique visual style and superb sound add to the great look and feel that the game has. Despite it being short but sweet, Shadow of the Colossus is easily worthy of being played. In fact, it may be one of the most enjoyable experiences youíll find in any video game.
Community review by amlabella (July 13, 2006)
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