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Shadow of the Colossus (PlayStation 2) artwork

Shadow of the Colossus (PlayStation 2) review


"For days, your faithful horse has endured the burden of carrying both you and the figure of a lifeless young lady into a land where man is forbidden to enter. With the arduous trek finally behind, in view is a remote, age-worn temple. After laying the body down on the altar inside, a deep voice bellows out in response to your demand to resurrect her: slay sixteen colossi in exchange for her life. You set out for the first, not quite knowing how to vanquish these beasts with only your horse, swor..."



For days, your faithful horse has endured the burden of carrying both you and the figure of a lifeless young lady into a land where man is forbidden to enter. With the arduous trek finally behind, in view is a remote, age-worn temple. After laying the body down on the altar inside, a deep voice bellows out in response to your demand to resurrect her: slay sixteen colossi in exchange for her life. You set out for the first, not quite knowing how to vanquish these beasts with only your horse, sword, and bow, but once you arrive at the destination, your jaw drops. Before you is a giant at least fifty feet high, made purely of rock and fur. With every step your towering foe takes comes a violent shudder of the earth, kicking dirt up into your face. As you draw your sword, you realise that this is just the beginning of your quest.

Each colossus comes with a unique look and an exclusive range of attacks. From a swooping bat to a charging, subterranean snake, no two are the same, and you need all your wits to bring them down. But you need to figure out how to get onto the colossus before you can kill it. Sometimes, shooting arrows is the key to mounting the colossus – be it to catch its attention and lure it within your grasp or attack its weak spots where your sword cannot reach. Other times, you must rely on the speed of your horse to chase down one. And there are even times where you must use the environment to your advantage. In one instance, you must flee into a small tunnel – safe from the stomping – only to come out of the other side and sneak up on it from behind.

After mounting one, you then have to crawl around its hairy body and repeatedly stab the colossus’ weak spots with your sword until it falls. However, your foe refuses to go down that easily. Roaring and fearing for its own life, it violently tries to shake you loose, forcing you to hold onto the fur with every last ounce of your strength, its groans making your own inaudible. As you hang from what feels like hundreds of feet, as your strength slowly ebbs away, you are forced to take any available chance to defeat the colossus, and rushing to fit in an extra stab can determine whether you come out triumphant or fail miserably. When you hear a colossus plummet to the ground with a resounding thud, you are rewarded with satisfaction, knowing that you have slain a seemingly unbeatable beast.

But before you can face a colossus, you have to locate one. This is done by holding up your ancient sword, which reflects light towards your next destination. During these brief gallops, the wanderer’s loneliness becomes your own. No orchestral score is played. Nothing but cliffs surround you as you walk out of the temple. And besides the occasional howling of the wind, only the galloping of your sole companion can be picked up by your ears. In the vast world that consists of torrid deserts, meandering canyons, and foliate forests, you meet nothing but rare, harmless birds and lizards before each colossus. Only you, isolated in this beautiful, mystical world of green and brown shades, can save your dear maiden.

The battles with the colossi take place all over this world. From a forsaken arena to a barren, geyser-filled wasteland, each location is fresh and unique. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about some of the action. Two clashes in particular last longer than they should as the colossi cheaply force you off them once you’ve dealt a sizeable amount of damage, and you must repeat the strategy over to get back on. One of the smaller colossi also tests your patience in an entirely different manner. Its fast attacks stun you for a significant period of time, and in many instances, it charges at you again before you can recover from the last hit. Their cheapness, however, makes the kill even more satisfying.

Sadly, the story ends within ten hours. What’s more disappointing is that even with the additional time attack, reminiscence, and hard modes, going face-to-face against a colossus for the second time doesn’t have the same profound effect as the first. Each encounter is no longer breathtaking, as neither their size nor their majestic presence has much of an impact anymore, and half of the appeal, working out how to get onto them, vanishes. The incentives of earning upgraded weapons and stat boosts aren’t alluring enough to drive you to fight each one again, either.

None of this, however, detracts from the wonder of your first journey, and neither do the rare dips in the frame-rate. Shadow of the Colossus is a memorable tale full of emotion and determination, an adventure that makes you more persevering with every gallop and fight and one that’s full of thrills along the way. Everything – from the grandeur of the colossi to the heartfelt story to and the seamless blend of puzzle and action – combines to make an unforgettable adventure.

Rating: 8/10

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Community review by hobunn (August 12, 2006)

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