Far more impressive than "Shadow of the Pygmy"
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Australia
Thu, 13 April 2006
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Wow, this game rocks! I don't believe I'd get away with ending the review there, so... on with the show. This late in the PS2's life, they're really getting some excellent results out of the hardware. Shadow of the Colossus has some gorgeous visuals. What's more, it is one gigantic heap of fun.
Here's the story, this one not of a man named Brady, taken from Sony's PlayStation website:
The journey here was long.
With only his horse for company, Wanda has travelled for many moons to arrive at this place, a strange temple in the middle of a desolate land.
As he lays the body of the girl on the cold stone pedestal, he begins to wonder if the legends are true. But his mind isn't allowed to drift far; a voice speaks from the heavens... the first voice he has heard in a long time. It seems there is some hope, a chance to trade death for life, to bring her back. But such power carries with it great consequences.
Wanda is unperturbed, he will do anything, no matter what the cost to himself. The voice speaks of great beasts that inhabit this strange land, creatures that must be slain for the power of resurrection to be granted. Armed with sword and bow and keen to begin his quest, Wanda sets off in search of the first colossus.
When all seems lost, there is always a way. And Wanda's journey is only just beginning..."
Remember how Zelda: Ocarina of Time made you feel like you were really a part of its world? Shadow of the Colossus had a similar affect on me. The fact that you ride a horse in both games is another obvious connection. Colossus was developed by the team responsible for the equally beautiful and absorbing ICO.
The game's title - along with having a distinctive air about it, which invokes in me thoughts of charming fantasy tales (the movies The Princess Bride and The Dark Cyrstal, for instance) - is an apt one. The name makes it sound as though you should expect to experience something really BIG. And big is precisely what you get.
|I could have used a more exciting screenshot, but you're better off seeing the best bits in action for yourselves |
If you've ever played a game that featured an awesome boss battle and thought "I wish the whole game was like this", you will love Shadow of the Colossus. The vast majority of the game consists of fighting the Colossus creatures themselves. What incredible fights they are too! These dudes are freakin' enormous and breathtaking in appearance. You literally climb all over them and have to discover their weak points. They don't just stand around waiting for you to kill them either; you need to work hard for it. The massive beasties stomp around and do all they can to shake you off them & you've got to hang on for all you're worth. It works a treat, as the sense of scale is superb and each battle feels like an epic.
Don't you just love it when pleasant noises find their way into those holes in the sides of your head? That happens often when you play Shadow of the Colossus. The orchestral music is of an impeccable standard, as fitting and powerful as any top quality movie soundtrack. The sound effects and character voices - all of them speak in a language unique to the game's world (with subtitles so you can still understand it, naturally) - match up to the quality of the music as well. The best thing about the audio is that it always matches what is happening in the game absolutely perfectly (something games, unlike most good movies, still don't get quite right as often as they could/should). In this case, the game's sound actually does acheive the same effect as that of a film, which is to smoothly combine with the action and inject it with a far stronger dose of emotion.
Emotion isn't something that comes up all that often in videogames (except for RPGs and some war based titles) but it is quite a large part of this one. Some times you actually feel bad about slaying the Colossus, as not all of them are evil creatures. Some are just going about their business. You have a job to do, but you don't always feel good about doing it; which I found to be a fresh and interesting little twist.
Shadow of the Colossus is one fantastic looking game. The looks impress not only due to the sheer size of the colossus you battle, but also because of the overall attention to detail. The animation for the main character, and every other in the game, is fluid and lifelike. The architectural design of its buildings maintains the otherworldly nature of the setting. The huge outdoor areas you explore are packed with visual detail.
The only downside to the graphics is an unsteady frame-rate. But, considering how much is going on - and the relative lack of power of the hardware running it - this minor issue is very easy to forgive (and ignore).
Another Zelda comparison (which, coming from me, will be usually be intended as a compliment) can be found in the way Shadow of the Colossus eases the player into things and teaches you the controls as you progress. Before too long you'll grasp all the actions and be able to perform them without giving it much thought at all. This allows you to stay fully engrossed in the game at all times. That might sound like a really obvious quality for a game to achieve, but I find it is one that's still all too rare.
Now we get to the part where I tell you what I don't like about the game. You know, the little niggling complaints about "if only they did this", or "why do I get six thousand Viagra-related spam emails daily (are they trying to insinuate something?). I probably should've thought up some examples of common annoyances more fitting for this review, but I'm sure you get the idea. Well, guess what? There's nothing I didn't like about Shadow of the Colossus.
Yep, I'm sorry to all you negative Nellies, but I really didn't find a single serious problem to bitch about with this game. I'll attempt to accommodate the cranky buggers somewhat though, just so it can't be said I don't try my best to please everyone.
You could say that the game is too short. You'd be wrong, of course; but that never stops some people. Shadow of the Colossus doesn't take all that long to play through and there's nothing in the way of bonus content to provide incentive for another go through. The reason I don't consider that an issue is that the game's length is exactly right for its style.
|I wonder if he is a rock biter. |
One amazing boss battle after another works superbly for the amount of time you do it in this game, but if they dragged it out much more the thrill and freshness of the experience would be significantly decreased. As for replay value; it still has that in spades. Once you have figured out how each Colossus is overcome, you'll be able to enjoy doing it all again, only this time, better. It just feels rewarding to do that, because the game is so well made and fun.
You could also say that the game's storyline is too basic and lacking in depth. You'd be dead wrong once again there, however. Sure, there's not much to it, but again that serves the game perfectly. So many games pad their stories out with ridiculous plot twists and all kinds of details that really make no difference to the game itself. They're stretched out really for no other reason than to make them longer. Here you have a guy who loves a girl so much that he's willing to do whatever it takes to get her back. He's accompanied by a faithful pet, a horse that sticks by him and helps him in his quest. It is simple, yet it works. Most people can relate to that, on some level. We don't (at least I don't) require warring alien races and split personalities to make us give a shit about what happens to the character we control.
There you have it, my friends. I've given Shadow of the Colossus the coveted full score of 11. If that doesn't convince you to get the game (assuming, that is, you haven't already) I don't know what will. For those who do pick it up, you will enjoy one of the best games for the PlayStation 2. For that matter, Shadow of the Colossus is one of the best games of recent times, for any format. Everything about it reaches a level as close to perfection as could be hoped for, without being unreasonable.
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Please everyone buy a copy of this beautiful game, so that they'll reward us with more titles as good as Shadow of the Colossus