Platform: Playstation 2
Developer: Team Ico
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
A follow up title of sorts to the cult favourite Ico on PS2, Shadow of the Colossus features none of Ico’s characters but does carry over the same style of sparse storytelling, atmosphere and cinematic environments, and gushing black mist stuff. Despite some occasionally overambitious level design which makes the PS2 chug a little, its a fantastically playable and memorable action adventure title.
The story follows the adventures of Some Nameless Guy who tries to bring a girl who he is in love with back from the dead. To do this, he must kill and extract some black matter from sixteen giant colossus creatures who roam a land not unlike the one we saw in Ico. The game’s story can be interpreted in quite a dark manner as its a pretty fucked up thing to try and raise the dead and it’s not even made particularly clear what the relationship is between the two characters or if they even really have one. Your main character may well be a very very determined stalker.
Sort of like Treasure’s Freak Out game (also on PS2), SOTC dispenses with any generic mid level characters and goes straight for only having boss creatures (the 16 Colossus). So the structure of the game is to ride out on your horse Agro and kill the Colossus, return to where your home base is, and then rinse and repeat this process until you have yourself a reanimated ladyfriend.
For a game about gigantic bosses and massive landscapes, a lot of Sotc’s most memorable moments are the smaller, more subtle touches. Little things like the animation for the main character when he becomes uncomfotable riding Agro, the birds which fly above you when you’re riding and the changes in lighting which reflect the upcoming clash with the Colossus.
The environment, although sparse, is still gorgeous to look at and its quite exhilirating to traverse the various plains, mountains and forest landscapes looking for the next Colossus. You do this mostly on horseback.
The control scheme for your horse Agro presents an interesting learning curve. Agro very much has his own behaviour and ideas on where he wants to go, so while you may occasionally be wrestling with him on the reigns trying to get him to go the direction you want him to, he’s also very useful when navigating through tight areas as you can basically let go of the controls and he will look after himself.
As for the Colossus themselves, half the fun of the game is seeing them for the first time. Each one has its own demeanour and unique appearance and there are some awesome sequences involved in bringing them down. One that stands out in my mind is a winged colossus which you have to try and kill in mid-flight while clinging on to its back as it tries to shake you off.
With the Colossus, Ueda throws an emotional curveball at the player by making some of these giant creatures incredibly docile. So even though your avatar is about the size of a Colossus’ finger, you feel a bit weird about stabbing them in the head while they wail in pain and try desperately to throw you off since they haven’t really done anything to deserve death. Some of the Colossus are aggressive bastards though and fully get whats coming to them. It’s a weird dynamic and I love it.
The ending of SOTC gives very little away in terms of the overall story. There’s a transformation, some druids and…a baby. It’s not clear if any sequel is forthcoming which will explain all or if Ueda is happy to leave the entire experience to be left to various theories and interpretations in Gamefaq.com and Wikipedia entries.
Regardless, the end of the Playstation2 life cycle has seen it churn out some of the best titles in its entire lifespan and there isn’t much better when it comes to action adventure titles than games like Shadow of the Colossus and the (entirely different) God of War.