Desperate love leads a young man to slay the mightiest of giants.
Most gamers have heard of Shadow of the Colossus by now. But what about the average person who's never even heard of this game? Describing it as "A game where you slay 16 huge monsters across a empty world." is criminally misleading. Yes, you have to destroy 16 giants, but why?
Love. That's the reason you (The wanderer in the game.) came to this land. To seek out a ancient cursed shrine. On your horse (Agro.), lies the body of young woman. She was sacrificed for reasons you can't fathom. But you love her, and would go to these accursed lands, just to save her. It's said, a being named Dormin lives there and it can bring back the souls of the dead. As you lay your love on a altar in the central shrine, Dormin speaks to you. As you speak to the godlike being, it offers to bring back the soul of the maiden. But only if you slay sixteen mighty beings called Colossus. Your love for her is so deep and desperate, you agree to go out into this barren land time has buried, and set out on the impossible task.
It is only you and Agro on this journey. Your only weapons are a magic sword, and a bow. The sword, when held up in sunlight, reflects intense beams of light. As you turn around left or right, the beams start to converge, and become one beam at a certain point. The merged beams point to the location of the colossi. Go in that direction, and you will find it. But it's not like going point a to b. This a wholly contained world you must travel across to get to it. There are no neatly divided sections. It's remarkably consistent in style, no matter how different the environment.
Great stone ruins are scattered across your path. Withered and hewn by the forces of time, they loom over you, like they were carved by gods. Stone temples carved into mountain sides out of sheer will, are slowly filling with dust. Scant traces of road can be found at bridges, barely holding onto the chasms they span. Stone steps and arches that have no more travelers. Only weeds and ancient dust. Crumbling canyon walls disguise the road you ride upon. Large stones that tumbled in make it uneven, grass and dirt hide what's underneath. It seems a work of nature, until you come across road markers. Untraveled, neglected roads that lead to dead cities. Great vaulted dwelling places, large open stone yard, water drains and tall spires is what they're made of. Lonely for nobody now, it crumbles away where nobody can see it. How odd that it's bright and covered in green foliage.
One can't help but wonder what great people once lived here. What magnitude of disaster makes a place so ruinous? How long ago was this land forsaken? All fruitless questions, as no answers are ever given. Only you are left to wonder why.
Perhaps it isn't so sad. Nature seems to keep this place company, even while aggressively eroding it. Weeds take root on crumbling stone edifices no matter how shallow the soil. Great washes of green cover cliffs, canyons and plains. The forests are damp, shady, and cool. Streams flowing from places you'll never see, fall over deep chasms, slowly eroding them into cliffs. A stray lizard or bird is almost the only type of life you'll see in these lands. Even fish don't appear that often. They swim in flooded court yards, that are now like small lakes. Large collections broken of stone collect at the bottom of high canyon walls. The brightest and most beautiful green grass grows there. It leads into dry, blighted areas, where it seems nothing lives. Not even weeds deem those places fit to live in. The sun doesn't even care to shed much light on this place. The desert seems like a relief from this wholly dead and depressing place. Low dunes undulated across it's openness. Only occasionally interrupted by a free standing set of stones, or a few blocks of a building long gone.
All of this describes the world you explore. You think the landscapes alone are pushing the PS2 to its limits? Just look at Agro. He moves like a real horse. He has momentum when he runs, and takes a moment to slow down. He even stands around like a real horse. Even you move like a real human being. If just the two of you are so well portrayed, what
will these colossi be like? The time for wondering is over. You have arrived at your destination. You have to climb a high wall to get to it though. You're suddenly reminded that Agro is the only living thing in these lands that cares for you, and he is your only source of companionship. As you climb off of him, you can give him a comforting pat with the circle button, unsure whether you'll ever see him again. As you pull up the cliff, the ground starts to shake. Dust comes in large drifts. Trees, barely alive shake all the way to their roots. And then it appears, the first colossus.
It lumbers across the plateau unaware of your presence. It stops and stands at the other end, just looking around. It's larger than you dared even imagine. You pull out you bow, and let loose one arrow into its back. It groans, and turns to face you. It's looking right. At. You. It starts moving towards you. Now is the time to start running towards it.
Suicide you might say. But the only way to defeat it is to climb it, and find its weak spots. Simply plugging it with arrows and slashing at it wildly won't subdue the giant. But how? Its skin is covered in fur and protective stone! Panic sets in. Then it dawns on you. You can grab it's fur and armor to get where you need to go. You climb it's back, and jump to each armor piece. It'll try to shake you off. You have a energy meter that wears down the more you hold onto the the behemoth. It will momentarily stay still long enough to let go of it's fur and let you run to it's weak spot, refilling your energy in the process. You pull out your magic sword to make the spot appear glowing. You grab hold on top of the spot, but the colossus thrashes violently to shake you off. After each thrash is the time to strike, plunging your sword in deep, and pulling it out again and again until his life bar is empty. Great plumes of black blood gush out, almost obscuring your view. The throws become even more violent until the last stab drains all of the creatures resolve to fight, and to live. It falls with such force, the ground all around it shudders and shatters. A great thing is now dead. As it falls, you see the light literally go out in its eyes. Its essence, is a black vapor that envelopes it, evaporates, and then is drawn into you. This surge of energy makes you collapse, and black out.
The game prompts you to save, and you wake up at the central shrine. Weary, and exhausted, you rise to your feet. A idol representing the colossus you just destroyed, lights up with energy, and crumbles. Dormin describes the next colossus, and you start a new trek for the next one. Agro comes trotting in after a few moments, somehow knowing where his master is. But the journey and colossus are not the same as the last. Some live in lakes, long undisturbed. Others live in neglected, secret gardens. There are even those that fly. Soaring high in the sky, dipping and rising up with ease.
They all move with awe inspiring confidence. They are often unaware of your presence. Why should they care? You are nothing more than a fast moving blot darting around their feet. Others, so hungry for sport or destruction, see you as a excuse to wantonly chase or destroy. Each one is so intricately detailed with fur, armor, and mottled skin. The texture capabilities of the PS2 are pushed to the limit on these moving mountains. They're almost XBOX quality. It pushes animation to the brink as well. Every part of their bodies are articulated. They have weight, momentum, and fierce intelligence. Some relentlessly pursue you. Others try their best to avoid you. Just trying to figure out how to get onto them later in the game represents most of the challenge.
After a while, you start to feel bad for them. Such proud and magnificent beings, slain in a matter of moments. But it is for your love you do this. Surely these beings did something to deserve their fate. Why else would they such life draining spots. Perhaps they were cursed with them? Maybe they destroyed this land? Or maybe Dormin is lying to you. Has it some grudge against them? Until the end, you are given no answers. If you do not act, it will not restore the life of your loved one. If you continue, you might be being used for murder. Your lover for her is too strong. You continue.
Greater strength is needed to grasp the later colossi. Each one you defeat gives you greater health and strength, but it can be gained additionally by eating fruit from certain trees scattered across the land and collecting white tailed lizards. Those lizards are only found at save shrines. Small shrines that mimic the central shrine, can restore your health, and save you much backtracking on longer journeys.
The last colossus is the longest journey of all. It seems like a eternity to get there, but at the end, lies the last battle for the soul of your love. Have you forgotten? All these battles, lonely trips and hardships were for her. You are ragged, filthy, and exhausted. Your skin has a strange color to it. No longer the same as you started, but not noticeably darker. You have no time. The final battle is here.
All of the pretty words I've written so far can't possibly describe how epic (Yes, I know how overused that word is.) the final battle is. It truly must be experienced first hand. The ending is unexpected, horrifying, beautiful, and surprising hopeful. That's all I'll say. The game is a experience you have to play to fully understand, no matter how long a review describes it.
It really feels like a living, breathing world, and all the sounds that go with it. Wind rolling across the plains, birds chirping in the forest, soothing water falling over the cliffs, and the stillness of the desert. A Sweeping musical score plays just before, and during battle. Other times, it plays softly for intimate, emotionally charged moments. But for the most part, there is no music. Why would you need it? It would only distract from the natural sounds in the landscape.
I can't come up with anything else without spoiling the game, so I'll tell you about some of the other features of the game. Unlike ICO, there are extras to unlock replaying the game. New items like masks, harder difficulty and new weapons are a few. But the biggest reason is to explore the landscape. Even after defeating all the colossus, there are still huge amounts of land to be explored.
That's about it for the good. Now unfortunately, comes the bad.
Like nothing else in the game, the camera really fucks it all up sometimes. Team ICO apparently couldn't decide whether or not to make the camera manual or auto controlled. After moving, in a few seconds, it goes back to the default. It doesn't matter much when you're traveling across the landscape, but in the heat of battle it can get pretty frustrating.
The controls are somewhat erratic too. Just trying to get on Agro sometimes will drive you crazy! And he doesn't keep a steady speed very well, so you have to keep tapping the X button to keep him going.
The music seems like it has a hard time keeping up with what's on screen sometimes. Depending on how far away you are from the colossus, the music gets louder or softer. Sometimes it takes it a few seconds to get up to speed when you're suddenly close to it again.
That pretty much wraps things up.
The Bottom Line
Shadow of the Colossus is a game that has no equal. There's simply been nothing like it before or since. Anybody who considers themselves a gamer should play this game. Period. For somebody who's never played this game, go out and find this game. Period. These closing words may seem too brief, but I mean, come on! I just wrote a huge
review trying to describe the game to you! I loved it, and that's all I can say.