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Reviewed: Shadow of the Colossus
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: November 23rd, 2005
Page: 2
ICO told the story of a young man, condemned for his birth with horns, escaping a castle with a young (and incredibly vapid) princess in tow. Shadow of the Colossus has definite references to ICO - the Dormin enemies are back, some familiar architecture returns, and the design of clothing is similar - but the story and gameplay are completely different. In Shadow of the Colossus players take on the role of a young man who wants to revive a young woman, who is either dead or in cursed sleep. The exact relationship and conditions are never stated, but they aren't really important; much of the story before the ending is told in innuendo, and the bare bones are given; in order to have the girl awaken, the boy must take the special sword he is carrying and slay 16 great beasts living in the forbidden valley.

To get around in the world is the first challenge, not because it's difficult, but because the world is incredibly big. The ICO team seem to have originally been planning something a lot more expansive, and there are a few hidden "features" - harvestable fruit and lizard tails to increase player abilities, randomly arranged save point altars in the game - that are almost out of place for such a linear plotline.

Aiding in travel, and in defeating one or two of the Colossi, is a horse named Agro. It comes when whistled for, and is a relatively speedy, if incredibly willful, mount. Pointing the direction of the next enemy is easy too; simply holding up the sword in a sunlit area causes it to reflect lines, which converge on the appropriate point. For one or two Colossi this is misleading, since the sword indicates only a straight line and not the appropriate path, but it's difficult to get truly lost.

Despite all this, exploring the land is not a big focus of the game. The focus is facing down Colossi - huge, hulking beasts which house the "spirits" necessary to destroy statues at the central temple of the forbidden land, releasing the girl. Each Colossus has certain vital points; hitting them anywhere else with arrow or sword will do no appreciable damage. To destroy a Colossus, the player must maneuver onto their bodies, climb to the appropriate point(s), and stab repeatedly with the sword while not being thrown off. There's even a mechanic for grip tiring, so that players can't just hold on all day - most Colossi have to be climbed at least twice to finish them off.

The music in the game is amazing - massive orchestral tunes, well suited to the epic scope of the battles, even if there are really very few tracks. The same can be said for the sound effects, which capture the immense nature of the beasts being fought; compared to them, the player is insignificant, a mere mosquito to be slapped away. Unfortunately, this same scale often plays havoc with the game's camera, and even player control (which is ceded back to the computer the moment the right thumbstick is released) is no help, because it's impossible to get the camera to zoom back far enough to capture the entire beast on screen.

Graphically, Shadow of the Colossus is both the worst and best of the PS2 for this year. On a standard television, no bigger than 27 inches, it's an absolute marvel; the fur looks real, the lack of polygon count is excusable, and the environments are gorgeous. Unfortunately for Sony, their development team tried to do too much; they included 480p and widescreen options, which serve only to show how poorly the PS2 has aged, causing the game to suffer from extreme pixelation, the exposure of how low resolution the game's textures are, and the game's incredible short draw-in distance.

To avoid boredom, I'd suggest buying the game. The last thing a player should do is try to finish it in a marathon session; while it can be done, this tends to cause people to not truly appreciate the game's construction. Defeating one or two Colossi at a time, and savoring it, is far preferable. But everyone who has a PS2 should try to enjoy this game, at least once; while not on par with ICO, it's definitely a classic in its own right.


Added:  Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Score:
Page: 2/3

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