My PS2 has earned its place among my consoles quite a while ago and has been a part of my console tower ever since. It is a tower full of memories that has become somewhat sad and lonely, since their kind of food is not made any more. They are all on a strict dust bunny diet.
But… every now and again, I surprise them with some fine caviar to make it up to them, and this time the caviar came in the form of: Shadow of the Colossus
This giant was re-released for the PS3, one month ago, together with that other beautiful classic: Ico. It has been re-mastered with fresh textures and you can now play it on your 3D-television (if you fancy such a thing), but do not worry: If you don’t have one, you can still enjoy the crap out of it on your ‘standard’ HD flatscreen :)
This retro-review is mainly geared towards those that have never heard of this artistic heavy weight. Let’s hope that more people discover this fantastic game. And if you do know the game. Just read on for a trip down memory lane :)
Wander lost the love of his life (editor: or possibly his sister ?) and is bringing her lifeless body to the forbidden land in a desperate act to get her back. Travelling through the mountainous landscape, you (as Wander) are on a quest to find a holy temple where you can ask the gods to restore the soul of your loved one. At the temple, when you place Mono’s (the girl’s name) body on the altar, a biblical sounding voice of the god Dormin speaks to you about a trial. Mono’s soul will be restored to her if you manage to kill the sixteen colossi that are roaming the land. Love, being the strong motivator here, compels you to do so, risking your life by riding towards certain doom on your horse, with only your sword as a means to an end.
Yet, this sword is not only suitable for giant slaughter, it is also one hell of a navigation system. By raising it up into the air, it reflects the sunlight in such a way that it will point the way to the next colossus. During your fights with the colossi, it will even point out their weak spots. Handy, huh?
Your exact relationship with Mono, remains unclear during the whole game, and there are many theories (one includes her being your sister)as to what it is. Yet another relationship slowly develops as you play the game. I found myself growing very attached to my horse, named: Agro. I just have to call out, and he’ll come galloping my way. He brought me to beautiful oases, mountain ranges, and saved me from many perilous situations. He makes the solitary life of Wander less solitary, and perhaps even bearable. And during those moments that you dismount and look around on foot, you’ll be thrilled to see the brilliantly designed insects, birds, reptiles, and plants that are bustling about. These natural elements form a strange contrast with the fact that you’ll be facing a living sky scraper soon.
Every time you find one of the colossi, the music starts and you’re introduced to the current colossus with a nice little cut scene. Kow Otani’s beautiful music is actually only present during cut scenes, and the colossi encounters, making the travelling in between more so desolate. But not so during your fights. Heavy slow moody music floods your ears as one of the giants slowly, yet seemingly unstoppable walks on and on. The weak spots of a colossus are never just their Achilles heel ;) so most of the time, you’ll have to find a way to climb the colossus while he’s trying hard to squash you like a bug. For example: colossus X tries to pulverize you with his giant sword. The only way up is to dodge the sword, jump back, onto the sword, run along onto his arm and let the rollercoaster ride commence! The music changes into something fierce and bombastic. The colossus tries to brush you off with all their might. Clinging on for your dear life, you can only wait and hope that he’ll stop shaking for a bit so you can climb onward. Keep your eyes on the emblem that shows his weak spot. Once you reach it, you can sink in the blade and watch the living mountain stumble, and crumble dramatically into a pile of stone and dirt. The music already makes you feel that this is not a heroic moment. It is a sad moment where a wondrous beautiful creature is killed, because you can’t live with the loss of your wife-sister-girl-thingamabob. No, you will not feel like a hero, you will be left with a bad taste in your mouth, and oh woe, there’s 15 more to go :( ./cry
As the colossus crashes to the ground, black shady tentacles shoot forth from the remains to enter your body and the screen turns black. You find yourself back at the temple, next to mono’s still remains where there is now a shadowy presence looming over the altar for every giant you killed.
SotC is drenched in this sort of mystique and evokes a lot of emotion in the player. The relationship you develop with your horse, the dreamy, gloomy ambience, the guilt over every killed giant… this game is one big emotional trip, and that’s what makes this game so special.
Unfortunately, with the pimping of this PS2 classic for PS3, they did not pimp the somewhat awkward controls, as they are just as awkward as they were back then, causing some frustration when you fall down from a colossus half way up for the Xth time. Yet, it kinda adds to the challenge, and I found myself not being stopped from enjoying this game, and remember… you don’t just buy this one emotional journey, you get that other fantastic journey called Ico as well! One heck of a double bill :)