Its not very often a game that has so many flaws can impress me, but what Shadow of the Colossus lacks, it makes up for in atmosphere.
The game starts with a cut scene, to set the stage. You play as Wander, a man who lost the love of his life, Mono (not to be mistaken with the disease). To resurrect her, he literally travels to the end of the world.
It is there you strike a deal with the god of the land; to bring Mono back you must play god assassin and kill sixteen giant incarnations known as Colossi, thus the name.
This is where my first problem with the game came in, this was a long cut scene and it gave very little information to the story.
Not only that but it kept teasing me with gameplay. For instance, after watching for about five minutes Wander finally enters the temple where the god is and shadows being to appear. I guess playing modern games has spoiled me, but it felt like the perfect time for a combat tutorial. Instead of this, a light beams from the sunroof in the temple and they all just run away. Which proceeded another five minutes of pointless dialogue.
I understand that for a game of this scale, the developers wanted to set the stage, however there is no real reason for killing the Colossi. Sometimes I felt like a giant dick going around waking up these ancient beings and mounting them without even buying them dinner first.
But alas, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. I traversed the landscape to find my first victim. This is where it hit me; this world is massive, yet so empty.
This isn’t a criticism, rather my first real praise of the game. You feel alone. You feel vulnerable. It is just Wander and your horse Argo.
All of that was put to the back of my mind as I tried to control the camera which feels like a swivel chair attached to a firecracker, for the first half an hour I struggled to find that sweet spot where I could see where I am going and enjoy the landscape without the camera doing a complete 360.
The controls were an issue for me at first. I had to tweak some button configuration. I don’t know who thought triangle should be the jump button but it was a huge inconvenience.
I will admit I am nitpicking here, once I adjusted the configuration the game itself became a lot more enjoyable.
The first encounter was with a large fellow with a sword. They really weren’t lying when they called them Colossi. You get a sense of feeling small and inferior (partly because this also acts as your tutorial, so if you miss an instruction– good luck). But the sense of being apart of an epic adventure is not lost.
That is something I would like to point out, no matter how much I nitpicked, I still found myself lost in this world. It is massive, especially for its time. Not only that it is beautiful, especially for a game made in 2005. I played this on the PS3 off the collection with ICO on it as well, in HD it looks just as amazing.
Team Ico really went for a minimalistic approach and it worked. I felt immersed in the world.
Each boss battle was like a level. Climbing on each Colossi was different yet the same. The main goal was the same, find the main artery, stab the crap out of it, and find the next, repeat. But the designs of the Colossi themselves are so different it doesn’t get repetitive.
While the game design is creative, I found myself having a lot of fun with some of its glitches, like catapulting myself off my horse like a skinny kid on a teeter totter when a fat kid sat down on it to fast.
With that being said, the horseback riding does take some getting used to. It feels clunky and going straight is about as easy as walking the line when you’re drunk. However once I got the hang of it, the horseback riding began to work properly.
That seems to be my main gripe with the game, it takes time to get used to it because it is so different.
I was told it was one of the best games ever made, so I guess I came into it with my expectations too high. Once I lowered them a little bit the game was really enjoyable.
After playing for a few hours I realized that Shadow of the Colossus is great. For a game that was released in an era that didn’t age well, it still looks beautiful. While it takes time to get used to the feel of the game, it shouldn’t discourage you to continue.
Even with its flaws, Shadow of the Colossus is a classic title.