Developer – SCEI
Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment
One of the most underplayed games of Sony’s library is a game called ICO. While in it’s infancy I had the pleasure of watching and playing the title at the E3 before it’s eventual release it became a favourite to me. ICO was Ico was developed in house by Sony Computer Entertainment. It was a deceptively simple and addicting exploration game that is loved by many and hated by others. In the years following ICO’s release the very same team has been working on follow up game entitled Shadow of The Colossus (SOTC). For fans of ICO the wait has been a long and tough. After a long stretch of time in development the wait is over and drooling fans can now experience the epic game that is a great follow up to ICO. Gamers must mount their trusty steed (Argo) and ride throughout the huge landscapes to try and defeat the mighty Colossi. The game is shrouded in mystery, folklore and magic of epic proportions. Having looked forward to this title for some time I couldn’t wait to dive in and lose myself in this title.
I must say right off the bat that this title would have looked much hardware better suited for the grand scale of the title itself. The PS2 is obviously nearing the end of its life cycle and unfortunately in some areas it really does show. The game is set in an undetermined land of rolling hills, towering mountains and large flat expanses, reminding me of riding through the country as a child. The overall look of the game seems to have a dull hue that tends to mute all colour from shining too brightly. I thought this look really suited the mood and feel of SOTC but it also hurt it as well as this beautifully constructed world always seemed to want to burst out and really shine.
The real star of the graphics engine is the Colossi themselves. These creatures of mythological magnitude are absolutely huge. They usually tower above you and look to be the most intimidating boss creatures I have ever seen. Although they are so large they animate so lifelike and one look at their huge seeing eyes takes your breath away. I felt a sense of guilt as began my quest in the game; they seemed to hold a certain beauty that only fans of the genre can fully appreciate. During battle you’ll notice many details including the earth crumbling around with each massive step or swipe of one of their huge fists, dust and rocks falling from above as they bounce off canyon walls and even their own fur flying as they scrape past trees or other things in the environment. The level of detail here is quite astounding and really helps to drive the story along.
During my time with the game I found the frame rate to be suspect in some areas and this is understandable considering how hard the PS2 is working. The drops in frame rate never ever deter the enjoyment of the title; in fact most would not notice it while playing. I also turned the game to progressive scan mode in hopes of alleviating some of the nasty jaggies that plague the title at times. While having it in progressive helped out somewhat it did not entirely fix the problems.
Overall the visuals of this game are quite enjoyable and I can’t help but think of what a game like this would look like on Sony’s next machine.
On the audio front gamers can expect orchestral tracks by Japanese composer Koi Otani. The music is used sparingly only during dramatic moments. The musical score is actually a very vital. Not only is it just a perfect fit to the game but it also matches it in mood and timbre. For example, the music changes to a quicker livelier pace as you close in on a colossus' weak spot, obviously intensifying the moment. Sound effects throughout the game are also well done and really capture the magnitude of the game. Ground-dwelling colossi stomp thunderously, and heavy-blowing winds add to the anxiety of grasping onto a colossus in flight. Any gamers with access to a surround sound set up should really take advantage the sound from that game as it is simply amazing.
SOTC requires the gamer to explore a vast land looking for the giant colossi. They are scattered throughout the game and must be defeated in a somewhat liner order to proceed. Helping you cover the ground more quickly and efficiently is your horse, a loyal and trusted friend. He’ll be there whenever possible and will take you through this colossal world much faster than if traversed on foot. There are some areas that he cannot enter, mainly caves, lakes, and any path that’s hard to reach. However most of the paths are not easy to reach and access to them takes some observation. Each Colossi has a place they call home and you cannot battle them until you find it so exploration is definitely the main play of this game.
Once you find any one of the Colossi and you start fighting these massive beasts, it will become apparent that you must first hurt them in some way to really take advantage of their so to speak soft spots. This is much easier to say then do as evidenced by many of the hour-long thumb cramp fest I experienced on more than one occasion. The button placement is good, but the camera angle at times may hinder your progress. I found after some practice and button configuring that the game played almost flawlessly. The only way to get on these beasts is of course by grabbing their fur, climbing up and then inflicting your sword upon them at just the right time. Sometimes you may have to traverse the whole length or height of the monster more then a few times to get in your shots. The game is pretty much self-explanatory, meaning the answer is always there for you to find. I try to stay away from the strategy guides; I mean half the fun is figuring out the problem. This game allows the diehard to figure out things with time; however newbies to a game like this may find some frustration. After each battle you awaken in a shrine temple where you’ll find how and where to find your next colossus to fight.
Shadow of the Colossus is by far one of the best games to come out for any system in sometime on any platform. The story is grandiose and lush with such a style and grace not before seen in a videogame. The resulting effect on the gamer is that of an epic story being told, reminding me very much of watching an anime in full motion. This is also wherein lies my only gripe with SOTC, and that would be the graphics engine. While the PS2 certainly does a most admirable job of rendering such a beautiful looking game it tends to stumble from time to time. Framerates and anti-aliasing do come to the forefront on numerous occasions. I sure hope that there is a sequel to this game on the PS3. Overall SOTC must be played to be enjoyed to it’s fullest as the compelling storyline and moving music will instantly hook the gamer to explore it’s depths completely.