aka Wanda and the Colossus in Japan.
After the mixed success of Ico in the US it’s a surprise that we end up getting Shadow of the Colossus first. The larger than life adventure starts off with a solemn wanderer entering a large temple. He comes there with a young girl wrapped in a blanket and demands that the spirits above use their power to revive her. The mysterious presence from above reluctantly agrees, but on one condition. The warrior must slay mythical giants known as colossi first. The boy agrees, but he has no idea what he has gotten himself into.
First the hero needs to find where each colossus is hidden. Throughout the vast world these goliaths hide. To find the direction of where to go all you need to do is hold your sword in the light by pressing circle. The blade will reflect a beam of light in the direction you need to travel. Traveling the large world on foot would be an enormous challenge, but that’s where Agro comes in. The hero can ride his loyal horse Agro by pressing triangle. Once you’re on the horse you can dash towards your destination, but the blade can only give you an idea of where to go. Many times the path will lead you to a dead end. How should the player proceed? Scale the wall? Walk around to find another path? Or take a daring leap into the abyss? How to proceed isn’t exactly clear. The good part is that this leaves room for exploration. But on the other hand gamers need to be patient while they search for the path to the colossus. Kick back and enjoy the scenery while you stumble upon the goliaths.
When you actually find a colossus the real action begins. These things are huge, larger than any boss battle ever before. All the wanderer has in his arsenal is his sword, bow and bare fists. Just how can you trump these monsters? Instead of using brute force, the wanderer has to use his wits and exploit the vital points on each colossus. First you need to hold up the blade to the light again to seek out the weak points on the colossus. The light will converge on vulnerable areas that are often meters high. The wanderer will have to climb up the colossus by grabbing its fur. Here’s where some platforming elements come in. Most colossi have hard spots the wanderer can climb up on and other pieces of armor that you can jump place to place on. In between the jumping you’ll need to hold down the R1 button to hang on because the colossus isn’t going to give you a free ride. Often the titan will attempt to shake you lose, but the wander has a super kung fu grip indicated by the pink circle on the bottom right hand corner. You can only hold on as long as there is energy in the circle, but you can quickly recover energy if you rest by letting go for a second. While climbing around the colossus you need to search for glowing glyphs on the body. Stabbing these areas with your sword can cause some serious damage or cause the colossus to fall to the ground so you can climb up higher.
This is already quite a feat to accomplish, but there’s more to it. For instance how are you going to hit a colossus weak point when it is covered by armor? Figuring this out is going to take some thought, but if you can’t figure it out the mysterious voices in the sky will drop players a hint. Often times it is a cryptic hint, but it is better than nothing. However, later on the hints are almost necessary for just figuring out how to climb up on the colossus. Most of the time outside of the box thinking is what the designers have in mind, but there are other solutions. In one colossus fight against a four-legged giant you can run into an underground shelter to get the colossus in the right position so you can jump on it. Or you can use Agro as a stepping ladder to jump up and grab on to the beast’s leg if you time it right. It’s the player’s choice. There is a problem with the whole Colossus fighting system, the camera. Focusing the camera so you can see the Wanderer and the Colossus is tricky. The auto lock-on function when you press L1 often places the camera in even worse positions than if you manually control it. The end result is being hit unnecessarily because you couldn’t see the colossus winding up until it was too late.
While the gameplay is completely different from Ico, Shadow of the Colossus incorporates the atmospheric spirit that Ico had. Take the soundtrack for example. It is mostly soft natural noise while you’re exploring the world. It isn’t until you enter into a fight with a colossus until it changes to a more epic theme. The world itself is already also beautiful designed. Instead of being cluttered with scenery, it only has necessary paths and vast open fields. Even the colossi have an organic feel to them. They look like totem statues with tribal tattoos instead of vicious beasts. Even the hair on the colossi looks realistic and free flowing. Shadow of the Colossus manages to be artistic and technically impressive at the same time. There is a small price to pay for this, occasional slowdown.
The overall experience of Shadow of the Colossus is uniquely captivating. There isn’t a game out in the market like it and in the drought of epic titles Shadow of the Colossus comes out at a perfect time. Even though the experience is over before you know it, Shadow of the Colossus is a must play.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 1
Players may get lost if they can’t understand the hints on how to fight the colossus. Since this isn’t critical and the story is subtle this title can be picked up in any language.
Shadow of the Colossus got a US release first and is in stores now.
+ Pros: Revolutionary gameplay that is one part puzzle and one part boss battles.
– Cons: A tad on the short side, even shorter if you use a FAQ.
Overall: Shadow of the Colossus is a brilliant title that takes the best aspects of platforming, puzzle solving and larger than life battles packed into a single epic title.
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