Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)


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Shadow of the ColossusYou know that game that you pre-ordered eight months ago in the hopes that you will get one of the first copies in what will prove to be the always sold-out "it" game of the year? It is the one where the mutated alien zombies kidnapped the princess leaving it up to you to massacre your way through them while collecting the mysteriously appearing coins which are used for the weapon and armor upgrades, purchased in the villages full of aimlessly wandering villagers, that you need in order to fight the over-sized and anonymously evil final boss who is set on world domination and who lives in, on, or near a volcano. *Deep inhale* Ya know which one I am talking about? Final Fant...Hal...Resident Ev....The Legend of Zel...well you get the idea.

Don't get me wrong. These are all good games in their own right, but they are pretty much the same game with different graphics. Luckily, director, game designer and art director Fumito Ueda and producer Kenji Kaido, along with the rest of the development team behind ICO, have broken the mold and released, exclusively for the Playstation 2, what has become the single most original and awe-inspiring gaming experience of my life, Shadow of the Colossus.

Shadow of the ColossusIn Shadow, you play a nameless hero on horseback who, in the opening sequence, takes the lifeless body of a nameless girl and places it on an alter in a temple to which he has been journeying. You are then informed that in order to bring her back to life, you must destroy sixteen idols that line the temple's walls. To destroy an idol, you must kill the colossus which is represented by each of the idols. This admittedly does not sound much different than any other plot to an action/adventure or RPG. The plot is, however, much more involved and cryptic than it first appears.

The actual gameplay is quite different than the average game as well. Unlike other games (The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Halo, etc.) where the player is to run thru an area hacking or blasting away at throngs of enemies in an attempt at leveling up, Shadow has no leveling up other than a few increases to the health meter and strength meter. Also, Shadow of the Colossus has no field enemies. None. Nada. Instead of the standard "fight, fight, fight, mini-boss, fight, fight, fight, dungeon boss" layout of gameplay, it is simply "boss, boss, boss, boss, boss." They've cutout the middle man or men or demons or skeletons or rabid animals or whatever other games throw in to pointlessly slaughter. This did, at first, seem a bit odd to me mainly because I kept expecting something to be lurking in the bushes to pounce at any given moment. Shadow's focus is on the task at hand. That task being to kill the colossi and restore the girl's life.

Do not let the lack of filler enemies fool you. Some of the colossi are difficult to find in the huge landscape (I could write another few pages on the games beauty alone) that is yours to explore. You are equipped with a sword that, when held up to the sunlight, shines a beam in the direction of your next foe. Sometimes however, this can be misleading as you'll find that you have gone around the wrong side of a mountain and gotten lost in a forest trying to follow the light. Other times, you'll find yourself in a valley where the sun's light does not reach, and you are stuck having to explore the area in an attempt at tracking down your next victim. As soon as you start thinking to yourself, "Well, this can't be the right way," a 250 foot tall creature will slowly stride past bringing about a whole new set of obstacles. Each of the sixteen colossi is a puzzle in and of itself, and each one must be killed by hitting a series of "pressure points". Unlike other games where you can simply whip out a missile launcher from a ridiculously over-sized arsenal and blast your foe or pull out an obscenely over-sized and ornate sword and start thrashing at it without any strategy, in Shadow you are equipped only with a sword, a bow with unlimited arrows, and your horse Agro. Of these, only the sword does any damage to the colossi. Since most colossi have their main weak point located high on their torso, you'll have to climb them to make the kill, all while clinging on for dear life. Many of the battles take over of an hour to complete and will have you so drawn into the action, that when you finally do defeat the colossi, you find yourself out of breath and with a sense of achievement.

The only negative things I can say about the game are of its length, the control of the horse, and the camera. This game was a little too short at about thirteen hours for my taste. There are features that are unlocked by playing through multiple times, and you'll want to play this one again and again. Agro takes a little getting used to. I walked everywhere when I began the game after attempting to control him. Once you get a feel for him, it is not as difficult but still not perfect. The major flaw in Shadow is with the camera. Every single place that I've read about this game has mentioned the camera. It is not always horrible, but it seems to be the worst when you are in crucial moments during a battle. Another reviewer described it as a conspirator against him. It is a pretty major flaw, but not so much of one that it should keep every single person who owns a PS2 from dropping whatever they are doing and going out to buy the game immediately. I could, obviously, go on about this game forever, but it is just one of those things that everyone should experience on their own.

Analysis:

Dude, it's just awesome!

39 Comments

I am glad that you made a review for this, I first come into contact with this game, at my local Best Buy, where my friend worked. The game play was awesome, trying to beat the first level foe was hard to grasp, since learning the controls was a little hard. It was so fun, that I brought it the same day, with my friend's discount, of course. But I have to add, trying to beat some of the colossus was just damn hard, it can be tiresome at times to mess up and redo the whole thing, but to kill the colossus brought the most reward. Thanks for a great review.

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Yes, thank you, Preston, for a really great review!

Sounds like I'm gonna have to go buy another game pretty quick. =)

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Nice to see guest reviewers on the site, though I'd like to see more analysis in keeping with the site's usual flavor. Still, a nice review!

For what it's worth, I was *probably* not going to buy the game until I read the "only 13 hours". That's a clincher for me. Less is more, and all of that. I simply don't have the time for 'filler'.

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I dare you to explain how Final Fantasy is the same game as Halo. Your current comparisons don't hold water. For example, there is no levelling up in either Halo or Zelda (one could argue that Zelda has "levels" in the shape of new items/weapons, but even taking that into account, there's still no levelling up in Halo).

The rest of the review is fine and all, but you lose major credibility points when you snipe at other games with the apparent attitude of "Nothing is any good if other people like it."

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In defense of Preston, I am sure what he is trying to say is that some games are out there to push the boundaries of art in video games. You are right though, his description of these games (especially in paragraph 4) is mostly inaccurate. Actually, the description of Zelda most shocked me, since it's a notorious puzzler at points and has a lot of depth in most every detail.

Anyway, I digress, SOTC is a great game.

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Maybe if paragraph 4 simply appeared without references to Zelda and Halo, it would have been easier to swallow.

I agree that Zelda is much more a puzzler than a fighter or hack-and-slash. And I haven't played Halo to even comment about that.

What I got out of it was this: Although SotC may resemble those other games in style and third person perspective, the game play is altogether different, and surprisingly so.

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Personally, I thought the things they did with Agro were great. Little touches like calling (or yelling) his name so he'd come to you, and bigger ones, such as the whole kick/speed method and fighting/exploring with him, built a bond with it. I'm sure most people who finished the game were surprised at just how important the horse had become to them.

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Europe gets short shrift again! It's coming out over here on the 24th December. That said, it is coming out along with an Ico re-release, so it's not all bad news.

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I'm on colossus #9 currently... I think it's kinda 'sad' to hunt down the colossi and kill them just to save his - girlfriend? :-) But I have to say, I absolutely loooove ICO, and that's my favourite game of all time! And I'm glad that Europe is re-releasing ICO... I myself don't like the artwork for the US release. bleh!

SoTC is excellent, but ICO still rules! Ico the character is just so charming - to me!

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Jay, glad to see you review this game, as I agree with most of what you said and firmly believe it is one of the finest games ever made. One of my favorite aspects of the game is the moral ambiguity of the storyline. Should you really be doing what you are doing? Who is the hero and who is the villian? The 'monsters' look so sad and tired -- I felt like a little virus, yet wrapped in traditional hero trappings... to avoid spoilers I will stop there, but suffice it to say: great stuff.

So glad I took the time to play it. Which leads to my only disagreement with your review: the length. I for one really appreciate fantastic gameplay with a story that wraps up in around 10 hours. I find it hard enough to make time to play games, without having to drudge through 20-40 hours of cut scenes and filler enemies. Padding the game length would have been easy by putting in hoardes of wandering monsters, but I think we can all agree that it would not have improved the gameplay. In fact, it would have weakened it. That said, of course I was left wanting more and this experience encouraged me to seek out ICO, which I never finished the first time around...

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Thanks, akp, though it was Preston, not I, who wrote the review.

Personally, I agree with both you and Kim... shorter is indeed better. I tend to leave epic adventures unfinished, and therefore they are much less fulfilling to me. Cheers!

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Ok.. I'm not really much for console games, myself, but still, I have to ask: why do you have a bow and arrow if it does absolutely no damage to what you're trying to kill, especially if they're the ONLY thing you have to kill in the game?

Baffling!

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it sounds breathtaking....

you're giving me console envy, jay! :(

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ah...but of course, you didn't write it...

anyway...

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I absolutely LOVED ICO.

I put away my PS2 until I just read about this game last week and I will be breaking it out to play this one. Thanks for the great review!

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Kendra, the bow and arrows are generally used to grab the attention of a collosus or make it react to where you hit it. Infact, 6 of the 16 collosi require the use of the bow.

It also can be used to kill white-tailed lizards for a stamina increase (after eating the tail).

Anyway, I just finished renting this game and... WOW! It was awesome the whole way through with a perfect ending.

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I actually had no problems with the camera, you can tweak it manually but it follows you quite well (or the colossus/agro if you hold a button)
Agro was a bit different, turning him when you hit something is hard but again, holding a button will lock the camera behind you and make riding easier. I suspect putting away your weapons helps too, but I'm not sure.
In any case, the game is fantastic, a great mix of art and game and quite emotionally involving for a game with maybe a page of dialog total.

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ARRRRRRGGGG!!!Death to the camera from hell!!!

I rented the game last night after reading Preston's review and I must say, the gameplay is very interesting but I find the stupid camera does take away from some of the fun. At the crucial moment it just seems to pan to a different point of view and just hampers the gameplay.

As for Agro...yay horsie!^_^ Its a bit tough to get the hang of directing Agro (seeing as, to me as least, the bloody horse seems to have a mind of its own!)but I find the controls for riding to be more intuitive. I just generaly pointed him in the direction I wanted to go and let him find his way.

Kudos Preston for a great review. I'm looking foward to playing this game for a bit.

Nyx

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Hahaha... as soon as I sent this review to Jay, I knew I'd get some negative feedback, specifically about my game comparisons.

In defense of the review, I am an insanely huge fan of both the entire Final Fantasy series (the only reason I bought the PS1 or PS2) and the entire Zelda series (the only reason I bought the Gameboy and Gamecube). My obsession with these games may even verge on a need for Video Gamers Annonymous meetings, but I absolutely love them. Halo (the only reason I spent every waking hour at my neighbors house for a number of months as I do not own an XBox) is, as far as I am concerned, a decent game and entertaining, but nothing to write home to momma about. If I absolutely must break down my review, as it appears I must, here goes.

The Final Fantasy series requires you to hack away at hordes of random enemies to increase level, increase money, and increase weapons/armor for some greater good. The Legend of Zelda requires you to hack away at hordes of random enemies for rubies and weapons/armor for some greater good. Both games tend to revolve around a princess type character (later FF moreso than the earlier games). In Halo, you kill hordes of ranodm enemies for some greater good. Resident Evil involves killing hordes of random enemies for no apparent reason to me, but I'll assume is for a good cause. They are all games where you run around and hack/slash/shoot/blast/poison/gnaw away at hordes of enemies in order to increase stats, no matter what the form in which those stats may come. I do think they are all basically the same game. That is not to say they are not enjoyable games, but still they are all the same concept. Of course there are minor changes, but there must be. Otherwise the gaming industry would only release one game system and one game per genre.

The point I was trying to make is very simple and should not be read into too deeply. These are all games that get great deals of hype, but when really looked at, are basically the same game. Yes, I will admit that the point of Shadow is to save a nameless girl whether she be a princess, a girlfriend, a relative, or Fraulein Brunhilda the Brothel Queen. Yes,this falls into the "save a princess" type of gameplay. The game is, however, much different than the other must-have games that come out every year in that the gameplay is much different. You do not depend on stronger weapons, higher stats, and more advanced armor to acheive your goal. You do not fight off the thralls of badies who materialize with little to no exlanation as to why they are there or why they must die. You are simply a boy equipped with a sword, a bow, and a faithful steed. You could care less about the unrealistic goal of saving the planet. You do not have time to trade out old trusted weapons for shinier, more destructive ones. You are simply trying to save somone that you love using tools that you know. You are a hero and warrior of sorts but only out of necessity. Granted, Link is a hero out of necessity, but were it not for his upgrades (i.e. his hookshot, ice, and fire arrows), he'd be completely useless. Shadoow forces the player, unlike any game that I have played before, to depend on his or her own wits and limited abilities and tools.

Yes, Zelda is known for its puzzles. Yes, some take a great deal of time to figure out. Yes, both the Zelda and Final Fantasy series thusfar, excluding FF VIII & X-2 and Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (which I think was Nintendo's desperate attempt at selling consoles), have been unbelievable. They are, however, the exact same regurgitated game. Which I am completely okay with since, as stated earlier, I am a huge fan of both series. But let's face it, as far as bosses, whatever your new weapon happens to be in Zelda, that is what will kill the boss. The puzzles in Shadow are living, breathing, volatile giants/puzzles that you must solve/slay while thinking on your toes and attempteing to not be crushed. You do not have the convenience of a "what is my newest weapon" hint. You do, however, assuming you wait too long to kill a colossus have the voice of God or whoever to give you an extremely vague hint on how to take down the giant.

To Robert, I never played ICO, though it is the next game I will purchase as a result of Shadow.

To Robert and AKP, one of the most wonderful things about this game is that feling of "Why am I killing these, for the most part, seemingly peaceful creatures?" The storyline for this one is absolutely amazing.

To Kendra, the bow and arrow do not do damage to the Colossi on a substantial level, but they often help bring the Colossi down to a level where you can make an attack with your sword.

To EvilHayama, kudos on your horseback and camera skills. It took me forever to get used to controlling them.

To Nyxerebus, thanks for the compliment on the review. The cam and Agro controls are pretty crucial to defeating some of the Colossi (the sand related ones for Agros and the camera on the final one especialy). Personally, I think the developers made them a hassle to get used to in order to make you "bond" with them, thereby drawing you farther into the game.

To everyone who said the length was a good thing, I work seven days then am off seven, so the longer rpgs are my cup of tea. I do however see how the shortened length is more feasible to most gamers. Either way, this game is one tht I will play countless times. Did I mention I have no social life?

Hopefully, that cleared up any confusion about the review. If not, I am sorry that I offended you. Not sure why anyone would be offended by a game review, but stranger things have happened.

On that note, good gaming.

Preston

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ReverendTed December 16, 2005 10:33 AM

Personally, I love Shadow of the Colossus, but for most people I think Penny Arcade's Tycho said it best:
"The game needs to be *seen* by every conscious organism on planet Earth. And if that means that you must *play* it in order to do so, that is your cross to bear."

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One more thing: I was going to right an actual analysis, but I revised and edited the review down from a 400,000 page review to this and still felt it was too long. An analysis for it would be as follows.

Aside from getting used to controling the camera and Agro, the horse, this game is perfect interactive art. Once you get used t those two aspects of the game, you should be even more in awe than you already were.

Okay. That's it.

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write not right.

Reverend Ted, I look at the game sort of like Bose speakers. You can read about them all that you want to, but you have to actually try them for yourself to truly appreciate them.

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Man, this is another reason why I can't wait for Christmas. Goshdarnitall, I want this game now!

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I've heard that this game is excellent. Although, I don't own a PS2 myself, so I don't know the feeling of the game.
Might I suggest a game similar almost, to this one?
It's called Lineage 2. I am currently playing it, but you can download it.

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Jay wrote: "Thanks, akp, though it was Preston, not I, who wrote the review."

Whoops, I keep forgetting that there are multiple submitters now -- I need to remember to read the tag line...

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Hey Jay,

Your website was a great find for me, until this I had been searching through hit and miss flash games sites and maybe found one or two. Now I have to watch myself or I'm in front of the computer for far too long. I just wanted to thank you for doing a review of this, Ico is probably one of my favorites of all time, I was disapointed to see no Ico 2, now I have something that sounds just as beautiful and creative.
Jon aka Comma Splice Master

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Thanks, Jon, glad you enjoy the site. I can certainly relate to the comment about being in front of the computer for far too long(!), and also about being a comma splice master. hahaha.

Kudos go to Preston for the review; he is an excellent writer. I heard he gets lots of practice. =D

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Haha...thanks guys. =D

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how kill the 9º colossus pleases???????!!!

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this is the worst game i have ever played. Fine, there is beautiful scenery but come on, it's 16 bosses, thats it thats all 16 big badass bosses, no other enemies, no other gameplay whatsoever aside from looking for the next big colossi, what a waste of money, i don't make much in the first place and when i see people making stupid amounts of money off of people like me, with crap like this, it rattles my faith in the whole future of gaming. It should be fun, and worth it.

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im stuck at the part after you defeat the first colossus.

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how do you kill the sand snake colossus. I've been playing it for hours and i'm getting fustrated. PLEASE HELP!!!!!!

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*this is the worst game i have ever played. Fine, there is beautiful scenery but come on, it's 16 bosses, thats it thats all 16 big badass bosses, no other enemies, no other gameplay whatsoever aside from looking for the next big colossi, what a waste of money, i don't make much in the first place and when i see people making stupid amounts of money off of people like me, with crap like this, it rattles my faith in the whole future of gaming. It should be fun, and worth it.*

It's just out of your reach, as much as ICO, I believe.

Bah, go play Dungeon Siege or something as boring as it.

I believe that you didn't even watch the cinematics. It's not just a game, it is a piece of art, as many other reviewers already said.

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max rocky May 28, 2007 8:21 AM

oi kendra you know nothing of this game you really need arrows to kill no 9.

by the way can someone tell me how to kill no. 10?

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to kill colossus number 10 you simply get on Agro, eventually the boss will start to chase you. Get your bow and arrow out and aim at his head but don't fire yet, after a while he lifts his head and you can see his eyes.
shoot his eye and he will spin out of control until he hits a wall. then climb on him and hit his vital spots.(this will take more than 1 time)

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Pantalaimon duCoeur February 7, 2008 4:35 PM

First off,Preston is right. Too many games coming out are very similar in overall compilation,but if you have fun out of any game at all,hell,play like it's the best ever. Some old-schoolers like myself will remember the Atari and Nintendo originals as fondly as a first lover. I can't say anything about his accuracy as to FF or Halo,so I leave that to the people who played those.

Second,SOTC is a very good game in it's own right,and one could spend hours exploring the land rather than sit in a castle surrounded by walls that pretty much give you one or two options on which way to go...forward or back to the invisible wall that won't let you return the way you came. You all know the drills.

In closing,SOTC reminds me of another game called Haunting Ground for PS2. Another puzzler game with an animal companion at your side,though unridable. LOL

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robert adams March 30, 2008 4:10 PM

this game is my all time fav. I LOVE IT. . . . Im currently trying to beat the time trals on hard and damn near got it. . the story line to the character is just AWSOME.... is it true when you unlock every thing, all the weapons and climb to the garden theres a nother colossus. . . . . . . . . .

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Im stuck on lvl 1 and so far ive only seen a forest and the altar area. What does the Clossi look like? i just bought the game Yestreday.

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You need to watch the cut scene at the altar, which tells you the story and what your objective is (to battle each of the colossi).

Once that is finished, head down out of the altar and far across the wide open field. At the other side you will see an area you will need to climb. Learning to climb will also help you battle the first colossus, which is waiting for you at the top.

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