Unlike many who jumped on the opportunity to play this remake, I have never played the original Shadow of the Colossus. The game originally released on the PS2 in 2005 and was hailed as a masterpiece. I never had the chance to play the original, but the remake made it clear why so many praise the game 13 years later.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when starting Shadow of the colossus. I knew it was an ominous game that was focused around taking out massive colossi, and for the most part that is true, but there is a lot more involved. You play as a young warrior named Wander who has entered a forbidden land. His goal is to revive a deceased girl who is presumably his lover, and to do so he makes a deal with ethereal voices known as Dormin. Kill all 16 colossi in the forbidden lands and Dormin will bring back the girl.
The story is one that leaves itself to be unraveled. Completing a quest to bring back the girl seems simple, but it’s the morality of the quest and how it unfolds that makes it much more meaningful. Every colossi taken down is both a triumph and a question of character for Wander. Right or wrong isn’t conveyed much at all, and it is up to the player to get to a conclusion until the end. There isn’t much dialogue in the game either, so actions do truly speak louder than words in Shadow of the Colossus.
Of course, a game with such incredible visuals can pull off more action instead of dialogue. The graphics and the art of Shadow of the Colossus were considered impressive when the game originally released so many years ago. In the remake though, they are comparable, and in some cases even better, to most current generation games. The first thing I noticed as the game started was just how good it looks for being a remade PS2 game. Textures on the ground and the surrounding buildings were photorealistic. Every blade of grass could be seen swaying in the wind, and god rays from the sun beamed down through the trees. Each new environment to travel through was full of detail and new-found life. If there was an almost perfect way to keep all the same environments from the original, yet capture it in current day graphics, this was it.
The colossi themselves are even more imposing now that they have been remade. Encountering that first colossi in the forbidden lands is still as imposing as ever, even by today’s standards, and they are full of detail as well. Their stone piece armor is full of texture and intricate design, while every strand of hair can be seen clearly swaying around on the beasts. Climbing each one, holding on for dear life and finding their weak spots never gets old, and each one is more epic than last.
For those who have never played the game before, Shadow of the Colossus handles boss fights a little different than what you might expect in a current action-adventure game. You must use your wits in an almost puzzle-based fight against each unique colossi. Once you reveal the weak spots on a colossi, you must figure out how to climb them and destroy those spots; eventually taking them down. It involves more climbing and use of environment than any actual combat, which even today works well.
There is no denying though, that much of the gameplay in this remake still feels very dated. Camera movement can sometimes look aggravating and unnatural. Dodging will sometimes feel too slow and invincibility frames seem to be nonexistent. The bow especially is clearly outdated, as you must stand flat footed when drawing an arrow, then use RS to clumsily aim your shot towards its intended mark.
However, the worst of all of these is by far your horse. Acceleration mechanics on the horse are not only confusing, but ineffective. Your horse will make awkward turns with the clumsy camera movement and calling on your horse doesn’t always work. It is mechanics like these that need to be redone along with the graphics for a current generation audience. Many nostalgic fans who loved the original may argue that the gameplay must stay untouched, and I can see why some may feel that way, but most players who are used to modern gaming will find some of the mechanics in Shadow of the Colossus annoying at the very least.
As dated as some of the game mechanics are, the overall experience remains unscathed. Even as a first-time player, I found myself enthralled by each new colossi and environment I encountered. This game was the inspiration for many of the games that came after, and it’s easy to see why. $40 dollars for a 10-hour adventure such as this is well worth the price and I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a new game to try, and any nostalgic fans, but I’m sure I don’t need to convince them.