My Thoughts on Shadow of the Colossus: Minimal Greatness

The final “old” one. The next “new” one will either be on Freedom Planet or Bloodborne. Whichever one I finish first. Probably Freedom Planet. Cause I just can’t KILL THE DAMN BLOOD STARVED BEAST IN BLOODBORNE!! Man I suck… Well just read this and get it over with.

P.S. This won’t be edited at all from when I first posted it on May 12, 2015 on the site GameInformer


 

My Thoughts on Shadow of the Colossus:

Minimal Greatness

 

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Towards the end of last year, I was convinced to buy The Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection by a friend of mine. I jumped into Ico first as it was the first game and after I beat it… I was left disappointed. Even though the game was minimalist in design; the next to no story, flat characters, and fairly unvaried gameplay left much to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, I generally love things with a minimalist style, but Ico did almost nothing with it. While Shadow of the Colossus (SotC) had a similar take, it greatly outshined its brother. It still had its drawbacks, but I enjoyed nearly every second of it nevertheless.

The basic premise of the game is that you, a young man named Wander, have trekked to the forbidden lands on horseback with your dead girlfriend to ask a seemingly god-like disembodied entity to revive her. In order to fulfill your request, however, the entity requests that you kill 16 colossi. Many of which tower over Wander. So with your dead girl lying on stone table in the entity’s temple, you and your horse, Agro, search for each colossi in order to slay them all and raise a member of the dead! *MINOR SPOILERS* But while you go on a mindless killing spree, a sage and an entourage of cavalier from Wander’s village trek to the forbidden lands in order to stop you, for you had stolen a mystical sword from the village, the only weapon capable slaying the colossi! And as each colossus is killed, the killer absorbs their dark energy. You see, unbeknownst to Wander but knownst to the sage, the entity was originally whole but as he was somehow evil (game doesn’t give an explanation…) he was split into the 13 colossi. The only way the entity could be whole again was if he got someone to kill each colossus, absorb their energy, and then transfer his essence into the person’s body. Once done, the entity could transform back into the beast he once was. This is where Wander comes in, a man too blinded by his will to resurrect his dead girlfriend to see what he was truly doing. *END MINOR SPOILERS*

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            While the game had minimal story telling, I enjoyed most of what it had to offer nonetheless (especially compared to Ico…). The few cutscenes told me some of what I needed to know and the landscape of the forbidden lands showed me some of what I needed to see, just enough to keep me interested. I even somehow felt connected the near silent Wander and his trusty steed. I didn’t, however, fell anything for the dead chick. I had almost no reason to bring her back to life, as I knew nothing about her. Not even how she died. I know the game had a minimal approach, but come on! I felt more attached to a horse! And the problem with the girl could have easily been solved. After each colossus was killed, dark energy rose from their freshly fallen bodies and swarmed into Wander, knocking him out. Moments later he would awake in the temple and be told which colossus to slay next. While Wander was unconscious however, a simple, cryptic dream-like cutscene should have played, showing a moment Wander spent with the girl while she was alive. A happy moment, a sad moment, how she died, just anything that could have shown that the girl was worth saving. It wouldn’t even have to happen every time Wander got knocked out. In fact, showing a dream after every third colossus or so would have been the best. Telling a story without overloading it.

Now onto gameplay, what made Shadow of the Colossus feel unique, especially as an action/adventure game. It was, in a word, simple. You could only do three things with your sword; slice, stab, and raise it in the air, causing a beam of light to shine from it in order to locate each colossus and reveal their weak spots. And while you could slice and stab, you primarily did the latter. You also had a bow and an endless supply of arrows, but their only use was to shoot at the colossi to draw their attention and shoot fruit (which increased your health bar) and shiny-tailed lizards (which increased your stamina… circle). There was also a jump button, which let you, well… do a single jump. A grab button that let you grab and cling to ledges and the furry backs or undersides of the colossi when held down. And a focus button with let you focus in on the colossus you were fighting. And last, but certainly not least, there was a horse button. Press it to get Agro’s attention by whistling when he/she (known as a male in the game while the games director said that the horse was female) was near or calling Agro’s name (which was the only thing Wander ever said) when he/she was far. Neigh. All of the controls were relatively simple for an action/adventure game, and I genuinely liked that. While I usually prefer playing games with multiple attack buttons, crazy combos, and dodge rolls, SotC gameplay’s was pretty satisfying. Mostly due to the fact that your sole enemies were the towering colossi made of an amalgamation of rock, flesh, fur, and ledges.

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Ride Agro though the large open landscape that was the forbidden lands while you raised your sword to the heaves to locate where each colossus was tucked away, maybe even use your bow to “hunt” lizards and fruit along the way. Once you got to each colossus and a cutscene showing which one you were fighting played, you could scan for its weak points first, or get its attention with an arrow, or just run/ride your horse up to it while yelling LEEROY JENKINS!!! You then had to figure out how to deal with the colossus facing you. How to avoid their attacks, how to get close to them, how to climb up them, and where to stab them! Usually in the head… Even though you repeated the process with each colossus, each one was pretty different. Moving on from one colossus to another never truly got monotonous. From the one that burrowed underground, to one that soared through the sky, and the little one that kept bleeping knocking me over!! Most of colossi were unique in their own way and it was hard not look in awe at each one. Heck, the final colossus was so unfeasibly large that when I first saw it, I stood motionless in its wake, merely gazing at it in wonderment. Until it blasted me off a cliff that is… My one and only death was caused by my own stupidity…

With all the fun I had riding Agro through the desolate world, hunting and killing each colossus, the game still had its flaws. Flaws shared with Ico. While I loved the gameplay, the controls were too loose and floaty. Even compared to other games of the time. While I loved the barren setting of the Forbidden Lands, it got boring riding Agro back and forth through it. There were corners of the over world I didn’t go to cause I had no reason too. While I liked the minimalist take on the story, a little more context would have really brought everything together. And I’ve already told you my gripe with the dead chick…

But with all of that, I truly loved my overall experience with Shadow of the Colossus. It’s definitely a step up from Ico… Whereas Ico was a ball of solid hogwash, Shadow of the Colossus is one of those games I will always hold in good regard. It’s a game that truly makes video games as a whole seem more meaningful. Now, If only Team Ico was working on another game…. Just one last game… Just one last game to, in a word; guard Team Ico from becoming just another dead video game company…

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3 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Shadow of the Colossus: Minimal Greatness

  1. I think the most satisfying aspect about the controls is the grab mechanism. To actually have to painstakingly climb up those colossi is one of best parts. Also Team Ico is developing another game, or at least they were. I don’t know the current status of the game but it is called The Last Guardian.

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    • Yeah, the difficulty in climbing up things totally made it all feel a bit more real. Just so much flopping around! And I know about The Last Guardian. It looks cool from what little has been shown.

      Liked by 1 person

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