A colossal reimagining.
2005 may go down as one of my most memorable and favourable years in gaming. I was blessed with the presence of three incredible games, two of which kickstarted or defined a series. These three memorable titles included the action cult classic God of War, sim racing staple Gran Turismo 4, and a newcomer to the gaming races – Studio Japan’s Shadow of the Colossus. While much of my gaming hours were spent with the former, 2018 has become that much more special – the year that Studio Japan has revived, yet, recreated an iconic Playstation title. While we saw a HD remastering of this stellar title only a number of years ago during the Playstation 3’s reign, Shadow of the Colossus returns as a truly remarkable remake for the Playstation 4, built from the very founding roots of the original creation, and sculpted to serve as a true fan service that will surely be the murmuring behind every corner of Playstation Headquarters for years to come. With its gorgeous visuals, serene environments and perfect pacing all left intact from the original title, Shadow of the Colossus’ simplistic beauty is one to experience, not to spectate, and positions itself perfectly to capture both its original fans and new audiences alike.
The beauty, draw and attraction within Shadow of the Colossus begins at its very roots – the simple story introduced to you in the sub-five minute prelude cinematics. As the curtains retract in anticipation of your adventure, you follow the story of Wander, a horse-riding adventurer who rides into the barren lands with a young woman strapped on horseback. The young woman, Mono, is unresponsive, and is laid to rest in safelands. Much to Wanders’ surprise, an overbearer reaches in to make a life-changing proposition – free the land, caves and barren fields of the Colossus, and Mono will be revived. This proposal sets the entire scene and pacing for the game, detailing your only objectives; explore, slay, repeat. While the premise seems simple, Shadow of the Colossus shines through its ‘complex simplicities’. The simplicity of your overarching objectives ensures that your path and conscience is clear as you go about your journey, but the way in which you progress is truly up to you. There is little to no guidance as you progress – you are only told vaguely the location of the next Colossi.
As you explore the vast, barren environments, you will encounter over fifteen unique, complex Colossi to conquer. Each Colossi will overbear you with great stature, and will react to your presence in a different routine and method each time. Some Colossi will trait a timid, cautious nature at first, then knock you back when you least expect it, while others will come swinging at you from the get-go. In order to conquer each Colossi, you’ll need to lock your finger into the R2 button, and get familiar with it, as you’ll need to make use of the R2 button in many instances during your struggle. Holding down R2 will trigger the ‘grab’ action, at which point you will need to command Wander to grab onto certain parts of the Colossi and climb procedurally, from bottom to top. Hits to unspecific body parts of the Colossi will deal zero damage, and it is solely in the hands of the player to find the Colossi’s weak points and deal blows with the stabbing and thrusting of your weaponry.
Many of the gameplay improvements in this remake of the original title come via a new camera system, and a smarter, tighter and more flexible control scheme. While the camera in Shadow of the Colossus’ PS2 outfit was clunky, sticky and troublesome when on horseback and in fight sequences, the new version brings a more steady, clever camera system, even if the free camera control with the right analogue stick in any cinematics or sequence seems a little unorthodox. Across the board, controls feel tighter and more forgiving, allowing easier traversal when attempting to reach higher ground, as well as allowing just a little more resilience to grip on during a dogfight with an aggressive Colossi.
Graphics and Sound
While the original title showed shining moments of visual prowess, the Shadow of the Colossus remake is truly breathtaking. With its original style and artistry left intact, the remake is a glowing example of what a remake should visually represent. The eerie, barren environments are portrayed with muddy, dusty textures, the Colossi are as scary as ever, and whirlwinds of sand blow violently across your screen. Every area has its own unique characteristics – the empty lands will have you frozen, admiring the blaring sun and whispering winds. The seaside caves will calm you, beautifully designed waters and cave structures. Bluepoint Games have left not a single are unturned – this truly is a remake – a reimagining, a redrafting, and a reincarnation. The soundtrack and ambient sounds, while absent in parts, create a lonely atmosphere as you progress. The orchestral tunes paint a picture of complete absence – reiterating that this is truly a story of one man versus a somewhat strange type of evil.
The original Shadow of the Colossus title was a true masterpiece and pioneer in the Playstation 2 era, and to no surprise, this hasn’t changed. Bluepoint Games have done a truly remarkable job to keep the original charm and style intact, while still managing to vastly bring this 13-year young title into the 4K era. The year is still in its bare infancy, but Shadow of the Colossus may be spearheaded to the top of the Game of The Year charts – it’s just that great.
Thank you to Sony for providing a copy of Shadow of the Colossus for review.