Shadow of the Colossus is one of those games everybody knows. It doesn’t need a detailed introduction. One of the most acclaimed, if not the most acclaimed title released for the PS2. I . . . had never played it prior to the PS4 version. I didn’t grow up with a PS2, nor a PS3, therefore I had no idea if the game was actually good or if the praise was exaggerated. Fast forward to 2018, and I have finally managed to grab a copy of Shadow of the Colossus for a console I now own (I mean, I do have a PS2 now, but what’s the point?), and I can finally say, without a single hint of nostalgia blurring my vision: yes, this game is as good as everybody else says.
I’d do anything for love (but I won’t do that)
First of all, let me state the obvious: the improvements in this remake. The visuals are simply gorgeous. With the exception of some character models such as the horse (more on that pest later), lizards and some humans, everything looks outstanding. The terrain is gigantic and beautiful to look at, the lighting effects are some of the best I’ve seen in a game, and special praise needs to be given to the colossi: they are IMMENSE. The models, the size, the animations, the fact that every single piece of hair is gorgeously animated, those majestic beasts are truly a work of art. With the exception of the smaller, elephant-sized colossi, the mere act of looking at them was already enough to wow me for a few moments before remembering I had to actually kill the things and not contemplate at them.
Same praise needs to be given towards the soundtrack. While a good chunk of the game featured no music at all, I actually felt that was a great design choice. The world is huge, the world is vast, the world is empty; having a world like this and limiting the epic soundtrack to the boss battles was something I actually enjoyed. It made the appearance of a new tune even more anticipated, as well as the fantastic theme every time you figure out and reach the enemy’s weak spot. That’s the definition of epic, my friends.
King of the rodeo
Finally, this is something everyone is already used to, but given this was my first time playing Shadow of the Colossus, it really impressed me: this is a very simple and straightforward game. There are sixteen bosses, you fight each one at a time, and besides the very small amount of collectibles and powerups you can find throughout the map, that’s all you have to do in the game. I finished my first playthrough in 5 hours, and it didn’t bother me. In fact, I started playing the game right after the end credits. Something about Shadow of the Colossus makes it extremely replayable, be it the desire to kill bosses in even less time than before or the simple fact that every single battle (besides that one sand snake in the cave, that one can go to hell) is fantastic and memorable. In this sense, Shadow of the Colossus can be compared to classic games of the 80’s and early 90’s. It is living proof that you can be a memorable game even when your core gameplay is as simple as it can be.
I’ve been praising the game nonstop, but that doesn’t mean Shadow of the Colossus is perfect. No, far from it. There’s actually an aspect in this game that severely disappointed me and that’s the gameplay.
This little bow will CLEARLY teach this giant a lesson…
Simply put, even though the gameplay has been (supposedly) revamped, and even though you can easily get used to some of the nuisances after an hour or two, the controls and camera are hardly on the same level of quality as the rest of the game. Shadow of the Colossus features a very erratic camera system that pretty much tries to make your life as difficult as possible whenever it finds an opportunity to do so, something that will clearly remind you of the days of the PS1 and PS2. Maybe that was intended as a nostalgic blast to the past? The world will never know.
Another main gripe lies within the grappling mechanic. I understand that the game was remade from the ground up with a new engine, so why wasn’t that aspect improved as well? We live in a post-Uncharted and post-Breath of the Wild world, games that clearly mastered how to hold on to ledges and jump from one platform to another with ease. SotC‘s mechanics feel . . . dated, even when using the “modern” control scheme.
It looks so docile…
Finally, some additional gameplay design choices. Why do you need to constantly hold down a button to make your horse accelerate? It’s not a car, why was there a need for that? Ocarina of Time came up with great horse riding controls way back in 1998, with games like Witcher 3 clearly using it as a source of inspiration, so why not just use that same style? Another main gripe related to horse riding is the fact that the animal was clearly inspired by the bird-dog-thing from The Last Guardian, as in it clearly has a mind of its own and never obeys your commands.
Luckily for Shadow of the Colossus, the game itself is so good that all of its gameplay issues don’t manage to completely ruin the experience.
After many years, I can finally confirm what most people all over the world have been saying: yes, Shadow of the Colossus is phenomenal. This is a unique experience in gaming, a powerful testament to how this medium can be considered a new type of art. Even without nostalgic bias I can say the game is worthy of all the praise it’s been receiving for years. I won’t deny the myriad of issues its gameplay section features, however. Regardless of those issues, Shadow of the Colossus is a mandatory title for your PS4 collection, no matter how many times you’ve played the original.
Gorgeous landscapes, incredible monster design, and excellent framerate. The only small issue is the quality of some models like the horse and lizards.
Even the revamped control setting still suffers from an unreliable camera, bizarre button placements, and some questionable gameplay choices.
There’s no other way of saying this: the soundtrack is AMAZING.
Even though the game is short and very linear, there’s no way to deny how fun (and replayable) it is to kill those giant bosses!
Final Verdict: 9.0
Also available on: PS2, PS3 (original versions)