Review by ryliru
"These things are huge!"
Finally. A game that lets you topple the likes of creatures rivaling the size and stature of mountains. At last a human being can be pitted across from a monolithic colossus... and stand a chance. The feeling of watching these gigantic monsters lumber towards you is both intimidating and exhilarating. And to vanquish these sizable demons? That is perhaps one of the most amazing experiences ever taken from a game. Shadows of the Colossus does not disappoint.
Is the game fun? Does it last? Those, I feel, are the most important questions about any game. I was happy to discover that Shadow of the Colossus was one of the most entertaining eleven hours I've had from a game in a long time. Whether or not Shadow of the Colossus lasts with this enjoyment, though, depends upon the person who is playing it. The enemies are all different, each has varying strategies that can be employed to defeat it, and every single one of them feels like an entire game in itself. It is fair to say that each colossus is a puzzle and a fight. If the character does not possess both intelligence and strength, the difficulty of the game greatly increases. I was not bored at any time during play due to these facts, but other's have said that by the half way mark the desire to continue had waned. I do not reciprocate these ideas as I had trouble stopping play until I had fully completed the game. My opinion stands un-wavered that the fun and duration of Shadows of the Colossus are almost interminable.
The major controls of this title revolve around riding a horse, locating colossi, maneuvering your character, and attacking enemies. It was nice that even though there were many different moves in the game, all but a few were used almost every battle with the colossi. The controls for Agro, your horse, become almost second nature very early on in the gameplay. X is used to increase the speed of the animal and the left analog stick directs the horse in which direction to travel. While having your sword equipped you are able to shine sunlight off of the weapon, and by finding the area where the beam is most concentrated you are to travel the immense world to find the next colossus. Some of the more special attacks are fun to use, but they are not always the most intelligent choice during the game. Falling stabs, for example, are pleasing to pull off, yet they are extremely difficult to accomplish and are useless in many areas of the game. A bow was used very few times for depleting the adversary's health, but more as a means to attain the attention of an enemy colossus. The major means of attacking remained scouring the body of the colossus by climbing and jumping from part to part, and searching for a glowing vital area to attack. Attacking these was done by holding on and then waiting for the beast to stop attempting to shake you off. Your grip meter decreases the longer you hold on to something that is moving violently. To attack, square must be tapped, and then hit again once the grip meter has filled with as much power as you desire to exert. This remained the most important part of Shadow of the Colossus. Some colossi had multiple vital areas, and each only consumed a certain amount of the opposition's health meter. Therefore a player must locate and destroy all of the present vital areas.
Other important factors of Shadow of the Colossus are the lizards and fruits scattered around the land. No, the main character isn't hungry, but they do give you boosts to grip strength and health, respectively. This adds a kind of treasure hunting aspect to the game which is both entertaining and important. Although the game can be beaten without finding any of these items, getting them gives you that much more of a safety blanket.
When the game begins all that you see is a man and his horse. He enters a temple overgrown with vegetation and battered by time. As the horse reluctantly continues down the secluded stairwell an unknown force lowers the door and seals it indefinitely. It becomes known that the man is transporting the body of a dead female to the temple. His objective is to destroy the sixteen colossi, and by doing so, the woman will be revived. This is the only reason for the actions in the game. Little to nothing is explained during the few cutscenes while playing, but by the ending they are brought into light. I wasn't really impressed by the storyline as it did nothing to supply new reasons to delve deeper into the game. This lack of intrigue placed more pressure on Shadow of the Colossus to have amazing gameplay and sound to keep a player interested. I don't really like the idea of putting off story until the end due to the fact that I love games filled with plot twists all the way through. The only reparation for this lack of story was the ending. And it was absolutely phenomenal and worth the work to reach it.
Every battle song that played was so involving and powerful that it added unimaginable depth to the feeling of the colossus attacks. They had a fantasy feel to them, and they reminded me of ancient gods and heroic warfare. The music was so perfect that it was right there in the back of your mind, yet it didn't distract you from completing the missions set before you. The sound effects were amazing as well. The regular sounds such as sword attacks and arrow fire were as good as could possibly be imagined, but the true glory came by the noise that the colossi emitted. Giant monsters weighing tons falling violently down to the unforgiving earth, stomping their mammoth feet to the ground, and roaring and yelling cries are all staggering in their realism and loud, yet perfect, quality. All of these were simply fantastic, and I was overly impressed.
The main character of Shadow of the Colossus, who has no name that I can ascertain, is a man completing divine tasks to save a mysterious woman. The connection between these two characters is also unknown, but the link between them must be very strong as the main character continually risks his life to bring her back. That is not something you do just as a small favor. Even though you gain little knowledge of what lies within the man's soul, you do eventually become attached to him and his quest to save a fallen friend. His outward appearance may seem minuscule, especially when he stands beside the massive forms of the colossal opposition he swears to destroy, but he is not to be underestimated. Someone who would put his very existence on the line for another is deserving of both respect and honor.
Examining the graphics of the world alone, one would not have stretch his or her imagination too far to say that they are definitely worthy of the Playstation 2's capabilities. There is an amazing attention to detail and variety that keep the long journeys from colossus to colossus free of repetition. There are forests with canopies that actually allow light in only through patches that have no trees blocking the sun's path, deserts that spawn storms of sand, bodies of water that are as breathtaking as they are realistic, and mountainous trails that completely block the light of day and the aide it gives to a lost traveler. These are only a few of the areas that you will encounter as you traverse through the game. Perhaps my favorite, though, are the ruins and buildings that give the feel of ancient civilizations. All of these are rendered in such a way that they are just plain wonderful to look at.
The colossi, speaking only of their appearances, are simply intimidating. From the smallest of the bunch to the largest, you know that you are in for a rough ride. The hair growing from the colossi in differing places that you can climb really moves with the creature, limbs and such have momentum and force that shake and uproot the earth, and they look like they are really towering in front of you. The realism present here is just staggering. It never gets old to take a moment, if you can spare it, and look at the objects the colossi are wearing. Boots, bracelets, and even belts are covered with tiny instances of realism such as cracks and splatters of muck. Also, these items have edges and rows that can be used as pedestals to reach the colossus. If the graphics of the colossi weren't done well there would be no reason to admire them... before you send them crashing forcefully into the afterlife.
REPLAY VALUE: 8/10
After beating the game once, you unlock a time attack mode and the option to start a new game on a harder difficulty. The hard setting of the game is actually very nice as it takes longer to kill the monsters and in many instances the vital areas have been moved. This adds an entirely new game, in essence, to a player. The major strategies of these colossi have not changed, but it was at least nice to see that the developer added something to give their customers a little something as a reward. Even though this is nice, the time attack option is both fun and rewarding. With time attack mode you can earn extra items that give you that much more reason to play again. Unlocking these new items and the hard difficulty are two very good reasons to give this one another go... at least for an extra ten hours or so.
The first colossus is fairly easy, but that can be expected as it is a transition to the controls and ideals of the game. What makes this game so difficult is that each and every enemy is different than the last. Such diversity in the strategies needed to bring down each colossus adds countless hours of frustration, but it was that much more enjoyable to take them down. Also, much of the time finding the location of the colossus is hard enough. With many confusing maze-like areas with no light to aide your way and in some cases miles to travel, exploration and judgement of the position of the enemy becomes a great portion of the game's difficulty. Challenges breed rewards, and this game is no exception.
FINAL VERDICT: Even if you don't believe me or the hype, go and buy this game. It was a very enjoyable experience, to say the very least.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/25/06
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