Arts & Life

“Shadow of the Colossus” is better than ever without leaving its roots

A protagonist of few words, a dead loved one and a mysterious voice guiding you across a vast, mysterious land to restore her life.

Originally released back in 2005 by Team Ico for the Playstation 2, “Shadow of the Colossus” was widely recognized as a game ahead of its time for its dense, free-roaming environment and over-the-top boss battles that set the standard for many open-world games to follow. A complete remake was released last Tuesday that improves on every aspect of the original.

Team Ico, the creative team behind “Ico” and “The Last Guardian,” have a long history of developing games with ambiguous backstories, leaving the rest of the adventure for players to decipher for themselves.

“Shadow of the Colossus” presents players with a story shrouded in mystery; assuming the role of a young boy named Wander, the player journeys into a distant land along with his horse, Aggro and an unnamed woman presumed to be dead. Entering an ancient temple, a mysterious voice known as Dormin tasks Wander with the slaying of 16 towering colossi in order to restore the girl’s life.

The 2018 remake, handled by Bluepoint Games, started from the ground up by rebuilding and revamping every detail in the environments and iconic boss battles. Bluepoint Games has proved itself capable of such an undertaking in past projects with video game remasters like “Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection,” “Metal Gear Solid HD Collection” and “God of War Collection.”

The heart of “Shadow of the Colossus” lies in the extravagant fights with the colossi that range from a bipedal bull-like creature to a soaring bird. The one characteristic each of the colossi share is size. The fights between Wander and the enormous beasts are meant to intimidate the player while rewarding them with a sense of satisfaction that not many games have been able to deliver from defeating a boss.

True to the character’s namesake, a great deal of the game is spent wandering across the spanning plains. With no background music to accompany the player, it’s easy to get lost in the grand scale and detail of the environment.

With this free time, the player gets a chance to reflect on their actions throughout the nine to 11-hour story: Why are you following the commands of a mysterious voice to kill these colossi, who generally seem content on being left alone, on the promise that it will bring the girl back to life? While there is a great sense of accomplishment in taking down the enormous creatures, there’s still a sense of guilt with every dying cry a colossus emits as you deliver the killing blow.

The gameplay overhaul is noticeable from the start, with more responsive controls and a new setup that makes more sense for modern controllers, while still leaving the classic setup as an option.

The frame rate has also been drastically improved and doesn’t see issues of drops like past iterations have suffered from. A much appreciated inclusion to the game was the photo mode, which allows players to pause the game at any moment to set up stunning screenshots. The mode even allows for in-depth editing with filters, depth of field and highlights that can result in some pretty spectacular images.   

Fans of the original game should feel right at home with the new release while also appealing to newcomers who never got around to playing the original. With improved graphics and a better control scheme, players can expect the same nostalgia trip the original release provided over a decade ago.

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