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With the release of Ico in 2001, Team Ico found critical success but the commercial success was yet to come due to little marketing and a terrible game cover. In 2005, developers SCE Japan Studio and Team Ico partnered up again and released Shadow of the Colossus for the PlayStation 2. The game was met with strong critical and commercial success as it overshadowed just about every game in the PS2 library. Let’s take a look at what makes Shadow of the Colossus a landmark in video game history. The argument that video games are an art form starts here in this Shadow of the Colossus review.
Shadow of the Colossus Plot:
This is one of the most beautiful stories and because it’s in the form of a video game, you experience it for yourself. Team Ico has a minimalist approach to storytelling letting the player put together the small pieces for themselves. It was a treat to live this story during my Shadow of the Colossus review.
You are a young man named Wander. His lover named Mono has been slain or perhaps sacrificed and he has set off to resurrect her. With his trusty horse Agro, Wander and Mono’s body arrive at a sacred temple located in a forbidden land. Inside this small temple is an entity called Dormin. Wander believes that Dormin can resurrect Mono and makes a deal with it. Dormin thinks it’s possible to give the girl life but needs Wander to slay 16 colossi. These colossi walk, swim and fly throughout the surrounding land peacefully. Colossi are giants, made from stones, lands, and dirt that tower over nearly everything.
Legends say that Dormin was a powerful magic demon whose soul was split into 16 different pieces and placed into these colossi. For Dormin to perform the magic spell and resurrect Mono, he will need to be whole again. Wander sets off and kills the colossi one-by-one with an ancient sword. During this time, a man named Lord Emon and his warriors are on their way to the forbidden land to stop Wander’s quest knowing how dangerous Dormin is.
As Wander slays the colossi, he begins to change physically. His body is poisoned, overtaken by the fragments of Dormin. By the time he slays the final colossi, he is almost unrecognizable. There’s tons of lore to Shadow of the Colossi and it’s fun to speculate what is happening to Wander. Is his soul being cursed for the sins he is committing? Is Dormin slowly taking over his body? Whatever it is, it’s tough to imagine what Wander is going through. He is ultimately sacrificing himself to give the love of his life a second chance, but is it worth it? He won’t be there to see it. Was he unable to continue his life without Mono and if that’s the case, what makes him think Mono will be able to carry on without him? It’s a beautiful idea of what love is and the power and worth of sacrifice.
When Wander returns to the temple, he has small horns, his hair is dark, his skin and eyes pale with his face twisted in darkness. Lord Emon and his men have arrived at the temple and attack Wander. He falls to the ground next to the pedestal that holds Mono’s body but it isn’t the end of him. Dormin has become whole again and takes control of Wander’s body transforming him into a dark shadow. Lord Emon takes the ancient sword that Wander had used to slay the Colossi and creates a whirlwind of light that traps Dormin within the temple. The temple and bridge to it begin to collapse as Lord Emon barely escapes. The forbidden land is now cut off from the rest of the world.
Mono has been resurrected. She finds Agro limping into the crumbled temple and walks toward a small pool of water where Dormin and Wander fell. Mono finds a baby infant with little horns on its head. With the child in her arms, Mono follows Agro to higher grounds around the temple revealing a secret garden as the game ends.
Is the baby infant with horns Ico from the first game that was released four years previously? That’s for you to decide, but I like to think so.
Shadow of the Colossus Gameplay:
Shadow of the Colossus is a minimalist game, excuse me I should say a minimalist perfect game. The task that is presented to Wander is simple. Slay these 16 colossi, and get your wish. There are no other beings to interact with. As Wander, you have your horse Agro and that’s it. Equipped with just a sword and a bow, I set out to do the impossible during my Shadow of the Colossus review.
The ancient sword that Wander has shines a light toward the nearest colossi. Even in a land with few objects or landmarks, you’ll never be lost. The was sword as helpful as a guide as it is slaying the colossi while I played through my Shadow of the Colossus review. These colossi that you slay vary in different forms of beasts. They swim, fly and walk on land but it is up to you to figure out how to murder them. I use the word murder because that’s what it feels like. They feel like innocent beings just minding their own business until you attack them. I think that’s part of the charm of the game. You are committing horrible acts to revive your love which is a beautiful act in itself. Would you commit these murders of innocent peaceful giants to revive someone you love? I’d like to think I would and ultimately I’d end up paying the price as Wander does.
If you love boss fights, you’ll love Shadow of the Colossus. It’s nothing but boss fights. No leveling up, no grinding, no killing hordes of weak enemies. It’s just you and 16 walking giants. Each of them comes uniquely with attacks, defenses, and weak points. Wander will need to climb up the beasts using their fur and various other means to make his way to their weak points. It’s not always obvious where the weak point is, but they are marked by glowing glyphs. Wander will need to stab them repeatedly to drain them of life. The colossi will attack and try to shake you off as you continue to climb up them. There’s a grip meter making it possible to only hold on for so long. You’ll need to balance when to stay put and when to climb to reach their weak point.
Each fight with the colossi during my Shadow of the Colossus review took anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. I died a few times fighting them and a few times I had no idea what I was doing. When they fall, it’s a feeling of accomplishment mixed with sorrow for the dead giant. At least it was for me, perhaps you don’t have a soul and felt nothing.
Music plays a big role when you fight the colossi giving the moment a sense of epicness. When you are out on the land by yourself and Agro, it’s silence gives you the sense that you are truly alone in this land.
If I have to pick out something about my Shadow of the Colossus review that isn’t perfect it’d be the playtime. I beat it within a weekend maybe ten hours of gameplay? It’s on the shorter end but it’s a wonderful game.
I didn’t play Shadow of the Colossus until after it had been released for over ten years. I had heard nothing but praise and great things about the game but never had time to play it. Finally, I got the HD collection of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus on the PS3 and sunk my teeth into it. I was immediately drawn to the story and the struggle between killing these innocent beasts and reviving your lover. Most of the colossi I stared at in awe, but that water eel gave me the creeps. I have a friend who got this game for his sixteenth birthday. Since then he has beaten it almost twenty times.
Shadow of the Colossus Review Score:
If you want to argue that video games are a form of art (they are) start with Shadow of the Colossus and the wonderful story it spins. It captures so many emotions with so little in the actual world of Shadow of the Colossus. Everything feels perfectly placed including the music. Bravo to Team Ico.
Shadow of the Colossus scores a perfect 10 out of 10.
What would you write in your Shadow of the Colossus review? What was your favorite colossi to slay? Did you feel bad doing it? What is your interpretation of Shadow of the Colossi? Let me know your thoughts and memories, I’d love to read them!