Saturday, January 6, 2007

Shadow of the Colossus review

I have been meaning to write about this for quite some time since I got it a couple of months ago, but only now had the chance to finally sit down and write what I thought. Before I continue I will probably want to set the tone down for the review. There won't be any mention of Ico (wonderful game, one of the best on the PS2, but I feel SotC has enough qualities to stand out over Ico). This game is awesome. If there is anything next-gen, this is it.

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The premise of Shadow of the Colossus is this: boss fights. Nothing but boss fights after boss fights after boss fights. No in-betweens, no minions and certainly no pansy boss fights that we usually encounter in many video games. These Goliaths, known as the Colossus, are majestic and huge (think bigger than dinosaurs) - representation of would be gods, if they ever walked the earth.

SotC is a bare minimum game and hardly contains a plot. The epic opens with Wander, the clumsy protagonist of the game, riding into an ancient temple, carrying a dead body. Apparently there is only one way to resurrect her, that of the slaying of sixteen giant idols. Your job is to guide the hero across the massive desolate land in search for each of the Colossus.

This may seem daunting, but trust me, each of the boss fights is winnable. It may be challenging to people who never played platforming games riddled with puzzles (think Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider) but here's an example to ponder upon. I found the first Colossi the most difficult, mainly due to me struggling to get used to the control. Only once I finally nailed it I sent the Colossi to its deathbed. After that, by the time I reached the eight Colossi, the game only clocked 3 hours. When I completed the game by save file read 8 hours.

So it isn't too difficult, yet surely at 8 hours, some may correctly question its replay value. It isn't too much of a concern for me (since I got it cheap) but if you count your value based on RPG standard (70-80 hours to complete the main quest, with second ending, like I did on Dragon Quest VIII), then SotC would stack up rather poorly. Even then I would say that SotC is pretty good value, as it offers more than many video games. Which video game offers you the chance to battle 16 gigantic bosses, most of if they appear in other games, would probably be the final boss?

Each Colossus felled by the hero isn't the malevolent creature hell bent on destruction (though they do cause massive damage) that we see in other games. As each of the giant falls there is a moment of silent. No celebrations by the hero. Just necessary killings in order to resurrect a love one.

Agro, the trusted steed who , is easily the more realistic looking and animated videogaming animals I have seen. And I would like to think I know a little about horses (since I have ridden them in the past). You are never in full control of the horse. A nudge on the left analog stick basically tells Agro where you want him to go, not necessary where you will go. Sure the controls may be unpredictable, but we are after all role-playing as the protagonist, not the horse!

Despite being developed on a 6 year old console, the graphics are lush and beautiful, with its washed out blurring effect and lighting bloom. Sure the PS2 could do with a little bit more oomph as frame rates does stutter, but you know what? I didn't care. What was important was despite the limitations of the PS2 hardware, for some reason SotC's landscapes is as real as it gets even compared to newer games on newer hardware and high-end PCs. Sure things will get sharper, more colourful, more glossy etc. but are they any more 'realistic'? Some may argue yes, but I think not necessary. Even then nothing I have seen has yet to match the architectural detail and uniqueness that each Colossus has (my opinion of course).

The soundtrack is even more extraordinary. Music only begins when you enter the realm in which the Colossis live and during battle, even then only subtley. Apart from that the game has no music. Travelling the distance to each of the Colossus's hideout in silence, conveys a sense of solitude for the lonely hero. Surprisingly it works well.

SotC is the living proof that you don't need to spend £300-£400 for next-gen. It isn't perfect, nothing is. But it does break videogaming conventions, and for the better.

10/10

Buy now from Play-Asia or Amazon UK

4 comments:

Yow Chuan said...

it's one of my favorite game in 2005. Well, I am on FF 12 now...it's simply next-gen too!

Jon said...

Lucky you. We still have to wait for the PAL version next month.

Anonymous said...

That is if Square doesn't screwup the PAL conversion again!

Anonymous said...

Oh man the game sounds like a killer app. But to go back from super high-res (I am a PC gamer)?