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Shadow of the Colossus

Developer: SCEI | Publisher: SCEA
Players: 1 Player Game | Genre: Adventure

Release Date: 10/18/05

How do you describe the feeling of scale? How do you describe the feeling of beauty? How do you describe the feeling of taking down a colossus? Shadow of the Colossus is not so much the kind of game you just play, but it's what you feel. Like ICO before it, the latest game from Fumita Ueda, and his immensely talented team, pulls you out of the game and into a piece of art.

You start your journey off traversing a vast land from atop your horse Argo. You eventually make it to an enormous stone bridge that takes you down into a temple where you come to the body of a lifeless girl. You the player are not told what your relation to her is, but she will become the purpose of your adventure and emotional experience. A loud voice, seemingly from the heavens above, proposes that if you slay all 16 Colossi in the enormous land you are in, she might come back to life.

Armed with only a sword, bow and arrow, and horse, you are now set off to experience one of the most innovative, artistic, and beautiful video games you have ever wrapped your hands around. Using the reflection off your sword you must find the 16 beasts trapped among the land. All of the Colossi, which you must slay by eventually, must be killed by climbing on top of them and stabbing your sword into the specially marked glowing area.

I say eventually because it's not as easy as just walking up to a colossus and climbing it. Each one has their own puzzles to decipher. That may mean using the environment around you in a number of ways, finding their weak points that trigger other sequences, or a combination of both. Each colossus's secrets become harder to crack the farther you get into the game, and with that experience comes an increasing health and grip meter.

That's right, the grip meter is something you probably haven't seen many game before--but its place here is very evident. Since you will need to be hanging on for dear life through all these colossus battles, having a set amount of grip power adds a new layer of strategy. Don't worry about constantly falling off though, as there are periods and areas of rest that will allow your meter to fill back up.

When it comes to controls, all is not perfect though. The camera can occasionally be a struggle to maneuver during a few battles, resulting in some deadly falls and un-needed frustration. The horse may be a bit confusing to control at first, but one you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature. I also advise that you change your horse control to one of the shoulder buttons, making it easier to keep up to speed with some of the quicker Colossi.

The visuals are stunning, in both an artistic and technical way. The world that you explore is so enormous that even after you beat all 16 Colossi you still have more areas you'll want to explore. And want you will after seeing the draw distances in some areas that are simply breathtaking. Looking across an enormous gorge and being able to actually make out the other side with life like clarity is something rarely realized on today's consoles. The feeling of scale here, through environment and Colossi, is unsurpassed.

Artistically, the game shares much of the same look and feel that helped make ICO such a cult hit. It's very hard to describe the look on its own, and you really have to see it yourself to understand. It has an almost fairytale aura without looking phoney in the process. Thanks to its artistic direction, it appears more like a piece of art then it does a videogame. This is one case where the visuals add a lot to the entire experience.

The music and sounds of SotC compliment everything else. The music is a wonderful collection of varying degrees of orchestrated music. Like any adventure movie it helps get your blood pumping when you face a colossus for the first time, to the point where you stab it for the last time. While exploring the land the music runs through your ears with the same ease and beauty as the wind, helping immerse you into this piece of art.

Sounds, with everything from the clip-clap of Argo's feet to the various grunts of your character [Wander] are brought to life with the utmost clarity. All the dialogue in the cinemas are sub-titled which runs well with the whole feeling of the game. Imagining any of these characters speaking English would probably take away from the experience.

The sounds and atmosphere that each colossus gives off is what shines through the most. Once you make it to a colossus it's not just the size and look of the Colossi that might get your heart pounding, it's also the mammoth noise it makes. Without spoiling anything specific, when each colossus moves around in their environment you'll hear and feel it.

For all you people with a widescreen HDTV or EDTV, Shadow of the Colossus supports both 16:9 and Progressive scan, an impressive feat given what the game achieves on a technical scale by itself.

Shadow of the Colossus shines through as one of the great games of this generation. It is one of those special titles that comes around once in a while. This title is truly an innovative, emotional, and artistic experience. Though not a completely perfect game, its positive aspects easily outweigh any tiny negatives. Shadow of the Colossus is definitely a game of the year contender.

By David Doel - 11/06/05
ESRB Details: Blood, Fantasy Violence
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Screenshots for Shadow of the Colossus

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