The PAL version of Shadow of the Colossus is finally released tomorrow (today if you know people who don’t mind slipping you a copy) and it’s quite a nice release, even if you own the US version like I do. Like they did for the original PAL release of Ico they’ve packaged it in a cardboard case which folds out with artwork from the game, and it has a small collection of art cards with it as well. In addition to that, the main menu now has bonus features – a “making of”, an art gallery, and a trailer for Ico.
This is where I’d usually post some pictures, but I bought mine as a collectible which I won’t open since only the first batch are limited edition. My crappy NTSC version is for playing, and this one is for ogling.
They also re-released Ico today for £19.99 which is well worth it if you don’t have it. It’s not the special edition one so you can still expect to pay through the nose for that on eBay, but thankfully they didn’t put it in an ugly Platinum case. I picked up a copy of this as well since I didn’t already have it and I’ll be playing it since for some reason I never went and finished it.
Staying on the subject of the Ico universe, take a look at this interview with the team. It’s a good read.
In an industry built on sequels that play it safe it’s unusual to see a high profile game that is not only a sequel (sort of), but also an original idea of the type that hasn’t been attempted before. It takes one of the seamless worlds which are all the rage at the moment but sets it in a strange and isolated land, all based around the unique idea of taking the enemies, puzzles, and levels and making them one.
The colossi are the biggest (no pun intended) achievement that push the PS2 to its absolute limits, and beyond at certain points as any framerate whore will tell you. Despite technical problems they look stunning, often not actually bothered by your prescence until you start trying to murder them on your selfish quest to bring back your lost love. It really is hard to classify whether they’re simply enemies, puzzles, or whole levels – you have to kill them while they usually try to do the same to you, they’re you’re only real measure of how far through the game you are, and actually getting on top of them and doing the dirty work is rarely straightforward, requiring a cunning mind and a fair amount of platforming acumen.
Not only is Colossus a beautiful game graphically, it’s also absolutely enthralling, with the solitary atmosphere, soundtrack that ranges from haunting to rousing, and the process of figuring out how to bring down each monster combining to create something really great. It’s not very long, but it’s still an experience that shouldn’t be missed.
I can’t think of a more apt way to describe Shadow of the Colossus than the term, “spiritual successor”. It’s not a sequel to Ico – there are no recurring characters, none of the same environments (it could be set in the same world though, I suppose), and any similarities are simply in themes and the overall aesthetic. The initial opening mentions that the strange girl that you must fight to save was sacrificed which could be seen as thematically similar to leaving the outcast boy in Ico to die, and they share the same ethereal tranquility, but the similarities don’t go far beyond that.
The premise of the game is intriguing – a high concept fantasy adventure in which levels, puzzles, and enemies are one and the same. In order to save the girl who you’ve brought to an unexplained temple in the middle of a deserted land you must hunt down and kill the sixteen colossi, giant creatures that aren’t necessarily aggressive but still require you to find a way to climb to their glowing weakpoints and deliver the killing blow. When all sixteen are dead and their effigies destroyed the girl might be revived…but at a price. The story is very much secondary to the process of getting there, with very little exposition between the intro and the last few chapters.
It’s the presentation of the game which has the power to really blow you away. This game has to be pushing the PS2 to its absolute limits when you see the size and scale of the world and the colossi, and there is almost no loading beyond the brief initial one when you boot it up which is another impressive achievement when you consider how long you’re left sitting there at a loading screen when you play other seamless games like GTA. However, it often seems to be pushing the PS2 beyond its limits just as much, since the framerate is very inconsistent. Never so bad that it impacts on the gameplay, but I doubt that it even reaches 30fps most of the time. Sound is similarly good with no music outside the boss fights, but when it does come on it creates a suitably epic and tense feel to the boss fights. This is probably going to be a soundtrack that I’ll be buying at the Japanese release.
The game isn’t without flaws – the camera can be more of a threat than even the biggest colossus, for example – but this is certainly something that can be described as an experience, and one that you should try. Make it a bigger hit than Ico and give them the rewards that they deserve for their sterling work.