Two weeks ago, we saw the remaster of what I personally consider to be a masterpiece of art, Shadow of the Colossus. This game is one of the most cherished memories I had with one of my brothers and I happily jumped in with rose-colored glasses to try and relive the past, if only for 16 bosses.
Why do I call Shadow of the Colossus art? Because it’s a game based in beautiful barren landscapes, the only threats to you being your own ambition. In the game, you play as Wander, a man who brought his dead girlfriend to forbidden lands because legends say there is a being that can return the souls of the dead to their body. This being is called Dormin, a being composed of many different beings. After we meet the Voice of Dormin, who explains we must slay 16 colossi in order to revive our lost love, we go and do just that.
There are no small enemies, no real challenges befall us on our way to each colossus. We navigate the massive, barren, beautiful landscape and take on the Colossi that stand between us and saving the girl! It’s a tale as old as time but Shadow of the Colossus puts a spin on it that we’ll get to at the end of the article.
As I fought these colossi, I noticed the game played exactly the same as it did on the PS2, save for the frame rate issue that some bosses would have. There is a new control scheme you can switch to that modernizes the old controls so that triangle is jump, R1 is grab, R2 shoots the bow and X let’s you make Argo go faster. While this is awesome, the controls still feel clunky as they did back in the PS2 era. I found myself, with some urgency, yelling at the TV because Wander wouldn’t get on Argo, or Wander wouldn’t climb the right way on the last boss. I remember these problems back in the old days, but this is only a remaster, not a full restoration of the engine, so I was kind of expecting it.
Let’s talk about water. I hate water in games. I hate the idea of something deep below trying to eat me. I hate not being able to see the sand at the bottom. The water in this game looks great from the surface, but is pitch black in most places once you look under the surface. It’s creepy, unsettling and I get why they did this, but it was a missed opportunity to add more detail to the water based fights, all of which were fun and could have been breathtaking with more detail.
I beat this game in two sittings. I did 10 colossi one night, went to bed, and killed the final six the night after. The fights aren’t hard by any standard, some are tedious, like the geyser fight which seemed like it took more luck than actual skill. While it may not be a long time in terms of playability, it’s well worth the $40.00 price point. This is a game, and a piece of art, that every gamer should play at one point in their lives. It’s a simple game, it tells a simple story, and yet it delivers a massive lesson to the player.
A lesson? You may be asking yourself. Yes, a lesson. In Shadow of the Colossus, there are two main antagonists, they are Dormin and Wander. While it’s true that the legend you heard said Dormin can restore souls to the dead to revive them, you didn’t hear the part where he was evil. The reason you traveled to the forbidden lands is to revive your lost love. The reason that those lands are forbidden is because Dormin only had the power to speak. With no one to hear them, they would remain sealed away, in the sixteen colossi. After each fight, Wander is impaled with black, shadowy energy, that’s the first sign something is amiss. You can see his pain from this and he collapses each time, magically appearing back in the temple each time, surrounded by the pieces of Dormin he’d freed so far. Wander is so absorbed by his goal, so selfish in his quest, that he ignores the red flags and continues slaying these giant creatures.
In the end, Wander is taken over by Dormin, but a group of Elders from his village find him and reseal Dormin, trapping Wander inside the forbidden lands. I won’t spoil the credits ending but this game teaches us to always be vigilant of how our actions, no matter for what noble cause, which affect the grand scheme. The tragedy that is told in the Shadow of the Colossus is one of the best stories told, using the fewest storytelling devices out of any game for years.
It is in the alchemy of lies and truths that Shadow of the Colossus is able to deliver a memorable story experience, even thirteen years after its PS2 debut.