Shadow of the Collossus

2009-02-22 22:48:57

Shadow of the Colossus(Playstation 2)

Colossus, a word that either inspires the mind to think of those big epic beasts of mythos, or the Xmen with the shiny arm sleeves. In this game however it's the former, which is a breath of fresh air. Sadly the breath of fresh air was not given enough time with Sony of America, as the game is not translated from it's original Japanese. But if you like Anime, or don't mind subtitles while you play then this detraction from the gameplay experience may not be so vast for you. In most cases anything that resembles anime and especially isn't in english is going to get passed up or blasted by me. But not this time, this is a game that is at it's fundamental level fun and a proof of concept. Sadly it's not much more than that.

The game pits you as a small male character on a horse, a horse twice as tall as you are, and when compared to you looks like a Clydesdale. You are originally seen slowly trotting this horse to a temple with a small female under a shawl with you. The girl is dead, and you place her on an altar, asking the spirits of the temple to awaken her, the spirits say they cannot, but if someone can kill the collosi in the region, then it may be possible to return someone to life. That's pretty much it, you aren't totally sure why this girl died(other than she was some kind of sacrifice) and you know nothing about the temple, the inhabitants, or the boy that you play. All you know if that you have a special sword that the temple guardians seem to find facinating that a mortal has it, and you have to go tear into some Colossi. Very sparse storyline and nothing more is really said in the game other than the guardians directing you to your next colossi, they don't even tell you that you are doing a good job, just where to go next in their flat monotone Japanese..

So you hop onto the back of your way too big for you horse, and ride out into the plains. It's a complicated region and in most cases a game provides you with a map perhaps with some information on where to head. Well in keeping the user interface relatively blank, they employ GPS built into your sword. Yes your sword is a medieval TomTom(should I say SwordSword?), which will when used in a lit place(it's solar powered and eco-friendly apparently) it will shoot out a beam of light that focuses when you point it toward the correct direction. Off you gallop in that direction, usually traversing from light to dark and back to light only to have to SwordSword again to get your bearings and find your target..

Once you are close enough to your target it's pretty obvious where to go next, since there is a small cutscene of the Colossi walking around and you see just how huge and epic they are compared to you. Supposedly you can shine your sword onto the Colossi and it will reveal it's weakspots, but that doesn't really do anything. You are just looking for parts that naturally glow on their own. On many of the colossi you will need to stab something with your sword to get them into position to climb on them. Essentially Colossi are giant rocklooking beasts which are enshrouded by a fuzzy hairlike fur. That fur is your ticket to glory. As you use a robust climbing system which has an endurance meter giving you limited time you can afford to hang onto something with your hands before losing your grip and falling, you slowly mount the colossi, looking for shiny spots on their body, one of which is almost always the head. Once you get there you use the powered attack system to launch a powerful stab to the enemy, and black inky blood spews forth from the newly made headvent. The Colossi will shake around madly at that point, trying it's hardest to shake you off. This drains your grip meter even faster so it's always a good idea to keep your grip meter fully charged as possible.

While the game is pretty simply the designs of the colossi are all fairly unique and so some initial study of the enemy if needed to determine how to climb on. Unfortunately in a lot of cases if you don't figure that out quick enough, the booming voice of the temple guardians calls you up to remind you how to do it, and removing all challenge from the game, other than the hanging on. In the game you have to do a lot of learning in terms of how to appropriately hang onto a colossi. The trick is all in finding rest points, points on the backs of the colossi that do not fling you off unless the Colossi is actively shaking the shit out of itself to fling you off like a flea. These points you can usually walk over instead of climb or feature some rocky outcropping that is conveniently located on their back to allow wanderers to stand on them and restore their grip meter.

The colossi get better at shaking you loose as you progress in the game and they make it harder to recover the grip meter as well. Not to mention as the game progresses there is usually longer patches in which you have to travel between hotspots on the colossi to deal your deadly blows, so that means you burn more grip meter to get between points of the body as well.

Reason Rank
Start 10
Climbing on the backs of giants and stabbing them in the face. +8
Panic inducing events where your character is tossed around barely clinging to the back of a giant beast trying to shake him off. +4
Voice work is all Japanese -2
Story? what story? -4
Beautiful Scenery +2
Grainy as fuck character models -5
Total 13/10

The game ends up with a 13/10, which indicates that despite it's flaws, it surpasses them with amazing creativity and innovative gameplay. Give it a shot, you might not have the endurance to get through all of the colossi since the game is a little repetitive without a story to bait you to the finale, but just playing through a decent number of them will give you an experience you won't find elsewhere.