It’s been nearly 12 years since Shadow of the Colossus was first released to PS4 in New Zealand & Australia. In the years since many games have been and gone, some becoming classics in their own right, some just completely forgettable. From the moment Shadow of the Colossus was released it became an instant classic that was re-released onto PS3 and now makes its way onto PS4. It was a ground-breaking game over a decade ago and even though it is a familiar experience on PS4, Shadow of the Colossus now feels like a game that has reached its potential with technology finally catching up to a game that was ahead of its time.
For the seasoned gamer the story of Shadow of the Colossus will be a familiar one. For the uninitiated I’ll give you a brief background. Shadow of the Colossus opens with our hero, Wander carrying the body of a fair maiden, Mono by horseback into a forbidden land. You see, Wander just can’t seem to accept that Mono is dead so after a brief encounter with some shadowy characters (literally shadow characters), Wander has a nice chat with an entity called Dormin who tells Wander if you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours. You see Dormin reckons he has the power to bring Mono back from the dead all Wander has to do is go out and kill a bunch of idols (the Colossi) scattered across the land. Of course, Wander agrees to this deal and sets off on his trusty steed, into this beautifully mysterious land to hunt Colossi armed with just a sword and bow and arrows.
Here’s the thing about Shadow of the Colossus – that premise is the entire game. There are no minor battles along the way or side missions to distract you. Shadow of the Colossus is all about riding around this vast landscape to take down 16 Colossi. This game is basically one boss fight after another and boy is it good!
That sword I mentioned earlier is magical. Point it up to the heavens and it will release light that will guide you to where the next Colossi is. Once you find said creature your sword can point out weaknesses on the body that you will have to exploit in order to bring it down. Again it all sounds so simple, but it most certainly isn’t. Inevitably you’ll have to scale these massive beasts to get to the weaknesses and that is where things get interesting. Of course no giant beast will just let you grab hold of them so when you do manage to grab hold of them it becomes a battle of wills. Then there are the flying ones that require a few arrows shot their way to coerce them down to your level. The Colossi will do all it can to shake you off then and you have to hold on for dear life in order to keep progressing up them. You have a stamina bar which of course gets depleted whilst you are in these fights so you need to try and get to specific safe points to get a brief reprieve to recover stamina and then progress on. The thrill is in the hunt as they say and in Shadow of the Colossus that thrill comes from each and every battle and those moments where you are certain you are going to die yet somehow manage to hang on by the skin of your teeth. If you’re expecting these battles to be quick then strap yourself in because many take quite a bit of time before you finally manage to break them down and destroy them.
When you do finally take down a Colossi it is a moment of triumph that at the same time is filled with heart-breaking beauty. These Colossi are things of great grace and beauty that when first encountered seem to just be enjoying quite a peaceful existence. Seeing them collapse to the ground by your own hand and coming to the realisation that they will never walk these lands again is something that manages to bring out emotion, something the soundtrack is well aware of and plays to with a gorgeous score to accompany these giant killing feats. You will cover large amounts of land on horseback to get to the next Colossi so these moments, taking in beautiful landscape are often filled with self-reflection.
Control wise not a lot has changed with this remaster. If you’ve not played Shadow of the Colossus on previous consoles or other games from yesteryear there are two things to know. The first is the control scheme is pretty damn simple, there are no inventory wheels to manage, no level weapons up or any of that stuff. Just a few buttons to go between sword and bow, attack and jump. The second thing to know is that you have to press and hold the R2 button in order to grab on to things. The modern gamer may be used to just jumping and having the character automatically grab onto ledges or beasts but in Shadow of the Colossus you control the grab. Let go of R2 and you will fall. For some it may take a while to get used to and could easily be forgotten but a few failed jumps and you’ll soon figure out that the R2 button is your best friend.
This leads me to area where things could have been improved. The camera can often be a right pain in the arse. When getting in close with a Colossi, particularly when very close to things like the side of a cliff face or other environmental element, the camera can shut you out making your life a lot more difficult than it needs to be.
The biggest change to Shadow of the Colossus are the visuals. This is more than just putting high-res textures over the top of the game. This is a full recreation of the game with new details, rich environments and incredibly detailed. The mysterious nature of the land has been retained but recreated to bring it to life like never before. The ruins of this lost civilisation are beautifully rendered with detailed carvings in ancient stone pillars. Grass and leaves faithfully recreated so that each are individually distinguishable.
Then we move to the Colossi. When you get up close to them the detail is impressive. Scars on their bodies are easy to spot, hair will move with the wind and the aged features all over them allow you to appreciate how long these ancient beasts must have been living for. They move with a grace and elegance that complement their look perfectly. Each Colossi has their own unique features and in high-resolution (especially when playing on a PS4 Pro with a 4KTV) the visual fidelity really tells each individual tale perfectly.
Some remakes just should never have been greenlit (yes Parappa I’m looking at you) but others deserve a remake that allows a new generation of gamers to appreciate these classics that us older folk speak so highly of. Shadow of the Colossus is a timeless classic that shines on the PS4. It was a must play back in 2005/2–6 (depending on which region you were in when it released) and it is a must play in 2018 plan and simple.
Shadow of the Colossus was reviewed from copy provided by PlayStation New Zealand.