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In the Shadow of the Colossus

In continuing with my recent kick on nostalgic games, I couldn't resist talking about my favorite game of all time, Shadow of the Colossus. Originally released on the Playstation 2, Shadow of the Colossus is an epic story about one young man and his quest to bring his dead lover back to life. To accomplish this, he brings her to a forbidden land populated only by the 16 Colossi, massive hulking creatures that are both organic and stone.
Shadow of the Colossus, along with its predecessor Ico, was re-released with an HD update for the PS3 in a bundled edition. I picked it up to relive the glory of the game once more, though I haven't had a chance to play Ico yet, as I've been more focused on replaying SotC. The game is truly a masterpiece, and really it was the first game that made me consider that video games can be approached as an art form. There are no random battles against meaningless creeps, no dungeons to explore, or really any objectives at all aside from your conquest of the Colossi. The only human characters in the game are the protagonist Wander, the girl who he is trying to resurrect, Mono. Wander receives his quest from a formless entity known as Dormin, who takes shape as a radiant light in the game's 'home base', the shrine of worship. Wander's only ally in his adventure is his horse Agro, who proves to be instrumental to the success of Wander's quest.
Technically classified as an action-adventure game, SotC actually plays like a puzzle game. Aside from the first Colossi, each of these colossal (haha) creatures can only be defeated by using some part of environment to your advantage. From structures that strategically hide your position, to geysers that spout from a barren wasteland, you will need to put a fair amount of thought into each one of your battles with the Colossi. Every battle is hard-fought, and it can certainly be frustrating, particularly in the early to mid-game. Each colossi has a specific weak point, or set of weak points, that Wander needs to clamber atop them to reach. Considering that Wander has only a set amount of stamina with which to hold onto the struggling beasts, this can prove challenging.
This game is an incredibly emotional journey from start to finish. With little to no dialogue, and even less background information, you are alone on this journey with Agro. Everything had a lonely gravity to it as you roam the desolate but beautiful landscape. The adventure is taxing for Wander as well. With every Colossi that is felled, a toll is taken on Wander. Black tendrils snake out from the corpses of the Colossi, tendrils that are violently absorbed into Wander. As the game progresses, the physical toll of these absorptions becomes clearer and clearer.
The game has been lauded for its artistic style as well as the compelling narrative. It manages to pack in so much raw emotion and significance, in spite of (or maybe because of) its lack of dialogue or other traditional narrative building elements. The end of the game ties it all together in such a mind-blowing twist that when I first played it, I had to actually pause it and take a 15 minute break to process what had happened. I haven't played Ico, but I have read that SotC is a spiritual successor and a sort-of prequel to it. Knowing how it ends makes me excited for Ico. If you haven't played Shadow of the Colossus, you are truly missing out on one of the greatest games ever made.
On a related note, though, people are optimistic that at next week's E3, Team Ico will be announcing a release date for their latest game The Last Guardian. Not too much is known about it, except that it follows a young boy as he befriends a giant bird-like creature and the pair work together to escape the bonds of their imprisonment. Here's hoping it gets a release date!
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