Game Night, Video Games

Shadow of the Colossus: The Game That Changed the Game

Developed By: SCE Japan Studio, Team Ico
Published By: Sony Computer Entertainment
Directed By: Fumito Ueda
Written By: Fumito Ueda, Junichi Hosono, Masashi Kudo, Takashi Izutani
Release Dates:  NA: October 18, 2005, JP: October 27, 2005, AU: February 16, 2006, EU: February 17, 2006
Link to Buy (PS4 Version)

It’s not Sekiro, I know. But it has ‘Shadow’ in the name, so it works.

Shadow of the Colossus is one of the greatest video games ever made. This was the game that proved once and for all that video games can, in fact, be art. Everything, from it’s gameplay to it’s world and visuals, is perfectly designed to invoke emotion from the players. Be it adrenaline, sorrow or despair, everything in this game goes towards creating these feelings. However, the game has always been suffering from technical limitations. Be it the frame rate on the PS2 or the control of the PS3, there has always been something holding this game back.

Then came the PS4 version.

At last, Shadow of the Colossus has reached it’s full potential. Not only does this game look better than it ever has. It controls better than ever (in that you can actually control Wander more than not at all), and it fulfills it’s objective better than ever before. Never before has this game been so good.

And since I haven’t had a chance to play Sekiro yet, and I’ve talked about DMC 5 roughly seven times, now seems like a good time to talk about it. I need something depressing me to distract me before I play something depressing.

Story: A Man, His Corpse, His Horse, and Satan

Shadow of the Colossus has one of the most intriguing and minimalistic stories in the history of video games. It gives the player just enough to get them interested, invested and engaged. While there are a few cutscenes and dialogue in a gibberish language, the story is presented more through the gameplay than through those.

Y’know. Like a video game should.

The plot is simple. You, Wander, have stolen a sacred sword and traveled to a forbidden land with your horse Agro and your dead lover. You travel to a forbidden land to gain the help of Dormin, a mysterious being that can allegedly resurrect your dead lover. On one condition: Wander must take his magic sword and slay the sixteen Colossi, strange and magic beings of massive size and power.

The task is simple, and it seems like the typical set up of an average game. However, Shadow of the Colossus does many things to differentiate itself from other games. For one, conquering the Colossi never feels like an accomplishment. The game actively goes out of it’s way to make you feel bad for killing these creatures. They’re each massive, beautiful, and most of them are completely passive until you attack them first. It makes you wonder whether what you’re doing is the right thing to do.

And as you’ll find out later: it’s not. It’s what you want to do to accomplish your own goals, yes. But that goal does more damage to the world as a whole. Unlike most games, which roll your character’s goals in with the greater good, Shadow of the Colossus paints Wander’s actions, and therefor your actions, as morally gray.

Whether or not you believe that what you’re doing is right is up to you. Are you the good guy? Or are you the villain? That’s entirely up to you.

Gameplay: Killing Kaiju Has Never Made Me Feel So Bad

The gameplay loop of Shadow of the Colossus is incredibly simple. You hop on your horse, follow your sword’s light to the next Colossus, climb up and slay it. Rinse, repeat, and keep going. When you kill the last giant statue monster, you beat the game.

Fighting a Colossus, while it doesn’t paint you as a heroic bad ass, is undeniably exhilarating. Each one feels like a puzzle, and they’re all a joy to fight (though some are definitely more fun than others). Clinging on to their fur for dear life as they flail about fills you with adrenaline, and seeing them tower over you as you approach creates a strong feeling of helplessness.

You are David. They are Goliath’s dads. Who go to the gym. And serve in the marines.

The world the game is set in creates a feeling of loneliness. Aside from a few birds, fish and lizards, the world is completely barren. You are the only living thing left in this land, and you are murdering your only company.

Have fun with that.

No other game creates such feelings so well! The terror gets your heart racing, the isolation of the world makes you feel true melancholy, and conquering the Colossi makes you feel both triumphant and horrible. It uses it’s gameplay to invoke emotion out of the player unlike any game that came before it.

Or after, if you ask me.

Presentation: Loneliness Has Never Looked So Good

Reminder: I’m talking about the PS4 version. I won’t be considering the visuals and performances of the PS2 and PS3 versions. I do this because I feel that this is the best version of the game.

That said… holy FUCK this game looks GOOD!

Every model in the game is incredibly well detailed and animated. Each Colossi moves in a way that perfectly communicates their massive size, and the shaking of the environment around you perfectly sells their extreme weight. The environments are gorgeous, sucking you right in with little effort.

And the music! Oh my god the music in this game is so fucking good! From the dramatic to the tragic, every single track fits the scene perfectly! If you haven’t listened to any of the music from this game, fix that! Immediately!

Here. Listen to the music in the first link. Then go buy the soundtrack in the second.



You’re welcome.

Conclusion: How It Changed the World

Back when Shadow of the Colossus came out, games were in an environment where people didn’t take them seriously. Sure, there were plenty of games that people liked. But no one really considered it to be an art form. It was viewed as just another pass time by many, and a problem by others. Hell, a lot of people still conceive video games that way to this day.

Colossus changed all that. This was the game that made people sit up and listen. This was the game that stood up and shouted to the world “Games are art!”. And for the first time, the world listened.

No other game before or after has had the impact on the world that Shadow of the Colossus had. It changed the landscape of the video gaming world, showing the world the artistic capabilities and values of a game. This is the game that shook the world around it.

And now that it’s here, there can be no going back.

2 thoughts on “Shadow of the Colossus: The Game That Changed the Game”

  1. This review is well done: thoughtful, concise, thorough, *and funny*. A lighthearted yet completely serious look at Fumito Ueda’s masterpiece. Great job.

    Liked by 1 person

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