harder they fall
For a lot of
gamers, though, Shadow of the Colossus will be the real reason to pick up the
Collection. One of the PS2’s last great games (and the first time a lot of
reviewers started using the word “melancholy”), it provoked a lot of
discussion, pre-Bioshock, about the nature of free will in games and whether doing
things simply because a voice in the sky tells you to is really ever a good
idea. It also gave players a chance to climb up the flanks of massive creatures,
each one a unique puzzle with hidden weaknesses, and stab the shit out of them.
So there’s that.
a young hunter named Wander, Shadow’s gameplay is made up of two distinct
halves: in the first, you’ll roam around its immense (and immensely varied)
landscape on horseback, using beams of light from Wander’s sword as a compass
to find the next Colossus. It’s a fairly lonely experience; with no enemies to
fight aside from the Colossi themselves, your main challenge is simply figuring
out how to navigate the rough terrain (and how best to control your horse,
Agro, who kind of has a mind of his own).
you reach each Colossus’ lair, you’ll have two challenges, the first being how
to actually reach said Colossus. This
frequently involves picking your way across treacherous ledges and other obstacles
that tend to involve a lot of climbing. Then you’ll meet the Colossi themselves.
These range from towering, humanoid giants to smaller creatures that look and
act like crosses between bulls and tigers. Some are extremely dangerous, while
others are almost completely harmless, but either way they’ll all have to die.
There are 16
of them to hunt, and while each one is unique, the battles tend to follow the
same pattern: first, find a way to weaken or distract it enough so that you can
grab onto whichever part of it has the most fur. Then, as your grip meter
slowly decreases, resist its attempts to buck you off and clamber around until
you’ve found its glowing weak points. That’s your cue to stab until either you’ve
been shaken off or your massive prey falls over, dead, in moments that aren’t
so much triumphant as they are strangely sad.
atmospheric touches, though, we’d forgotten just how much sheer frustration
there is in playing Shadow. The landscape’s maybe a little too vast, and although the game’s structured to keep you from
revisiting the same areas (unless you want to), getting anywhere is not something
you can do in a hurry. Also, when you begin the game, Wander is relatively
weak, and so stabbing the average Colossus to death takes ages. This also
increases the likelihood that you’ll fall off the Colossus while you’re trying
to kill it, which then means you’ll have to repeat whatever you did to reach
its weak point in the first place. This can be anything from hitting a weak
point with a well-placed arrow to a grueling climb to a lengthy, high-speed
horseback ride followed by a hard-to-time jump.
For those of
us spoiled by the convenience of modern videogames, this can be extremely
annoying, although never quite enough to be outright discouraging. It’s also
never enough to mar the fun of discovering each Colossus’ weakness, or of
climbing up their massive furry backs and delivering the hard-won death blow.
Melancholy or no, there’s a definite satisfaction in bringing down something
hundreds of times your size with nothing but strong hands, keen eyes and a
sharp hunk of metal, and it hasn’t been dulled by six years of generous
checkpoints and easy victories.
In spite of
any irritations or hiccups the Collection has, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus
were both easy 10s when they were released – and while they’re maybe not quite
as impactful now as they were then, they still belong in any serious gamer’s
library (especially if said serious gamer missed them the first time around).
These are brilliant, memorable, inventive and emotionally involving adventures, and the combination of remastered visuals, 3D options, Trophies and a $40
price tag make them more irresistible than ever.