Shadow of the Colossus (opens in new tab) is the game people bring up when answering the question, "Are video games art?" Its grand vistas, melancholy tone, and minimalist presentation evoke powerful feelings in players, and it is fondly remembered to this day as a game truly deserving of the word "classic" - hardly any would dispute that. In a new dev diary posted over the weekend, the folks at Bluepoint Games detail the lengths they've gone to do the game justice as they remake it (opens in new tab) for the modern era and the PlayStation 4 hardware.
They call working on the game an "honor," and stress how important it was to treat this new version with respect - which, by all accounts, it looks like they've done. Here, see for yourself.
It looks pristine. Amazing. Gorgeous. Stunning. Look at the sense of scale! Look at the detail! Look at the all-encompassing atmosphere, surrounding our hero Wander on all sides, enveloping him, and us, in this land with all its otherworldly beauty. But.
But maybe you're like me, and maybe you don't feel the way you did when you saw the first trailer for the PS2 original. What do you do if that's the case?
There's an old saying - "you can't go home again". This phrase, long since tweaked and morphed over the years, gained widespread adoption when it was used as the title of a Thomas Wolfe novel, published in 1940. In that book, Wolfe writes, "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time - back home to the escapes of Time and Memory."
In short: trying to re-experience life exactly as it happened the first time is futile. And as it pertains to Shadow of the Colossus on PS4, that means that no matter how many polygons, no matter what resolution, no matter how vibrant the colors, it will never be Shadow of the Colossus as we experienced it in 2005. It just can't be. But I think there is a way to not become cynical and sad about this.
Look at all the work Bluepoint has put into this remake. Look at all the new blood they've pumped into its veins. The textures on the walls that someone painted; the fur physics someone programmed; the lighting someone tweaked and adjusted until it was giving off just the right feel; and more. In the behind-the-scenes video, art director Mark Skelton compares the project to a concerto originally played by a single piano being expanded into a symphony, packed with a broad range of instruments. Hard to imagine? Here's Bach's Cello Suite No. 1 in G, a song that you have almost definitely heard, even if you don't know what a cello is:
Now here it is again, but with seven additional cellos and some percussion:
You can see (or more accurately, hear) the difference immediately, and surmise how this arrangement required study, knowledge, and craft. You might prefer the original over the new version, and that's fine - but we should be able to recognize the talent and work required to produce something that builds on a classic.
When Shadow of the Colossus for PS4 arrives, try not to look at it for how it's changed a game you loved back in 2005. That moment has passed - it can't come back. Instead, try to appreciate the efforts made here and now, and weigh your evaluation based on those merits.