Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Shadow of the Colossus ★★★★★

Along comes another Remaster. You’d be forgiven for assuming this is just another lazy HD update, with some nicer textures and a fixed frame rate, as this gen has seen an over saturation of this as a quick and easy cash in on nostalgia. However, Shadow of the Colossus is one of the few exceptions where this is not the case. Like the Crash Bandicoot: N.sane Trilogy, Shadow of the Colossus has been fully rebuilt, from the ground up. Every model, texture, piece of geometry remade; new lighting and physics, all running on a brand new game engine.

Bluepoint Games have made a reputation, for themselves, making Remasters. They were responsible for God of War HD collection and Shadow of the Colossus HD for PlayStation 3, which was mostly cases of, the aforementioned, new textures and more stable frame rates. The Uncharted Collection for PlayStation 4 had a lot more work put into it. Additional polygons being added to Characters and levels bring the game up to a more "next gen" standard. Shadow of the Colossus is their most ambitious project to date, starting from scratch and trying to recapture what made the game so highly regarded, in the first place, would be no easy task.

Originally from the mind of Fumito Ueda and Team Ico, Shadow of the Colossus was the teams Opus magnum, for the PlayStation 2, in 2005. Set within Team Ico’s own extraordinary, enchanting and mysterious universe, so far, consisting of Ico, Shadow of the Colossus and, PlayStation 4's, The Last Guardian.

Avoiding spoilers as best as possible - you play as Wonder, a dude who just wants to bring a girl back to life. So he wonders (get it) to a distant forbidden land, on his horse Agro, in search of a deity that is said to return the souls of the dead. After defeating a few shadow people inside an open plan Shrine, of some kind, an otherworldly voice speaks to Wonder, claiming to be Dormin, the deity Wonder's been in search of and promises to return Mono’s soul in exchange for invoking colossal wide genocide. The rest of the story is subtly portrayed to you, very slowly, leaving you to determine and come to terms with what is really going on.

A large part of the game consists of exploring the vast majestic open landscape, looking for and stalking out Colossi, like a rudimentary Michael Myers. Once you find your unsuspecting victim, minding its own business, you begin a David and Goliath battle. Working out how to scale the colossi and finding its weak spot(s) are a sort of a, usually pretty simple, puzzle within itself.

Jumping onto one, any way you can find and climbing their arm or a leg and scaling its torso as you cling to the Colossi’s, now amazingly rendered, fur as they try to shake you off. Once you've homed in on a weak spot, you begin stabbing the Colossus, repeatedly, with a sword, that in comparison to the Colossus would be around the scale of a toothpick.

Black blood sprays from every incision, like a Kenji Misumi samurai movie, until the light in your target's eyes fades and they unceremoniously crumple to the ground, in defeat, releasing black smokey tentacles, that envelop you, knocking you unconscious but ever so helpfully return you to the mysterious Shrine of Worship, so you can embark on searching out your next prey.

The Remaster brings with it the option between a "classic" and "modern" controls set up. Modern moving things like aiming your arrows to the Shoulder Buttons and jump to X rather than Triangle. And not having to hold more than one button just to dodge roll. It's just a personal preference thing, I was fine with either. The game still handles like an over fidgety PS2 game, anyway. Wonder likes to stumble around and fight against inputs you think you've made. Climbing is still just as clumsy and awkward as it was in 2005/6. Agro also lives up to his name, while riding him, he likes coming to a stop because there's a stone that he's decided he doesn't like or one of those GTA trees that are stronger than lamp posts.

Whilst the remake is ever so close in capturing the magic of what made Shadow of the Colossus so special, there's something that just gets lost in the process. Bluepoint have tackled an uncanny point and created a worthy update that will hopefully bring with it a new audience and appreciation, for the 10 year old game. ...but, as Gus Van Sant proved with his remake of Psycho, a shot for shot recreation of a classic isn’t all it takes to bring a title up to date, for a new audience. You risk losing the essence and charisma of the original, which in Psycho’s case, ultimately failing to come close to Hitchcock’s original.

This just goes to show that it's not amazing graphics, that make a good game, I would still quite happily go back and play the PS2 original. Just because it's shiny and new, doesn't always mean it's better.

Bry Wyatt

Shadow of the Colossus at CeX

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