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Waxing Rhapsodic About Shadow Of The Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus is a game that still has me coming back 10 years after I first played it.

For most people who play video games, there is that one title which will always have a special place in their hearts. Whether it was a game that got them into their favorite genre, something that spoke to them on a personal level, or just something they had an unforgettably good time with, people form attachments to their favorite games that stay with them for a very long time.

For me, Shadow of the Colossus is the game that my mind always wanders back to when I think about important titles in my life. 

                     

I won't lie -- I wasn't completely enthralled with Shadow of the Colossus when I first played it. My 13-year-old gamer inhibitions wanted airships and summons, and all I was seeing on the screen was a kid with only a bow and a sword who didn't talk except for when he yelled for his horse.

Don't get me wrong, I thought the game looked great; I still do in fact. Shadow of the Colossus was one of the prettiest games that came out for PlayStation 2, and it ended up looking better than a decent amount of games made for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. But graphics haven't ever been a huge selling point for me.

"You mean there's no ultimate weapon I can get by grinding for 20 hours?" I mockingly asked my television screen.     

"No there isn't, but we promise if you spend a bit of time with this game you're sure to love it!", the imaginary disembodied voices of Team Ico hearkened to my immature ears. 

I didn't listen, and returned Shadow of the Colossus to Blockbuster -- only to snatch it back up when I saw that it had almost gotten a perfect score in the gaming magazine that I was subscribed to back then. And after I finished my first playthrough I was hooked.

Shadow of the Colossus definitely isn't your normal Japanese-developed RPG. Where a lot of JRPGs back then (and even now) had random encounters throughout the world maps, Shadow of the Colossus doesn't have anything like that. The game is a series of sixteen boss battles with enormous creatures that seem to be a mixture of organic matter and stone, and that's it.

It's stark, but its starkness is one of the things that makes the game so magical. And Shadow of the Colossus is stark in more ways than just the lack of enemies to fight. The protagonist, Wanderer, only has a sword and a bow throughout the whole game, and that's all you get in terms of equipment. Your trusty horse Argo is the only real companion accompanying you, and the plot in Shadow of the Colossus is pretty minimal.

All of this doesn't really matter, though. If there were a million weapons to go out and get, it would take away from the game's integrity. Shadow of the Colossus is just as much about the bosses as it is about the main character, and if the devs had decided to add a bunch of extraneous material it would have taken away from the experience in my opinion.

At the risk of sounding cliche, I'll go so far as to say that there is a feeling of purity to Shadow of the Colossus. Wanderer has traveled to a distant land in order to revive his deceased love, and in order to do that he is charged by a deity to kill the colossi, and that's exactly what you do in the game. There are no side quests, there is no collectible card game, there is no blitzball.

Shadow of the Colossus doesn't try to surprise you, and it doesn't try to trick you. Wanderer uses his sword to guide the player in the general direction of the next boss fight, and getting to each colossi is pretty straightforward. But when I saw the colossi for the first time I had a moment of, "wait I'm about to fight that?..." which I haven't really gotten from many games since then.

Shadow of the Colossus made me feel small. And anything that has that kind of effect on someone -- whether it be a game, painting, book or some other type of art -- is important. Hopefully Team Ico's long awaited project The Last Guardian, which is supposed to finally come out in 2016, can evoke a similar feeling.  

If you can pick up a copy of Shadow of the Colossus and a PlayStation 2 on the cheap, I highly recommend it. There is a reason that it's commonly listed as one of the best games to come out in the 2000s.

Published Jun. 9th 2016

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