Why I Love… Shadow of the Colossus


You may have already read the musings of the other writers here and been entertained about some of the titles that may be new to you; games that you may have heard of before but may now be interested in playing; and games that you already know and love. I want to reintroduce you to a game that forever changed my expectations in gaming and yet still only has a cult following. I want to tell you why I love Shadow of the Colossus.

I’m assuming that most of you don’t actually need a reintroduction to one of the PS2’s greatest classics, but I am aware that some of you were either sleeping in caves in 2005/2006 (Japan and US release in 2005 and PAL regions in early 2006) or that you may have jumped onto the current generation of consoles. Those of you who have heard about this title but never got a chance to play it have a second chance to do so in September this year when it is re-released with its spiritual sequel-prequel(?) ICO.

This game is everything you heard it was, both positive and negative — although the supposed negatives are stupid criticisms made by those who are desperately trying to hate a game they don’t really understand. The art direction and barren nature of the landscape coupled with the minimal amount of dialogue and zero identikit goons/NPCs create a feeling of loneliness and give a focused purpose to the player. The colossi in the game are mostly huge and majestic. They are always moving right down to their fur which impacts on the game’s ability to lock down a steady framerate. Considering what was achieved on the PS2’s aging architecture, I was in awe at what I believed to be a miracle of engineering. Team ICO could have shifted development over to the PS3 and produced something a lot closer to Fumito Ueda’s vision. But with an installed base of over 120 million consoles at the time, the PS3 in its last few moments of testing before release and the fact that those customers who were waiting for PS3’s were given backwards compatibility, it just made sense to continue the four years of development and push its host system to its limit.

But what makes me swoon when I think of Shadow of the Colossus? I think it comes down to the first encounter with one of the eponymous colossi. I remember the very first giant I took down in this game very well. It was, in hindsight, my first murder. After climbing a small cliff and walking out into a clearing, there he was. He was huge. He was walking around in a very slow and peaceful manner. He had birds circling around his head and I remembered feeling that if he saw me, he’d attack. I raised Wanda’s sword to the sky and the light reflecting off of it beamed straight to his head. His weak spot was to signify my victory. Years of honing my killer instinct in games like Devil May Cry and God of War pushed my adrenal glands into overdrive. I dashed towards him and fired off a couple of arrows towards his face. That got his attention. He looked down at me and began walking towards me in the hope of squashing me.

Every step he took shook the ground and brought me to my knees. I looked at my inventory and thought about just how unprepared Wanda really was. Then I noticed something. There was fur on the beast’s heel. I ran behind him, jumped and grabbed on. I climbed up as far as his calf. The the battle music had begun but I couldn’t see a continuation of my route to his scalp. Out of lucky frustration, I stabbed him in his calf. He staggered forward and dropped to one knee in pain. His long health bar barely took any perceptible damage but I didn’t care. My fortuitous window of opportunity was about to close so I had to make this moment count.

I jumped up and grabbed the fur on his thigh and started scrambling up this monster’s back. By this time, he had gotten up and was trying to shake me off. He probably thought of me as an annoying mosquito, and if that was the case, my plan was to give him something worse than malaria, I was going to bring him sweet death.

As I approached his head, I heard an ethereal voice calling me to finish the job as a glyph appeared on this titans crown. I inched closer towards it, mindful of keeping my grip on my foe. Once I was on top of the spot I raised my sword and plunged it into the titan’s head. A spring of blood gushed from the wound as I inflicted critical damage to him. Action games had taught me to enjoy these moments and the smug feeling of besting something bigger than me was so overwhelming that I began cackling with glee. Repeated stabbings brought forth more claret until the final blow emptied his health bar completely. “Job done. Bring on the next challenger!” I exclaimed with all the satisfaction of a warrior hero. But as my vanquished prey fell and the music failed to portray victory but instead tragedy, it dawned on me that I wasn’t really a hero, I was a killer. Yes, I was doing this to save someone, and yes he was intimidating, but did he really deserve that fate I forced upon him?

No game has ever made me feel guilty for beating what was essentially a “boss” character before and not many have truly conveyed feelings of pain, sacrifice and mortality since. At least, not as successfully as Shadow of the Colossus. I’ve always been caught up in the emotions and motivations of the main character, be it Nathan Drake in Uncharted or Link in the Legend of Zelda games, to actually care why the so-called “bad guys” needed an education in pain. That’s just what they deserve, right?



Wanda has his burden to bare which is explained at the very beginning of the game. The purpose and importance of the colossi, and also their significance to Wanda is suggested throughout and ultimately rewards you with all the details at the end.

Prior to the release of this gem, the games lead designer, Fumito Ueda said, “For those who understand the unique expression of video games and those who have interest there. Many video games tend to be complicated these days but I hope those people who are a bit tired of those complicated games become interested in my game.”

Hopefully, some of you will be keen to try out the game in its remastered form this autumn when it is re-released on the the PS3 in glorious high definition and at a reported 60 frames per second. Those of you who have played the original will appreciate the visual upgrade and fluidity of movement that was lacking during its freshman outing. And if you have never played it before, then I envy you — you guys are about to witness something new and brilliant take place…you are about to have your perspective on gaming changed forever.

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