2017 saw a couple of amazing remastered PS2 classics and 2018 just ushered in another one. Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age and Okami HD may be incredible yet not to be outdone, here's a completely remastered Shadow of the Colossus.
When creating a game that tells a story or creates a specific atmosphere, there's a difficult balance between maintaining that ambiance while also crafting enjoyable gameplay. Telltale Games is a great example of a developer who has seen tremendous success creating interactive experiences and while those games are great for when you're in the mood for an enjoyable narrative, they don't do much to really scratch the gaming itch. I bring this up because to me, Shadow of the Colossus is the apex of blending a moody, atmospheric experience with real, solid, exciting gameplay. Games like Ico, The Last Guardian, Gone Home, Journey, and many more all try to blend the two yet none have done it better than Shadow of the Colossus.
At the beginning of the story, you watch a cutscene of a young man bringing a deceased woman to a forbidden temple where he believes she can be brought back to life. There, he is greeted by a powerful being named Dormin who informs him that if he is able to slay the many colossi that roam the land, it is possible that she may be able to be revived. Without hesitation, he takes up his sword to begin on this mysterious quest. Before battling these massive beings, our hero (known as Wander) must first find them in the desolate world that surrounds him. By holding up his sword to the sun, a beam of light is cast over the land that instructs you which direction to go. Once you encounter a colossus, you must use both your wits and your strength to defeat it.
The actual colossus battles are a glorious mix of platforming, action, and puzzle gameplay. Each colossus has several weak points on their body and you must locate and figure out how to access them first. After that, you'll need to jump and climb on the colossus, keeping an eye on your grip gauge to ensure that you don't fall mid-climb. Finally, you strike down the colossus using your sword or bow. Once you've fully attacked all the weak spots, the colossus will collapse and the fight is over. It's hard to put in words just how exciting and challenging this whole experience is.
Besides being a joy to play, Shadow of the Colossus is truly one of the most cinematic and beautiful games I've ever played. The way the camera bounces and pans creates a sense of realism, making you feel like you really are in this world and can control everything about what you do. You can even move the camera around during the cutscenes. Speaking of visuals, this PS4 remaster looks excellent as it has been given a lot more than just a fresh coat of paint to soften some of the jaggies. A modern control scheme has been introduced as well, making controlling Wander feel far more natural. An additional collectible has also been added for those hardcore fans who feel like more deeply exploring the world.
Just as with the original version released in 2005, there are a couple aspects of this remaster that just aren't perfect although loyal fans (myself included) are usually more than willing to completely overlook them. For one, the controls can be a bit quirky at times and you'll accidentally fall or grab onto something unexpected. Controlling your horse (Argo) can be unwieldy but to be fair, that does add to the sense of realism. Finally, I was never impressed that the collectibles don't stand out at all. In fact, I didn't even know they existed until after I had completed my first playthrough on PS2 and looked up more info online. Along the same lines, some colossi can be a bit tough to find when they are hidden in an underground temple and your sword beam doesn't do the best job of directing you to the entrance.
Shadow of the Colossus on PlayStation 4 looks amazing and the modern control scheme makes it more playable than ever. No matter which way you slice it, Shadow of the Colossus remains one of the most enjoyable and cinematic games of all time.
- + Battling colossi is one of the most memorable experiences in gaming history
- + Excellent visual upgrades
- + Modern improved control scheme
- - Treks to find a colossus can sometimes take too long
- - Overly obscure collectibles