+Possibly one of the most artistically impressive games in the history of gaming
+A true remake of a timeless classic
+The melancholic atmosphere returns, but brighter and more vibrant than ever before
+All actions players make matter
-Troublesome camera angles make a slightly irritating return
Were you to be given the task to explain to someone how playing video games is time well spent and how they possess the potential or equivalence as artistic masterpieces what games would you mention? For me, that list is extremely small due to how far gaming has come in the past fifteen years.
Out of the hundreds of games I’ve played over the course of thirty-two years, I can already tell you that I can count those games on a single hand, but chief among them comes Ueda Fumito’s 2005 Shadow of Colossus, a game that delivered more than just a gameplay experience, but one that serves as a testament to games as interactive art.
But how can a game that’s narrative is simple as defeating sixteen Colossi in order to revive your dearly beloved, be such an important masterpiece within the games as an art medium? What if I told you it wasn’t the narrative or the subtitles that appeared on screen that told you a story? What if I told you that the experience itself is through its cinematic sequences that competently adapt the qualities of movies that we commonly see on modern screens?
But if I told you, then you may question as to how an interactive piece, that’s filled to the brim with such an unquestionable thematic sets could compel players to explore its artistic qualities while taking in its fully interactive world. One void of life aside from a few birds, turtles, a boy and his horse and the sixteen colossi that rule the lands. The truth is, the stature of Shadow of the Colossus is something work discussing due to its triumphant nature as a game.
But to recapture such nostalgia, how does one remaster a game and not remove the melancholic emptiness of the world and artistic expressionism of such a game? Even with a remaster, there’s a grueling task at hand: the preservation of the experience fans had undertaken over the span of almost thirteen years. You remake it from the ground up, preserving every piece of the game as much as possible without altering the experience in any way shape or form.
The Power of a Complete Remake Matters
Instead, you focus on enhancing the experience already presented to fans of the game while steadily expanding upon the one they had been previously given. This includes the bittersweet ending that players strive to experience while continually convincing players that the hardships they endured had meaning and consequence to the world about them. But what’s more impressive is how you get to that very point, to that point of seeing an ending with consequence and a reaction to those very consequences.
While the landscape you travel is startlingly beautiful but desolate, isolated from civilization by a range of mountains, and arcane ruins populated by only a few occasional lizards that evoke the sense of complete and total isolation. But each level is something unique, something different as players approach them, and now, you may be wondering: how does a game like Shadow of the Colossus have levels? That’s where all 16 Colossi come into play. Each presenting their own level within an open world. One brought to life by the compelling puzzles their bodies are designed to be.
Each requiring unique tactics in order to make them present an opening chance for Wander to scale their bodies, some like Phaedra requiring players to use the terrain to their advantage in order to find an opening in order to scale the hulking beast. But as expected, each mission, each puzzle, posses the same repetition but compounds the immensity of the task at hand. after slaying each of the Colossi.
The Artistic Value is in the Loneliness the Game Provides
Much like in the predecessors that came before it, the end result of slaying a colossus is the same, Wander is returned to the shrine where his beloved lay dead and he himself has grown equally bedraggled after each encounter only to carries to save the princess herself. And once more, players are off to explore the lands before them without any audio or visual queues in the music.
Instead, the solidarity of the game is once more resounding as the sound of Agro’s hooves echo off canyon walls and mountainsides and the single call of an eagle in the distance. How small and alone you truly are within the confines of the Cursed Lands themselves. A place where sunshafts bolt between random leaves and limbs of a canopy or the soft glow of beams between the clouds, small wisps of dust sweeping across the ground, the clarity not before seen in the games previous iterations.
As the desperate exertion is made, there’s still something that most games lack: a world where consequences matter, a weight placed on the player’s shoulders as they witness a colossus fall. Even after its untimely end, the game doesn’t stop there, it doesn’t remind you of your partial triumph; instead, it reminds you of their death as the creature passes, lunging its body about in its throes of death. As it does, you are quickly reminded that you’ve murdered something unique, a majestic creature, a one of a kind that the world will never see the likes of ever again.
It isn’t just the emotional draw that gives the game itself weight, but rather an emotional ache, one that makes the weight of such decisions more believable than ever before. It’s a sense of visceral despair that shows the further presence of such decisions being made, ones that make a remarkable experience unlike any other ever made before. In many ways, it’s painful, almost traumatic to those whom may find emotional impacts of such a game resounding due to the artistic direction of the game.
But like many times before, your journey isn’t one carved by a reluctant hero that will defy all odds to stay alive and resurrect his beloved. Although tangible, it’s a brilliant and artistic narrative, one given life through the game’s interactivity and ability to portray such unique story in the way Shadow of Colossus has. But unlike any other, it’s this minimalist approach that allows for Shadow of the Colossus to be unique due to its artistic value, one that never stops delivering the experience despite the interactive elements that bring the game to life.
Even Interaction’s With the Colossi Feel Organic and Meaningful
Just as it were thirteen years ago, the interactions with the colossi are beyond believable. Even as Wander grasps upon their fur, there’s something special about such artistic drive. Every inch of them, no matter how close you get, doesn’t blur or fade. Every hair, every inch of calloused skin has been meticulously designed so as to make them look organic, lifelike in every means possible.
Any detail that could have been skipped over, has been immaculately detailed in order to add depth to a players immersion. But that’s the charm when it comes to Bluepoint’s reimagining of the game. It’s not just a small scale masterpiece, every interaction, every piece of them feels natural, it feels as if it was drawn from our very world. Their natural reactions to Wander scaling them is like a horse flicking a fly from its body, reacting negatively to every move he makes.
When it comes to the feel of Wander’s blade piercing their skin, it’s just as you would expect; they reel in pain, moving in desperation as they attempt to remove that of which threatens their very existence. Upon the removal of their very lives, the world is extremely bleak, melancholy as players stare upon the fallen beast, a creature once unrivaled by any in the world. Their once unimaginable existence now a shadow of its former self, a testament to a man’s sheer will to save his beloveds life.
Shadow of the Colossus – PlayStation 4
Developer: Bluepoint Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
But the most important message doesn’t lose its meaning
While this experience is much different than its predecessors, Shadow of the Colossus remains one of the most important games in the history of the medium. It’s a game that doesn’t use a written or spoken narrative to astonish players, but rather, it uses its artistic value, the landscape, the world about it and the massive colossi that you will fell to deliver its story home.
And that is what makes this one of the most astonishing games that may ever exist and this is why this remake isn’t just an astonishing tribute to its predecessors. Instead, it’s a beautiful take on Ueda Fumito’s grand vision, a vision that will be talked about for generations to come and could quite possibly be considered one of the most artistically impressive games to ever exist.
Our review is based on a retail version that our reviewer publisher. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 9.5 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPGs, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.