Let’s get one thing straight: I hate boss fights. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always avoided conflict whenever possible—meaning my childhood years mostly consisted of Kirby, Hamtaro, and Animal Crossing games.
But Shadow of the Colossus’s stunning visuals pulled me in from its very first trailer, so I knew I had to set my fears aside and savor the challenge. It’s just a video game, after all, and not so much life or death. However true the latter might be, I’m still sitting here eating my words.
Shadow of the Colossus isn’t just a video game; it’s a masterpiece.
Shadow of the Colossus
Developers: Bluepoint Games, SIE Japan Studio
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed)
MonsterVine was provided with a PS4 copy for review.
In the game, you play as Wander: a young man accompanied by his horse Agro, with a deep desire to resurrect a girl named Mono. The opening cinematic shows Wander and Agro racing into the Forbidden Lands through various landscapes to seek help for her. They are then greeted with a mysterious voice at the Shrine of Worship, Dormin, who claims he can revive Mono if Wander slays all 16 colossi residing in different parts of the Forbidden Lands. Dormin cautions, however, that Wander may have to “pay a great price” for Mono’s resurrection.
What makes Shadow different from other games is its simplicity. There are no NPCs, quests, or story-driving areas to explore. There are only colossi. This made it quite easy to safely test out the controls and get a real feel for the game before jumping into battle. In order to find the colossi, Wander has to hold up his sword up to the sun and follow the trail of light on horseback (well, I guess you could walk? Has someone tried this out yet?). Once you find a colossi, a short cinematic will introduce it and you’re left with little guidance to figure out how to destroy it.
Figuring out each colossus’s puzzle was undeniably my favorite part of the game. Putting on your Sherlock Holmes hat and correctly identifying just how to use the environment to your advantage and locating the colossi’s weak points gives you a satisfaction that’s not easily reproduced. Of course, my fear of boss battles overwhelmed me for the first few deaths of each puzzle and I raged a little more than I’d like to admit, and certainly the small tips from Dormin helped along the way. But acting on a hunch and perfectly executing it to actual success? Nothing like it, man. I’ve never played the original, so this was a completely new experience for me.
I have to say, though, I felt kind of guilty for killing the colossi even though they didn’t do anything to provoke me (well, except the fireball-spitting, aggressively charging-at-me ones). This ethical dilemma is something I only reflected on after playing through the game, but it really makes me reflect on violence in games. Maybe I’ll do a follow-up on this in the future.
Do I even have to mention how beautiful Shadow is? It’s so beautiful that this remake even has a Photo Mode. I still haven’t tried it out yet because I knew I’d get sucked in and wouldn’t finish the story as timely as I wanted to. However, I still think you just really have to play through it to get the most unabashed appreciation for the visuals. To give you a small taste:
The sun peeks through the grey cumulus clouds as you ride atop your most loyal black-haired mare, sand collecting at the ends of your hair as it blows through the wind and your cape flapping in synchrony with your mare’s backmost hooves. In the distance you see stone plateaus seemingly going on for miles; even further you see a small riverbed tucked away in the thick of the luscious forest. Your mare’s hoof prints are washed away by the gusts emerging from the plateau’s crevice, where you’re forced to dismount and continue the journey into the dark alone, with only bow and sword at your side.
The connection I feel to a game is extremely important in how much I enjoy it. Shadow does a great job of making me care about the characters even though I start out knowing little about them. I got pretty attached to Wander and Agro, especially with how little else there was to focus on. The mystery surrounding Dormin and Mono is also revealed at the end of the game, making the anxiety-inducing boss battles absolutely worth it.
The Final Word
I was just blown away at how spectacular of a game Shadow of the Colossus is beyond its gorgeous backdrop. Its unique minimalism and emphasis on puzzle-solving really hit a homerun, and I only wish I’d jumped on the bandwagon sooner. It’s also made me rethink how I relate to boss battles, maybe even igniting a new burning desire for them in me I never knew before. Shadow of the Colossus will leave one of the most lasting impressions on any player that braves the journey to the Forbidden Lands.
MonsterVine Score: 5 out of 5 – Excellent