In Depth Review: Shadow of the Colossus [PS2]
While admiring the nooks and crannies in their exoskeleton of rock is worthy of your time, it is the battling that makes the encounters thrilling. Each one comes with a unique look and an exclusive range of attacks. From a swooping bat to a charging, subterranean snake, no two are the same and you need all your wits to bring them down. But first, you need to climb onto your foe and this is where the excitement begins. In the first segment of each battle, you have to figure out how to get onto the colossus. Sometimes, you must use your bow to make the mountainous creature fall onto the ground; other times, the speed of your horse is the key to mounting the colossus. Sometimes, it is the environment and the surroundings that are essential. There are even occasions where you have to use a combination of these techniques to get the upper hand.
After mounting one, it becomes your task to crawl around its hairy body, find its weak spots, and repeatedly stab them with your sword until it falls. Hearing it wince and roar viciously with every hit you deliver, making your own groans inaudible, is a stunning affair. However, your foe refuses to go down easily. With a full orchestral score blaring out, grabbing desperately onto the fur of a colossus as it attempts to violently shake you loose is an enthralling experience and gets your adrenaline pumping. As you hang from what feels like hundreds of feet, you are forced to take any available chance to defeat the colossus, and rushing to fit in an extra stab can determine whether you come out triumphant or fail miserably. When you hear a colossus plummet to the ground with a resounding thud, you are rewarded with satisfaction, knowing that you have slain a seemingly unbeatable beast.
But before you can face a colossus, you have to locate one. This is done by holding up your ancient sword, which reflects light towards your next destination. During these brief gallops, you are constantly reminded of the wanderer’s loneliness. No orchestral score is played. Nothing but cliffs surround you as you walk out of the temple. And besides the occasional howling of the wind, only the galloping of your sole companion can be picked up by your ears. In the vast world that consists of torrid deserts, meandering canyons, and foliate forests, you meet nothing but rare, harmless birds and lizards before each colossus. Only you, isolated in this beautiful, mystical world of green and brown shades, can save your dear maiden. As you admire the individual leaves on the trees, you realise that there is no one to share your epic quest with.
Also impressive is the variety of settings in which your battles take place. From a forsaken arena to a barren, geyser-filled wasteland, it sweeps away any chance of you experiencing déjà vu. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about some of the action. Two clashes in particular last longer than they should as the colossi cheaply force you off them once you’ve dealt a sizeable amount of damage, meaning you must repeat the strategy over to get back on. One of the smaller colossi also tests your patience in an entirely different manner. Its fast attacks stun you for a significant period of time; thus, in many instances, it charges at you again before you can recover from the last hit. But even these fiends are incredibly satisfying to defeat, and as daunting as they sound, conquering each colossus leaves you looking forward to the next.
Sadly, the quest ends within ten hours. What’s more disappointing is that even with the additional time attack, reminiscence, and hard modes, going face-to-face against a colossus for the second time doesn’t have the same profound effect as the first. Each encounter is no longer breathtaking, as neither their size nor their majestic presence has much of an impact anymore, and half of the appeal, working out how to get onto them, vanishes. Moreover, the incentives of earning upgraded weapons and stat boosts aren’t alluring enough to drive you to fight each one again.
None of this, however, detracts from the wonder of your first journey and neither do the rare dips in the frame-rate. Shadow of the Colossus is a memorable tale full of emotion and determination; an adventure that makes you more persevering with every gallop and fight and one that gives you some of the most thrilling moments in years. Prepare to be astounded for the grandeur of the colossi, the heartfelt story, and the seamless blend of puzzle and action combine to make an unforgettable adventure.