Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
HIT Wonderful David and Goliath style story Amazing attention to detail with every Colossi Huge, wide-open world Breath-taking, strategic battles
MISS The camera angles can get quite frustrating at times More Colossi would've been nice
In Shadow of the Colossus, you take on the role of an unnamed young man simply known as 'The Wanderer'. As the story opens, the young man is on horseback heading across an enormous bridge. As the camera zooms in we see that he is carrying an unidentified young woman with him who appears to be dead. The story unfolds from this point, letting us know that the young man is searching for Colossi -- mythical creatures that roam this undisturbed, peaceful looking land. It is said that within each of these Colossi, there lies an unimaginable power of bringing the dead back to life. Armed with a sword that lets him scatter light and lead him from Colossi to Colossi, 'The Wanderer' heads out on his quest.
The display at the bottom right corner of your screen displays three different items. 1) The Grip Meter, which displays how much gripping power you have left while climbing along the monstrous bodies of the Colossi. 2) the Weapon Selection, which lets you toggle between sword, bow & arrow or bare hands. 3) The Health Meter, which displays your life energy.
The controls for Shadow of the Colossus are fairly simple, but could possibly take some time to get used to. To walk or run around on the field, or on horseback, you will simply use the left analog stick. Moving the camera is done via the right analog stick. Crouching down is performed with the R1 button and the left analog stick to move around. While crouching you can roll forward by simply pressing the Triangle button. Crouching also helps you regain your health faster. To jump, you will use the Triangle button alone. The long you press and hold, the higher and further 'The Wanderer' will leap. Underwater controls are also fairly simple. The left analog stick is used for swimming in multiple directions, while you can swim faster underwater by holding the R1 button. A breath meter will appear if you are underwater, letting you know how long you can stay underwater before having to surface for air. Climbing onto the enormous Colossi (what you need to do if you plan on getting anywhere on this game) involves a lot of jumping and grabbing. Jump onto a Colossi with the Triangle button, then latch on with R1. From a gripping position, you will have to use the left analog stick to find your way around the beasts to their weak spots. While climbing you can also jump and grip at the same time. Simply press the Triangle button up while holding the R1 button. This also works if you're trying to jump sideways. Now, the hard part is bringing down these beasts! To equip a certain weapon, you will need to use the left or right direction key to cycle through your three choices. Bare hands don't really help much, other than climbing, so you'll need to either have your sword or bow & arrow handy. The sword is used in a variety of ways in Shadow. If you hold the Circle button, 'The Wanderer' will lift his sword above his head and gather light from the sun. The light will often be scattered. to focus on a certain area, like the next Colossi's location, simply turn around in a full 360 degrees until the scattered light becomes a solid ray of light. This is very useful in all of the 16 altercations with the Colossi. Square will be used for attacking.While climbing a Colossi, hold square to prepare for a stab (stabbing is the only way you can really damage the beasts.) This will also make use of the Strength Meter, which is a flashing light around your grip meter. When it reaches full strength, you will want to tap the Square button again to drive your sword into your enemy. Keep in mind, only certain parts of a Colossi's body can be damaged. These spots are indicated by a glowing teal symbol located on different parts of each Colossi. There will be anywhere from 2 damage spots to 5. The sword is your primary weapon for taking down the Colossi. Does that leave you wondering "Well what purpose does the bow & arrow serve in this game?" While the bow and & arrow are not exactly used for slaying the beasts, it serves as a very good distraction. To operate the bow & arrow, select it and hold the Squard button. You will need to aim with the left analog stick. Release the Square button to fire an arrow at the enemy. The longer you hold, the more effective the shot will be. This is also measured with the Strength Meter. Your trusty stead, Agro, will be used a good bit along the way as well. To whistle for him, you will use the X button. Mounting and dismounting can be done by using Triangle. The controls for Agro are the same as the walking controls for 'The Wanderer' but in this case, Agro is a bit faster than our hero. To spur him, increasing his speed, press X. Slowing down can be done by pressing the left analog stick downward. Heroic leaps off of a trusty stead have always looked cool in the movies, so who wouldn't want to try it on a game. Right? When riding horseback, you can duck by holding R1. Standing up on Agro can be done by holding R1 and pressing the left analog stick upward. As stated earlier, Triange is used for leaping. That does it for the gameplay aspect, now... let's touch a bit on graphics.
Visually, Shadow of the Colossus is stunning. A lot of time and detail was obviously put into bringing each of the 16 Colossi to life and giving them their own movement pattern. Over the course of the game, the Colossi get bigger and the details become that much greater. One look at these beasts and you will instantly be able to tell that they are created right from the very rocks and grass that inhabit the strange world that surrounds Shadow. Every special effect... everything from blowing winds and rain right down to dirt and dust flying in the air after an enormous Colossi stomps the ground... all of it is done with amazing detail!
On the musical end of Shadow of the Colossus, we're looking at yet another masterpiece. The themes sound great, almost like they should have been included in most of the epic scenes from Jurrasic Park. The music really fits the game well, and changes tones dramatically, especially during tense spots when you're hanging upside down from the face of one of the Colossi and your Grip Meter is nearing the end of it's lifespan. My personal favorite theme of the entire game plays during the trek up the 2nd Colossi's enormous frame.
Shadow of the Colossus is the type of game that will grab your attention, suck you in and keep you hostage for hours. When I first heard about Shadow of the Colossus (originally, it was known as Wanda and the Colossus), I was excited. Then, the news came that there would be a name change. Nothing wrong with that... Shadow sounds better anyway. Not long after that, it was being said that there would be no sub-bosses or standard enemies on this game... only the Colossi themselves. A game comprised of 16 Boss Battles and nothing else? It didn't sound all that interesting after that... until the screenshots surfaced. The pictures that were released for this game were ridiculously gorgeous. I knew from that point on I had to have this game. Seeing as how Rose isn't a gamer, it stuck me as odd that she fell in love with this game the first time I played it around her. I constantly ask her "Why do you like this game so much?" She informs me that she finds it to be very exciting, and that the battles are very intense. She also informed me that watching me play it makes her hands sweat. As a matter of fact, she insisted that earlier today while writing my review that I should put it on hold for a little bit and watch her play Shadow. Of course I was going to agree... she wanted to take part in a hobby that I've been enjoying since 1986. I was running out of words to say near the beginning of this review since it's been so long since I've actually done a full-blown game review besides last week's Wii review, but after sitting for nearly two hours with her getting excited over the tense moments of this game, it inspired me to finish this review even more than I was inspired when I started it. This game holds a special spot in my list of my Top 20 Favorite Videogames of All Time for a reason... and I remembered tonight why that was.
Despite the fact that it was originally rumored to have a lot more Colossi (pictures are even scattered online of the Colossi that supposedly didn't make the cut) and the camera can be a bit quirky at times, making for some frustrating moments (nowhere near as bad as the camera on Dino Crisis 3 for the XBox, however)... Shadow of the Colossus is a definite must for anyone who loves a good action game and is looking to add to their collection. If nothing else, I highly recommend renting this game or buying a used copy from GameStop. ($17.99 the last I checked)