In honor of the 10-year anniversary of Shadow of the Colossus, we here at Short Pause would like to take a few moments to reflect on why this game is so groundbreaking, and why all gamers owe it to themselves to play it.
Shadow of the Colossus released in 2005 in North America for the PlayStation 2, but I didn't discover the game until two or three years later. Back in the PS2 days, I was a rabid Nintendo fanboy who had no interest in playing any other gaming consoles. However, when some of my friends began telling me about Shadow of the Colossus and describing what the game is like, it piqued my interest. Enter the Nintendo Wii in 2006. I bought my Wii on launch day, and I loved using it to play games like The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Metroid Prime 3, and Super Mario Galaxy. These were large, sprawling adventures that captured my imagination and kept me busy for hours. However, a few years after the Wii's launch, the torrent of big-name titles for the console was reduced to a trickle. Needless to say, I was hungry for another epic adventure.
One day, while walking through Best Buy, I happened upon a rack full of PS2 games that were deemed "Greatest Hits." And there, on the top shelf, was Shadow of the Colossus. As I stared at the box art — which features a mountainous beast wielding a massive club, towering before a man and his horse who look tiny by comparison — I imagined what sort of epic adventure would await me, if only I could play this game. After a brief deliberation, I bought the game on the spot. Shortly thereafter, I was the proud owner of a used PS2 via eBay, and was on my way to defeating my first colossus. Even though many gamers had moved on to the PlayStation 3 by this point, I was completely enthralled by this late-era PS2 game. I had never seen anything quite like it before. There had never been anything quite like it before.
The story of Shadow of the Colossus is a simple one, and it is told with very little dialogue. A man known as Wander, along with his horse, Agro, travels to a temple in a distant land in the hopes of resurrecting the girl that he loves (The protagonist is never actually named in the game, but the game's manual refers to him as Wander). However, a mysterious entity called Dormin informs Wander that the only way to bring back the girl's soul is to defeat 16 colossi that can be found throughout the forbidden land. Armed with only a sword and a bow, Wander sets out to slay all 16 of the enormous beasts.
So, what makes Shadow of the Colossus so groundbreaking and unique? For one thing, the massive scope of the game, and the immersive world presented therein, was unprecedented for the time. Exploring this empty, desolate landscape evoked feelings of both isolation and wonder. And the game still holds up today. What's really interesting about the game is the fact that there are no levels or dungeons leading up to each encounter. There are no RPG elements or crafting, and no XP or skill trees in sight. Essentially, Shadow of the Colossus is a Boss Rush mode mixed with a puzzle game; after you slay one beast, you set out to find the next one. But, the battles are so epic and the puzzles so well-designed, that you won't miss any of those other elements. At least, I didn't. Each colossus is different from the last, with a completely different strategy required for victory. The method by which you find each creature's weak point is a puzzle in itself and, aside from dropping the occasional hint, the game does not tell you how to defeat them. Figuring out the puzzle is half the fun.
Shadow of the Colossus is, and will always be, one of my favorite video games of all time.
As we anticipate the arrival of The Last Guardian — Team Ico's extremely long-awaited follow-up title — I believe it's important for anyone who hasn't already done so to experience the majesty of Wander's quest to destroy 16 insurmountable foes. You won't regret it if you do.
What are your memories of Shadow of the Colossus? Do you agree that it is a seminal title in gaming history? Let us know in the comments!