The original Shadow of the Colossus, released on the PS2 back in 2005, was—and I don’t use this word lightly here—epic. The HD remaster on PS3 was the same, but with better resolution and textures. Now, we have the PS4 version. This has been entirely remade from the ground up, with next gen graphics. Let’s see how I feel about this, shall we?
A brief plot introduction (I wouldn’t call this *spoilery* exactly but don’t read this bit if you don’t want to know anything about the story!)
It was a quiet, minimalist experience for the most part. A story of a boy, his horse, and a great open, quite empty expanse called the Forbidden Land. His goal was simple: to resurrect the girl he brought to the great shrine here, who had been sacrificed “because she had a cursed fate”.
We weren’t told who this girl was to him, or any more details about the duo’s pasts. We weren’t even told the boy’s name (“Wander”—although the Japanese release was entitled Wander and the Colossus, and I’ve affectionately called him Not-Link on occasion), or the girl’s (“Mono”). We were only instructed, by the disembodied voice of an entity which introduces itself as “Dormin”, that it would be possible to bring her back to life here.
We were also told that Wander’s sword—the Ancient Sword—had the power to make this possible. All he had to do…was slay sixteen gargantuan colossi, who were the embodiment of the sixteen statues in the temple where Mono lay motionless. This would bring back her soul, according to Dormin.
I’m not going to relay the entire story here, but let’s jut say things don’t go quite according to plan, the result being that the narrative of SOTC has resonated colossally with myself and many others ever since.
The original was beautiful, the remake is breathtaking
Visually, the original game was a feat in PS2 graphics. The world was vast, as were the colossi. Details were hidden in every corner, right down to the turtles crawling near the ponds scattered throughout the Forbidden Land.
The remake takes this and runs with it; not only is every detail retained, but they are refined to a point where I’m sitting here with my mouth agape. Wander has eyelashes, people.
The grass is rich and lush and alive; the fur on the first colossus’s hide is thick and I can practically feel its coarseness as I hold on for dear life while it shakes its beautiful, beautiful HD bottom at the camera. And yes, there are lizards. Gorgeous lizards with cute little toes and they’re even harder to find amongst the jam-packed goodness that are the new textures on the smaller shrines throughout the world.
Speaking of toes, Mono has not just toes, but TOES. Still creepy and dead, but look:
The gameplay is the same, and that is a good thing
The controls have been tweaked to bring them up to date a little, but you can change it to the original control scheme at any time, should you so desire. Personally I am finding the new controls refreshing, as they are a bit more similar to other games around today, so more familiar.
Other than this, Bluepoint Games have remained faithful to the original in terms of how Wander moves (okay, his famous silly run isn’t quite so silly). I’m still facing the same struggles climbing the colossi and it’s challenging to get a good opportunity to nip in a decent stab with my sword.
But I like this. SOTC was challenging to the point of being frustrating at times, and that was all a part of what made it unique. When you finally bring down the beast, that split second of adulation at what you’ve accomplished makes it worthwhile.
I say split second because, let’s face it, seeing these mighty creatures fall and become permanent rubble fixtures is quite wrenching on the old heart after a while.
It has a photo mode
You can activate or deactivate photo mode from the game settings, and it is a dream. In a fast paced game such as this, a photo mode is a welcome addition as it takes the stress out of getting a decent shot. It’s not quite as detailed as the one in Horizon: Zero Dawn, but it is gratefully accepted and a lot of fun to play around with. Plus, it is also available during the cutscenes!
I haven’t gotten far into the SOTC remake myself yet, having at the point of writing just slayed the first colossus, so my opinions on certain aspects may change as I play more. However, as an avid fan of the original I am stunned by the complexity and beauty of this remake, and I look forwarding to savouring the rest of the experience, re-experiencing the art and superb narrative on the PS4.
And if you are lucky enough not to know anything about the game before playing this remake, you are in for an absolute treat.