One of PlayStation 2’s most endearing, spellbinding, and audacious games has finally gotten the remake treatment in Shadow of the Colossus for PS4. This full, ground-up remake from Bluepoint Games and SIE Japan Studio, captures the entire Shadow of the Colossus legacy in new, jaw-dropping graphics the game has always deserved. It may not add much in new content, but the fully-engaging atmosphere, and tear-jerking story will drag you back to this far off land to uncover its secrets, save the girl, and become the Colossi slayer.
If you have’t played Shadow of the Colossus then you’ll know right from the start with its epic introduction that this game has big ideas in store. Shadow of the Colossus is a game shrouded in mystery right up until the end. It focuses on Wander and his ancient sword, his brave horse Agro, and the dead body of a young girl named Mono. Crossing perilous canyons and treacherous lands, Wander braves his way into the Forbidden Land where legends speak of powers that can bring the dead back to life. Crossing the bridge deep into the vast Forbidden Land, Wander finds a towering building where he meets Dormin. Dormin informs Wander that bringing Mono back to life may be possible, but he will have to prove himself by killing sixteen Colossi with the ancient sword.
There are very few items the game gives Wander, and even fewer abilities. Wander’s main weapon throughout the experience will be his ancient sword. This sword has the ability to track down each Colossi’s location by reflecting beams of sunlight in the corresponding direction with pinpoint accuracy. However, the ancient sword will only register this lighted path when standing in direct sunlight. Hiding behind hills, or being stuck in a canyon will cause the ancient sword to not direct you properly. Wander’s other weapon is his bow and unlimited supply of arrows, which comes in handy only a few times throughout. Wander can also climb and shimmy certain walls and ledges, along with the ability to swim. Agro helps Wander span the great land in much shorter time; and the horse can also be used to help boost Wander up to higher locations if the need be.
" For those returning to this strange land for the first time since the PS3 or even PS2 versions, you will find Shadow of the Colossus’ graphics to be quite literally redefining visual awe."
The Forbidden Land is as breathtaking as it is monumental. This is the setting that defines the entire experience within Shadow of the Colossus. Getting to each Colossi takes time and sometimes effort. Much of the land is easy to traverse, while others can be ever so slightly rough. There are no enemies within the game to defeat besides the towering beasts, and no side quests or mini games.
For those returning to this strange land for the first time since the PS3 or even PS2 versions, you will find Shadow of the Colossus’ graphics to be quite literally redefining visual awe. For its time, Shadow of the Colossus was a sight to behold. I played this game on the base PS4 and I must say that this is one of the best remakes of all time. I can only imagine how this looks on the PS4 Pro in 4K mode. What were once bland visuals are now smoothed and refined. The backdrops are clear and precise, not muddy and blurred like you’d witness in the original. There are drastic improvements in character models, lighting effects and foliage density. Everything looks really fresh. We have received a game that has taken detail down to the smallest pixel and made the most of what it could be.
Getting lost in the land isn’t really possible. Shadow of the Colossus, no matter how vast it may feel, still has a sense of linearity to it. With valleys, forests, canyons, lakes, and more, there’s never a dull moment in the land that feels like it goes on forever. Even when I wasn’t tracking down a Colossi, I found myself wondering the great landscape, seeing what new vistas I could discover, or what was around the next bend. There’s almost no area you won’t want to cross over, and that becomes a very good thing in a game with only boss battles to endure.
Now for the fun part, hunting down and tracking the sixteen massive Colossi. These Colossi come in all different shapes and sizes, and are brilliantly and lovingly recreated from the original version. In the remake you’ll get well-rounded and finely detailed monsters with features that aren’t as stagnate as the orignals. These Colossi and their “parts” such as fur move more naturally than the original version’s beasts.
Dormin will give Wander a subtle hint as to where you can find the next Colossus, and its’ up to you, your trusty steed, and your ancient sword to reflect the light and hunt down the monster. The first Colossus is basically a tutorial of how to take down one of the gargantuan beasts. Once you meet this adversary face to face, you might feel intimidated, it might look a like taking down this mammoth-sized creature is way over your head, or you might feel amped up and ready to take it down. “The bigger they are, the harder they fall,” the old saying goes. So it’s time to dive right in.
Once a Colossus is in Wander’s sight, it’s a smart idea to reflect the sword once more straight onto the beast. This will reveal its vital — the Colossus’s weak point. But before Wander can get to the weak point, he has to reach it. This involves climbing the Colossus. It’s slow, strategical, takes practice and patience. Trial and error may be a factor for some.
"It becomes important to find safe stable ground where the Colossus can’t knock you off, so you can rest and regain your stamina back, and continue climbing to the next vital."
Colossi have several different ‘paths’ that can be used to cling and climb up onto them. One of Shadow of the Colossus’s strengths is trying to figure out how to get to the starting point on each boss. This could involves luring the Colossus to a location, breaking its armor off, or shooting its feet first. Some Colossi have to stumble or open themselves to a starting route before being able to climb them. Each Colossus is covered in hair, scales and horns that will help Wander scale the huge monster once you’re finally on board.
However, climbing the beast from vital to vital isn’t as simple as it sounds. The Colossus knows you’re on it and it doesn’t want you there. In fact, Wander is so annoying to many of the Colossi, that the monsters will shake, rattle, and roll to get him off of them. This leads Wander to getting flung back and forth, hanging on for his life to stay on the Colossus, or face getting thrown off and having to start the climb all over again. Along with the Colossus’s thrashing about, trying to get Wander to fall off, our hero is equipped with a stamina meter. This stamina meter allows Wander a certain amount of time to climb, or risk losing his strength and falling off.
It becomes important to find safe stable ground where the Colossus can’t knock you off, so you can rest and regain your stamina back, and continue climbing to the next vital. Most Colossi will have one or more vitals to attack, which means there will be lots of climbing, shimming, and strategizing on your part.
"One of the best parts of Shadow of Colossus is the simplicity in game design."
Controlling Wander has been updated and modified from previous versions. You can still use the classic controls which are set by default, but I highly recommend using the modern-style layout. It makes taking on Colossi much easier. Agro, however, is still a drag to take along for the ride. I sometimes found myself gettong off of Agro to get to certain locations because it was just easier to do so on foot.
One of the best parts of Shadow of Colossus is the simplicity in game design. This isn’t a game where you have to do a lot of thinking until the boss battle starts. The story is very abstract for most of the game, and leaves player trying to fill in massive blanks on their own. And what carries over in subtlety is the way the music plays against the backdrop, the way the forest trees sway and prairie grasses rustle and bend in the cooling winds add a nice touch of substance to a game that purposely lacks in obnoxious video game noise.
Overall, Shadow of the Colossus is still a fantastic game that leaves frantic gameplay behind for subtlety. It has its action-packed moments, but if you’re looking for a game that’s mostly relaxed and drawn-out, with some action dropped in for good measure, you’ll enjoy this game.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Breathtakingly beautiful, large, jaw-dropping vistas, gratifying Colossi battles, possibly the greatest remake of all time.
There's not much to do besides going from one Colossus to the next. You can explore, but it's mostly fruitless. The classic controls are still unbalanced.