Fumito Ueda’s classic, Shadow of the Colossus and Ico, were two of the only games last generation that could arguably be called ‘art’, along with a few others like Metroid Prime and Okami. These two games were always considered very unusual- they still are. And for good reason. Both of them give off a vibe of isolation like no other game, and have to be the two most atmospheric games on the PS2. Add to that the fact that the only battles Shadow of the Colossus contains are boss battles, and we have on our hands two games with a very unique structure. Both of them were, however, extremely good games. Do they still hold up well after so many years of release? Does this HD re-release do them justice?
Shadow of the Colossus has to be one of my favourite games of all time, so let’s begin with talking about that. The first thing you see when you boot up SOTC is that the world looks simply beautiful. With the remastered HD visuals, all the textures are sharp and crystal clear, and the draw distances are absolutely amazing. Everything from the rocks and the sand to the trees and the freaking fur of the Colossi looks marvelous and incredibly detailed.
But the visuals never were the highlight of the game. The main question is, is the game still as wonderful and as fun as it was back in 2005, when it was first released? Of course it is. The beauty of the game, it seems, is timeless. The premise of the game is very strange and unique- we’re in a land that inhabits 16 huge colossi, and your goal is to kill all of them. That’s it- there are no other battles but the boss battles. All you have to do is make your way to the colossi after some platforming sections or exploration, and kill the bosses. In theory, it seems like a very bland and boring premise. In practice, it’s one of the most surreal games ever.
It’s hard to describe just how good Shadow of the Colossus is, and what its appeal is. Some things like the camera and the battle system are still hindrances to the experience, but it’s still a very bleak, unique and surreal experience that is as good right now as it was 6 years ago, if not better with even better visuals than before.
And that brings us to the original Ueda game, Ico, the one that started it all. Ico’s structure is a lot like the old time Prince of Persia games. You’re stuck in a castle, and you have to make your way through it. However, there’s much more to Ico than you can imagine. In contrast to the vast, open spaces of SOTC, Ico is all about claustrophobia and isolation, with just you and a mysterious girl helping each other out as you look for a way out of this bizarre castle.
The game can be called one, big escort mission, but saying so would be wrong, because escort missions are usually boring, frustrating and broken. Ico is anything but all that. Everything about Ico exudes atmosphere and a feeling of desperation, and yet a faint glimmer of hope as you make your way through each arena. You defeat shadowy enemies with your sword through a battle system that is far from perfect. It’s about one of the only things in the entire game I’d call broken, but it doesn’t matter much anyway, since the main attraction of the game for me is the incredible platforming.
Platforming in Ico is an absolute blast. It’s a hell lot of fun to make our way through rooms with some great platforming sections, while making sure that Yorda, the girl we’re trying to keep safe, comes to no harm.
Ico tells a very gratifying story of friendship, and it warms the heart to see the interaction and feeling of companionship between Yorda and Ico, and how they both have each others’ backs, no matter what. The ending of the game is still as good as ever, and the experience overall is one you will not soon forget.
Ultimately, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus have both been done justice in this HD remastering. The graphics are radically improved, the textures much better, and while some of the problems that should have been fixed are still prevelant, the games are still as wonderful and beautiful as ever. If you’ve never played either of the two before, this is one HD collection you have to buy.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Very good textures; smooth framerate; games still as atmospheric and spooky as ever; Shadow of the Colossus' huge game world has been remastered brilliantly; Ico's platforming is a joy
Screen tearing here and there; Combat in both games is a bit wonky; Camera work in SOTC still hasn't been fixed