A cinematic and epic experience unlike any other video game.
A lone hero approaches an ancient shrine and places his dead lover inside. A light speaks to him, telling him that he can gain the power to save her life if he can slay the 16 colossi scattered throughout the cursed land that surrounds the shrine. Upon their destruction, there must certainly be a happy ending for all involved: Wander will save his love and the land will be rid of the cursed giants. Shadow of the Colossus puts the player in control of Wander who, along with his horse Agro, must traverse a beautiful land and defeat the 16 monsters that inhabit it. Every battle is incredibly epic and creative, giving the player a sense of wonder unlike that in any other video game I have played, but Shadow of the Colossus' emphasis on experience is somewhat costly to it as a game.
As described above, Colossus' story involves a young man named Wander who sets out on a quest to save his lover by destroying the 16 colossi scattered throughout the land. Unfortunately there is no story development after the start, which places the story on the sidelines through almost the entire game. However, this allows the rest of the epic experience to sink in to a greater effect, so it can be viewed as a smart move as well. It also allows for a surprising and lengthy cutscene at the game's finale, which features several surprising twists and sheds light on other strange elements from throughout the game. Colossus' storytelling may be sparse, but in the end it allows for surprising twists and doesn't detract from the game's other fantastic elements.
The entirety of Shadow of the Colossus involves two basic actions: finding the colossi and fighting the colossi. The mysterious light at the shrine gives Wander a hint as to where the next colossus is, and Wander's sword also points to the colossus when it is held up to the light correctly. The sword's direction is mainly what is helpful in finding the colossi, but sometimes the world's massive size makes it hard to know where exactly the sword is pointing, which makes it easy to get sidetracked and can take up a lot of time. If the player doesn't get lost at all, though, finding each colossus can take about 5-10 minutes of exploring the vast, open, and beautiful world. Unfortunately there is no draw to exploring the world other than finding the colossi: there are no other enemies, no side quests, nothing.
However, Shadow of the Colossus' impressive visual design helps create a sense of wonder in the exploration despite the lack of available activities. The world is said to be cursed, but it sure doesn't look that way, as it is beautifully and vividly animated at every turn, sometimes looking very real. Its emptiness, sheer beauty, and massive size give the game a fantastic atmosphere. The rest of the game's graphics look very good, although occasionally characters and environments become blurry when viewed up close. The visual design of the colossi shows much detail, and it is always thrilling to watch them thrash about as Wander climbs all over them. Overall, Shadow of the Colossus is an impressive game in the graphics department, and is a remarkable achievement for the PS2.
Shadow of the Colossus is all about an epic experience, and that comes in waves as players battle each of the game's sixteen colossi. Simply looking at these monsters is a sight to behold, as their sheer size can easily make anyone watching gape in wonder and surprise. The size and fearsomeness of these beasts is powerfully translated on screen; but after a moment of initial alarm, it must be recalled that the colossus must be defeated. Actually fighting these colossi always involves locating and stabbing their weak points repeatedly until their health meter runs out, and while this simple task doesn't vary at all, the approach to climbing on top of the colossus is fresh and exciting in every battle.
The epic experience comes through very strongly in every single battle, as the concept of fighting these giant colossi in and of itself is naturally epic. Actually climbing up these monsters offers countless cinematic moments that often make the game feel more like a movie than a game, and the fact that the gameplay isn't incredibly deep also develops that feeling. But sometimes the cinematic appeal of Colossus doesn't come without making sacrifices to the actual video game, seeing as a helpful camera angle is often hard to find and the controls offer a steep learning curve. The game strives for realism so hard that the controls take a hit, and while it makes the game much harder to jump into they do eventually become second-nature, ultimately allowing players to enjoy Shadow of the Colossus for the epic, cinematic experience it is.
The moment of delivering the finishing blow on the sixteenth colossus can take roughly 7-9 hours to reach. The game isn't particularly lengthy but also not all too short, providing a decent length although the inclusion of other elements aside from finding and fighting bosses would have improved the game. The system may be repetitious in theory, but in action it just doesn't get dull. Fighting the colossi is fun all the way to the end, and I know that Shadow of the Colossus will be a game for me to replay many times in the future.
Shadow of the Colossus also features impressive sound design. Each music track is fantastic and strengthens the epic feeling in every battle; in fact Colossus' soundtrack may be one of my favorites from any video game I've played. The sound effects also contribute powerfully to the epic feeling of the game, with booming sounds of the colossi stomping, roaring, or otherwise trying to fling Wander off their back or obliterate him by other means.
In the end, Shadow of the Colossus provides an epic experience the likes of which I have never seen in any other video game. Its fantastic sense of atmosphere and visual appeal create a memorable environment, while the 16 boss battles provide unique, challenging, and epic gameplay. Even with a stubborn camera, rough controls, and no extra tasks, the epic experience shines brilliantly in this PS2 masterpiece. Despite its very tangible flaws, Shadow of the Colossus is a brilliant and epic experience of a game that should not be missed.
+ Story's finale features several brilliant twists
+ Visual appeal creates a vivid sense of wonder
+ Every battle is incredibly epic and well designed
+ Adequately challenging overall
+ Fantastic soundtrack and sound effects
- Exploration is forced and lacks much of a draw
- Camera and controls create unnecessary difficulties to overcome