I had pretty high expectations as I rented this game, since I heard so many good things about it. There's plenty of good and bad, now that I've played it, so here goes...
In Shadow of the Colossus, you travel on your horse with a legendary ancient sword through a barren wasteland in search of the legendary Colossi. Once you defeat them all, you should be able to bring your dead loved one back to life. There are no other enemies in the game, and fighting the gargantuan bosses is mostly all about finding a way to climb them so you can stab their weak spots. Hack-and-slashers need not apply.
The plot of this game is excellent and not one of those cookie-cutter ones that are so prevalent in video games (for example, your town gets destroyed when you are a kid, and you later grow up and seek vengeance...see Fable and Tales of Phantasia). Your girlfriend or something has wrongly been killed and you seek to bring her back to life. You somehow obtain a legendary sword and find some temple where the spirits of the dead or something reside. A mysterious voice scoffs at your quest until it sees your sword and then says that you might actually have a chance! Kill the colossi and then you'll do it. I wouldn't be surprised if this plot is actually ripped off quite a few sources, but it's very good for a video game. Unfortunately, the plot doesn't really progress too much DURING the game, so I hope it's enough for you to motivate you to find out what happens when you beat the game.
The graphics and the atmosphere are also quite nice. Instead of the world being littered with enemies, there are only the bosses. The world is quite barren and riding through this wasteland on your horse is really something. The colossi completely tower over you with you being about as big as one of their feet, if that, so this game all-in-all is a visual/atmospheric treat. I can only imagine what this game could've looked like on the 360 or PS3, but I will say it's easily among the best looking games on the PS2.
The gameplay is completely devoid of hacking and slashing since that doesn't work on bosses, and there are no other enemies in the game. Less is more, right? Eh...read on
My major major beef with this game is that it doesn't let you invert the controls fully. For some really weird reason, if you invert the bow and arrow, the camera is non-inverted. Invert the camera and the ranged weapon control will switch back. In a word, WTF? People who play inverted, stay away from this game. Ranged weapons aren't too important in the game, but a big part is holding your sword out and waving it around to find out where to go or what your enemy's weaknesses are. For a inverted dude like me, this becomes nearly impossible.
But you won't like the camera very much even if you don't invert. The camera won't stay behind your character and instead stays somewhat on the side for more of a cinematic effect I suppose. The HUD is only shown when you actually need it, so combined with the camera angle, it DOES look nice, but it doesn't adjust well in the middle of combat, when you need it to be centered. Press a button and the game is supposed to center the camera on your enemy, but it's still off to the side a bit. When you're moving around, the game also does a very poor job of adjusting. I can't believe even in this day an age, camera angles can be such a pain in the butt. 3-D games have been around for quite a while now, guys...
Even the gameplay is lacking. First, you mostly climb the colossi, make sure to hold on tight when they try to shake you off, and then climb further until you reach the head. But to make this possible, they have platforms on their bodies which I think is quite dumb and looks just as stupid. You use the square button to stab, but to stab them hard, you have to hold the square button to "charge" up and then press it again to make your character actually stab. This is incredibly awkward and quite buggy, I suspect. All I know is that it didn't work for me, and why not just have releasing the button perform the stab?
Shadow of the Colossus just wasn't that much fun for me. I think it was a combination of the camera, stabbing control issues, etc. It does look great though, and it's one of the most stylish games around with its minimal screen clutter and the wasteland atmosphere. I wouldn't have really liked this game even if you could invert the controls, but since you can't, I returned it quite quickly. Not really recommended and it's a game that actually probably more fun to watch than play...
Not a good thing, even though Robert Ebert might like that.
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