Shadow of the Colossus’s immersive atmosphere and emotional storytelling continues to influence games more than a decade later.
Released 15 years ago, Shadow of the Colossus has proved that jumping on the backs of giant colossi never gets old. SIE Japan Studio and Team Ico released the game as a prequel and spiritual successor to their cult hit Ico. Thanks to Sony’s aggressive marketing plan, Shadow of the Colossus became a well-deserved bestseller, earning a special place in video game history.
The game’s success is largely due to its artistry. Although billed as an action-adventure, Shadow of the Colossus does not follow genre tropes. There are no vast dungeons to clear or overwhelming cast of supporting characters. Much like the Japenese developer’s other titles, the game’s focus is a heartbreaking storyline.
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Wander is a young man with one unstoppable goal–resurrect a girl named Mono. The story begins with the protagonist entering the Forbidden Land to speak with the strange entity Dormin. Dormin agrees to the resurrection with the condition that Wander slays 16 colossi, each with a unique weakness and fighting style. Equipped with an ancient sword, the only weapon capable of killing the giants, Wander embarks on his quest.
Gameplay is relatively straightforward. Due to their size, the colossi act as boss fights punctuating the end of unspecified levels. Wander’s stamina gauge adds an extra element of difficulty. Players can only climb or hang for so long before draining Wander’s stamina. Each armored giant has one vital point that Wander must discover and puncture. The variety and ever-changing strategy keep the boss battles fresh.
Shadow of the Colossus‘s haunting music and moody atmosphere highlights the Forbidden Land’s darkness. The extended cut scenes assist with the player’s immersion and emotional connection to the world and its characters. The game’s sheer beauty marks a shift among the masses. Video games are no longer just considered mindless violence simulators but art.
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The combination of the game’s stunning visuals, orchestral soundtrack and narrative-heavy story contributed to its acclaim. Shadow of the Colossus captured critics’ attention, earning many awards, including Best Character Design, Best Game Design, Best Visual Arts and Game of the Year. Readers of the PlayStation Official Magazine voted it the 8th greatest PlayStation title ever released.
Shadow of the Colossus has been cited as an influence for many hit video games like God of War. While other releases, including Titan Souls and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, continuing to credit the critically acclaimed title more than a decade later. Dark fantasy and horror director Guillermo del Toro also cited both Shadow of the Colossus and Icho as “masterpieces” and inspiration.
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Shadow of the Colossus‘s immersive atmosphere and emotional storytelling maintains its enduring legacy. The success of many modern-day fantasy games has been achieved by standing on the shoulders of this giant. SIE Japan Studio and Team Ico are experts at bringing magic to life without overdoing it. Shadow of the Colossus’s minimalistic gameplay is a prime example of less is more. After all, a good story is timeless.
For those seeking nostalgia or an introduction into the breathtaking universe, Shadow of the Colossus was remastered as an HD re-release for PlayStation 4.
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