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Shadow of the Colossus, also known as Wander and the Colossus (its Japanese release name) and Nico (its project name, which stood for "Next Ico"), is an action-adventure styled video game containing certain puzzle game elements, such as figuring out how to fight the sixteen bosses of the game. The game was developed and published by Sony Computer Entertainment (SCEI) Studio 1; the same development team who created the game Ico—which is considered the game's spiritual predecessor. The game was released in North America and Japan in October 2005 and PAL territories in February 2006 for the Playstation 2.
The game focuses on a young man named Wander, who has entered the Forbidden Land in search of a way to resurrect a girl named Mono. In order to do this, as the Dormin instructed him, he must break all of the sixteen statues found in the halls of the Shrine of Worship. However, these idols cannot be destroyed by the hands of a mortal. The Dormin tells Wander that he must kill the sixteen Colossi linked to the idols to break them . These massive creatures are the only enemies in the game.
Shadow of the Colossus was received well by the media, and upon its release, gained many sales. The game's soundtrack is highly praised, being referred to as a one of its strongest qualities. It has won several awards for its audio, design, and overall quality.
Gameplay Basics Edit
The gameplay of Shadow of the Colossus is somewhat cyclic; the player begins at a center point in a large landscape, they seek out and slay the Colossus, and are then returned to the beginning to repeat this process until all 16 are slain. In order to locate each of the Colossi, Wander must raise his sword in a sunlit place. The beams of light are reflected from the sword, starting out as spread apart, but they begin to narrow together when aimed in the direction of the next Colossus.
After the general area of the Colossus is found, of course, Wander must reach it. The paths to the Colossi are rarely straightforward; stretches of a variety of terrains generally require that a detour is taken somewhere along the way. The Colossi tend to be in somewhat remote places, ranging from clifftops to the interior of ancient structures.
As their name may imply, the Colossi are massive beasts, and simply striking them in random areas will not hurt them very much, especially not when they are covered in armor and tough skin. Instead, the player must locate the specific Colossus' weak point, which is signified by a sigil that is highlighted by the light reflected from the sword. With the use of the areas of fur and/or protruding ledges on the body of the Colossus, the player must make their way to the weak points and subsequently stab them. However, while the player is attempting to reach these points, the Colossus does not remain idle. They continue to move around, occasionally thrashing about in an attempt to throw the player off. The only way to avoid this is to hold onto something, but they must not stay long; Wander has a limited grip gauge that decreases over the time he is hanging onto the creature. If he falls, he will take fall damage (shown in a health bar), which could potentially kill him. The Colossus also have a health bar, though this is only affected significantly when Wander strikes their weak spots. Fortunately, Wander's health recharges automatically over time, the Colossi's do not.
Once the Colossus has been killed, black tentacles will ooze from the wound which ultimately killed it. After a moment, they begin to grow and move towards Wander, eventually spearing him and sending him to the ground. These cannot be escaped. They do not appear to harm Wander in any other way, though, as he wakes up back at the altar with Mono. If the player returns to the spot where the Colossi was slain, the Colossus' body remains as stone. If the player approaches it and interacts with it (circle button), it will allow the player to face the Colossus again.
The Environment Edit
In the course of the game, the player is given little information about the characters and their relationships with one another, or the background of the Forbidden Land, where most of the game takes place. The land is settled on a large, unpopulated peninsula, separated from the outside world by a mountain range to its north and a sea to the south and east.
The peninsula is only accessible by a small cleft in the mountains, which is connected to a massive stone bridge which spans half of the landscape. It terminates at a massive temple called the "Shrine of Worship," which is located at the center of the Forbidden Land. According to structures such as the shrine and the bridge, as well as many other ruins that scatter the land, there was once some form of civilization on the peninsula, but by the time of the game, it is abandoned, and entering the land is prohibited. This element of the landscape is characterized by the greatly differing geographic features, such as lakes and vast deserts.
The protagonist of the game is Wander (ワンダ, Wander) (voiced by Kenji Nojima), a young man whose goal is to resurrect a girl named Mono (モノ, Mono) (voiced by Hitomi Nabatame). Little is known about Mono other than that she was somehow sacrificed because she was believed to have a cursed destiny. Assisting Wander in his quest to revive her is his loyal horse, Agro (アグロ, Aguro), who serves as his only ally in defeating the colossi. Wander also receives aid from an entity called Dormin (ドルミン, Dorumin) (voiced by Kazuhiro Nakata and Kyōko Hikami). The story revolves around these characters, but features a small supporting cast including Lord Emon (エモン, Emon) (voiced by Naoki Bandō).
Speaking with two voices at once (one male and one female), Dormin is a mysterious, disembodied entity. Its physical form was severed into sixteen components many years before the beginning of the game, and became sealed within the colossi for unexplained reasons. In legends of the game's world, it is said that Dormin has the power to revive the dead, and it is for this reason that Wander enters the forbidden land, seeking its assistance in reviving Mono. Dormin offers to revive her in exchange for Wander destroying the sixteen colossi.
Lord Emon is a shaman who narrates a vision in the game's introduction, vaguely explaining the origin of the land Wander has come to, and emphasising that entry to this place is forbidden. He is portrayed as having extensive knowledge regarding the containment of Dormin, and the ability to use powerful magic. He has a small group of soldiers at his command, and is pursuing Wander to prevent the use of "the forbidden spell", the ritual involving the destruction of the sixteen colossi.
The colossi are armored, most often enormous creatures with forms ranging from various humanoids to predatory animals. Their bodies are a fusion of rock, earth, grass, and architectural elements (some parts weathered or fractured). When trespassing upon their territory, the player is ignored by some colossi, while others will attack on sight. Inhabiting specific locations in the forbidden land, they do not venture outside their own territory. Once slain they will remain where fallen as a mound of earth and rock vaguely resembling the original colossus.
Wander's horse, Agro, plays a large role in the game. In addition to serving as a means of transportation, Agro is vital in defeating some of the Colossi. There are, however, many places that Agro cannot reach. Colossi often inhabit areas beyond deep water or obstacles that must be scaled. Agro cannot travel beyond these, and when separated from Wander by such obstacles, cannot participate in the following battle. During such times, Agro waits faithfully for Wander to return from the battle.
The environment must be used to the player's advantage more often as the game progresses. The first two battles take place on simple, large, flat areas of land, with the only goal being to discover how to scale the colossi and attack their weak points. However, the majority of the fourteen battles that follow require that some aspect of the battlefield be used.
The story of Shadow of the Colossus begins as Wander enters the forbidden land, traveling across the long bridge at its entrance on his horse, Agro. Led to the massive Shrine of Worship at the center of the region, Wander carries with him a body wrapped in a cloak, which he lays upon an altar in the shrine. Removing the cloak, the body of a maiden named "Mono" is revealed. A moment later, several shadow-like creatures with humanoid forms appear and prepare to attack Wander, but he easily dismisses them with a wave of an ancient sword in his possession. After vanquishing the shadow creatures, the voice of the disembodied entity known as "Dormin" echoes from above, expressing surprise that Wander possesses the weapon. Wander requests that Dormin return Mono's soul to her body, which it states may be possible, but only if the sixteen idols lining the temple's hall are destroyed. It explains that this task can only be accomplished by using the ancient sword to kill sixteen colossi located throughout the land. Each contains a portion of Dormin's own essence, though this is not revealed until late in the game.
Despite a warning from Dormin that he may have to pay a great price to revive Mono, Wander sets out to search the land for the colossi and destroy them. With the death of each colossus, his physical appearance deteriorates - his skin becoming paler, his hair darker, dark streaks growing across his face, and there even appears a slight growth of horns on his head. Meanwhile, Mono's complexion improves and her voice can be faintly heard after each colossus has been killed. After the death of the twelfth, it is revealed to the player that Wander is being pursued by a group of warriors led by a shaman called "Lord Emon".
Urged to hurry with his task by Dormin, Wander soon heads off to defeat the sixteenth and final colossus. On the way to this confrontation, he travels on horseback across a long bridge, which begins to collapse as he is halfway across. As Agro jumps over the last gap in the bridge, the portion he lands on begins to separate from its foundation, causing Agro to nearly lose his footing. Sensing the impending fall, Agro jerks forward to throw Wander to safety on the other side, sacrificing himself as the bridge finally gives way and he falls into the river hundreds of feet below. Wander goes on to defeat the final colossus, and Lord Emon's company arrives in the Shrine of Worship just as the last temple idol crumbles; Wander appears soon afterwards, his eyes and skin now both entirely pale, and two small horns protruding from his head. Declaring that Wander has been possessed, Lord Emon orders his warriors to kill him. While he struggles to reach Mono, one warrior shoots Wander in the leg with a crossbow, while another stabs him through his heart with a sword (coincidentialy, Wander was stabbed right through the sigil on his clothing, the same place that would be stabbed to kill a colossus). Black blood sprays from the wound as Wander's body becomes covered in darkness and falls to the floor — a death identical to those suffered by the colossi.
Afterward, Dormin's spirit possesses Wander's body, transforming it into a shadowy giant. They explain that their body had been separated to sixteen pieces—the colossi—to seal away their power, and that they have now borrowed Wander's body and born anew, each freed component of Dormin's essence having been stored within Wander's body. While his men flee, Lord Emon casts the ancient sword used to kill the colossi into a small pool at the back of the temple's hall, creating a whirlwind of light that consumes Dormin and, ultimately, Wander. Emon and his men flee the forbidden land as the bridge connecting to the temple collapses behind them. As they safely arrive at the entrance to the forbidden land, Emon expresses hope that if Wander survived, he will someday be able to atone for his crimes.
In the temple, Mono awakens, restored by Dormin in accordance with their agreement with Wander, and Agro limps into the temple with an injured hind leg. Mono follows him to the pool into which Wander and Dormin were pulled by Emon's spell, finding a male infant with tiny horns on his head. She takes the child with her, following the horse to higher levels of the Shrine of Worship, and arrives at a secret garden within the shrine as the game ends.
Connections to Ico Edit
Shadow of the Colossus is considered both a spiritual successor and prequel to Ico.For several months during and after the game's release, the game's director and lead designer, Fumito Ueda, maintained that the game's status as a prequel was simply his personal take on the game and not necessarily its canon nature, as he largely intended for players to decide the specifics of the story for themselves. However, during an interview in March 2006, Ueda revealed that a specific connection between the two games exists: the world featured in the two is the same, with Shadow of the Colossus taking place at an unspecified time before Ico. He revealed that Wander sires the line of horned boys of which Ico's protagonist is a descendant. Moreover, the shadowy figures which appear in the Shrine of Worship are connected to the shadows which the player must fight in Ico. Both games use unique fictional languages as well.
A screenshot from Nico, depicting battle with an early colossus designWith a team of thirty-five people, Shadow of the Colossus began development in 2002 under the project name Nico (a portmanteau of "Next Ico") and was intended to be a sequel to Ico. An early technology demo for the project shown at the DICE Summit in 2003 depicted a group of masked, horned boys riding horses while attacking and defeating a colossus. However, Fumito Ueda expressed that, at the time, it was simpler to reuse the character design of Ico's protagonist, and that he never explicitly desired a sequel to Ico. Japanese pre-orders of Shadow of the Colossus later included a bonus DVD with the concept video, a trailer describing Nico's plot, and an introduction the development team states they wanted to use in Shadow of the Colossus.
Ueda and producer Kenji Kaido held their team to a high standard throughout production. An admitted perfectionist, Ueda felt that only one or two out of 500 artists who applied to work on Shadow of the Colossus met his criteria, and often demanded thorough changes in design until it matched his vision. For his part, Kaido challenged the programmers to meet the concept of realistic physics in relation to the movement of the colossi and the subsequent effect this movement would have for Wander, both in terms of how he might be displaced and how he may be able to use this movement to his advantage. For instance, if a colossus were to shake, Kaido wanted Wander's position to shift realistically in response. Additionally, if a colossus' limb was currently horizontal, Kaido wanted the player to be able to run across the limb as though it were any other flat surface. He referred to these two concepts as "player dynamics and reactions" and "organic collision deformation".The realistic physics engine produced as a result required that faster colossi had to be smaller as well.
Kenji Kaido, producer of the game, and Fumito Ueda, lead designer of the game at Art Futura 2005Ueda wished the game to have a unique presentation and change how both players and developers perceived the idea of what bosses should be in video games. To achieve this, he ensured that the game's only enemies would be the sixteen colossi, that they could only be approached one at a time, and that they would have various behavior patterns. Though limiting the presence of enemies to only bosses was partly intended to differentiate the game from others, Ueda also expressed that it was to ensure that the programmers' focus was entirely on the colossi so that their quality would be as high as possible.In accordance with this focus upon the colossi—and his preference for simple controls—he intended that one button on the game controller be used solely for targeting the colossi during battles.
A theme of companionship between the player and an AI-controlled partner was a concern for Ueda. In Ico, this theme was presented through the protagonist and the character Yorda, whom the player was required to work with and protect while navigating the game's environments. As such, another key element in Shadow of the Colossus is the relationship between Wander and his horse, Agro. Intended to be a realistic representation of a horse, Agro does not always respond to commands. In Ueda's words, "a real horse ... doesn't always obey. It's not like a car or a motorcycle, it won't always turn when you say 'turn!'" However, he has admitted that the team had to seek a balance in how often Agro didn't respond to commands so as to not sacrifice playability in the pursuit of realism.
All elements of the game—including audio, gameplay and visuals—were used to achieve an atmosphere of a "lonely hero", which Ueda considered important in the development of the game. Lighting, in particular, was used to establish a dark, fearsome setting for the forbidden land, while the protagonist's sword would provide a means of navigation that was "direct and only expressible visually". Like Ico, Shadow of the Colossus uses a distinct style of lighting. The game's engine uses elements such as desaturated colors, motion blur and partial high dynamic range rendering, with a heavy emphasis on bloom lighting.
While the game has an extensive orchestral soundtrack, the music is only heard during cut scenes and colossus encounters, while time spent at the Shrine of Worship and traversing the landscape is silent save for the sounds made by the protagonist, his horse and their surroundings. The open nature of the game world and lack of life, coupled with this limited use of music, aids in establishing an atmosphere of solitude, similar to that of Ico.
Roar of the Earth, a soundtrack album containing music from Shadow of the Colossus, was released in Japan on December 7, 2005. There are currently no announced plans to release the album in other territories. The game's score was composed by Kō Ōtani (credited in-game as "Kow Otani"), whose previous video game work included the soundtracks to the PlayStation 2 flight simulator Sky Odyssey and the PlayStation shooter Philosoma. He has also worked on several of the 1990s-era Gamera films, as well as a variety of anime. Roar of the Earth won the award for "Soundtrack of the Year" in the US-based video game magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly.
The PAL version of the game was released in February 2006. Much like the PAL release for Ico, the game came in cardboard packaging displaying various pieces of artwork from the game, and contained four art cards.
The game also came with a "making of" documentary, a trailer for Ico and a gallery of concept art, accessible from the game's main menu. Sony Computer Entertainment also re-released Ico in PAL territories at the time of Shadow's release, both to promote the game through Ico's reputation, and to allow players who did not buy Ico during its original limited release to "complete their collections".
Some confusion has arisen in PAL regions concerning the official name of the protagonist, due primarily to the manual's usage of "Wanda", while the North American manual and the game itself uses the name "Wander". In fact, the Japanese version of the game spells the name "Wander" as ワンダ (Wanda), which is also the common transliteration of the English name "Wanda", hence the mistake in the manual.
Shadow of the Colossus's commercial reception was positive, with sales of 140,000 copies in its first week at retail in Japan, reaching number one in the charts. Almost 80% of the initial Japanese shipment was sold within two days. These figures compare favorably with Ico, which was well received by critics but failed to sell a significant number of copies. The game was placed on Sony's list of Greatest Hits titles on August 8, 2006.
Unlike Ico, Shadow received far more exposure, due in part to Sony putting its weight behind a massive advertising campaign. It was advertised in game magazines, on television and on the internet, including a viral marketing campaign launched in October 2005. The site posted links to several websites claiming that the remains of five giants resembling certain colossi had been discovered in various parts of the world. The website has since been taken down. Some speculate that Ico's sales figures could have been improved if similar advertising efforts were made before its release.
Shadow was well-received by the media, with an average critic score of 92% at Game Rankings, making it the 13th-highest rated game of 2005. These include the Japanese magazine Famitsu, who rated the game 37/40, the UK-based Edge, who awarded an 8/10, and Electronic Gaming Monthly, who granted 8.8/10. GameSpot's review gave it an 8.7, commenting that "the game's aesthetic presentation is unparalleled, by any standard", while multimedia website IGN hailed the game as "an amazing experience" and "an absolute must-have title", rating it 9.7/10. GameSpy described it as "possibly the most innovative and visually arresting game of the year for the PS2". A retrospective Edge article described the game as "a fiction of unquestionable thematic richness, of riveting emotional power, whose fundamental artistic qualities are completely fused with its interactivity."
Many reviewers consider the game's soundtrack to be one of its greatest aspects. In addition to Electronic Gaming Monthly's award of "Soundtrack of the Year", GameSpot commented that the musical score conveyed, and often intensified, the mood of any given situation, while it was described as "one of the finest game soundtracks ever" by a reviewer from Eurogamer.
However, the game has been negatively criticized for its erratic frame rate, which is usually smooth while traversing the landscape, but often slows down in fast-paced situations, such as colossus battles. Concern was also expressed about the game's camera, which was described by GameSpy as being "as much of an opponent as the Colossi", "managing to re-center itself at the worst and most inopportune times". Reviewers are often mixed about Agro's AI and controls; while gaming website Thunderbolt insists the realism of his movement and behaviour "create[s] a videogame experience unlike any other", Edge comments that the controls are "clumsy, crude, and unpredictable". Other critics like Game Revolution and Gamespot felt the game was too short-lived (average playthrough time estimated 6 to 8 hours), with little replay value given the puzzle elements to each colossus battle.
Because of its artistic merit, Shadow of the Colossus has garnered some attention from literary theorists. In "'Play, Memory': Shadow of the Colossus and Cognitive Workouts," literary theorist Dave Ciccoricco applies the distinction of episodic and procedural memory from cognitive science to the game toward a richer understanding of how the game mechanics work along with the mechanics of the game's narrative.
Shadow of the Colossus has received several awards, including recognition for "Best Character Design", "Best Game Design", "Best Visual Arts" and "Game of the Year", as well as one of three "Innovation Awards" at the 2006 Game Developers Choice Awards. At the 2006 DICE Summit, the game won the award for "Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction" at the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, while it received one of two "Special Rookie Awards" at the Famitsu Awards 2005. It was nominated for "Best Original Music", "Best Artistic Graphics" and "Best PS2 Game", yet also "Most Aggravating Frame Rate" in GameSpot's awards for 2005, while it won "Best Adventure Game" and "Best Artistic Design" in IGN's Best of 2005 awards, who cited Agro as the best sidekick in the history of video games. Two years after its release IGN listed Shadow as the fourth greatest PlayStation 2 game of all time. Games Radar awarded it Best Game Of The Year 2006 (being released in the UK in early 2006, later than the US), while the game's ending was selected as the fourth greatest moment in gaming by the editors of GamePro in July 2006.In 2010, IGN rated Shadow of the Colossus the #1 game in PS2.
- ↑ "In the first stages of development, Wander and the Colossus was called "Nico," short for "Next Ico." The idea for our new game was to use what we had learned in "Ico" and come up with something new. However, "Nico" was nothing more than a temporary project name and it was clear from the beginning that the title would change." -Ueda Fumihito
- ↑ Dormin: Behold the idols that stand along the wall... Thou art to destroy all of them. But those idols cannot be destroyed by the mere hands of a mortal... / Wander: Then what am I to do? / Dormin: In this land there exist colossi that are the incarnations of those idols. If thou defeat those colossi—the idols shall fall.