Shadow Of The Colossus is a fantastic game and an even better remaster. Rebuilt graphically from the ground up for PS4 it is simply stunning and the definitive version of the game. Despite almost perfection, it joins the list of games that I can only play once. Or at least in this case once every 10 years.
Having bought the original game back in the day with the collectable art postcards I was always going to get this remaster. Mainly because it was time for a game to do something different again. When it was first released I remember trying to explain it and tell people to play it. At the time people said it wasn’t as good as its predecessor ICO but to me, it was head and shoulders above the bloated and uncontrollable mess that ICO was. To ICO fans I ask the question. ‘Where’s the ICO remaster?’ Simply put Shadow Of The Colossus and your journey to defeat all the 16 Colossi is an experience that transcends gaming. Because of this, it makes the game have no replay value at all in my eyes.
I look at this game in the same way I look at say the Mona Lisa, Sunflowers by Van Gough or any other work of art. I don’t need to replay it on hard mode, I don’t need to do Time Attacks or take down the Colossus in different ways because the way I did it is frozen in time on my run-through. Will I ever get back the moment when climbing the 16th Colossus’ arm when he decided to flick me unceremoniously into the ravine sending me back to the start? No. I was sitting in my dining room, playing it via remote play on the same laptop I am writing this. Forever frozen in time is the moment I killed it and completed the game. What joy would I get from going back and doing that for what would be my third time? None. It is a case of diminishing returns. I would know the tells and traits of each of the giants next time and no doubt I would do it quicker than the 5 and a half hours it took the first time. It was already quicker on the remaster as I didn’t have the same sense of wonder at how brilliantly these creatures are made. And they are wonderful living beings.
The Colossi are simply stunning in this remaster. Their sheer life and vibrancy are a joy to behold then sadly kill. It is something that no one ever talks about. Despite each Colussus having defined weak points and strategies, how you actually manage to get to them is up to you. From leaps of faith, to somehow managing to cling on to a piece of their fur when all seems lost, your journey to killing one of the majestic beasts is unique to you. Nowhere is this more noticeable than when killing the last one. He is so tall and the journey to the weak spot is so arduous that you remember every step of the way.
From avoiding his shots to climbing up to the small of his back. Then Stabbing him to make him reach round, climbing one arm then the other an finally firing an arrow at the shoulder to reach his head. This journey alone feels unique. Why would I ruin this by doing it again?
In conjunction with this, you also have the wonderful ambiguous and minimalistic storyline flowing through the game. All you know is that you have to kill these beasts to bring your love back to life. It is that simple. You have no other motivation except her lifeless body sitting back at the altar you are transported to after each Colossus is killed. It drives you forward without the need for any further exposition. This also means you will remember every story beat and every emotion you felt in this game. Starting the remaster up and heading out to the wonderfully animated field towards the first Colossus felt like seeing an old friend. You hadn’t needed to talk over the years. You just pick up where you left off.
When I finally beat the game again I took it out and simply uninstalled it ready to trade in. I had experienced it again, just as I had all those years ago. A simple piece of perfect art that would only be ruined by trophy hunting, time attacks and repeated plays. I felt the same with The Last Of Us. A brilliant story that I only needed to play once, Uncharted, Skyrim and other games have this effect on me. The better the game the less likely I am to play through it again. Let it exist in its own moment of perfectness away from the forced replayability of modern gaming. Maybe in another 10-15 years, I will play it again. This time maybe I’ll actually be riding Argo across those expansive fields in virtual reality, feeling the scale of the Colossus as it shakes the ground all around. Until then it can rest as a moment of perfection again.
Shadow of the Colossus (PS4)