Shadow Of The Colossus has come to PS4 and will be released on February 6, 2018. This remake, remaster, redone, Playstation 2 classic gets a bit more than a cosmetic overhaul, so let’s dive into the 2018 Shadow of The Colossus review shall we?
Sony Entertainment has gratuitously provided me a copy of the game to review.
Story and Background Of Shadow Of The Colossus
First of all, if you are new to this series, no worries. The game is a classic PS2 game that sold over 1.5 million worldwide and received many very positive gaming reviews when it was released in 2005. Even if you’ve never heard of the game, you can easily pick it up and start falling into its haunting story gaming grasp.
Non Spoiler Explanation of the Introduction Credits
You are Wander. The game opens with you, riding your faithful horse – Argo across a large bridge. You are seen carrying a young girl named Mono, who sadly appears to be dead. We eventually enter a temple and meet a mystical being called Dormin, who was said to have powers to revive the dead. You can see where this is headed. Dormin says he will revive Mono in exchange for destroying the 16 Colossi. Thus begins our adventure into the Shadow Of the Colossus.
As Wander, you will travel around this strange world with Argo as your only companion. You will figure out where each of the 16 Colossi are located. Once there, each Colossi has several unique puzzles on how you attack, damage and kill them. Sounds simple enough, but its trickier than it sounds. 🙂
The Remake of Shadow of the Colossus
First the rumors ARE true. The original code used on the PS2 game is the same code that is used on the PS4 game.
“The key to authenticity behind Bluepoint Games’ PS4 remake of Shadow of the Colossus is the original game code that controls colossi, Agro and the core gameplay mechanics. While we have made subtle improvements and bug fixes, it is a real testament to the technical prowess of the original developers that the code which runs the PS2 game also runs on the PS4. It was an honor to work on such a beloved game and we want to personally thank Ueda-san and the original Shadow of the Colossus team for all the great memories.” (Bluepoint Games)
The game is stunning and beautiful. The colossi are gentle giants who have fluid grass hair like movements, plants that sway and flames that sizzle. The backgrounds are awe inspiring. I don’t think a person on the planet would choose visually the PS2 over the New PS4 version.
Photo Mode in Shadow of The Colossus
This is a really neat feature. When you press the down D-pad you enter photo mode. Step aside Instagram – You can customize the scene in front of you by adding filters, editing the scene, changing the camera view to be from the horse and more, till your heart is content. You can also keep some of these filters on while you pay and see the world around you in a whole new light! I made some pretty cool pictures this way and thought it was a fun little extra.
Check them out 😉
The game was first released in 2005. Therefore game mechanics had not advanced nearly as far as they have today. Controls were a big part of the challenge of the game in a lot of circumstances. Developers purposely made the controls difficult to use so the game itself was more challenging. That could be said here. The controls in this game are still extremely frustrating. For the first few Colossi or so frustration was high. I eventually learned to adopt to the older control method of video games of bygone years. For example, when you are jumping in this game you press X, but in order to grab onto a ledge you need to also press R1. Coolio, except you must maintain holding R1 the entire time you are climbing or moving. If you need to jump again well holding R1 you need to pull the controller in an up direction as well as pressing X again. Just typing those directions out it’s complicated enough, playing with them was interesting. For some of the extended Colossi battles with tricky climbing and navigation sequences you could be holding that R1 ready to hit X button for a VERY long time. You may feel that old numb thumb hand grip feeling return. 🙂
Another personal source of frustration for me was Argo the horse. Mounting the horse was supposed to have received improvements but I still frequently found myself jumping around the horse instead of on it. Once saddled up, you press triangle to make the horse run faster. This would be fine except frequently the horse would run into a nearby wall, pebble, branch, rock, or tree, causing the horse to rear back and likely take off in the complete wrong direction. You then need to press triangle again and again and frantically try and get the camera going the right way so you can get the horse to return to moving in the right direction. Until the next wall anyway. In some locations like tight rocky paths and forest trails horse riding was very frustrating. I frequently jumped off in these locations and ran on foot because I didn’t want to deal with it.
The game itself is really rather simplistic with a straight forward linear story line. There are a few small side missions, mostly to increase your health or abilities but nothing far-fetched or distracting. I found this to be a nice change from the flashy upgrade and DLC missions of most games today. Traveling to each location is a bit tricky and you will likely go the wrong way quite a few times. Part of the fun is getting there in this game. I very much enjoyed figuring out the unique puzzles of each Colossi’s secrets. With a few exceptions, the various steps required for taking down your next foe were not that difficult. Execution was the REAL challenge, especially with the aforementioned controls. Relax, breath and enjoy the journey here.
Actual Shadow of The Colossus PS4 Game Changes and Improvements
If you’ve played the series before here are some of the improvements from the PS2 game according to Sony.
Unlike prior editions of the game, when you press the button to aim the bow, Wander turns to face the same direction as the camera, rather than turning the camera to match Wander’s facing direction. This makes aiming at the colossi a better experience. This is also true for shining the sword.
Subtle but important tweaks were made to the aiming system allowing more precise input without the feeling of always over-shooting your target.
Easier to mount Agro
Easier than ever to get into the saddle on Agro – You can approach Agro from just about any angle, and Wander will figure out how best to get on.
The “Legolas” mount
When Agro runs past Wander, you can hold the triangle button for Wander to grab on and swing himself up into the saddle.
Agro now indicates to Wander when additional button presses for speed are not necessary as they are already going as fast as possible.
Guiding Agro through some tight areas of the game should be a little less challenging than it was on prior editions.
Faster Underwater Swimming
Wander swims a little faster now if he’s going in a straight line while submerged under water.
You can now jump almost full height and land running without Wander stumbling every time he lands. This adds a sense of fluidity and purpose to his movements not present in prior editions. If you perform a full-duration jump, or fall to a lower elevation, he will still stumble when he lands.
We improved the input detection for situations when Wander has to jump away from the ledge he’s hanging on. This should result in significantly fewer “I should have made that jump” moments.
Easier Weapon Switching
Pressing Left on the d-pad cycles between your different arrow heads you’ve unlocked. Pressing right on the d-pad cycles between the swords you have unlocked. Pressing up on the d-pad unequips and re-equips the last weapon held.
Camera & Interface
Streamlined Save/Load Options
“Continue” was added to the title screen, and lets you resume your last saved game. Autosave was added to the game, all game progress is now automatically saved. If you save at one of the shrines around the world, you will load back to that location.
Colossus Camera Behavior
The camera now does a better job following Wander as he climbs around the colossi, addressing feedback some players voiced in the past.
The HUD for running around the world is now highly customizable for players. Move health bars, indicators, and other elements between a selection of positions on the screen or hide them all together for a new unique experience.
Final Thoughts On Shadow Of The Colossus Review
I really enjoy the simplicity of the story and the crafty puzzles of this game. Once I relaxed with the controls, especially taking into account this game was from 13 years ago, the controls frustrated me slightly less and became part of the challenge of the game. If you’ve played the series in the past, this will be a welcome upgrade to relive those wonderful and haunting story memories. If you are new to the story, this is the perfect time to play one of the greatest Playstation games ever made.
All screenshots are mine and are not Playstation Pro 4k Mode unless otherwise noted.