Unique

While technically being unique is a tall order for any game, this one gets pretty darn close and does something special.

Special Sauce

Has that certain something that you can't quite put your finger on but it makes it better.

Soundtrack

This game has an outstanding soundtrack. You'll probably want the vinyl.

Art Direction

Amazing art direction that makes you want to plaster your walls in fancy prints of your screenshots.

Graphics

This is the type of game you show your new TV off to your friends with. It looks that good.

Sound Design

Impressive sound design that makes it an even more immersive experience.

Shadow of the Colossus Remake Review

We seem to be in the throws of a remake, remaster, repeat season in the gaming industry. We’ve seen both good and bad attempts to bring back some of our favourites from the grave, though some of these remasters are of games barely a generation old, and so personally I’ve become a bit wary whenever another one pops up on the radar. With that being said it wasn’t all that long ago that I caught wind of a remake for Shadow of the Colossus. The roller coaster of emotions I experienced was impressive to say the least as I went from pure elation to a hard gut check reminding me just how poorly this could be done.

Interestingly enough the discussion surrounding this remake often became just how much a remake should diverge from the original game. This idea focuses on the concept that perhaps even refining mechanics, adding quality of life improvements, or generally “improving” a game that’s being remade isn’t actually improving it at all. It’s a tough call because many games that have been remade or remastered to this point have had glaring issues that almost demanded attention. Shadow of the Colossus on the other hand, isn’t particularly laden with game breaking mechanics or elements. Bluepoint made it a point to say that they were going to do their best to be as faithful in every way to the original as possible, and so with that we got to wait and see just what that meant for the final product. With the original release of Shadow of the Colossus being a phenomenal game in almost every respect, there was a lot of pressure on Bluepoint to deliver something equally as special if not more so.

For those of you who perhaps never got a chance to play the original release, and perhaps may not know anything about the game in general I’ll talk a bit about it so that you aren’t left in the dark. Shadow of the Colossus is an exercise in simplicity and an example of how simplicity can be wonderful. The story is simple, it’s delivery is simple, and the gameplay is simple. With that being said the depth of the story, delivery, and gameplay isn’t lacking – in fact it’s quite the opposite. I know that comes across as a short form review in itself, partly because it is, but Shadow of the Colossus is something to be experienced and so I’ll try to avoid spoiling when possible. I will be reviewing the game on its own to start, so if you have already played the game and are interested in the changes the remake brings to the table you can skip ahead towards the end of this piece.

You play as Wander, a man who is on a pilgrimage of sorts to bring an important woman back to life. Dormin, a disembodied voice and apparent god of the temple you entered, informs you that there may be a way to bring her back but to be aware it would come at a great cost. Without questioning further, off you go to bring down the colossi of the valley, one after another at the behest of Dormin. Thankfully you aren’t completely alone as you have your trusty horse, Agro, who serves as both your main form of transportation and ally in battle, but otherwise you are on your own in your task.

The entirety of Shadow of the Colossus plays out that simply. There are no minor enemies to come across in the vast fields, riverbeds, lakes, and mountains of the valley. There are scant animals, even, to be found on your journey. Instead you are very much in stark solitude as you go about your task of taking down the mighty colossi. That no doubt might sound like it would be awfully boring, but it rarely is, though the reasons as to why it isn’t is hard to describe. The audiovisual delivery is certainly at the core of it all as there is a perhaps unmatched cinematic quality on display in Shadow of the Colossus. There are numerous moments where you feel as though you’re looking at a carefully crafted movie poster or cover art. Because there are few distractions along the way to each colossus you are free to experience these moments and it’s really quite stunning.

That isn’t to say it always works as intended, since your primary method of getting a bearing on where your going isn’t always helpful. The sword you’ve brought with you, when held up to the light of the sun acts as your guide to each colossus. The problem you may or may not encounter is that the sword points directly at the target and not landmarks along the way to reach your destination. As such you can end up running in circles trying to sort out the route the sword is implying. Luckily this only tends to be truly relevant in regard to a small number of the colossi and like I said you may not even encounter the issue at all.

When you do eventually find each colossus, you are of course faced with the challenge of bringing it down. You don’t necessarily go about this in the ways you might imagine in that it’s not a head-on battle. Instead, each colossus you come across is almost a puzzle in itself. Each one has their own weak points that must be exploited to be victorious and so then it becomes a game of finding said points and therein lies the puzzle to be solved. You will climb, jump, shoot, stab, manipulate and more each colossus to accomplish your end goal and it’s a simple but incredibly well employed mechanic that makes each encounter feel different instead of using the same method across the board. A couple of the colossi rely on some vague interactions that can be tough to discern, and even though Dormin may pipe up and give you a hint if you’re taking too long, it doesn’t always make things clearer. In general, however, it all works quite well, and points of frustration are more likely to come from elsewhere.

If there was something I’d be most expecting to hear complaints about with Shadow of the Colossus it would be the camera and/or controls. Team Ico isn’t exactly known for producing games with phenomenal camera or character control and Shadow of the Colossus isn’t really any different. Since the camera tries its best to constantly find a balance between showing you those aforementioned poster quality moments and usable angles, you may find yourself at a disadvantage on occasion. Due to the methods in which they tackle character movement, getting used to getting around will likely take some time. The controls themselves are also a bit obtuse and don’t really have any comparable games to transfer experience from. I wouldn’t say that any of this is particularly damning, and thanks to some nifty additions in this remake you have more options at your disposal for trying to find a good balance.

I suppose now is a great time to talk about what the remake actually changes. The most obvious of the changes are those made to the audiovisual elements. Considering just how distinct the original game looked it is amazing to me how well the team at Bluepoint did in keeping that feel. Playing on the PS4 Pro in framerate optimization mode, the game looks amazing. Coupled with the incredible cinematic camera angles that just get served up to you, the locales you’ll visit all look incredible. The lighting is particularly well done and takes things like the forested areas to another level. The colossi weren’t ignored of course, and they all have been paid careful attention to. I could spend three paragraphs telling you in flowery language how great it all looks and how well the visual elements come together but I have to imagine it speaks for itself. The music has also been given a go over and sounds even more amazing than it did before. It’s a damn good looking and sounding game.

Bluepoint didn’t stop there, however they also didn’t reinvent the wheel. As I mentioned you’ll have more options for the controls should the classic controls not be up your alley. You’ll also get access to a new game plus mirrored mode which is pretty interesting and may indeed change things up just enough to make it feel like a new challenge. Coins of a sort have also been hidden throughout the valley for you to find and to unlock fanciful things above and beyond the existing rewards for completing sets of the time attack mode introduced once you’ve completed the game a first time. One thing that I never got to figure out was whether or not they “fixed” the diagonal jump trick the original game had whereby if you jumped at the right angles you consumed little to no stamina. This helped you reach the game’s most secret of areas, should you even find where to begin, without necessarily having to spend a bunch of time increasing your stamina gauge. Speaking of the stamina gauge, it’s far easier to tell when you’ve increased the gauge this time around as a bar grows out of the side of the main pool icon instead of the pool icon itself simply getting larger as it did in the original which is nice.

That’s just about it, really. Bluepoint made good on their goal to leave the game as untouched as possible and to simply let the game speak for itself. The visual and audio updates that dominate this remake are a home run, and the minor additions don’t change the feel of the game at all while creating additional value. In the great debate about how much should be changed when a game is brought back out to the masses via a remake or remaster, I think there is something to be said about taking things on a case by case basis. Shadow of the Colossus was already a phenomenal game and hadn’t aged all that poorly, so choosing not to completely modernize the remake was a wise choice that allows old fans to relive the magic and newcomers to appreciate what they missed out on years ago.

With that being said, if you are a fan of the original and are interested as to whether or not this is the way to experience the game again I’d find it awfully difficult to recommend the original or HD remaster over this remake. Likewise, if you’re a newcomer wondering which version of the game deserves your time I would wholeheartedly recommend this one over any other. After having played and loved the original many years ago and having now got a chance to enjoy this remake, Bluepoint has without question created the definitive edition and to make it even better they aren’t even charging full price for the game. It’s crazy that in an industry of endlessly derivative works nobody has tried to iterate on Shadow of the Colossus and so there’s still really and truly nothing like it available to this day. If you have the opportunity, you should absolutely pick this one up and experience it for yourself. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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Adam Morehouse

Adam Morehouse

I play games and write stuff about them! Blessed with an amazing online community for many years now. One half of the LAGTV duo.
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