It was back in 2005 when Shadow of the Colossus graced the PS2 and went on to become one of, if not the best PS2 games ever. Thirteen years later this timeless classic has been re-introduced with a fresh coat of paint for the current generation of players.
So how does it hold up?
In this review, we will go through every aspect of this game like graphics, gameplay, story and overall experience in detail. However, to understand the pedigree of what we are looking at here, we need to look at one more aspect of this game which is its Legacy.
When it comes to timeless classics in video games, very few games have the impact of Shadow of the Colossus. I remember when I first booted the original SOTC on my PS2, back in 2005. I went in completely blind, not knowing anything about this game. No reviews or spoilers back in the day. After the initial roadblock of trying to figure out the climbing mechanics, it was a moment of awe that only a few games could provide at the time.
Fast forward 12 years, the second colossus was released. I knew that this was a rare masterpiece that needed to be savored. And I was not the only one sharing this sentiment. Almost anyone who has played this game had a soft spot for it, regardless of whether they had finished it once or, like in my case, at least a dozen times.
But games have come a long way since 2005. And the sheer variety of genres and the advancements in mechanics that we have experienced in these 2 console generations since PS2 is staggering, which is why I am left speechless when I see how well the PS4 version of this game holds up today.
The main story of SOTC can be written in a few sentences. Man tries to save beloved Mono. Man is offered a chance to do so by slaying 16 colossus. Man does it. And then the ending. But there is so much more complexity in this simple story. You cannot help but fall in love with every character. From Agro, your trusty steed, to the wanderer, the protagonist and each of the 16 magnificent colossi. All of this only leads to an emotional gut punch every time you kill these colossi. And not to mention an ending that is both as much an absolute heartbreak, as it is beautiful.
Part of SOTCs charm lies in how simple everything is, and the underlying complexity is all born in the player's mind. It may have been due to the limitations of the PS2 that things were kept so simple, but Bluepoint games have used that simplicity along with the PS4's graphical fidelity, delivered in spades. This game is one the best looking games for the PS4 right now. Everything in this game, from landscapes to the towering colossus themselves, have been redone from the ground up. And the result is phenomenal. There is a staggering attention to detail in every nook and cranny of this game. And these visuals play a vital role in the overall experience of this remake.
The core gameplay of SOTC involves riding through the landscapes of the cursed land on the back of your horse, looking for the next Colossi. You are left to figure out where to go with help of your sword which measure beams of light towards the direction of the target. Once you do find the Colossi, you need to figure out how to take them down as each of them need different strategy and planning. This keeps the game fresh all the way until the end. Reminiscent of the game's simple theme is your arsenal, which consists of just a sword, and a bow and arrow.
For all the praise this game commands, there is no denying that the controls were a little janky. Even back in the PS2 days, we have had games with much better controls than SOTC. While we cannot say that this has been fully resolved in the remake, there are some notable changes here. The button layout is mapped to appeal to today's gamers, which can be set back to original settings if you please. Adding to this there are also collectables in the game now and some clever Easter eggs referencing Mr Ueda's other games.
While the core game can be finished in about 10 hours, longevity is provided through other difficulty settings and quirky rewards. And a mirrored mode which, well, mirrors the game screen and it feels surprisingly fresh. Add to this a Photo mode which lets you take screenshots of the game, with various filters and tools. Honestly, I spent hours here and the end results are all amazing.
The original SOTC on the PS2 took players' breath away and added to the notion that video games are indeed an art. It was timeless in its own right and did not need a remaster. But this remaster was still made and the result is a Masterpiece. Had the PS4 come out in 2005, this may have been Fumito Ueda's original vision. We may never know, but as gamers, we can only thank the creators for making this happen. SOTC on the PS4 is not only an essential but a timeless classic which sets new standards for remakes.