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Colossus’ a fanastic cinematic quest

Mark Bemenderfer | Tuesday, January 24, 2006

“Shadow of the Colossus” is a cinematic masterpiece. It’s not the latest Hollywood blockbuster, nor an independent cinema production. It is a game for the PlayStation 2 and is completely different from any other game available.

The game follows the notion that beauty lies in simplicity. The story is minimal, as the player is never completely certain what is going on. All that is known is a girl is possibly dying, or may be already dead. The protagonist takes the girl to an isolated temple, where a disembodied voice promises to restore her if the colossi are slain. Who the girl is, or the protagonist is, are never explained. Why the world is so empty is also never explained. It is simple, but it is within that simplicity that an awe-inspiring cinematic genius is found.

Stripped down to its base nature, “Shadow of the Colossus” is a series of video game boss battles. Before every boss, the player is given a general direction in which to travel. The digital avatar then travels through the landscape, navigating cliffs and valleys on horseback, before confronting the boss. The bosses themselves take only a few minutes to dispatch, and then the player moves onto the next one.

But to boil the game down to that description would be to deny what makes the game, in a word, beautiful. The world in which the game resides is fantastic and is the equivalent to any Peter Jackson blockbuster. Almost completely devoid of life, it manages to convey a sense of sorrow, isolation and grandness in scope that has to be seen to be believed. Whether one is traveling along the edge of a cliff, or through the dry bed of a lake, the game is always equally gorgeous, pushing the aging PlayStation 2 hardware to its limits.

It is the small touches that make the land so vibrant and add to the isolation of the experience. The player can travel through the game without observing any signs of life for minutes, and then a solitary hawk will appear to follow avatar. Just as quickly as it appears, it will disappear, leaving the player alone once again. Instances like this remind the player that they world is not completely empty, but that it is a lonely place.

This majestic, isolated qualities are also used to describe the colossi in the game. Each colossus is unique and magnificent in scope, often dwarfing the player. They wander around the world, each in their unique environment, and wait for the player to make his appearance.

Once the player meets the colossus, the battle occurs. Each of the colossi behaves and reacts differently. Some are almost the same size as the protagonist, while others completely overwhelm him in size and scope. Some are airborne, while others swim through surf and sand. But what is consistent through them is the feeling of adrenaline that each one induces.

Taking down each of the colossi is accordingly a unique affair, with some of them requiring more thought than others. Some can only be taken down while on horseback, while others require the use of the bow. But through using all the tricks the player has, he can finally get onto the colossus. That is the first part of the battle.

Once the player has found a way onto the colossus, the digital avatar has to climb over the giant beast trying to find the weak point. While this is going on, the colossus is trying to shake off the little pest, or push him off using the wind or water.

But once the colossus is slain and it topples to the ground, a feeling of sadness mixes with the triumph. The majestic creatures, despite their fantastic properties, still manage to evoke a degree of sympathy from the gamer, a rare trait in games. “Shadow of the Colossus” is an amazing game and should be a necessity for any gamer.