Reviewed: September 16, 2011
Released: September 27, 2011
Few games of the PS2 era garnered as much critical acclaim as SCE Japan’s Team ICO and their two epic adventure titles; 2001’s Ico, and 2005’s Shadow of the Colossus. Both titles revolutionized the art of storytelling and atmospheric design in their own unique and dreamy ways – the legacy of which can be found in games ranging from the popular God of War and Uncharted franchises, to the artistic puzzle-platformers Limbo and Braid. While the two titles are not directly related to one another in terms of storyline, they do share a mythical resemblance that is unmistakable as well as a single disc in Sony's latest remake-release, Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection.|
Both stories follow the tales of a “horned” boy (a bad omen by Japanese folklore) who must rise up against adversity to free himself (and others) from the shackles of imprisonment. Ico follows the tale of the titular horned hero Ico, a young boy who has been cast from his village and forcibly locked away in the ruins of an ancient castle. An earthquake frees him from his chamber, and upon escape he discovers that he is not the castle’s lone prisoner – a mysterious young girl named Yorda has also been released from her confines. Ico quickly realizes that while Yorda may be from a different land, they have both been cast off by their people for their uniqueness.
Ico feels compelled to help Yorda her reach freedom outside the castle walls regardless of the obvious language barrier, so he must lead her along (either by hand, or by calling to her), all the while figuring out puzzle-based obstacles that stand in their way. In the course of the escape, the two encounter hoards of evil spirits who have come to capture Yorda and take her back into their darkness. Yorda is helpless against the spirits, so it is up to Ico to beat them back and save Yorda from doom. It's also worth nothing that this HD remake is based on the European version of the original release giving us our first chance to experience the alternate ending, two new areas put back in the game, plus unlockable English translations for Yorda and an unlockable two-player mode.
Shadow of the Colossus on the other hand, follows the story of a different horned boy called “Wanderer” (interestingly, early pre-release press indicated his name was to be Wanda, i.e. Wanda and the Colossus) who discovers the form of a slumbering princess. Wanderer finds out that the princess has been enchanted, and will remain in her sleeping state until each of the sixteen hulking beasts that terrorize the countryside (the colossi) have been eliminated.
Wander sets off to destroy these colossi, and in doing so discovers that each has its own “Achilles heel” per say – an area on the body on which damage is magnified and the beasts can be taken down. Finding the beasts, and their weaknesses for that matter, is accomplished by holding Wanderer’s sword to the sun and focusing the reflecting beam of light to the right locations. Shadow of the Colossus’s gameplay largely consists of sixteen lengthy Zelda-like adventure-travel sequences, each bookended with a colossal-sized boss battle that involves Wanderer’s scaling a lumbering beast and skewering it in all the appropriate weak spots in sequence to fell it.
What makes both tales so special is in the way the developers have been able to draw gamers into the bleak, archaic worlds and deliver a rich cinematic storytelling experience without resorting to lengthy dialogues or convoluted storylines. The plots are predictable, yet satisfying – and the serene ambiance that is delivered via heavy bloom filtering and a beautiful orchestral soundtrack is as comforting as it is unnerving.
But while the titles have been released with HD and 3D support, the upgrades – HD primarily seems to be comprised of little more than a quickie upscaling job rather than a full-on reworking of the engine. The environments – while beautiful in their own filtered way – are nowhere near as impressive now as they seemed all those years ago. Everything seems a bit dated by today’s standards. And while the framerate is consistent through the course each game (an issue with the original releases), the fact that the visuals max out at 30 frames per second is a bit disappointing.
In the end, both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are must-have games for any gamer; from the newbies to the serious collectors. The fact that Sony saw fit to re-release these two epic masterpieces on one disc and at a bargain price, is simply a bonus. Get out and get this colossal pairing before Sony takes them out of print.