A Mountain to Climb (and Slay): Shadow of the Colossus Turns 10
Shadow of the Colossus will always be remembered as one of the greatest action-adventure games of the PlayStation 2-era. More importantly, it'll be remembered for the things that set it far apart from all of its contemporaries in the genre. Instead of the Zelda-esque format of traversing an overworld, finding dungeons and clearing their bosses, Shadow of the Colossus had a much simpler format. You had to roam the lands and defeat 16 enemies, but it was the way Shadow of the Colossus presented these enemies and the vague narrative surrounding the adventure that made it special.
Originally being developed as a project called Nico (which stood for the "Next Ico"), SCE Japan Studio started making Shadow of the Colossus in 2002, intending for it to be a direct sequel to Ico. Fortunately, director Fumito Ueda decided to make Shadow of the Colossus its own game and made the connections to Ico extremely vague, which certainly helped it grow in terms of mystique. By the end of the project, the only in-game attributes that Shadow of the Colossus had in common with its predecessor was the appearance of Ico's shadowy enemies in the Shrine of Worship, and the horns that appear on the baby found at the end of the game.
The story of Shadow of the Colossus is both simple and intricate. There is very little information given pertaining to the backstories of Shadow's few characters or their circumstances. You play as Wander, who has brought the corpse of Mono (presumably someone he loved or cared for greatly) to a secluded, forbidden land. After laying her body down in the Shrine of Worship, Wander is attacked by a group of shadowy enemies. After seeing Wander dispatch the creatures with an ancient sword, the spirit of Dormin contacts him and reveals that he could return Mono's soul to her body, just as long as he destroyed the 16 idols in the Shrine's hall. In order to do so, he must slay the idol's 16 corresponding Colossi scattered throughout the land with his ancient sword. Slaying these 16 ginormous beings is no easy task, as each one is the size of a tall building and has very few week points. With only an ancient sword, a bow and his horse at his disposal, Wander roams the lands and eventually finds each Colossus and slays them, each time freeing a piece of Dormin's sealed spirit, which enters Wander's body upon the death of each giant.
After slaying the 16th Colossus and returning to the Shrine of Worship, Wander finds a shaman called Lord Amon and a group of soldiers at his command at the Shrine. Many fans theorize that Amon originally ordered the death of Mono based on a believed prophecy that she would cause the return of Dormin. Of course, this turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy as Wander has caused the return of Dormin in order to resurrect her corpse. Possessed by the pieces of Dormin, Wander is killed by Emon's men, but the nefarious spirit inside him resurrects his body into a shadowy, Colossus-sized monstrosity. Luckily, Emon performs a spell using Wander's ancient sword that pulls both Dormin and Wander into a vortex. After all the dust settles and Emon's men retreat, a reanimated Mono awakens for the first time and follows Wander's injured horse (which previously sacrificed itself to help Wander continue his journey), which limps to the spot Wander was pulled into the vortex. Mono finds a baby with little horns growing out of its head at the spot where Wander disappeared. This has led to much speculation from the fans, who believe that the infant is either Ico's title character or one of his ancestors, and that Ico's plot could have involved Dormin as well.
In terms of gameplay, Shadow of the Colossus mirrors its story. The game's premise seems relatively simple: you must find the 16 giant beasts and slay them. There is not much else to Shadow of the Colossus' gameplay. Fortunately, defeating each of these bosses is an intricate and elaborate process. The first Colossus, Valus, is a relatively straightforward fight where you just climb his body and stab a weak spot on its head. You could stab a sigil on its leg to trip it and make it easier for you to scale its body. The second Colossus, Quadratus, has a bull-like form and requires a much different strategy. Fighting each of these Colossi provides an experience that is quite varied from the last. Some of these creatures fly through the sky, some are underground, some climb walls, some are aquatic and one is actually part of giant tower you must scale to reach. Shadow of the Colossus is often heralded as one of the greatest games of its generation.
Will the tale of Trico and his companion tie-in to Dormin and the previous titles? We'll just have to wait see. Until then, Team Ico has another behemoth to slay in front of them as they continue to work on The Last Guardian, which has been in development since 2007 and expected to finally launch next year.