Ico/Shadow of Colossus Collection (PS3)
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Team Ico
Release Date: Sep. 27, 2001
In 1995, an unknown struggling artist, Fuimto Ueda, took his first step into the gaming industry. Striving to bring his creative passion and love of animation together, Ueda found himself trapped within the straining environment of grunt work animation with WARP. It left the artist starving for more than just a good meal; the desire for imaginative freedom burned within him as his dreams gnawed away at the chains binding him to the cubicle. Not long after finishing his only project with WARP, would Sony Computer Entertainment come to Ueda’s rescue by offering him a position as a first party developer for the corporation in 1997. Yet, despite sold foundation Sony offered him, it would take four years for his first game to be released… And what a mark he would make on the gaming industry with two simple games.
Ico hit store shelves in 2001 with is spiritual successor, Shadow of the Colossus, releasing in 2005. Ico tells the charming story of a cursed horned-boy (Ico) attempting to escape a tainted castle with a girl (Yorda) hunted by the lost souls of the previously deceased horned children. Heavily inspired by Eric Chahil’s Another World, the player finds themselves navigating through three-dimensional, environmental puzzles while escorting and protecting Yorda.
(Image from Eurogamer)
Shadow of the Colossus features many of the same mechanics as Ico, but focuses on a more action-based puzzles. It features the Wander, a young man longing to restore life into his lost love. He travels the vastly deserted land known as the Forbidden Land to destroy the sixteen colossi that have become vassals of disembodied entity that claims it can revive the girl’s soul. As a result, Wander travels around the enormous peninsula with the aid of his loyal stead, Agro, in search of the nomadic giants. He must then make his way up to each one in order to stab their vital spots on their bodies to slay them.
Praised for their simplistic, elegant storytelling, the games rely on cinematic cutscenes containing minimal dialogue and body language to progress the plot. Softly saturated, blooming lightning effects created a very dream-like atmosphere for both games, supporting their claim of being artistic masterpieces by gamers and critics alike. Shadow of the Colossus received a much stronger supported advertisement campaign from Sony over Ico, but both games have managed to form an active cult following on the two, limited print titles. As a result, it has become difficult for those wanting to experience them both to actual find copies. Especially with how much of a gem Ico itself as become. However, there is no reason to fret. Little over a month ago, Sony released the Ico/Shadow of Colossus HD collection, giving those who missed both games a second chance, but is it worth the $40 price tag slapped onto it?
The collection is not a remake; it’s a remastered version. It is literally nothing more than an upgraded version of their PS2 processors, which while not a bad thing surely does leave you wanting more. The textures and coloring look far richer compared to the original PS3 look, greatly enhancing the whimsical atmosphere. The grassy backs of the colossi look more realistic; the stone limbs and armor showing more signs of being worn from the weather and soil of the land. While the grim environments of Ico look far more polished. The rough edges of the landscapes have been smoothed over. The coloring of the worlds have become more vibrant and lush while still keeping true to the golden, bloom lightning that made the two stand out to begin with. The foggy look has been replaced with a much crisper appearance without destroying the ambiance
However, there are some nitpicky complaints that are hard to ignore. Due to the textures just being improved, there are some graphical glitches caused from the engine itself not being touched. Clips of clothing and other objects tend to go through solid objects; nothing that really takes away from the full experience but cannot help but make you cringe when the collection is advertised as a graphical improvement. Though the biggest graphical complaint I have involved the open environments in Shadows of the Colossus. Background landscaping tends to pop in and out of view as you travel. Mountains, sand dunes, ruins, etc… appear instantly as they load right before your eyes as you get closer to them. With the power of the PS3, you would imagine they would have found a solution to this issues before releasing the collection because, again while it does not ruin the experience, it certainly does taint it to an extent by breaking the subtle atmosphere.
I was also was greatly disappointed by the lack of ability to install the collection onto my PS3. Load times really do not effect Shadows of Colossus, but they run rampant in Ico as you move from area to area. I will say that the load times themselves are fairly quick, but feel unnecessary for game on the PS3. Though there are reasons as to why Team Ico’s changes to the originals remained limited. In an interview with 1Up, Ueda mentions about how the development team debated on including some new colossi that had originally been scrapped and possibly writing an alternate ending. On top of going back to redo some of the outdated gameplay scheme from both titles. However, Ueda made it clear that if they had begun making large improvements onto the games, the community would expect more from them than they were capable of doing at the time. The project would have turned from a remastering of the games to a full blown remake – something that the development just could not work on wile still developing Last Guardian.
They did, however, take the time to add 3D support for the growing 3D TV owners. I did not have access to a 3D TV to test out this features, but nonetheless, there is plenty of potential for both titles in 3D. Ico‘s camera constantly adjusts to the height of the character as he climbs about the rooms of the castle to solve each puzzle. Meanwhile, Shadow of Colossus‘ scaling is put into an awe-inspiring perspective as the camera zooms away from the colossi.
Yet despite the improvements and new features, Ico and Shadow of Colossus at the same at their core – which is not a bad thing in the slightly. The content and story remains untouched but presented in gorgeous high resolution. The control schemes of both games feel a tad awkward at first. Though veterans of a Team Ico game will feel right at home and pick up either game without any issues. Newcomers may find themselves being slightly frustrated at first, but you can quickly grasp the gameplay within a few minutes. I highly recommend the collection to anyone who has missed out on the magical adventure that both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus have to offer. For not only do you get two modern classics, but a handful of behind-the-scenes features are included as well as two dynamic PS3 themes, adding a little more bang for your buck. With the total cost of obtaining original copies of both costing you more than $60, there is almost no reason not to pick up high resolution versions with a few extras for $20 a piece.