Shadow of the Colossus is getting a remaster (or is it a remake?). While it received a relatively standard HD remaster — alongside its spiritual predecessor, Ico — on the PS3 (which means its muddy, PS2-era visuals were put into HD while still largely being just as muddy as they had been), this PS2 Classic is now getting a second remaster, or remake, whatever you want to call it. However, this remaster falls more in line with what was offered with Crash Bandicoot’s N. Sane Trilogy: the whole game is being functionally remade with all-new character models that mimic the old game while looking like a game released during this generation. And on its surface, this is great; literally, it looks beautiful.
What Makes SotC So Great
For those who have been living underneath a colossus-sized rock for the past decade, or those who were born with demon horns and sealed away on a mysterious island and have only just now escaped, let me give you a really quick rundown of what exactly made SotC so unique in the first place.
Releasing on the PS2, this title saw a young man trying to revive his young love with the assistance of an ancient being. This being offers a bargain: kill the 16 colossi scattered across the land and he will revive your love. The premise is relatively straightforward, and so is the game: There are no small enemies, NPCs, side quests, etc. There are only these 16 colossi.
The colossi in SotC are essentially puzzles. Each one has to be “solved,” i.e., killed in its own, unique way. Some require you to utilize the environment, while others ask you to merely use the tools at your disposal: your insane grip strength; a horse with a name that you always yell yet somehow mumble enough so that no one can agree on its name; a sword that, despite being plunged into beasts whose blood seems to be the personification of darkness itself, is still shiny enough to catch a sun ray in the middle of a dark forest; and bow and arrows.
To be fair, it’s hard not to be somewhat enthralled by this remaster. SotC is a great game. In fact, it wouldn’t be outlandish to call it one of the best games on the PS2, which is a console that competes for having one of the most stacked game rosters of all time. Regardless of where you stand on those debates, it’s hard not to marvel at what this game did with the hardware at its disposal. The colossi tower above you, exuding a sense of scale that many modern games still struggle to capture. While it’s true to say it was unlike anything seen in gaming at its time, it’s equally true now, so many years later.
Which brings me to my next point: SotC was influential. Many games have tried to emulate it, but few have ever captured the essence of what made SotC great.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow had a few of its own large colossi, but they mechanically didn’t stand up to SotC. Lords of Shadow merely went for scale while lacking any of the actual thought-provoking complexity.
God of War has always been about spectacle. God of War 2 even opened up with a battle against the Colossus of Rhodes. But it wasn’t until God of War 3 came out on the PS3, a full console generation later, that we finally saw battles that captured the seamlessness of the fights against the colossi.
Dragon’s Dogma, a successful Capcom RPG, also featured gameplay elements that allowed you to climb on the game’s many large foes, similar to what was seen in SotC.
Some indie games have also drawn influence from SotC. For instance, Titan Souls is a top-down game with 8-bit graphics that features a gauntlet of bosses and minimalistic mechanics. In many ways it conjures up a lot of the same bullet points as SotC: puzzle-like bosses and streamlined mechanics. It doesn’t quite have the same majesty and sense of scale, but that’s to be expected in a top-down game. Titan Souls might be the game closest to SotC in both quality and player experience, but two games make a genre not. There’s also Malicious, a downloadable title, which combines the boss fighting of SotC with weapon collecting from the Megaman series.
Ultimately this is likely only a sample of the many games influenced directly, or otherwise, by SotC. I’d like to point out that just because these games are different, doesn’t mean they’re bad. Many of them are going for different play experiences than SotC. Moreover, similar mechanics don’t mean that they are necessarily influenced by SotC. However, seeing similar ideas pop up in successful games, many of which were popularized by SotC, does mean that there is a trend here: that there is a market for this sort of game.
Remind Me of the First Time
Lastly, while SotC is great, its bosses are fundamentally puzzles, meaning that once you know the solution, half of the actual fun is gone. There is still challenge to actually executing the solutions since the “puzzles” are actively trying to kill you, unlike most puzzles, but it still minimizes the appeal. The only way to grant returning players that same thrill they experienced so long ago, rather than merely imparting nostalgia onto them, is by giving them new colossi to fight.
In fact, the video below goes over how the original number of colossi was going to be 48. While this number was reduced drastically, there were an additional eight colossi that got pretty far into development before being cut. There were 24, but the final release only featured 16. That means a third of the colossi were cut. Put another way, an extra 50% of colossi were cut. While they were cut due to repetitiveness and/or developmental time constraints, that’s not really the point. They could now do this, either in this remake or in a future title, assuming Sony gave them the resources. There is undoubtedly room for more ideas within the constraints of this game’s mechanical framework, and gamers would love to see them come to reality.
In summation, Shadow of the Colossus was and still is great, both due to its innovation and its quality. It has left a noted mark on its peers throughout the years, and more importantly, the qualities that made it so successful still appear to be attractive. That’s not even to mention the wealth of existing ideas and prototypes that new and returning players would love to experience after all these years.
Sony, you have an audience who are not only ready for a sequel but who are practically salivating whilst waiting for one. Announcing a SotC sequel at E3 could rival recent outstanding moments like the revitalization of God of War, the resurgence of The Last Guardian, the remake of Final Fantasy VII, or the announcement of Horizon: Zero Dawn. In the end, all we can do is hope that Sony sees enough excitement surrounding this modern classic’s remake to warrant a sequel.