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ICO/Shadow of the Colossus Collection Review

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For those who have been following PSUni (especially articles from yours truly), you know we’ve been anxiously awaiting this collection for sometime: A pack that contains two of the most beloved classics ever on PlayStation, branded with a very affordable price tag, and remastered in HD. On paper this is a must buy, but does it live up to expectation?

Now this was my first time playing both games, so keep that in mind when reading this review.

For those who already have a copy of ICO or Shadow of the Colossus, the most you get from this is two classics redone in HD. You’ll also get some bonus content with this game that includes dynamic themes and behind the scenes videos.  So with the exception of the updated graphics, there is nothing really different about the games here.

That being said, the HD graphics are fantastic and the attention to detail is very clear. It goes a long way to make these games stand out even more.

For those who don’t know of Team ICO, I’ll supply this analogy: What Disney and Studio Ghibli are to movies, Team ICO is to video games. Whenever there is an argument for video games being art, these games will pop up.

ICO tells of a boy of the same name, who is born with horns on his head. His village views him as a curse, and opts to lock him away in a giant castle. You manage to free yourself, and set out to escape. During this, you bump into Yorda, a princess several years older than you. What proceeds is pretty much one long escort mission, as you and Yorda try to escape this castle. To do this means solving many puzzles and fending off (and saving) Yorda from shadow creatures that try to kidnap her regularly.

There are a few things ICO does here that I like. In this game, there’s a button to hold Yorda’s hand and lead her through the game. I actually enjoyed this small touch, as it displays some affection between the characters as they try to survive. The game showed me how a tiny bit of interaction between two characters actually showing how strong this relationship is, making the game’s conclusion all the more heartbreaking. The world that Team ICO created for this game — for all their games, actually — is very unique, especially the shadow creatures. They don’t explain them for some time, so it adds a layer of mystery about them, which I liked. Also looking at the shadow creatures in ICO, I can’t help but wonder if they gave any inspiration towards the Heartless of Kingdom Hearts.

The game does have its faults, namely with Yorda. This Princess is the most useless member of royalty ever. She will amaze you with her inability to take direction while making herself an easy target for enemies. The most frustrating thing in this game for me wasn’t any enemies or puzzles — it was watching Yorda not listen to me when I called her, or do nothing as an enemy walked over and scooped her up. Aside from that, the puzzles really aren’t terribly difficult and are solve pretty easily.

As for Shadow of the Colossus, the game is awesome, but at the same time very depressing.

In Shadow, you play a man who is on a quest to resurrect his lady friend from the dead. In order to do this, he is told he needs to wander the countryside to find and kill the colossi in this world. There are no other enemies in this game aside from the colossi, so the game is literally all boss fights. However, these creatures are huge, to the point that it’s like fighting a small mountain. Essentially, these monsters are both the level and the boss fight. With all of them, it’s a bit of a puzzle trying to figure out how to kill them with only a sword and a bow and arrow.

The fights in the game are epic. The creatures are only vulnerable on one spot on their body.  You have the task of finding it, and getting to it. Getting to this point is hard. For instance, with the first colossi, you have to grab onto its leg and strike it repeatedly till it collapses. Then you need to quickly run to its back, climb up (while struggling to hang on as it tries to buck you off), and climb until you come to the point on the top of his head where you can strike. The battles all look and feels like scenes from a movie, making for a very cinematic experience.

I’ve got nothing to really complain about as far as Shadow of the Colossus goes, with the exception of one nitpick. That being if I hadn’t read it online, I wouldn’t have known that there are power-ups for increasing you life bar and grip meter. This is a pretty important part of the game that I was surprised was never mentioned.

Like ICO, this one also made me feel a range of emotions. The character I’m controlling isn’t being heroic in his quest; in fact he’s being really selfish. The Colossi aren’t evil or attempting to hurt anyone; they’re just wild animals going about their business till you come along. As big of an accomplishment as it was to kill one of them, I couldn’t help but feel bad for just killing a creature that meant no one any harm. The fact that the game is making me feel these kinds of emotions make it art.

Both games controls are very unique. ICO’s controls focus on keeping Yorda near you (Calling to her, grabbing and leading her by the hand, and defending her). Everything you do in this game focuses on the well being of Yorda. With Shadow, the controls focus on combat and moving around. A central aspect of this is the Grip feature that enables you to climb these creatures to get to there weak point. As you climb or hold onto anything, the meter will slowly decrease. If it reaches zero, your grip gives out and you fall. This was a great idea on Team ICO’s part, and really added a lot of tension to the battles.

The sound really didn’t move me in ICO, but it served its purpose for the game. The music in Shadow on the Colossus does a great job adding tension and scope to each boss fight.

Finally, one other small issue I should bring up, there have been some reports of glitches hitting this game from time to time. Its not Red Dead Redemption levels of bad, but they’re still there. I’ve encountered one of those so far, and that’s my horse in Shadow freezing. From the reports I’ve read, as well as my own experience, this is a semi-rare occurrence and shouldn’t deter you from this game.

I really enjoyed these two games. I admit I enjoyed Shadow a lot more than ICO, as Yorda’s AI (or lack there-of) made the ICO experience more frustrating than it should have been. However, ICO has a definite charm to it, and the story makes it worth playing through. The HD Collection does a great job in introducing them to a new generation of fans, and they are worth picking up, even if you’ve never played these games. This is definitely a classic that deserves to be in every PS3 connoisseur’s collection.

FINAL GRADE: B+

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