Pages: 1 2
In Ico, the action is confined to a large, dusty cliffside castle and its surrounding grounds. The title character escapes from confinement and shortly after encounters a helpless young woman, herself imprisoned by dark magic. Taking the form of one long escort mission, Ico and his companion Yorda must work through the cavernous rooms and catacombs of this crumbling edifice, looking for the way out. The puzzles always delightfully perplex. It’s when combat enters the equation, as Ico is bedeviled by demonic foes sent to drag Yorda back to her fate, that the scrapes become a loose, awkward affair – seemingly by design. These passages illustrate that while Ico may be short on natural ability; he’s big on courage and heart, an apt metaphor for this true modern classic.
Shadow of the Colossus hit a few years further into the PS2 life cycle and emerged as one of the more ambitious games on the system. While it neatly compliments Ico’s world, the expanse has grown exponentially, setting the main hero Wander and his trusty steed loose in a stark, unforgiving landscape dotted with ancient ruins. Wander seeks to resurrect his lifeless companion, a woman struck down by some unknown ailment. A disembodied voice from the heavens urges him to strike out through the land, hunting down a series of Colossi. Once they have all been eradicated, Wander is told he will be granted the grim magic he seeks. It’s a pained task the player is sent on; one that grows more tormented as you encounter each majestic Colossus. Questions concerning the true nature of your quest rise as each creature poses a massive puzzle. The player is driven to find their weak point while clamoring over their mammoth surface, desperate to hold on tight and finish the fight. While the addictive nature of this adventure compels you forward, there comes a point in each battle where the player despairs of ridding the world of these marvelous beasts. There is a palpable sense of melancholy and dread drenched over the proceedings and it’s in that atmosphere that Shadow of the Colossus reaches rarified air.
Playing through both titles after a long absence, I was happy to find the game play remains rock solid. While the platforming mechanics can feel a little rigid in Ico, it’s a minor hiccup that does nothing to diminish a luminous experience. It helps that both titles hail from the PS2 era, where Dual Stick Analog was established as the norm. In fact, with the enhanced frame rate afforded by more powerful hardware, both titles control much tighter than they did previously. The enhanced visual fidelity, and the ability for the system to keep up with the engine, proves a real boon for Shadow of the Colossus, whose only prior misstep was a stuttering frame rate during some of the more hectic battles. Gamers looked past those minor concerns in its earlier incarnation and now any quibbles are completely silenced. Both titles run flawlessly and look beautiful. It’s a treat to have such stunning reproductions coexisting on one Blu-Ray disc.
The complete visual restoration, now broadcast in full widescreen 720p high definition, reveals two masterpieces in game design. Now they appear the way you always wish they looked. While the textures remain untouched and can be seen as a product of their time, these titles are buoyed by expert art design. The game worlds feel organic, lived-in and on the brink of decay. It’s that humbling sense of lost beauty that sweeps the player away. This is a fantasy universe conjured to get lost in and it’s easy to feel a sense of vertigo when Ico catches Yorda’s fair hand moments before she would have plummeted from a very high cliff. The same holds true for Shadow of the Colossus which buckles the knees once you’ve sent Wander scrambling to the tippity-top of a rampaging sentient sculpture, knowing that your grip gauge could give out at any moment sending him plummeting to the harsh ground below. With the greater draw range afforded by the PS3, these environments seems larger and more unforgiving than ever before.
Not every game is a work of art, nor is every painting worth its framing. Some say you know art when you see it? Or when you feel it? For me, true art stays with you forever. Playing through Ico and Shadow of the Colossus years after my original stirring encounters, I felt the same wistful, contemplative emotions that caught me under their spell the first time through. Given the chance to gaze upon Team Ico’s vision, now unencumbered by ancient technological restraints, I came away with clearer perspective. To my wondering eyes, these titles in their new pristine high def incarnation are special. Timeless, indeed.
Pages: 1 2