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Shadow of the Colossus
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You're alone in a barren wilderness with nothing but the sound of the wind and your trusty horse to keep you company.  The love of your life is dead.  But the ancient gods offer you a way you can bring her back to life.  To do that, you must track down and slay sixteen powerful colossi.
 
Shadow of the Colossus is the spiritual successor to the underrated and astounding Ico.  While not a sequel, Shadow of the Colossus shares much in common with its predecessor, from its artistic style to its sense of wonder, beauty, and character.  Like Ico, Shadow of the Colossus invokes a sense of loneliness and complete abandonment in the player, with a vast and beautiful wasteland replacing Ico's crumbling castle.  Shadow of the Colossus also has that trademark sun-drenched and almost ethereal graphics.  Shadow of the Colossus also emphasizes simplicity over big budget Hollywood-style sensibilities.  But whereas Ico was a heart-wrenching fairy tale with a heavy emphasis on puzzle-solving, Shadow of the Colossus is a soul-stirring adventure about you and sixteen of the most earth-shattering boss battles you'll ever face in a video game.
 
It's hard to decide how the average gamer might react to Shadow of the Colossus.  It's a very slow-moving game that rewards imagination.  There are no dungeons.  No small fry minions for you to beat up.  Hardly any story.  And the puzzles just come in the form of figuring out how to climb the colossus and getting it to expose its weak points.  It's just you, your horse, a vast wilderness, sixteen giant among giants, and not much else.  The story comes from when your mind fills in the blanks based on the movies, music, and what you see on screen.  To the average gamer drunk on gutsy games like Halo, this might seem boring.  Taken at face value, Shadow of the Colossus might seem empty and repetitive.  But take a step back and analyze its artistic qualities, and it becomes breathtaking.
 
But make no mistake, the technical side of this game is unparalled.  While not the most graphically proficient PS2 game, Shadow of the Colossus expertly uses sound, movement, and design to create a brilliant sense of scale.  While the colossi vary in shapes and sizes, including one no bigger than a bull, most fit their namesake.  These are massive creatures.  Think of the largest creature you've ever fought in an RPG and multiply that by ten.  The sense of mass and power is amazingly precise as the colossi roar and bellow and move ever so slowly.  But one hit and you take massive damage.  And yet even though they are your foes, you can't help but think of them as majestic animals.  To this day I never get sick of watching one lumbering by or soaring overhead or swimming underneath, imposing its aura upon me.  It's simply awe-inspiring.  A highlight of this game involves taking down a giant turtle the size of a football field and seeing the screen and landscape shudder on a scale that can only be described as "Biblical".  Even the death throes of these creatures are larger-than-life, and when you do finally take a colossus out, you might even feel a hint of sadness when you realize that such a majestic and possibly ancient creature is pouring out its life essence.
 
To sum it up, Shadow of the Colossus does justice to the Ico legacy.  While Ico is still slightly superior, Shadow of the Colossus is still one of the most important games ever created.  It may not be every gamer's cup of tea and it may be too short, but it's an artistic and at times terrifying beauty that shouldn't be analyzed at its base level of just galloping around and taking down monsters.
 
Grade: Superb

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