Shadow of the Colossus (ワンダと巨像, Wanda to Kyozō )

(Team Ico, 2005)

Published by SCEJ

Director: Fumito Ueda 上田 文人 – Producer: Kaido Kenji 海道 賢仁

Shadow of the Colossus has been credited over the years to be the best game ever released. The few critics questioning this judgement wrote that the absence of enemies on the path from one colosso to another and the wandering across the land were -simply put- boring. I don’t agree with this point of view. Actually the only issue concerning ICO (the previous game of the talented team) was brawling the shadows to protect Yorda. If I try to picture an enemy-free ICO where the interaction with Yorda is aimed only to puzzle-solving I can figure a better and more fluent game than it was in the end. Colossus has two distinct phases: exploration creates a bond with Agro and instils the sense of loneliness and open space that is so distinctive of this team, helped by the desaturated palette that gives both a sad and magic halo to the whole world. Fighting -on the other side- gives you the dimension both physical and psychological of your avatar and makes you think “Am I on the good side or on the bad?” . With these two simple mechanics Team Ico created a masterpiece in communication, in a world where silence is king and the text is usually encrypted.

The making of SOTC has been four years long. During those sixteen seasons Fumito Ueda, Hajime Sugiyama, Takuya Seki and Masanobu Tanaka tried to extrapolate the best from a declining Playstation 2. Although the game has been heavily criticized for the precarious framerate and the low resolution it had more than one string to its bow. It made a heavy use of HDR (High Dynamic Range) years before the likes of Halo 3. The first time the player emerges from the sanctuary the outside landscape is drawn almost completely white, which settles shortly to its proper brightness balance. That’s the Dynamic Tone Mapping, an example of how HDR works. Another feature was the absence of any visible loading during the movement from one region to another, and it’s hard to forget how wide were the landmarks scattered on the vast map. In the end these tricks, so important to give the game its personality, weighted on aspects such as framerate, which was probably considered less important than art direction by the team leaders.

The total amount of colossi designed by the team is unknown, what we know is that only sixteen of them made it to the final cut. Some very interesting treasured snapshots with commentary by Fumito Ueda on unreleased stuff such as other colossi, different weather and time of the day can be found in the Official Strategy Guide, while here you can download a few scans I found in the net starring Roc, Spider, Sirius, Phoenix, Griffin, Devil, Dormin, Worm, Monkey and GeckoA. It’s enough unreleased colossi to have almost a second episode ready from the start. Difficult to say if this is a painful waste or just the price to pay for the perfect game.

Now some informations about this whole portfolio. It all started on November the 22nd, 2010. My first emulation via PCSX2 Emulator rendered images at 1280×720 with no hacks or hardware antialiasing and my first Valus pic was as ugly as a scarred gypsy. But I loved it. I posted pics of this quality until the 9th colosso and I was quite proud of them to tell the truth. If you will step in some SOTC-related wikia you might see some of my old (uncredited) screenshots, and this means they were not so bad in the end. Then, some guys on NeoGAF gave me a couple of hints to get a better emulation at a higher resolution. Some tweaks at the emulator allowed me to add two specific hacks for this game that completely changed the quality of it: the OFFSET HACK fixed some shading issues (look at the eyes) but turned the signature bloom of Team Ico into a supernova that made the game unwatchable and unphotographed, so I was forced to use a second hack, ELIOTCOUGAR’S HACK which completely removed the bloom and actually gives my screenshots a very distinctive flavour (i.e. the purple skies). After this step-up I redid all the sets from scratch, and that’s what you can see now. As an acknowledgment for this labour of love some gaming-news-related websites (link & Link) posted my snapshots under the headline “New pics from Sony for the incoming Ico and Shadow of the Colossus HD collection”. Apparently only a few readers noticed it wasn’t an official Sony press-kit.

click on the thumbnails for the full galleries