Shadow of the Colossus E3 2005 In-Depth Look

Sony gives us an intimate look at the latest artistic offering from the talented developers of ICO.

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Ever since ICO tugged at our heartstrings way back in 2001, we've been pining for something new from the game's masterful developers. Sony confirmed with us today that Shadow of the Colossus, the ICO team's newest baby, will be coming to the US in September. This is fortunate, because if we had to wait much longer for it, we might have to get all emo...and maybe even start a pensive Web journal or something. After a lengthy demo session with the latest version of this truly beautiful game at E3 today, we're looking forward to it all the more.

From the description Sony gave us, Shadow sounds as much like a puzzle game as it does action, adventure, or whatever you want to call it. As noted in our hands-on first look, the game revolves around a young boy and his girlfriend...or sister...or something. Frankly, the development team is playing the game's storyline close to the vest, so while we know the boy's companion is in peril, we don't know exactly what the pair's relationship is. The girl is dead, or in a coma, or otherwise incapacitated. Again, SCEJ won't specify quite what's going on. In any case, the boy brings his girl to a mystical temple, where her life force can be restored...but only if he unleashes the energy of 16 massive earthen beasts called the colossi. The goal of the game, then, is to bring down each of these creatures in turn to bring back the boy's lost love. It's your typical "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy fights 16 giant monsters" story.

Shadow of the Colossus' storyline is singularly focused on the boy's plight against the colossi. The boy has no name, he never speaks, nor is his character ever developed. In fact, there's no dialogue in the game at all aside from mysterious nonspeech, much like what we heard in ICO. The numerous colossi are the real stars of the show, and you'll fight them only with a magical sword, a bow and arrow, and your wits. You begin the game with all the equipment and skills with which you'll finish it, so the focus is entirely on the pursuit and defeat of the 16 colossi, which sounds like a purity of focus we can appreciate.

Each of the colossi in the game can be looked at like its own puzzle. When you've tracked one down, you'll get a brief cutscene that gives you the vaguest of hints as to how you should go about reaching and defeating it, and then you're left to your own devices to complete the task. We saw one of the more basic colossi, which requires you to both climb a number of cliffs and jump some ledges, all ICO-style, to reach it. The boy gets tired while climbing and hanging, though, which is indicated by an onscreen meter. If the boy hangs on too long, he'll get so tired, he'll fall off the cliff.

This fact was especially important once the boy reached the colossus itself, a lumbering giant with large patches of grasslike hair that could be used for climbing. As soon as the boy jumped on the colossus, it reacted to his presence immediately, thrashing around to shake him off. Climbing to the top of the monster was clearly an arduous process, so luckily there were occasional platforms along the way for the boy to rest on and recover his strength. You could hack away at any section of the colossus, but this only made a tiny dent in its lengthy life bar. The monster's true weak point was on its head. And when you find such a weak point, you'll have to secure your footing and really rear back with your sword. Then you have to plunge it in to do significant harm to the colossus.

The method of defeating this demo colossus was fairly straightforward, especially because the E3 demo of the game reveals its weak point from the beginning. In the final game, you'll have to reflect light with your sword onto each colossus to reveal its own weakness. As a result, each battle will be much more difficult to figure out than what we saw today. Some of the other colossi will reportedly be much more complicated to fight, too. A few of them are airborne, for instance, so you'll have to find a way to reach them and then bring them down. Or you might have to swim a long distance to reach a subaquatic colossus and then fight it underwater.

Some colossi will even be impervious to harm in the state in which you find them, so you may have to find a way to flip them over on their backsides or something similar to expose their weaknesses. You'll even engage in some combat on horseback. SCEA producer Kyle Shubel was understandably vague in describing the other monsters you'll see in the game, but we're promised a lot of variety as you progress through the story.

SCEA recognizes the special place the ICO team occupies in many hardcore gamers' hearts--Shubel even appropriately referred to the game as an "art piece"--so it's giving the team reasonably free reign to develop Shadow of the Colossus into exactly what the team wants it to be. It's got the same lovely stylistic sensibilities as ICO, as well as gameplay that's quite unlike anything we've seen before. The game is due out in Japan a little before it hits US shores, so we'll bring you more on it as soon as possible.

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