A finely-tuned HD celebration of two incredible gaming experiences.

User Rating: 9.5 | The ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Collection PS3
The cries of an anguished, mountain-sized beast that echo across the expanse of a forbidden land as it collapses to the ground like a skyscraper after a horrendous earthquake. The uncertainty that has befallen the fate of a wayward outcast--- desperate to defend and cling to a one and only friend---his light in an encroaching darkness. The heavy price that must be paid and the unending sacrifices that need be dealt to bring a lost love from the throes of death. These are the themes of ICO and Shadow of the Colossus --- two games released on the PlayStation 2 respectively released in 2001 and 2009, and two different stories set in the same universe. In ICO, a young boy with a cursed fate has been condemned to a dark castle and must protect a mysterious girl from the malevolent forces that exist to hunt her down. Shadow of the Colossus visits a young man named Wander who, desperate to resuscitate his beloved from death, travels to a forbidden land to slay sixteen enormous Colossi that supposedly have the power to revive lost souls. These games appear to be simple adventure platformers, but they are far deeper than the sum of their parts. ICO places a great deal of emphasis on the physical and emotional interaction between its two main characters, supplanting this idealism within the context of both the storytelling and the framework of gameplay. Shadow of the Colossus was the first game to introduce thrilling platforming situations on enormous moving creatures, pushing the limits of the PS2 hardware beyond its very boundaries, and challenging conventional storytelling in ways few people could ever have thought of. The ICO Collection is a celebration of both of these beloved PS2 classics in their entirety---waiting to be enjoyed by those that have been to these worlds before and those courageous enough to take that very first step. In the end, either audience will likely remember their journeys for a long time.

Bluepoint Games, the studio behind the PS3 conversions, have done a remarkable job retrofitting these fantastic adventures to run on current high-definition displays, creating a visual splendor that not only does justice to their sources, but also brings them to life like never before. Furthermore, the addition of stereoscopic 3D and widescreen support bring so much more to a well-stocked buffet, implicating the feel of something old being new all over again. It's almost like finding a VHS tape of a movie you loved as a kid and converting it on a Blu-ray disc to be enjoyed in an entirely new way without really compromising the original source.

So how exactly do these games fare on the PS3 platform? ICO, for the most part, looks incredible despite its somewhat aged presentation. It runs as smoothly as you recall from the PS2 game, and plays as well as you remember it. Clearer character models, updated environments and even a couple of new surprises that weren't in the North American PS2 release have been daftly included as an added punch. High definition really brings out the beauty of the game's visual splendor, but it also unintentionally unravels a few ugly flaws like texture draw-in and noticeable aliasing blemishes. However, these are few and far between and shouldn't overly distract your overall experience in any way. And what about Shadow of the Colossus? I've personally gone on record proclaiming this particular game as one of my all-time favorite interactive experiences, and the ICO Collection recreates every nook, dovecote and cranny that players remember from the PS2 release. With an astounding 30 frames per second (roughly a third of the original game) Shadow of the Colossus plays and moves even more beautifully and fluidly than the PS2 release---despite some minor issues of texture draw-in and the sacrifice of that neat screen-blurring camera movement which I felt brought a sense of cinematic flair during the most intense Colossi fights. Other interesting tweaks from the PS2 game include an anti-climactic pause that occurs mere moments after you plunge your sword to extinguish a Colossus' very last, precious inch of its life.

If you have played both games before and are eager to revisit these beloved adventures on your PS3, don't do it for the sake of simply earning trophies. Those reasons alone are irrelevant when you think about how magnificent and epic both ICO and Shadow of the Colossus are in scope and interactive magnitude. Ground-breaking, emotional storytelling, superb production values and some of the most unique gameplay ever in a video game help set these games apart from everything else found on the market today. The ICO Collection packages these amazing experiences in one brilliant high-definition disc, inviting both ardent fans and interested newcomers to breathe in the aromatic splendor with a resulting, satisfied sigh. Whatever crowd you find yourself in, you owe it to yourself to add this important collection to your game library.