Shadow of the Colossus

Explore the Forbidden Land as Wander, a young warrior who must slay sixteen Colossi in order to restore the life of a sacrificed maiden.

Overview

Shadow of the Colossus is a third-person action-adventure game developed by Team Ico and originally published by Sony Computer Entertainment in 2005 for the PlayStation 2. The player controls Wander, a young warrior who seeks to revive a dead maiden named Mono. Wander's journey pits him against the massive "Colossi": sixteen powerful golems created long ago that roam the Forbidden Land, an uninhabited region of the world that is said to hold the means to restore the souls of the dead.

Shadow of the Colossus is generally considered to be both a prequel and a spiritual successor to Ico, Team Ico's first release. The game was later re-released for the PlayStation 3 along with Ico in a two-game HD collection.

Gameplay

The Fourth Colossus
The Fourth Colossus

The singular goal of Shadow of the Colossus is to find the sixteen colossi located throughout the world and kill them. The Forbidden Land that these colossi inhabit is both expansive and serene, with no other enemies in between the sixteen boss battles. Wander begins the game with a sword and bow and arrows, the only weapons provided to defeat all of the colossi.

Many boss fights combine elements of platforming and puzzle-solving, as different strategies will need to be executed in order to climb the larger colossi and reach their weak points. Some battles involve using the surrounding environment in very specific ways.

Weapons

The player only has two weapons throughout the course of the game: a sword and a bow.

  • By holding the sword up to the sunlight, the direction to the next colossi will be revealed. The reflected sunlight also reveals the location of their weak points.
  • The bow is much less a weapon as it is a tool. Players will find that arrows are largely ineffective against the colossi, but will attract their attention. Wander carries unlimited arrows.
  • Although players will not find any new weapons in their journey, it is possible for them to collect new items and upgrades by defeating the game's massive bosses again in a Time Attack mode. These new items range from a cloak that functions as a parachute to a whistling arrow capable of attracting the attention of the colossi to a the Queen's Sword from Ico.

Agro

Agro, Wander's loyal steed
Agro, Wander's loyal steed

Wander is joined by Agro, his horse and sole companion on this adventure. Many colossi require Agro's assistance to take down, whether it be to mount the colossus, or simply keep a step ahead. When riding Agro, players are able to use the bow and aim independently of the horse's direction, even firing arrows directly behind Wander. Players can also perform certain tricks and stunts, such as standing on top of the horse, hanging down to the side, or even jumping off at full speed - propelling the player to places otherwise out of reach.

One aspect that makes Agro unique is how alive he seems to the player. He will only go at the pace Wander makes him, he gets spooked by colossi and loud noises, and he often navigates away from ledges on his own.

Tracking

Before players fight the colossi, they will first need to track them down. This is made simple by Wander's magical sword. When standing in sunlight, pressing and holding the circle button will result in him raising his sword towards the sky. A beam of light emanating from the tip will then point directly to the colossi the player is hunting. It is then up to the player to navigate their way through the landscape towards their destination.

The Colossi

Once successfully finding these colossi, the next goal - take them down. As fearsome as these look, they do have weak points - which can be easily found by raising the sword. However, the challenge lies in actually reaching these areas. There are sixteen battles in total, all epic in scale, but each of the colossi has a unique weakness which will need to be exploited in order to reach and attack its weak point. The player must figure out how to get on the colossus, and often must get its attention by whistling or shooting at it with the bow. Eventually, players will be able to climb atop each beast, clinging to their fur as they try to throw Wander off, and once reaching each weak point, Wander will prepare his sword and gain strength by pressing or holding the square button. Upon a second a button press, the sword will be plunged into the colossi for massive damage, resulting in a fountain of black blood. By attacking the weak points, the colossus will eventually fall. Each battle could be considered a puzzle, and players will need to use their wits, the surrounding environment, and in some cases - their horse, in order to achieve victory.

Grip System

The game's HUD
The game's HUD

By holding the R1 button, Wander will grab onto what ever he can - ledges, fur of the colossi, even fish and birds -- and be able to move around whilst doing so in most cases. However, he won't be able to hold on indefinitely. As Wander climbs about, or struggles to hold on to a thrashing Colossi, he will steadily lose his grip. This is represented as a pink circle in the bottom right-corner of

the screen, and as grip deteriorates and the circle will slowly drain. When entirely depleted, Wander will then let go and fall. Thankfully, grip naturally regenerates when the player is not holding on to anything, and so players will need to pick choice moments during fights in which to regain their grip before continuing. A similar "grip" system is used while swimming. The grip meter slowly increases in size over the game, growing after defeating each Colossus.

Health

Like so many other games, a gauge representing health is displayed as a red bar at the bottom of the screen, which depletes as Wander takes damage. Falling or being stepped on will harm Wander. Wander will slowly regain health as time passes, but he can also crouch or pat Agro which will speed up the regeneration. By gathering fruit, the player can increase Wander's health.

Story

Wander arrives at the Shrine with Mono
Wander arrives at the Shrine with Mono

As the story begins, we see Wander riding his faithful horse, Agro, and carrying a body wrapped in a cloak into the Forbidden Land. As he approaches the huge Shrine of Worship at the center of the land, he lays the body upon the altar. As the cloak is removed, the body is revealed to be that of a young beautiful maiden named Mono.

Suddenly, a number of ancient shadow like creatures attempt to attack Wander, but they quickly back off as he draws an ancient sword. Soon after, an ethereal voice is heard, that of Dormin, a bodiless entity who is surprised to see Wander carrying the sword. Wander begs Dormin to grant Mono her soul back, but Dormin says he will need something from Wander in return. Dormin explains that Mono's soul can only return to her body if Wander traverses the land that he has entered and seeks out sixteen colossi that lie hidden throughout the land, and slay them, an act which can only be achieved by using the ancient sword.

He quickly agrees, but Dormin warns him that he will pay a great penalty in return for Mono's soul, but this does not hinder Wander, who immediately sets out to follow his sword and find the sixteen colossi.

Following the death of each Colossus, Wander appears more distorted and depleted. He grows paler, his hair darker, and small horns grow from his head. On the contrary, Mono's body appears stronger with each Colossus killed, and her voice is heard briefly throughout the game.

After the death of the Twelfth Colossus, a cutscene shows a shaman, Lord Emon, who leads a group of warriors into the Forbidden Land.

The Third Colossus
The Third Colossus

As Wander proceeds, he is hurried by Dormin to conquer the final sixteenth beast. On his way to the final Colossus, Wander travels by horseback over a long stone bridge that immediately begins to collapse. Agro, sensing the danger, reaches the end and suddenly bucks Wander off, who lands safely, whilst Agro collapses along with the bridge.

As Wander defeats the last of the Colossus, Lord Emon and his gang of warriors appear in the Shrine of Worship as the last of the idols representing the Colossi crumbles to the ground. Soon after, Wander appears in the temple, with his eyes and skin entirely pale and his head showing two protruding horns. As Wander struggles to reach to Mono, Lord Emon declares Wander to be 'possessed' and a warrior shoots him in his leg with a crossbow. Another warrior stabs him with his sword through the chest. As Wander crumples to the ground, his blood sprays black and he falls in a very similar fashion to the sixteen Colossi he had just slain.

Dormin then possesses Wander's body, transforming into a shadowy giant. He explains that his own soul was cast from his body to limit his power. As Emon's men flee, Emon casts the sword into a pool of water in the back of the shrine. A blinding light is emitted, which consumes both Dormin and Wander. Emon and his men run across the bridge at the entrance of the Shrine of Worship as it begins to collapse. As Emon and his men safely escape, Emon ponders Wander's fate, hoping that one day he will be able to atone for his actions.

Back in the shrine, Mono awakens from her sleep and rises from the altar. As Agro wanders into the temple with an injured hind leg, Mono follows him to the back of the Shrine towards the pool of water where Emon drew Dormin and Wander. There they find an infant with two horns on his head. Agro continues to lead them to the top of the shrine, where a secret garden lies, overlooking the forbidden lands as the game ends.

The Sixteen Colossi

Concept art of the First Colossus
Concept art of the First Colossus

No official names have ever been assigned to the game's sixteen Colossi, but fans have given unofficial monikers to each of them for the sake of reference. Agro may also participate in certain Colossi battles when appropriate. After completing the game once, players can try a special Time Attack mode for each Colossus during subsequent playthroughs of the game, and clearing these challenges can unlock new items for Wander to use.

#NicknameAgroTime Attack
(Normal)
Time Attack
(Hard)
1ValusNo2:302:50
2QuadratusYes4:004:30
3GaiusNo6:005:00
4PhaedraYes5:305:00
5AvionNo5:305:30
6BarbaNo3:306:30
7HydrusNo12:008:00
8KuromoriNo8:007:30
9BasaranYes7:305:30
10DirgeYes6:005:00
11CelosiaNo5:305:30
12PelagiaNo9:3010:00
13PhalanxYes12:0013:00
14CenobiaNo9:009:00
15ArgusNo11:0011:30
16MalusNo9:3013:00

Extras

Time Attack

The Thirteenth Colossus
The Thirteenth Colossus

After completion of the game, a Time Attack mode is unlocked and can be accessed on a second playthrough. For every two Colossi the player defeats within the allotted time, Dormin will give Wander a special item. These include items which can distract Colossi, make Wander invisible to the Colossi, increase damage Wander does to Colossi, or decrease damage Wander receives from Colossi. There is also an item which helps Wander detect nearby white-tailed lizards, and a map of all the fruit trees in the game.

There are both normal and hard mode versions of time attack mode, and the respective difficulty level must be completed once in order to access them. After completing the game on a save file, post credits, the game will ask players if they would like to begin a New Game+ save. Once in the New Game+ save, by praying at the statues (or rubble) of any of the Colossi, players can access the time attack mode.

The items received from completion of the time attack mode are as follows.

Challenges
Cleared
NormalHard
2Whistling ArrowsHarpoon of Thunder
4Cloak of ForceSword of the Sun
6Mask of StrengthFruit Tree Map
8Lizard Detection StoneShaman's Cloak
10Fruit Tree MapLizard Detection Stone
12Mask of PowerShaman's Mask
14Cloak of DeceptionCloak of Desperation
16Flash ArrowQueen's Sword

Completion of all the time trials in each mode also grants access to a brown (normal) and white (hard) version of Agro, by holding down the square or circle buttons, respectively, while loading a save.

The Secret Garden

The secret garden is a hidden area located near the top of the castle, and is accessed by climbing up the side of the castle. However, the ascent is long and only veteran players will be able to reach this area due to the high level of grip required to reach the top successfully. Although there isn't much to do here, the fruit in the garden will decrease the player's health and grip meter when eaten.

Upgrades

Shedding light on the path
Shedding light on the path

Although Wander's grip naturally increases after subsequent boss battles, it is possible for players to manually increase this. After spotting one of the special lizards located throughout the world that have a white tail, the lizard can be attacked with the sword, while the tail itself can be detached from the body with a well-aimed arrow. Wander can then consume the tail with the circle button, increasing his grip slightly.

In a similar manner, players can increase Wander's health by locating the fruit trees dotted throughout the landscape. Fruit can be picked off using the bow, and then eaten off of the ground to increase Wander's maximum health slightly.

Relation to Ico

Ico and Yorda
Ico and Yorda

Shadow of the Colossus is assumed to be set in the same universe as Ico - Team Ico's previous game - and is seen as a prequel, most likely taking place generations beforehand. Although the connections are not explicit, there are enough common elements to draw some conclusions.

Ico is believed to be a descendant of Wander and Mono, an ancestry with a cursed heritage marked by boys who grow horns. The Queen uses the sacrifices of the horned children as the source of her power and physical longevity, presumably drawing from Dormin's power granted to Wander. Yorda, the girl to be sacrificed in Ico, also shares stark visual similarities with Mono from SotC, along with the nature of their thwarted sacrifices. The two stories are also connected by the same thread of beauty, elegance, and mystery.

Remake

A PlayStation 4 remake was announced with a trailer at the 2017 E3 Sony Press Conference for 2018. All the content will be the same as the original and the HD remaster but unlike The Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection, all the visual assets will be remade to bring the graphics more in line with the capabilities of the PS4 hardware. Another addition is a control scheme players will be more familiar with, though you will be able to change back to the original configuration. This production is being handle by Bluepoint Games, a development studio known for their work in bringing HD remasters of PS2 games to the PS3 including the aforementioned Ico & Shdow of the Colossus Collection, God of War Collection, and Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, as well as the Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection to the PS4.

Additional Information

  • The game was featured in a movie called Reign Over Me, which starred Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle. Shadow of the Colossus was chosen to appear in the film because of the falling colossi's resemblance to the falling of the Twin Towers in New York - a key concept in the movie.
  • Shadow of the Colossus was called "Nico" while in development. This is a combination of "Ni", the Japanese word for "two" and "Ico", a previous game from this developer. This lead to fan speculation that it would indeed be a direct sequel to the cult-hit, Ico. The game was originally devolved as a co-op game where up to 4 players would work together on taking down a Colossus. Concept video of a very early build of "Nico" can be found here.

Soundtrack

This album was composed by Kow Otani and released in Japan by King Records on December 7, 2005.

Shadow of the Colossus Original Soundtrack: Roar of the Earth

Soundtrack Cover art.
Soundtrack Cover art.

Total length: 75:49

  1. Prologue -To The Ancient Land-
  2. Prohibited Art
  3. Commandment
  4. Black Blood
  5. Resurrection
  6. Sign of the Colossus
  7. Grotesque Figures
  8. The Opened Way
  9. The End of the Battle
  10. Idol Collapse
  11. Green Hills
  12. A Violent Encounter
  13. Revived Power
  14. Lakeside
  15. [Silence]
  16. In Awe of the Power
  17. Wander's Death
  18. The Farthest Land
  19. Creeping Shadow
  20. A Messenger From Behind
  21. Counterattack
  22. Sky Burial
  23. A Closed-Off City
  24. A Liberated Guardian
  25. A Despair-Filled Farewell
  26. Prayer
  27. Swift Horse
  28. Gate Watcher of the Castle Ruins
  29. Sanctuary
  30. Demise of the Ritual
  31. A Pursuer
  32. Premonition of Revival
  33. Epilogue
  34. Hope
  35. The Sunlit Earth
  36. Memories
  37. Wilderness
  38. Voice of the Earth
  39. Marshlands
  40. Anger
  41. Final Battle
  42. The Farthest Land (Reprise)