A game is at the top of its form when it evokes complex emotions. Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies is just such a game. Yes, it's a string of aerial combat missions, but its story provides perfectly pitched context. As I destroyed my nemesis, the enemy pilot known as Number 13, I knew it could end no other way. Yet the game had forced me to see him as an equal, as a pilot of like mettle, as a human. As they say, in another place and another time, we might have been friends.
Shadow of the Colossus appears to be another such game. It is a sequence of combat missions against impossibly large colossi, just as AC04 was a sequence of dogfights. Each colossus is different, and each you can reason how to best with just your sword, your arrows, and your horse. Without context, however, it really is just a sequence of boss battles (as others have noted).
For hours I battled colossi, watching infinitesimal bits of story trickle out. Then the game sucker punched me emotionally. Bravo. I can appreciate that accomplishment, but the shock also brought a moment of clarity: the game was not what it seemed.
[Note: I'm now going to give away the plot of the game. Stop reading now, if that bothers you.]
Shadow of the Colossus was telling one story and I was hearing another. All along I'd figured I was a David, mistaken for Hercules, sent to perform 16 labors, 16 assassinations, all to raise from the dead a woman for whom I'd risk everything. As it turns out, that woman mattered not at all to me.
My companion on each mission was Agro, my faithful horse. On my first mission, he sped me across the vast plain, and faithfully returned to me at its conclusion. On the second, and the third, and every other, he stayed as near my side as possible, although never in the way. When I needed his speed in a battle against a colossus, he complied without fear. When I was in a hurry and took shortcuts he could not, he would find a way past a cliff or around a mesa and fly to my side without being asked.
As I raced to my battle with the final colossus, I needed his speed one more time. A huge, unstable bridge over a chasm stood between me and the last battleground. With his speed, I could cross the bridge before it collapsed, and as we neared the other side -- I do not know precisely what happened -- I ended up on stable ground and he fell to his death.
At that moment, I realized that -- as a player -- I didn't care a whit for that dead girl. Only Agro mattered, the only living thing I'd known the whole game long. His death evoked a rage which fueled my showdown with the final colossus. I didn't care whether it raised the girl from the dead or not. I just wanted to destroy something.
And I did destroy the final colossus. There was a long sequence at the end that's really not very enlightening. Yes, the girl was resurrected. No, I didn't care. What mattered to me was that I'd lost my horse.
And that's my point: the game would be more with less. I already made my own experience as I played, tackling the colossi and exploring the world with my horse. If you take away every bit of the contrived story about the girl, just leave the battles and Agro's faithful companionship, the game gets a lot better.
My name is Davidi Silberstein and I am Content manager at Speedbit. Speedbit is the creator of Download Accelerator Plus (over 115 million registered users).
I am writing to you with regard to your very impressive “Curmudgeon gamer” which I really like and find very useful and entertaining (as I’m an avid and hopelessly addicted gamer for years (-: ). I initially discovered it through “Games * Design * Art * Culture” blog, and I try to read it regularly.
I would be very happy if we could feature it on the Speedbit website and perhaps even on the Download Accelerator Plus software, so that it could help our users find quality gaming content and help them sort the crème from the crop
You can see how it will be implemented here:
under Top Bloggers.
Currently, we are revamping our Games section in FileRatings.com, so timing is ideal for us.
If you will agree, we will feature your blog and link to it as is within our top frame.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Keep up the great work with Curmudgeon gamer
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i think the dissonance between the player's emotions and wander's emotions were part of the point of shadow of the colossus, and agro's death and the killing of the colossi are extensions of that idea.
I felt the same way when Argo died. I don't think a game had ever made me so pissed and so sad at once.
When argo died, i couldn't wait to take down that last collosi.