276: The Shadow and The Sword

The Shadow and The Sword

Many heroes wield weapons of legend, but it's what Wander's doesn't have in The Shadow of the Colossus that makes his quest so meaningful.

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I think that is an interesting take on one important part of Shadow of the Colussus' storytelling power. It's not just the bleak world and the somewhat obfuscated story and motives. It's the elegance of the tools and the deceptive simplicity of the task at hand.
In a lot of games as you say you start out with little and work your way up to a lot - even if there is an obligatory mid-game sequence where everything is stripped away and you're left with the minimalist option again... at least until you pick up the next thing lying on the ground or reclaim your hidden stash five minutes later. During that short sequence you might feel naked, vulnerable, but it won't last and eventually it will just become frustrating.

I wonder how many games could get away with it.

Side note: the first time I played Fallout 3 I somehow completely missed Megaton city. I went straight to the nearby school and painstakingly fought my way through it. what I couldn't carry I secreted away in a crate, making sure I could remember my way back to it. The school became my base of operations. I had no idea where to go or what I was doing. I felt lost and isolated, like I truly had escaped the confines of the vault and felt oppressed by the open sky itself.
And it was marvellous.

a cross between St. George slaying a dragon and Joe Pesci slamming a pen into a guy's neck.

THIS! This made me laugh my ass off.

I liked the simplicity of the tasks they asked of you, but as I've mentione many times, I sadly did not appreciate shadow of the collusus the first time I played it. I will need to re-buy it when the re-make comes out so I can appreciate it fully this time around.

A very well written in-depth article as always. I think alot of games these days could learn a thing or five from SotC.

Then compare Shadow of the Colossus with Dead Rising 2... pretty much the opposites of weapon philosophy.

An excellent article. The "spartan" nature of SoC is, indeed, part of what makes it memorable. Also noteworthy in this regard is the perennial favorite, PORTAL.

That was an amazing article and really made me think. SotC is a brilliant game and I'm glad an article based on it came up in this Issue.

Also at the bottom of the first page where it says:

and a wand that makes blocks. Just in case, you know, anyone needs any blocks.

The first thing that popped into my head was Minecraft. Just throwing that out there.

I've gotta get this game when they release the PS3 re-do version!

This was one of the best games you could have played in regards to the feeling of sheer isolation.

I am sure you could also have a similar game where you have to fight hoards of critters ala Borderlands mets Serious Sam and have to get this or that or the other only to have to face the same Colossi that can only be harmed in the same way by either the one sword that can use the glyphs to penetrate their hide.

This would not add to the pale chromatic scenery of the original, but it would be a great game that wold satisfy the slayer, the farmer AND the puzzle solver.

They would just have to name it something different enough not to ruin the original.....

The only other suggestion would be "modes". By choosing a color scheme (pale slate, bright chromatic, psychedelic nightmare) you choose what flavor the game is......

Classic tune and slate gives you Shadow.

Punk and Psychedelic gives you Serious Sam with a sword.

I dunno.

Your story just got me thinking!!! (Yeah, I smell smoke....why?)

I can relate to the line 'Why wield Excalibur if Masamune has better damage?'. I used to play a lot of RPG-styled games, and I loved it, however, after a while it sort of got depressing and annoying. Why was I constantly spending all my money and trading in all my newly aquired armour and arms for newer upgrades every hour or so? Hell, sometimes I would even grow attatched to a specific piece of hardware (a particularly shiny helm, a nicely curved sword, brutish pair of gauntlets) but be forced to depart with it because its number weren't high enough for the area.
Some games seem to be nothing but an endless, horrible, pointless shopping sim. I find myself thinking that almost any RPG-styled game's main story can be replaced by an idea that goes like this: A group of young teenager are all trying to win the world fashion show. They must enter as a team that is built on frendship and the everlasting love of being over emotive and sulky. First they all must grind away at their tedious day jobs (insert player prefered occupation; your input counts in an RPG game so you can choose the Burger Sac or Uninterested Mall Employee) making money for the day they go to the taillors and purchase the latest fashions (this would be the armoury in a regular RPG. And just like in a regular RPG the most expensive stuff is ALWAYS better). Once equiped the team heads out to the site of the fashion show, maybe wow-ing some passersby into throwing a few coins at them, and if you have purchased the most expensive clothes (or found something with the name 'ancient' in the title) there will be no way for your team to lose-however sulky and opposed to fashion shows they may B. Move to the next town, buy more fashions, go win more shows and an appropriate time later you will have won the game.
Sounds like every Final Fantasy title ever created eh?

My dear Mr. Main, I believe you've hit the head of the nail of the term "epic."

This term is a term that is much misused in today's society. The word epic denotes scale, a feeling of the small affecting the massive, like in some of the earliest epics: David and Goliath, the epic of Gilgamesh, the Homeric epics, and some more recent ones - such as Lord of the Rings or Star Wars.

Many video games don't really show this. You don't feel like the underdog. Outnumbered, maybe, but not overpowered. You are THE man, the only one that can do it, and you could defeat any odds. Best example, far past anything else: Master Chief. Just think about that for a minute.

Then there's games like Shadow of the Colossus. Wander does not feel like a typical hero. He feels like a kid who is way out of his league, but determined to accomplish this monumental task to save his loved one.

The other part is the weapons. Think of all the heroes, in any (fiction) genre, in any medium. Most of these heroes will have items attached to them - usually one or two. Whether it is a lightsaber, Anduril, or even a pen or a voice, they have one main tool associated with them. Even video game heroes such as those mentioned in the article, like Link or Master Chief, usually have their primary, identifying weapon, and sometimes armor or other secondary item, even though oftentimes it isn't really the main or even the most common weapon you use in the game.

More games need these. Specifically, more games need these to truly be the defining weapon, and have differing uses for the one weapon instead of relying on huge inventories to provide interesting gameplay. Surprisingly, many RPGs manage not to do this, despite the fact that they are the ones that really should the best. They don't even have one at all, most of the time, instead letting you choose your own - but then they don't capitalize on it. These weapons, instead of becoming your own Excalibur, become "Uber Sword of Awesome", with no personality, no story, and no individuality, identical to thousands or millions of others across the world. The main thing they need, even if you choose it yourself, is permanence, a name, and a distinctive style of some sort.

P.S: My favorite example of a truly defining weapon, both in the minds of the fans and in the canon of the game itself: the Keyblades.

Excellent piece! You captured a grace within the game's weapons that was enchanting to read: they're primal yet poetic. The jokes nudged me out of the vibe a bit, but were still funny.

Excellent article, but I just want to point out that I had a different initial impression... as a big Ico fan, I was blown away when Wanderer nuked the shadows in the beginning. That fight would have utterly destroyed Ico, but Wanderer beat them in a single move. As Ico was about a (mostly) normal boy fighting hordes of shadows with a STICK, obviously a trained warrior with an actual magic sword was going to need a much bigger challenge.

I frequently grow tired of the endless parade of upgrading gear in many games... Borderlands being the worst offender in recent memory. It's very well done, but you spend an absurd chunk of the game micromanaging your equipment (do you want a gun that does 4% more damage or one that is 1.5% more accurate and has a larger clip?)

Beautifully written article about the dichotomy between simplicity and Rube Goldberg-esque complexity in games.

Like the author states, there's nothing wrong with either. It's just that we have so many more games that focuses on the latter.

Rhymenoceros:
That was an amazing article and really made me think. SotC is a brilliant game and I'm glad an article based on it came up in this Issue.

Also at the bottom of the first page where it says:

and a wand that makes blocks. Just in case, you know, anyone needs any blocks.

The first thing that popped into my head was Minecraft. Just throwing that out there.

I had the same thought. xD

A wonderfully worded article about one of my favorite games. I used to often play a free demo of Ico when at a local Kmart when I was younger. When I heard about Shadow of the Colossus I was extremely excited, I went out and bought it the first day it came out.

It was everything I expected and more, great setting, unique and fun gameplay, and a masterful telling of story using very few words. Although I have to admit that I don't find as much pleasure playing it as I used to (partially because graphics that were considered amazing and beautiful back then haven't aged as well), but it will forever be one of my favorite gaming experiences.

I'm a sucker for a huge menu and a bag full of items.

That was a beautiful article, and I agree that setting the tone for weapons and the searching thereof defines how the game is to be played and paced. Most games that inundate you with weapons and items seem to almost be overcompensating for something. "Here's a big new shiny sword!" "Well, gee, it's okay I guess. Can I get some bombs next?" You're usually going from one place to another in search of the next weapon. (Zelda, anyone?)

And while it's a mechanic in and of itself, games of that sort usually preclude your ability to sidestep bits of story because you need X item in order to pass Y obstacle, and there's simply no other way around it. There's only a few games that say, "You don't have to get X item in order to pass through Y area, but it helps." THAT tends to add to the realism for me. Okay, I can forget about going to pick up the lantern, but then I have to play this level in pitch blackness. That's a bit shit.

The Shadow of the Colossus was definitely EPIC in that there was nothing else to focus on aside from you and your quest. That kind of immersion, going about your tasks, not wondering if you would get a bigger sword or other weapons or items, brought you straight to the action -- searching out the monsters and killing them. Other weapons and items would have been a distraction, and probably would have scaled back the feeling of immensity of the game.

Sometimes you can't get a bigger sword. You've just got to use what you're given.

I liked this article a lot. SotC is just one of those games. If there were more than it wouldn't be "sacred". The Spartan analogy I thought was spot on concerning the stories "Greek" nature. I have just had the pleasure of playing this game through again via the HD release. I would suggest anyone to do so.

Kermi:
I think that is an interesting take on one important part of Shadow of the Colussus' storytelling power. It's not just the bleak world and the somewhat obfuscated story and motives. It's the elegance of the tools and the deceptive simplicity of the task at hand.
In a lot of games as you say you start out with little and work your way up to a lot - even if there is an obligatory mid-game sequence where everything is stripped away and you're left with the minimalist option again... at least until you pick up the next thing lying on the ground or reclaim your hidden stash five minutes later. During that short sequence you might feel naked, vulnerable, but it won't last and eventually it will just become frustrating.

I wonder how many games could get away with it.

Side note: the first time I played Fallout 3 I somehow completely missed Megaton city. I went straight to the nearby school and painstakingly fought my way through it. what I couldn't carry I secreted away in a crate, making sure I could remember my way back to it. The school became my base of operations. I had no idea where to go or what I was doing. I felt lost and isolated, like I truly had escaped the confines of the vault and felt oppressed by the open sky itself.
And it was marvellous.

what you experienced was exactly what I wanted out of fallout 3, I was sad it didn't deliver :(.

I eventually just decided I was going to play it that way damn it! I wandered through the wastes alone, It was awesome

 

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