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Shadow of the Colossus (PS4, 2018) - title

In a Nutshell


  • Replicates original almost exactly
  • Maintains original game feel
  • Environments are more natural, organic, and less washed-out
  • Texture pop-in is much less of a distraction
  • Dedicated roll button
  • Colossi are spectacular to behold


  • Trophy notifications interrupt colossi death scenes
  • Crisp, vivid visuals are less bleak
  • No new content (such as cut colossi)
  • Adds explicit tie-ins to Ico and The Last Guardian

Overall Impression :B+
A few stumbles aside,
the remake faithfully captures the magic of the original

Shadow of the Colossus - cover

Bluepoint Games
Originally Developed by:
Team Ico (Sony Japan Studio)

Sony Interactive Entertainment

PlayStation 4 (via retail disc or PSN digital download)


Original release date:
18 October, 2005
Remake release date:
6 February, 2018

Puzzle platform adventure

ESRB Rating: T (for Teen) for:
Blood, Violence

single player

Official site:

I debated whether to turn this into a retro review of Shadow of the Colossus, or to focus this review on whether or not this particular remake manages to re-capture the magic of the original. Honestly though, what could I possibly say about Shadow of the Colossus that hasn't already said? I might as well try to write a retro review of Citizen Kane or Hamlet!

The original game (released in 2005 by Fumito Ueda's Team Ico at Sony) is a classic and a masterpiece of interactive art. It ranks right up there with games like Portal, Half-Life, Super Mario Bros., and Tetris as a contender for the title of "best video game ever made". Virtually every creative decision that the original team made was the absolute perfectly right decision to make. From the desolate and bleak, yet hauntingly-beautiful landscape. To the immense sens of scale and grandeur that embodies almost every crevice of the game and the sheer smallness of the protagonist himself. To the intimidating, yet majestic aesthetic design of the colossi themselves. To the bittersweet death animations of the Colossi, accompanied by Kow Otani's outstanding score, that makes you question the rightness of your actions. To the way that Agro's independent actions, slightly imprecise controls, and occasional insubordination sell the idea that she's an autonomous living character, rather than a simple vehicle that you pilot as an extension of the player avatar. To the decision to not drag down the game's pace or pollute the overworld with a single encounter with grunt enemies. And on and on...

Shadow of the Colossus was like a digital vacation when it was released in 2005.

It's as perfect a video game as has ever been made. It's the centerpiece of any "games as art" argument (if we still even have to have that argument anymore). Critics and analysts before me have already consecrated Shadow of the Colossus far beyond my petty powers to add or detract.

Bluepoint is the masters of remasters and remakes

Why couldn't Bluepoint have done
the Silent Hill HD Collection?!

Because of how absolutely brilliant the original game is, I had reservations about any attempt to remaster or remake it, especially after the debacle that was Hijinx Studios' Silent Hill HD Collection. Fortunately, however, the remake privilege (or burden, depending on how you want to look at it) was given to Bluepoint Games, the veritable masters of remasters and HD collections. Bluepoint had already released an HD remaster of Shadow of the Colossus on the PS3 back in 2011. I never played it because I thought the PS2 version of the game still looked fantastic and didn't need to be remastered to be enjoyed. That HD remaster was very well-received by the general public, as have been all of Bluepoint's remasters, as far as I am aware. Why couldn't Konami have given Silent Hill to these folks?!

This PS4 release isn't a simple remaster. This isn't just a matter of taking the original content, upscaling it, and presenting it in an HD aspect ratio (which they already did). This is a genuine remake, with new assets, altered controls, and rebuilt code. It's not quite a remake on the scale of Capcom's Resident Evil remake for the Gamecube. This version of Shadow of the Colossus will not feature any new content (with one minor exception), nor will it redesign any parts of the game the way that Capcom redesigned Resident Evil. So if you were hoping for some of the colossi or map regions that were cut from the original game to be implemented, sorry, that isn't happening (unless such a thing comes out as DLC...).

New controls, same basic feel

Bluepoint did attempt to update and modernize the controls. This was a potential cause for consternation from me, as I really liked the feel of the original game, particularly the horseback-riding controls. I feared that changes to the controls might negatively impact this game feel in order to cater to modern player preferences. Like, maybe they would map galloping Agro and slowing her down to the trigger buttons or some nonsense like that which makes her feel like a car in a driving game. Or maybe they would map attacking to the shoulder or trigger buttons (like Dark Souls). Those sorts of drastic changes thankfully didn't happen, and the new control scheme works just fine. A few buttons have been remapped, but the overall feel of the game remains intact.

Controls have been remapped, but the game feel is still almost identical.

They key addition is a dedicated roll button, so that you no longer have to duck-and-jump in order to dodge attacks. This required that the "action" button be overloaded to the same button as attacking, since actions are rarely used and are mostly contextual. This did miff me a bit, since it means that sometimes when I go to pet Agro (because she's such a good, pretty horsey), I accidentally hit her with my sword instead. That's kind of the exact opposite of what I want. Fortunatley, Agro doesn't suffer friendly fire damage, nor does she seem to take it personally.

Fortunately, Bluepoint did include the original control mappings, though they didn't include the option to completely remap the controls (which was available in the original release). So if you were unhappy with Shadow of the Colossus' original controls, and don't like the new ones either, you're out of luck. The original game didn't (as far as I can recall) use any of the PS2's analog button functionality, so the changes in controller hardware haven't had any negative effects on the game's controls.

In fact, I think the biggest gripe that I have with this remake is the trophy notifications. Adding trophies is fine. The problem is that the obligatory trophy notifications for defeating a colossus occurs during the colossi death animations (did the 2011 remaster do this too?). The chime interrupts Kow Otani's brilliantly bittersweet score, and the pop-up serves as a minor distraction from the majestically animated deaths of the colossi. It's a minor little complaint, but those death scenes were one of the emotional linchpins of the original game, and adding anything that changes them or distracts from them is a problem.

Trophy notifications interrupt the game's brilliantly melancholy colossus death scenes.

This isn't the "You defeated" message from Dark Souls that acts as a celebratory counterpoint to the "You Died" message that you've been looking at over and over again. You're not supposed to feel happy when you defeat these creatures. You're supposed to feel at least somewhat guilty, or heartbroken, or at least melancholy that you just murdered a majestic creature, especially the ones that are non-hostile and who were just minding their own business until you and your magic sword started crawling all up on them. Having a trophy notification pop up to explicitly congratulate you on your accomplishment completely undercuts the tone of these original scenes.

The colossi deaths are supposed to be the tonal opposite of Dark Souls' "You Defeated" message,
which acted as a celebratory counterpoint to that game's frequent "You Died" messages.

The fix for this should be super-simple: move the trophy notification to during the tunnel cutscene back to the central shrine. But then again, achievements are so ubiquitous now, that I bet nobody at Bluepoint even had a second thought about it. I've played games before in which the achievement notifications pulled me slightly out of the experience, but it's honestly something that I rarely notice anymore either. It stands out in this case, however, because I did play the original Shadow of the Colossus, and I remember how those cutscenes made me feel. I still tear up a little bit whenever I see them. Not so in the remake.

Changes for the sake of changes

Something that kind of threw me off right from the start is that the opening seems to have changed. The moon seems to be a greater presence than in the original, and the canyon seems to be rockier. In the original, the skies were mostly overcast, and the moon was just a faint glow behind the clouds. In the remake, the moon is clearly visible through gaps in the clouds, and is much better defined.

The opening has a much rockier canyon, and the moon is much more prominent than in the original.

The environments that Wander travels through also seem to be a little different. Most notably, the flat grassland area that was featured in the original opening has been replaced with just more forest setting. This has the effect of making the trip seem shorter than in the original. In the original game, the changes in landscape in the opening implied [to me] that Wander's trip to the Forbidden Land was an ordeal -- that it may have taken him days, or maybe even weeks to get there. He travels through a canyon, through a forest, across a grassy plain, through storms and relatively clear skies, and through yet another forest before finally finding his way to the gateway to the Forbidden Lands. Here I go yet again talking about how changes in editing and presentation affect the sense of scale of a fictional setting. In the remake, it looks like he's basically just traveling through a single forest, and that his whole trip takes maybe a day or two. This makes the Forbidden Lands feel less remote and isolated, and decreases the sense of commitment that Wander originally exhibited.

The environments that Wander travels through in the opening are also changed. More trees have been added.

I also prefer the original title screen. Originally, as Wander enters the Forbidden Land, and stands at the far end of the bridge, the camera pans out to show the length of the bridge to Dormin's temple. The title and menu were then overlaid on top of that shot. In the new version, this shot just pans to the grey, cloudy sky and the game's title fades in, with a prompt to "Press any button". The actual main menu is just an image of Dormin's temple. It's a far inferior visual.

The original opening segued into the original main menu [RIGHT], which looked much better in my opinion.

I also noticed that Dormin's voice seems to have been changed. There's now much more emphasis on the feminine aspects of Dormin's voice. It doesn't bother me; just something that I noticed.

Another thing that seems to be missing from the original game is a white/gray filter that seemed to have been applied to the whole game, which made light look softer and everything look a bit duller and more washed-out and even a bit murky and hard to distinguish. Probably because Bluepoint wanted to make the images as clear as possible, this effect seems to be gone from the remake, without any option to enable it. Because of this, everything in the game looks darker or more colorful. For example, Wander's skin looks much less pale than in the original, vegetation looks much more green, and water looks much more blue.

The original had a white filter [RIGHT] that made the whole game look brighter, but also a bit washed out.

The remake looks a lot crisper, and you can see a lot more of the detail. On the surface, this would seem to be an improvement. But that washed-out grayness that permeated the entire original game was one of its signature aesthetic qualities. The whole game looked gray and washed-out, which made it look bleak and depressing. Now the environments all look much more alive and vibrant. I'm not really sure how I feel about this particular change.

A similar change is that mountains and rock-faces are now much more rocky and jagged. In the original game, a lot of the rock textures were very faded and flat. The new textures certainly look more appealing, but the flatness of the old textures contributed to a sense that the Forbidden Land was this ancient place. All the rocks had been eroded smooth from the centuries or millennia of abandonment and negligence. Again, I'm not sure how I feel about this change.

In both these cases (and the trophy notifications), a little bit of the original tone of the game is lost. This is by no means a bastardization on the level of something like removing the fog from Silent Hill (sacrilege!) or Greedo shooting first. It just means that the sense of desolation is conveyed strictly by the size and emptiness of the game map, rather than by that gray murkiness. The age of the land is conveyed by decrepit ruins and overgrowth, rather than by the eroded quality of the natural landscape. It's not a huge loss, as the game still maintains a negligent, desolate, morose feel without these particular attributes. It just isn't communicated as thoroughly through the visuals as it used to be.

Still the same masterpiece of a game...

The above changes are pretty much all superficial, and none of them outright breaks the game. The most important thing is that the actual gameplay, story, [most of the] tone, and themes of the game are retained verbatim. I'm not going to spend too much time discussing why this game plays so well because, as I established in the opening, there's very little that I can say that hasn't already been said.

Inverse kinematic still sells the idea of Wander being a tiny, clumsy kid barely scraping by

The system of Inverse kinematics and physics engine still expertly sells the sense of scale and the disparity in size between Wander and the colossi and environments. Wander feels small and and bit clumsy, and the player must constantly be aware of the terrain around you. If you try to roll down stairs, you can still faceplant and leave yourself open to being stomped on. You can still stumble over rocks. On the more unrealistic end: yes, you can still fall a hundred feet and survive. I haven't seen Wander limp around after a particularly long plunge, so I'm not sure if that's still in the game or not.

Bluepoint also resisted any urge to re-design the game with a more modern design ethos or cliched trends. They didn't turn the game into a sandbox open world. The original game's structure and pacing is in-tact. You aren't free to sequence-break and wander into any colossus' lair to defeat it whenever you want. They also didn't do anything stupid like add survival mechanics or crafting or online co-op.

All the colossi are replicated practically verbatim. The only one that seems different to me is the equine colossus (Phaedra). I don't recall this particular colossus being so aggressive in the original game. In the original, I remember that particular colossus being almost completely passive. It (along with the flying desert serpent) was always one of the colossi that I felt most guilty about killing because it seemed so gentle and curious. I remember being able to wander around its feet at my leisure, and it would just stare at me curiously. In the remake, almost as soon as it stood up, it tried stabbing at me with its legs.

Most of the colossi are exactly as I remember them: spectacular

Other than that, the remaining colossi played out pretty much exactly as I remember them. The lightning-spewing tortoise (Basaran) and the underground colossus with the epic beard (Barba) are still both total assholes. The taurus colossus (Quadratus), flying colossus (Avion), and the sand worm (Dirge) are still intense, kinetic battles that are as impressive to watch as they are to play. The flying sand serpent (Phalanx) is still an absolutely majestic beast that I always regret having to kill. And the two small, bull colossi are both kind of disappointments.

... warts and all

The commitment to replicating the game as it was, however, means that what very few faults were actually present in the original game are still present. Perhaps the biggest flaw in the original game that is retained in the remake is that hints are still offered too early. The remake does not wait more than a minute or two before it spills the beans on how to beat the colossus you're faced up against, whether you wanted the hint or not. You can turn the hints off in the menu, but I wish they had included a setting to delay them for longer.

Hints are still given too soon, with no option to delay them long enough to give you more time to observe the colossi.

You also still can't change the difficulty level mid-game. I guess this ties into the game's unlock system, but I feel like there could have been other ways to provide unlocks. The game still independently tracks the difficulty level on which you beat each colossus (as well as the time it took you to do so), so there's no reason that the game couldn't just unlock the "Hard" rewards after you've beaten all 16 colossi on the hard difficulty.

The various shrines scattered around the land also still feel mostly pointless. In fact, they are completely pointless now. In the original, they were used to save your game while you were exploring. Now, you can save your game at any time from the pause menu. This is another change that I'm not particularly fond of, as it completely eliminates any sense of being lost and trying to find your way back to a shrine if you want to save and quit. Sure, that was a bit annoying in the original game, but it's just one more mechanic that contributed slightly to the bleak tone of the game.

Now, the shrines only heal Wander. But since there's no enemies in the overworld, and you heal after returning to Dormin's Shrine after each colossus battle, you never need to heal at these smaller shrines anyway. Even if you take fall damage while exploring, Wander has a slow health regen, so there's no reason you'd ever have to stop and pray at the shrines to heal. The only thing these shrines do is to warn you of the location of a lizard that you can kill to improve your grip gauge, as a lizard is always found on or near these shrines. If nothing else, they still serve as visual landmarks when navigating the map.

On the other end of the spectrum, there wasn't much to improve about the original release, but this package does make some improvements -- though they're mostly just extra levels of visual polish. The environment does look admittedly better. It looks much more natural and organic. More importantly is the jarring texture pop-in that plagued the PS2 release are also much less of a problem. It still happens in many places, but generally speaking, objects in the distance look very sharp, and the higher level of detail fades in much further away and is much less noticeable. There's some ambient fog and particle effects in some areas that also look astounding, and the lighting engine is improved across the board.

Texture pop-in is much less of a problem, and environments look much more organic.

Another ride with Wander and Agro

If you were expecting (or hoping) for Bluepoint to implement and add in any of the infamous cut colossi or map regions, then you'll be disappointed. Though I honestly wouldn't be surprised if these show up as DLC at some point, as each of the known cut colossi has a unique play style or gimmick to it that differentiates it from all the other colossi in the game, and I'd love to be able to take a stab at them. The only new content that Bluepoint added is some easter eggs and one extra collectible hunt that unlocks an extra weapon. I always felt that exploring the well-realized environments of Shadow of the Colossus was supposed to be a reward in and of itself, so I'm not keen on the idea of adding extra scavenger hunts. The fruit and lizard tails were perfectly acceptable because they actually provided some in-game benefit to finding. The gold coins just feel like achievement bait.

A new gold coin collectible was added, as well as easter eggs for Ico and Last Guardian

There's also a couple of explicit easter egg references to Ico and The Last Guardian. A watermelon can be found on the "Ico beach", and a Trico food barrel can be found hidden in a cave. These are also not additions that I'm particularly fond of. The connections between the game was always supposed to be tenuous and speculative, even though the creator has outright stated that Shadow is supposed to be a prequel to Ico. These easter eggs in the remake aren't intended to be canonical connections between the games though; they're just easter eggs, so I'm not going to get bent out of shape over them.

Despite my nitpicks, this remake is a pretty darn good one. It is about as faithful as one could expect from a remake without being a straight port. The level of visual improvement goes far and above a simple upscaling of textures and resolution, even though it does come at the cost of some of the original's bleak aesthetic style. I wish that this download had included the original version of the game as well (or the 2011 remaster) so that fans could enjoy both games, but oh well. Unlike with the Silent Hill HD Collection, you're not going to come away from Shadow of the Colossus (2018) questioning why anybody liked the game to begin with. The remake is still fantastic, and is well worth making a trip back to the Forbidden Lands for one more ride with Agro and Wander.

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Comments (3) -

03/05/2018 22:07:45 #

It's important to point out that you can disable trophy notifications. It's under the Settings menu on your PS4's menu. I've had my trophy notifications turned off ever since they first implemented the option on the PS3 because I hate the way they interrupt my game and it subconsciously pressures me to get more of them to trigger that reward center of my brain. I'd rather enjoy the game as it is on its own without any kind of meaningless virtual reward coaxing me to do more than what the basic game itself asks of me.

03/07/2018 17:25:12 #

Thank you for noticing the fact that any change in textures/graphics can affect the original sense and mood of the original game.
I haven't played Shadow Of The Colossus actually, but being a very big fan of Half Life and Silent Hill I can understand how important is to respect the original design of a work of art (in videogames in this case).

05/06/2018 21:05:36 #

@Lee Taggart:
That is true. I leave the notifications on because I generally want (at least for an initial play-through) to experience the game as it is intended, and as most players would experience it. I generally don't alter settings when I start a game other than turning subtitles on and maybe adjusting gamma. It's actually very rare that I find an achievement notification distracting anymore because I've gotten so used to them. I also don't generally pursue trophies/achievements, but I am usually curious to see what "accomplishments" the developers thought warranted handing them out. I burst out laughing when REVII gave me one for booting up the game and watching the opening cutscene.

Also, in this particular case, I was specifically looking for differences between the new version and the original, so it didn't really make sense to change settings to make it more like the original. Just like I forced myself to sit through the Silent Hill HD Collection with the new voice-actors... [shudder]

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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The Humanity of NCAA Football's In-Season RecruitingThe Humanity of NCAA Football's In-Season Recruiting08/01/2022 If you're a fan of college football video games, then I'm sure you're excited by the news from early 2021 that EA will be reviving its college football series. They will be doing so without the NCAA license, and under the new title, EA Sports College Football. I guess Bill Walsh wasn't available for licensing either? Expectations...

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