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Attacked by shadows
March 1, 2008 2:53 PM   Subscribe

Ico did not sell very well. Though critics loved it, the simple third person puzzler failed to capture an audience on the PS2. (youtube trailer) Fast forward a few years to Shadow of the Colossus, and desiger Fumito Ueda struck gold. Earning tons of critical praise for his story of a young boy out to bring his love back from the dead.

The two games together represented a dramatic leap forward for videogames, proving the literary and artistic capabilities of the medium. Ueda-san comments on the development of Ico, while some more nerds break it down. Commentary on Shadow of the Colossus. Its amazing soundtrack
Obligatory YT links of gameplay footage for ICO (spoilers) - here, Emo game footage set to Gary Jules' Mad World and the deeply emotional ending. Some footage of Colossus here, fighting the second colossus, Barba, and fighting the last colossus, Malus, and then finally, the ending, part one, part two, and part three.
posted by tylerfulltilt (74 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
I like Mega64's rendition of Ico.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:59 PM on March 1, 2008


I bought Ico on the strength of reviews, and although I can see it looks good in theory, I'm afraid that ultimately it was boring. Sorry if that's heresy.
posted by Phanx at 3:03 PM on March 1, 2008


Shadow of the Colossus is hands down the finest video game I've ever played.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 3:07 PM on March 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


I bought a PS2 just to play Shadow. I'm a moderately avid gamer, but I only play for the adrenaline and the social aspects because "drama" and "story" in video games are truly crude, along with the stilted voice acting and hokey dialogue.

Shadow was the first ever game I found to be emotionally affecting at a non-verbal level.
posted by growli at 3:09 PM on March 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


I bought a PS2 just to play Shadow.

Yeah, I'm just worried that Ueda's next game will be a PS3 exclusive and I will honestly consider buying that system for one game.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:15 PM on March 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


you're gonna need a blu-ray player anyway right?
posted by tylerfulltilt at 3:19 PM on March 1, 2008


Such gorgeous games. I guess I'll have to get a PS3 when his next project is done.
posted by aubilenon at 3:22 PM on March 1, 2008


Missed this link for the OP
posted by tylerfulltilt at 3:22 PM on March 1, 2008


Some parts of Halo (the first one) had a similar emotional effect on me -- something like awe. The renderings of the ring planet and its ancient architecture just had a muted grandeur. They really captured that "sense of wonder" that Niven and Clarke would have been proud of if it was a game based on Ringworld or Rendezvous With Rama.

The latter Halo's had a terrible byzantine plot, dialog, pacing, and pedestrian voice acting. All driven by way too many dramatic strings. E for storytelling, A for multiplayer of course.

Rock Steady: Now that BluRay has won the HD format wars, you can just say you're getting a PS3 for filmic reasons instead of "juvenile" gaming ones...
posted by growli at 3:23 PM on March 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ico had a sort of a wistful sweetness to it. It was just beautiful. It's not very fast-paced, and I can see where some folks might not be grabbed by it, but it was remarkably good almost-nonverbal storytelling. It was... videogame poetry, really.

I didn't like SotC as well. It was ... kind of unpleasant, actually. There was one spot in the game where I said to myself, "Ok, if this were real, I would stop right here and go home; this is a line that I would refuse to cross." But I'd paid my $50 and I wanted to see the whole thing, so I pressed on. But I'd lost my sense of immersion, because there's no way I'd be doing what I was being asked to do. I didn't enjoy the remainder of the game very much.

I realize that there's not infinite development time, but I wish they'd managed to work actual choice into SotC, instead of just play or don't play.
posted by Malor at 3:38 PM on March 1, 2008


I've heard other people make that same point about SotC, Malor. I never finished the game myself--I gave up on the giant turtle with the geysers--but a couple of the earlier battles, the ones against the bird/pterodactyl and eel/sea serpent creatures, made me question exactly why I was supposed to be killing them. I mean, they never even attack you until provoked. I think that might have been part of the point, though.
posted by arto at 3:48 PM on March 1, 2008


I thought both were excellent - two of my favorite games.
posted by Camel of Space at 3:49 PM on March 1, 2008


There was one spot in the game where I said to myself, "Ok, if this were real, I would stop right here and go home; this is a line that I would refuse to cross."

I actually appreciated that. I don't think I've ever felt bad about doing anything in a video game. I haven't enjoyed games, sure, but it never had that moral component. I also think that this is why Shadow was more effective as a video game than it ever could have been as any other art form -- it made you make choices you didn't like if you wanted to see the thing through. No movie could ever do that.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:50 PM on March 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


I loved both of these.

One of the interesting things about Ico was the ending they tacked on after the end credits. I remember being so melancholy after the end of the game, after the black shadow girl had stayed behind. And then after the credits had rolled they throw your character on the beach, and you have to run a long way down the beach to find the girl. I can easily imagine many people not having bothered to stick around that long-- it almost seemed cruel. I am embarrassed to say how happy I was to have found her.

It might also be worth mentioning the abnormally large role that Shadow of the Colossus played in the mediocre Adam Sandler movie Reign Over Me. I could be misremembering, but it seems like they showed them playing that game for minutes at a time.
posted by The Loch Ness Monster at 3:52 PM on March 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


The Loch Ness Monster:Shadow did play a large part in that movie. It was character thing with sandler. His family was killed in the trade center attacks so he had a subconscious thing with watching enormous structures fall down. If you notice at the end of the movie, he's still playing the game and fixating on it. Even after he's supposedly on the road to getting over grieving for his family.
posted by tylerfulltilt at 3:58 PM on March 1, 2008


I think making you feel bad about killing the monsters was kind of the point.

How many creatures have you killed in how many video games without even a twinge of guilt? Why did killing those make you feel so bad?
posted by empath at 4:02 PM on March 1, 2008


I found Ico dull; I've bounced off it several times. I haven't beaten Shadow yet, either, but I will eventually.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:08 PM on March 1, 2008


Interesting on the Reign on Me connection to Shadow. I hadn't seen that movie. I also hadn't thought of the game as being a reaction to 9/11. I wonder if on a subconscious level, it wasn't.
posted by empath at 4:12 PM on March 1, 2008


I thought Ico was beautiful, had a wonderful time playing it. Also enjoyed SotC but not quite as much. I really enjoyed in Ico how the building seemed to have realistic architecture (for a game) and how the puzzles somehow felt less arbitrary. The aesthetic of both games is right up my ally.

Okami also had a nice feel to it.

(not really related but as far as beautiful games go I've got to mention Uncharted on the PS3. I couldn't resist climbing around the ruins and looking out at the sea)
posted by sineater at 4:29 PM on March 1, 2008


shadow of the collosus is hands down the crappiest game i've ever played. the music is boring. every landscape looks the same. there is NOTHING WHATSOEVER in the environment to interact with. navigation/mapping/control are all totally weak. theres no story. the only thing remotely interesting, fighting the bosses (if you can call them that, as theres absolutely nothing else to fight in the game), is just totally ripped off from the legend of zelda...except in brown. in fact, it's all brown. or grey. and repetitive. all you do is slog through 800 acres of nothing, fight one monster, repeat. i got about halfway through, realized nothing else was going to happen, removed the disc, and broke it in half. if you're looking for an experience that's a billion times more fun and exciting than this rank piece of shit, go clean your oven. with your own toothbrush. then brush your teeth with it. worst. game. ever.
posted by sexyrobot at 4:33 PM on March 1, 2008


I bought a PS2 just to play Shadow.

Thirded, or fourthed. My daughters and I play it every single weekend, at least a little. The youngest doesn't even hunt Colossi, she just rides around the beautiful landscape exploring, and eating lizards. I started what I think is my 12th new game in it last weekend.

Absolutely beautiful.

(We also throw some Okami in there every weekend too, but that's a rave for another post, I suppose)
posted by sidereal at 4:35 PM on March 1, 2008


sexyrobot: You kind of spectacularly missed the point. It's not a game that's primarily about fun. It's a game about melancholy, loss, good and evil, harmony with nature and destiny. It's heavy stuff. If you're not in the mood for it, that's fine, but that doesn't make it a bad game.
posted by empath at 4:58 PM on March 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


liked Ico well enough, found sotc quite dull --grey washed out graphics ,endless horse riding. Gave up on it.
posted by jcruelty at 5:05 PM on March 1, 2008


and how is it "missing the point" to criticize a game for not being fun ? It may be Art but its still valid to judge in terms of play
posted by jcruelty at 5:08 PM on March 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think calling it a 'rank piece of shit' is just ridiculous overstatement.
posted by empath at 5:17 PM on March 1, 2008


SotC was one of the first games I've experienced where it's just as fun to watch as it is to play. My brother got it for Christmas a couple of years ago, and for a few days after, whenever he got to a boss the whole family would gather around and watch, completely enraptured.

Also, yes, A+ soundtrack. In particular, the music that plays after you kill one of the monsters.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 5:24 PM on March 1, 2008


Destructoid has an interesting article about the game's controls. Alas, if only I had a PS2 so I could contribute some first-hand experience..
posted by spiderskull at 5:26 PM on March 1, 2008 [6 favorites]


You have to find the Colossi, ride across an entire continent, and then figure out how to kill them. You have to want them to die. The game forces you to make decisions about whether or not to attack the Colossi, a choice you have to make over and over, at each step of the way. Even when you've climbed the colossus, found his weak spot, you have to choose again -- will you push O a second time and strike? Will you push O a last time and actually kill the Colossus?

These moments can be incredibly poignant, and I would go as far as to say that Shadow of the Colossus is the only game in which "no" is an acceptable answer to those types of questions -- all because of the way the controls are mapped.

posted by empath at 5:35 PM on March 1, 2008


spiderskull - Thanks for that link, it articulates some of my thoughts about the odd, unique controls very well, in addition to going into the poignancy of the ethics involved in the story, as other linked articles here do (and as other posters have pointed out).
posted by sidereal at 5:36 PM on March 1, 2008


I'll have to second sexyrobot. Shadow of the Colossus is spectacularly dull. There are no choices to make, other than: do I quit this game or keep trudging along. All the colossi are the same, and other than that, you've got a horse. A fine horse it is, but three characters (you, horse, colossus) do not a game make.
posted by yath at 6:30 PM on March 1, 2008


arto, yeah, that's the point. As the story goes on, you get the feeling that your character is a selfish bastard. He is willing to destroy gods simply to bring his girlfriend back to life, and you're helping him do it.
posted by zsazsa at 6:43 PM on March 1, 2008


Oh, and if you're a graphics geek at all, here's an amazing insight into the development of the graphics in SoTC. While the frame rate often suffers, the game does amazing shader-type effects with hardware that I had no idea was up to the task.

The graphics sucked me in at first, and the story, while initially quite subtle, was what really took hold of me. With the sometimes awkward controls and low frame rate, it is indeed a flawed game, but it's still the absolute best total package on the platform.
posted by zsazsa at 6:52 PM on March 1, 2008


Even when you've climbed the colossus, found his weak spot, you have to choose again -- will you push O a second time and strike? Will you push O a last time and actually kill the Colossus?

Oh, exactly. I don't know about you, but I know that on some of those later colossi I held off pushing O for that final strike probably a little longer than I should have. It was really hard to do. I also really noticed a difference in my attitude towards the colossi that attacked me (fucking lizard) and the ones that barely seemed aware of my presence (the flying snake thing was particularly "hard" to kill).

And for the folks that hated Shadow, I honestly don't know what to say to you. I kind of pity you more than anything. For whatever reason you've missed a great work of art -- probably the first one in its genre -- because you were expecting Duke Nukem or something. Sure fun is a good thing for a game to be (and I had tons of fun with Shadow), but fun is easy. I've played hundreds of fun video games. This game was absolutely unique and more powerful than almost any other piece of storytelling I've ever experienced.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:53 PM on March 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


I loved SotC. I am on my third playthrough (on hard now) and have been meaning to get back to it (just as soon as I finish FFXII, which I dread leaving).

If people don't like it I can't really hold it against them in any serious way; I don't like Halo but I don't begrudge the people who do. I think it's just a matter of taste - the same as if you said "Boy, I really love Hemingway" and someone says "God, Hemingway is boring. I can't stand the way he writes." Well, that's just fine, but either way, you have to admit that the man made a contribution to literature in a unique way. Similarly, in the new arena of video games, Ueda has made his mark - and it is a quiet, slow-moving mark. It's not for everybody, but those for whom it is intended can find it a religious experience. I get it whenever I'm creeping along the flying creature's back, or running up the knight's sword, and a dozen other places. Fantastic.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:03 PM on March 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


and how is it "missing the point" to criticize a game for not being fun ?

In fact, the fun thing is the only point on which I can understand disliking the game. The controls and camera can be a bit finicky.

But no story? Really?

Nothing happened? Really?

I think maybe he shut his TV off whenever not fighting.
posted by sparkletone at 7:21 PM on March 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


I finally played through Colossus just last week, inspired by this thread. It's my absolute favorite game. I teared up at the end, and no movie can do that for me. I'm really wondering about its inspirations. I can see Miyazaki and Lord of the Rings but that's a very incomplete picture. No other piece of art I've seen is so epic in scope (the battles are huge and intense), and yet so thoroughly meditative and elegaic in tone. Cormac McCarthy's The Road actually had a similar effect on me, but that's a very different kind of work.
posted by naju at 8:16 PM on March 1, 2008


and how is it "missing the point" to criticize a game for not being fun ?

I once knew a guy who didn't like Schindler's List because it didn't have enough action for a WWII movie.
posted by Jezztek at 10:04 PM on March 1, 2008 [9 favorites]


All the colossi are the same

Uh, what? The colossi are all considerably different. The first flying one? It was just...exhilirating. Man.

That controls article from destructoid is pretty accurate, I think. If you come at the game from the perspective that the main character (Wander, I guess he's called) is just an inexperienced boy, in over his head, I think it would feel quite different. It makes quite a bit of sense too: his lack of control of Agro (his horse), his fumblyness, his lack of sword skill all add up to some poor dude just doing everything he can to save the girl.

Man, I gotta play this again. Such a great game.
posted by graventy at 11:28 PM on March 1, 2008


I don't comment much on Metafilter because I tend to come to discussions after others have already summed up what I'd have wanted to say. In this case, because I love SotC so much, I will pop in with "I too bought my PS2 to play the game, and hold it in truly the highest regard". Gnawing, lonely regret piped through the Dualshock, and into my heart - it was almost too much.
posted by thedaniel at 12:05 AM on March 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


*climbs on sexyrobot's head*
*presses O again and again*
*gallops off*
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:29 AM on March 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


yikes...people really love this game. i don't get it. the whole thing reeks of unfinished and unintentional. i mean, it sounds like a cool concept, a game thats all boss battles, but in practice it just doesn't work...there's no build-up. everything else is just weak filler. a background painting without props and actors does not make a play. sorry.

no story, really? yes. really. "save the princess" isn't a story, it's a command. if it were really about 'melancholy and loss' there would be some backstory on that princess. if it were really about 'harmony with nature' there would be an environment you could actually interact with. I love games where the environment engages you and encourages you to explore; relying on one rendering effect to make things look all 'dreamy' just doesn't do that for me. by the 50th time you've said to yourself 'oh, maybe there's something to do over there. oh. i guess there isn't', you just want to quit. (and i play games to the end, always. this is one of maybe 3 in my life i never finished).

that being said, the boss battles are great. the bosses are really well designed, even if they are just zelda rip-offs. (does anyone else get the feeling that this was trying to be 'wind waker' without toon shading?--i mean as far as the STYLE of the bosses) If they were in any other game (and in COLOR--and i really have no problem with muted colors unless its OVERUSED), i'd probably be a big fan of it.

it just seems to me that they built the bosses, found they had a game that could be beaten in an afternoon, and found they had to add 100 hours to it with no budget. theres an interesting effect they use in games to make areas seem bigger...areas closer to the player stretch more than areas farther away as you approach them...it makes it seem like you are crossing more distance than you really are...it's a proportion/perspective trick. i never noticed it until i played this game, because it's cranked up to 11 to waste as much of your time as possible. weak. sorry if calling this game a 'rank piece of shit' seems a little foaming-at-the-mouth (FATM?), but i'm sticking to it. bad design just makes me angry.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:33 AM on March 2, 2008


the colossi aren't zelda rip-offs, per se. ueda has said on multiple occasions that he envisions them as inverse zelda dungeons.

and there was a story beyond "save the princess." it's definitely understated and lets you fill in a lot. but it's there.
posted by phaded at 12:57 AM on March 2, 2008


I think making you feel bad about killing the monsters was kind of the point. How many creatures have you killed in how many video games without even a twinge of guilt? Why did killing those make you feel so bad?

I'm in the "dull, never finished" camp. Yes, I got the "guilt" thing, very early on, but it was just such an easy target to hit. Killing gorgeous, gigantic, unique monsters for selfish reasons at the behest of a creepy-assed shadow-thing can make me feel kinda bad? Gosh! It is a testament to the design and execution that I started feeling guilty, so kudos to the game-makers for that.

The game forces you to make decisions about whether or not to attack the Colossi, a choice you have to make over and over, at each step of the way.

Yes, but there are no other decisions to make if you want to extract value from the game you spent $50 to buy. There are no other alternative-and-much-more-difficult options to pursue, which makes the "decision-making" binary and pointless. It's like opening a very expensive Choose Your Own Adventure and discovering that the only options, page after page, are "kick a baby" and "throw away this book." With tons of no-decision "keep riding a horse" pages between each option.

I resented having my game hijacked so the designer could make a very broad and obvious moral point, one that most teens get either through high school philosophy classes or by getting baked and watching old monster movies.

Okay, it's interactive. Big whoop. The player's giant ethical crisis essentially amounts to whether or not you're going to sit through King Kong until the very end, or choose to walk out of the theatre before the giant cute monkey gets it. Having "CONTINUE THIS MOVIE YES/NO" pop up on the screen every thirty seconds so you have to push "O" to keep watching doesn't make it a more profound experience.
posted by Shepherd at 1:03 AM on March 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


I also think that this is why Shadow was more effective as a video game than it ever could have been as any other art form -- it made you make choices you didn't like if you wanted to see the thing through.

In this case, 'see the thing through' means 'don't waste $50'. If I had had the option of a return, I would have exercised it at that point.

I can't really dispute that it was a memorable mechanic, or that it's probably the only game that's ever done that... but it's only the screwy game market and the incredibly high cost of games that made it work.
posted by Malor at 1:11 AM on March 2, 2008


Do you really think that's an easy target to hit? It was the silence, the emptiness, the fact that you were utterly alone in an empty, dying world, killing the only other living things that you saw. It's not like you were going around killing unicorns and babies, either. The monsters were dark and scary at times. It's not a black and white thing, this game. It's shadowy and subtle. It never beats you over the head with the idea that you might be doing something wrong.

It never even occurred to me to stop killing the monsters and put away the game. I was wrapped up in the challenge of it, trying to figure it out. It really wasn't until near the end of the game that I started wondering what I had been doing.

I really can't think of any other game that evoked anything like the emotions this game evoked. If it were easy, more people would do it, since the game was a huge success.
posted by empath at 1:38 AM on March 2, 2008


Shadow of the Colossus is one of my all time favorite games. Not only was it absolutely gorgeous with totally innovative gameplay, and really challenging without being cheap and frustrating, how many video games actually make you think like that? Everyone who played it, if they were paying attention anyway, thought by about Colossus #6 or 7 or so: "...wait a minute. Why am I killing these guys, again? What exactly did they do to me, anyway?", and then it turns out you were right to have doubts. It really pushed along the idea of the video game as an art form.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:41 AM on March 2, 2008


Both of these games take a little while to get into, and aren't for everybody. I remember the second half of Ico being a bit tedious. That said, I was completely absorbed into both of them. The only comparable experience I can think of is"Out of This World" for Super Nintendo (Another World) for Amiga.
posted by steve jobless at 2:44 AM on March 2, 2008


empath: Do you really think that's an easy target to hit?

No, it's not an especially easy target to hit. I think the game designers used considerable craft and intelligence to build the game, and I'm not denying that it's a thing of beauty.

It's not like you were going around killing unicorns and babies, either. The monsters were dark and scary at times ... it never beats you over the head with the idea that you might be doing something wrong.

I think this is where we get into "your mileage may vary" territory. After the first two colossi, which I noticed pretty quickly weren't aggressive unless you actively attacked them, plus Creepy Shadow Thing giving me Creepy Shadow Orders, and the colossi making sad animal noises while I hacked the hell out of them, and the aforementioned barren emptiness making it clear that these things are the last of their kind, I felt like I was getting beaten over the head pretty soundly.

I do appreciate that the designers were going for something different than the usual kill-'em-all shoot-em-up.

But I also think the fact that this is considered one of the most profound and morally complex video games out there is more a reflection on the dismal state of video games than the genius of SotC.

I don't think I'll ever be a SotC fan, but hopefully its success will push more companies into taking bigger risks with games that combine both moral decisions and actual choice. Bioshock seems to have tried to integrate some moral decision-making (haven't played it; can't afford a 360).
posted by Shepherd at 2:52 AM on March 2, 2008


Re-reading, I realize that I've said that the game was using "an easy target to hit," and then say "it's not an especially easy target to hit," in two consecutive posts. I'm a goof.

Technically, creating monsters that you feel bad about killing is not an especially easy target (as opposed to designing super scary monsters that you feel good about killing.

Morally, I still think the game was aiming at the broad side of the barn.
posted by Shepherd at 2:56 AM on March 2, 2008


Bioshock's moral decision making is extremely limited. It's pretty much like every other shooter out there... go forward and kill things. It excels in presentation and atmosphere, but the single 'moral choice' is barely above, 'kick the puppy or don't kick the puppy... YOU DECIDE!'
posted by Malor at 3:15 AM on March 2, 2008


Oh. Well, that's disappointing. Thanks for letting me know, though!
posted by Shepherd at 3:52 AM on March 2, 2008


there are no other decisions to make if you want to extract value from the game

You're wrong about that.
posted by sidereal at 5:59 AM on March 2, 2008


A similar situation ("I love it, it is unique", "I hate it, it is boring") happens with the films of Ming-liang Tsai.
posted by jscott at 5:59 AM on March 2, 2008


Ico was a great game. I wish the fighting either wasn't present or was less repetitive, though.

Shadow of the Colossus I never finished. The fights were for the most part a lot of fun -- when you actually got to them. For whatever reason, I found the searching for the colossi difficult -- possibly because I also found it mind-numbingly boring.
posted by Target Practice at 6:02 AM on March 2, 2008


"shadow of the collosus is hands down the crappiest game i've ever played..."
-sexyrobot


I agree with sexyrobot. Shadow was a horrible game. In fact, calling it a game would be a disservice of the highest order. It is a work of art. That'd be like calling the Mona Lisa an illustration.
posted by aftermarketradio at 6:59 AM on March 2, 2008


I loved Ico -- beautiful game, very stirring. SotC I didn't get very far into. Not because it was tedious, but because I kept falling off the second Colossus and getting frustrated. :/ Maybe I'll give it another try sometime, but I've just bought a Mac that can run Boot Camp and I've got a decade's worth of PC games to catch up on, so...

That gives me an excellent idea for an AskMeta.
posted by rifflesby at 7:15 AM on March 2, 2008


Any SotC naysayers pick up Okami (forgive the gameplay-centric trailer, but none of the other videos feature the brush)? 'Cause it's pretty awesome. Beat the pants off of Twilight Princess (which I know we weren't talking about, but there's been a lot of talk of how SotC might be Zelda-derivative), given that:

- in Twilight Princess, you are sometimes a wolf trying to restore life to a barren, corrupted world

- in Okami (a game that came out substantially earlier), you are always a wolf -- a wolf whose very footsteps make flowers bloom, whose skill with the ink-brush is translated into a unique gestural magic system -- trying to restore life to a barren, corrupted world.

Okami is very different from both Shadow the Colossus and Twilight Princess, but it's also gorgeous, unique, and a hell of a lot more lush than both. I think SotC is a much tighter, focused, and epic, but spending time playing Okami is probably a lot more rewarding than whinging about SotC ;)

This discussion also reminds me of my blood vendetta against the game The Longest Journey and the vast critical acclaim it somehow commands, but that's a discussion for another time..
posted by lumensimus at 8:36 AM on March 2, 2008


For anyone who's having difficulty getting into Ico, I highly recommend playing with a walkthrough. The puzzles are very complex and can bog down the already slow narrative too much. Play with a walkthrough to keep things moving nice and quickly and you'll truly experience the game.
posted by tylerfulltilt at 8:36 AM on March 2, 2008


Okami is absolutely wonderful, btw, and a little reminiscent of Ico in terms of tone.... it has that same sense of sweetness to it, though it's far, far more verbal.

One problem with Okami is that it doesn't open up and truly blossom until about 10 hours in, and by then a lot of folks have given up on it. It also has a spot with a nearly vertical difficulty ramp... things have been very easy up until then, but the first mini-boss you fight is quite difficult. But if you get past those things... it becomes really cool at about hour 10, and it just gets better and better and better as it goes.

Oh, by the way: comments against The Longest Journey are heresy, and will be dealt with appropriately.
posted by Malor at 9:13 AM on March 2, 2008


The other problem with Okami is that fucking bug creature who JUST. WON'T. SHUT. UP.
posted by graventy at 11:31 AM on March 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


sexyrobot -- there is NOTHING WHATSOEVER in the environment to interact with.

So you never found the deer or little sea turtle?

So you never hunted for lizard tales? (yes, you can and should do that)

So you never flew with a hawk? (yes, you can do that)

So you never climbed your own tower from the outside? (yes, you can do that)
posted by NortonDC at 12:44 PM on March 2, 2008


Morally, I still think the game was aiming at the broad side of the barn.

But considering it's the only video game that ever even considered shooting at the barn, it's a pretty big achievement.

Also, I'll restate my point that the moral aspect of Shadow is so powerful because it is you making the unpleasant choice, not some character you are watching or reading about. And yes it is a simple choice, and yes it would have been all the more powerful if choosing to not kill the colossi was an in-game option, but I still think it was remarkable.

I had a shitload of fun with the game though -- hanging on for dear life as some colossus whipped its head around, making the perfect shot from horseback at a full gallop, finally figuring out the key to defeating the turtle, etc, etc.

I thought The Longest Journey was a little cheesy, actually -- but still fantastic, don't get me wrong.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:01 PM on March 2, 2008


The other problem with Okami is that fucking bug creature who JUST. WON'T. SHUT. UP.

Oh god, yes. I cheered when I heard they were remaking Okami for the Wii -- wiimote brush control! Perfect! And then I remembered that the reason I didn't get very far in Okami on the PS2 wasn't the controls, but the goddamned bug.

Why must there always be a goddamn funny animal sidekick?
posted by rifflesby at 6:38 PM on March 2, 2008


Rifflesby, I read that they were definitely adding a way to skip dialog and cinematics for the Wii version. Apparently they got hammered enough about that by pretty much everyone who ever played the game that they are fixing it for the Wii version. Also SotC was awesome. As was Ico and The Longest Journey (though I admit it was also a bit not really cheesy, but "too much"). Also I think people who complain about the lack of things to kill in SotC have maybe not played as many games as I have. I don't know about you guys but after about 3 or 4 hours of any Zelda-like overworld/random monster type game I just start running past enemies instead of fighting them because it's not worth the trouble. I mean we are talking about button mashing after all. Everybody knows that taking out grunts in Zelda is a matter of pressing the A button a couple times. That's why we all loved the bosses so much because there was a real battle to them instead of mashing A and moving on. SotC just cut out the button mashable grunts. And I seriously didn't miss them at all. Reminded me that random grunts are the sort of video game legacy mechanic that's only there because games have always had grunts and bosses, however unnecessary the grunts may actually be for making the game fun. Plus the exchange was definitely worth it. Trading waste of time grunts for an otherwise unobtainable sense of solitude and completely undisturbed landscape, no question as far as I'm concerned. I suggest that Sexyrobot think about how much fun he actually has when he's button mashing goblins in Twilight Princess. Particularly when you have to trade those lame random monsters for an amazingly designed and rendered landscape. Random monsters, treasure chests, shops, towns, volcanos and ice temples... damn that crap has been done SOOOOO many times. Twilight Princess had some extremely creative new concepts (the dominion rod was great at least in that one dungeon) but how much better would the game have been if it hadn't been heaped on top of a huge pile of painfully cliched characters, mechanics, scenery etc. "Oh, a fire dungeon, totally didn't see that one coming before I even took the shrink wrap off the game."
posted by Farengast at 8:39 PM on March 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Farengast: Reminded me that random grunts are the sort of video game legacy mechanic that's only there because games have always had grunts and bosses, however unnecessary the grunts may actually be for making the game fun.

I don't know, I can think of many games where the core mechanics were fun enough that fighting random baddies was actually great, and the bosses were gimmicky and annoying. Undying and Dark Messiah would be two extreme examples of this, but there's plenty of others.

If it isn't fun to just grind through the game's baddies, someone dropped the ball on the dev team.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:04 PM on March 2, 2008


I didn't say that they are always unnecessary and unfun, just that developers never actually question if they are necessary and fun. I agree with you 100% on the two games you mentioned. But there are hundreds of others where the grunts don't serve any purpose other than to "be there". And they are there because developers are so used to there being grunts, they never stop to wonder if their particular game actually benefits from them or not. Despite being a staple of Super Mario Bros., many levels in the recent games (64, sunshine, galaxy) don't have any grunts at all because a particular level was just as much fun without them. I can't imagine any sort of grunt that could have been added to SotC that wouldn't have completely despoiled the mood. Grunts are of course key to the mood of lots of games, but that doesn't mean they should be treated as necessary for a game to be fun. In general I think a lot of game conventions can afford to be discarded in certain games. Even some as common as health bars or ammo or money. Developers rely so much on these staples that they don't even realize how instantaneously limited their game becomes. Play Sacrifice on the PC if you want to see what a game can be when they chuck a bunch of convention out the window. I mean we are talking about GAMES, FANTASY! You could do whatever you wanted! Any ridiculous or fantastical thing you could think of but we still get a bunch of games where you run around picking up ammo, killing enemies to get coins, to buy things, in a town, full of people, with quests. Why should you have a health meter? Why should you have ammo or money? Or any number of things which are simply there because we are so used to them being there and not because someone really thought about it and decided that his/her game would benefit tremendously from the inclusion of "gold" or "ammo" or "potions" or "fire temples".
posted by Farengast at 9:30 PM on March 2, 2008


Farengast: Play Sacrifice on the PC if you want to see what a game can be when they chuck a bunch of convention out the window.

Been there, done that. Good game, but RTS really isn't my field - although Dark Crusade was all kinds of awesome.

Or any number of things which are simply there because we are so used to them being there and not because someone really thought about it and decided that his/her game would benefit tremendously from the inclusion of "gold" or "ammo" or "potions" or "fire temples".

A lot of those things are there for good reasons. Health meters are there for the simple reason that I can't feel it if my character is injured. My character is going to know if they're doin' fine or have an arterial spray that rivels Old Faithful, and I don't think there's much wrong with a visual indicator of this. The alternatives (shading the screen red, sounds, limping, etc.) are often disruptive, and never as informative, although sometimes they're ok (I understand the Cthulhu game did it that way.)

Gold is there because you don't want to start the characters out with their uber-gear early on, because gaining power over time fosters a sense of character growth. However, you also don't want the equipment to line up fortuitously as the game goes on, to avoid Final Fantasy "Why does the last town I get to have equipment that makes the gear at the first town look like sharpened sticks and rocks?" syndrome. Easy solution, make the characters get richer over time - although most games do the gold thing as well as the mysterious weapon shop progression, which is kind of silly. Gold is also nice because it lets parties benefit from stuff they can't use - it's annoying as hell to come up with a +5 halberd of awesomeness when you have one fighter who has taken all of their feats in longsword and four other characters who can't even use it. Selling it makes it at least feel a little worthwhile.

Ammo is there because guns that fire infinitely are totally unrealistic, allow characters to defeat some kinds of enemies through simple spam tactics, and you can't put in uber-weapons to clear difficult situations without it. The only alternative is to do like Gears of War and make the superweapon only available when the character absolute needs it and never otherwise - and that feels like a Deus-Ex-Machina real fast (Hey, we can't fight this monster without the hammer! We're going to die! Hey, wait, the satellites are out - and here's a hammer just lying around! Wow, this is awesome, I just killed the boss! Oops, satellites are gone again.)

I'm all for thinking outside the box, but sometimes things are in for good reasons.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:12 PM on March 2, 2008


ahhh...so there's FOUR things to do...well that makes it worth it.

ditto on shepherd's comments...choose yr own adventure indeed...lol

as for the concept that this game is the only one to tackle the field of 'tough moral choices', well that's just absurd. i can think of dozens of games (mostly rpg's) where your best friend becomes evil and must die, or the king must be sacrificed to save the princess, or a million other tough choices. that this is the only game lame enough to make that the only bit of depth (or content, for that matter) it has i can't argue with, though.

as for 'beautiful?'...ugh. sorry, but no. one rendering effect does not make Art. drab and repetitive DNE moody and evocative. video game art will never compare with what CAN be rendered with contemporary computer equiptment of the same era (mainly due to the on-the-fly nature of it. a single frame in a pixar movie can still take hours to render). comparing this to the mona lisa just makes me laugh. a lot.

slashing up grunts...yeah, thats actually fun for me. i can't do that in the real world without going to jail. ;) (one of my all time faves: ROBOTRON. the pure distilled essence of slashing up grunts... ditto for smash tv and the meelee rounds of ratchet and clank). killing ONE monster isn't as fun as killing them AND their whole army of generals and assorted underlings. it adds pattern and structure to the storyline. (oh, and for some really creative grunts, check out castlevania, curse of darkness...some really great bad guys in that one) i think criticizing games for mostly being similar on this front is sort of missing the point of them...it's like saying all movies are either narratives or documentaries so why bother watching more than one of each. (actually, in the short time that games have been around i think we've seen an amazing proliferation of forms...it seems like every year there's something completely new...katamari damacy, anyone?)

to say that this game is superior to any zelda title because of its "amazingly designed and rendered" (more like "generic" and "underwhelming") "undisturbed (read:"empty, underprogrammed, undesigned") landscapes" is ridiculous. the way you have to keep coming back time and again with each new tool you aquire to discover a rich panopoly of hidden treasures is so much more evocative of the nature of, well, Nature than any amount of riding through empty backdrops could ever do. and there's plenty of quiet, empty spots as well...(that spooky quiet graveyard actually exists, btw...its in Kyoto) the zelda guys do a real job of creating a rich and varied tapestry. (tired of fire dungeons? i'm not. not when each time its done differently and references the art and style of different cultures...that russian palace in TP with the giant frozen faberge' egg? a hundred zoras frozen in the ice? sheer brilliance!) SotC? its just...nothing.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:31 PM on March 2, 2008


ok, iv'e ranted enough...but i just wanted to say. i get it... it's supposed to be all moody and evocative and reflective and such. it just feels a lot more like 'a level' than 'an entire game'
posted by sexyrobot at 10:36 PM on March 2, 2008


Reading through these comments and seeing different people say they bought their game consoles just for this game confirms that I wasn't the only non-gamer who fell in love with this game.

I don't play video games. i just don't. They haven't held interest for me since GoldenEye in high school. But I was addicted to this game from October until I beat it at Christmas. Then I beat it again. The music was alright but towards the end I would usually play it quieter and listen to Devotchka. Very suitable.

To me it was a piece of art but I totally see how people who are used to devoting time to a video game would be disappointed by the lack of environmental interaction and extra plots to diverge onto.
posted by mannequito at 10:54 PM on March 2, 2008


I agree with sexyrobot. Shadow was a horrible game. In fact, calling it a game would be a disservice of the highest order. It is a work of art. That'd be like calling the Mona Lisa an illustration.
- aftermarketradio


Of course it's a game. These sort of elitist semantics are pointless. Your analogy is flawed. Saying 'its not a game its art' is more akin to saying its not a 'painting its art.' These things are not mutually exclusive. Game is simply the medium used to create the art. Furthermore art and illustration are not incompatible. Illustration is a function and context for art to inhabit. The Mona Lisa can be, and many times has been, used as illustration. That said I appreciate the fervor with which you defend this excellent game.

As to those who have reviled this game as 'not fun' i'd like to pile on the point that fun is not the only valid goal in game design, just as it is not the only valid goal of film, comics, painting or any other art. Saying that a piece doesn't work for you is fine. Saying that a piece is universally terrible and unworthy of respect just because it doesn't engage you while many others are so obviously powerfully engaged shows some extraordinary narcissism and ignorance.

the qualities of this game in the specific have already been well expounded upon. so I feel no need to add to that.
posted by subtle_squid at 9:19 AM on March 3, 2008


sexyrobot -- ahhh...so there's FOUR things to do...well that makes it worth it.

Not necessarily; it just makes your statement wrong.
posted by NortonDC at 9:47 AM on March 3, 2008


Since when does the number of choices you make in a game have anything to do with the quality? Did SotC have "CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE" written on the side? No, it didn't. Stop treating it like it did. Sexyrobot thinks that Katamari Damachi was a good game? That's cool-- it IS a good game. But please tell me about all the choices you make in it, since that seems to be so important. Or don't, because I don't bother expecting the same thing from every single game I play.
posted by hellphish at 12:06 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


FWIW, having spoken to some of the people who make the big budget, typical shoot-em-ups, racing games, franchise titles and so forth that top our charts, SoTC very often pops up as the kind of game they wish they could make (both in terms of "were allowed to" and "were capable of").

I think it's the perfect game for people who are becoming tired of the typical game cliches. If you're not out of that particular demographic yet, by all means, keep shooting terrorists. If that becomes tiresome, THEN try playing SoTC, or whatever is equivalent at the time.
posted by Durhey at 4:21 PM on March 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


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