Developer: Bluepoint Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Game played on: PS4
Release Date: February 6, 2018
When I heard that Shadow of the Colossus was getting a remake, I had a mixture of feelings. I was excited and nervous at the same time. I was wondering what they would exactly do with the game, what could they add to what was already great. Giving development over to Bluepoint Games was an excellent first step, as they have been responsible for the best HD remasters around, but they had never done a full scale remake before, especially of such a classic.
This game is the purest definition of the word remake. In fact I was kind of taken aback at the faithfulness of this game to the original. The plot is exactly as it was in the original, and the locations, colossi, and cutscenes have been perfectly recreated for the new console generation. I’ve even heard and read that the remake runs on the original’s source code. Bluepoint Games was truly dedicated to doing Shadow of the Colossus justice, and they did it.
The remake’s graphics are extremely impressive. The PS2 era textures, animations, lighting, and shading of the original are now replaced by state of the art levels of detail. Areas of the environment have a whole new level of depth added to them, such as fireflies in dark forests, whirlwinds in the desert, and many other little details that breathe life to the setting. The colossi now feel more alive than ever thanks to their added detail and new audio, and characters’ facial animations are now fully expressive. What Team Ico did in 2005 but were limited by the technology available to them, has now finally been realized by Bluepoint Games in 2018 because of these new graphical advances.
The lovely graphics are not all this remake has to offer. The two biggest issues of the original Shadow of the Colossus were the sluggish controls and the framerate, both of which have been improved upon tenfold here. Now the controls feel smooth and the framerate is entirely consistent with my playthrough not having a single dip the whole time. Agro also feels much easier to control, with her not having trouble navigating environments heavy with foliage or obstacles. I played it on a vanilla PS4 where the framerate is capped at 30fps. On a PS4 Pro the framerate can be capped at 60fps with a sacrifice to resolution. They even changed the control scheme to fit the layout of the PS4 controller, which while just after coming off of the original, I took some getting used to but managed to adapt and can say it is better than the original’s. However, if you still are having issues with the new controls, you can switch to the classic scheme in the menu.
I found the remake’s difficulty to be more balanced compared to the original’s. You are given a choice of difficulty upon your first playthrough in the remake, unlike the first where your first game will be a default setting of normal. I actually died in a battle with a colossi in the remake, and a second time because of a dumb mistake I made in the original as well. It was because I got greedy and reckless but nonetheless they still count, and I found myself in danger of dying more in the remake when fighting colossi. I would describe the original’s normal difficulty as “easy normal”, and the remake’s as “actually normal”. It’s not as forgiving and even forced a player like me who knew what to expect to stay cautious.
All of this praise stands, but I can’t say I find every change and refinement the remake brought to the table was always for the better. The biggest example that comes to mind is our protagonist Wander. While his personality and motivation remain completely the same as the original’s and the area for interpretation is still intact, for some reason there were some changes to his appearance that left me scratching my head. In the original Wander had the demeanor and appearance of a determined young man in his early twenties by my estimation. Here, Wander is more baby-faced and looks like a depressed sixteen year old. I can’t say whether or not this was deliberate choice or while his face was being redone a mistake was made. Also, in the original game, Wander’s skin would become greyer with each colossus he killed and his clothes would slowly become more tattered and damaged over the journey’s course. This was a clever way of illustrating how much time had passed and the toll taken on Wander. The remake keeps the changes to his skin color, albeit makes it more subtle than before, but completely does away with the clothing damage. It would’ve been better to keep it because of how it drives home the difficulty of Wander’s quest and the damage he’s taking.
The original game’s atmosphere has been lost in the transition to better graphical fidelity. The original game had to make clever use of fog to compensate for the low draw distance, so despite the original’s graphics aging, its atmosphere still puts it above many other games today. The remake just does not quite have that same feel. I also have divided feelings about the new save system. The game now auto saves instead of requiring your input, and you can manually save your game at anytime. That’s a good modern addition, but it’s deceitful. You can manually save your game from the menu, but if you quit and load your save back up, you won’t start from exactly where you left off. Instead, you start back at the nearest shrine you discovered. The original’s save system was at least honest and did a better job at immersing you in the world of the game. Lastly, the camera is still a problem. Again, you can work with it, but it’s a shame that this issue from the original was left unfixed here.
So does the Shadow of the Colossus remake reach the heights of or even surpass the original? No it does not. Is it still an excellent game, a near perfect remake, and a great way to introduce a new generation to a classic? Yes it is. Whatever issues I had with the remake’s changes, Bluepoint managed to get the one thing down that was absolutely necessary: its heart. The remake was not just some easy cash grab, but a labor of love from people who clearly hold the original near and dear. I still suggest you play the original and then move on to this, but if you can’t play the original, then the remake is your perfect chance to experience one of gaming’s highlights.