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by Ethos

Shadow of the Colossus: Closing Thoughts

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

One of the largest among the 16.

One of the largest among the 16.


I’ve talked about Shadow of the Colossus twice already this week, and I’ve yet to touch on the actual gameplay found within. Granted, SotC is a game renowned for its mood and atmosphere, but the actual slaying of the beasts is not only brilliantly executed in terms of mechanics and planning, but yet another important part of the atmosphere the game creates.

Each and every Colossus is a battle to be remembered. The first thing that strikes you (unsurprisingly) is how huge these things are; never before has a game put you up against a foe hundreds upon hundreds of times your size, armed with only a sword and a bow. After the short introductory cutscene to each foe, it’s just you and the giant – and the frantic search for the key to defeating the beast begins. There’s no hack-and-slash here; each Colossus is a puzzle to be solved. The end result is always the same: after stabbing their weak points enough times, the beast will die. But getting to those weak points can be a challenge even for the most seasoned puzzle-crackers. Simply put, these fights are some of the most brilliantly conceived boss battles in videogame history.

Aside from that, the Colossi battles give the term “cinematic gameplay” new meaning. Each and every encounter is more than just a fight; it’s an absolute visual feast. Imagine clinging to the wings of a massive flying beast as it soars miles above the ground, trying its best to shake you off. Or holding on for dear life as a freakishly large watersnake dives below the surface with you in tow. The moments are impossible to describe, and nothing else in the world of videogames compares to them.

The game’s powerful atmosphere is present even in during the hecticity of the battles. The music, as I’ve discussed before, compliments the situations beautifully. The sense of loneliness is still present; despite how many Colossi you take down, each new encounter is a daunting experience. You’ll always feel woefully underwhelmed and overmatched.

One of my personal favorites.

One of my personal favorites.


Shadow of the Colossus is a game I could ramble about for many, many Team ICO weeks. But we have but one Team ICO week to spare, and that week has officially run its course. As much as I enjoy writing about the game, it’s really impossible to convey the experience through words and images. Shadow of the Colossus is something that must be experienced, not seen.

So, uh, what are you waiting for? Go buy it. And while you’re at it, sniff around for a copy of it’s spiritual predecessor Ico as well. Yeah, I know we weren’t able to talk about Ico this week (glares at Ethos), but it’s still an awesome game.

Goodnight everyone; I had a fantastic time Team ICO-ing with you this week. Now it’s time to honor one of the greatest Sci Fi epics ever told…

While You Were Out…

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

As this glorious Team ICO week is wrapping up, I realized that quite a bit of content has gone up that you may have missed if you don’t check the site every 7 seconds like I do. So to help you out, I’ve gathered a few of the highlights for your convenience. Of course, these are just some of my choices, you can always scroll down and click the “older posts” button to fulfill your undoubtedly insatiable appetite for Riddlethos.

-Both Riddles and I got the PS3 Slim this week. Riddles documented his purchase with a picture post.

-I posted my second “‘ELLO GUV’NAH” piece to tell you all what I had been playing.

-To continue with regular segments. Riddles touched us all with another “Hey! Look! Listen!

-I had an all-out The Last Guardian Day to talk about hopes and fears for the highly anticipated title.

-Riddles spoke so beautifully about Shadow of the Colossus that he even convinced a reader to buy the game.

-I terrified everybody with a preview of my upcoming Mr. Cloud Man Has An Accident cartoon.

-And of course our weekly News Roundup that you can always access from the side menu whenever you’d like.

And here’s an awesome picture of real life Pac-Man that Deerwolf gave me.
pacman

Just a reminder…

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

So while it sounds like Riddles isn’t going to beat Shadow of the Colossus this week, at least he played it and posted two updates about it. I on the other hand…
ico-box-art

News Roundup #003

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

The Roundup is back! Things get heated this time as Ethos hits one of Riddles’ sore spots and the fanboy claws come out on both sides.
Apart from lovers quarrels, Riddles and Ethos discuss release dates for various forms of Final Fantasy, a potential sequel to Okami, and perhaps the dumbest world record to ever hit the gaming world.
Dive in, enjoy, and don’t forget to comment afterward.
Click here to enjoy.

Shadow of the Colossus: Day 2

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Okay, I know Team ICO week is nearly over and this is only the second time I’ve written about Shadow of the Colossus. But hey, I’m doing better than Ethos is with Ico, seeing as how he never even managed to get a copy of the game. But as much as I like belittling Ethos, that’s not why I’m here today.

The game's main hub

The game's main hub


The last time I talked about Shadow of the Colossus, I used its musical soundtrack as a springboard to discuss the immense emotional power the game contains. The raw emotion that the game conveys is something that, quite simply, can only be done through the videogame medium – hence why I consider Shadow of the Colossus one of the single greatest arguments for games as art.

It amazes me how good Shadow of the Colossus still looks today. The game was never a technical marvel, even upon its release in 2005, but it’s incredibly distinctive visual style still stands out. The entire game almost looks like a faded, age-worn painting, which lends to the archaic element of the atmosphere – as the player, you feel like Wander’s story took place eons upon eons ago, in a land lost to time.

The land itself is one of the largest continuous worlds ever designed for a videogame. I can’t think of any other games in which I’ve spent so much time standing on the edge of a cliff or a hilltop and just rotating the camera, taking in every visual detail. There are no towns to be found in this world; only rolling hills, rocky cliffs, and ancient shrines that are beautiful even in ruins. The size and beauty of the world, in combination with utter silence aside from whirling winds, creates an incredible aura of loneliness. This loneliness is the main component of the game’s atmosphere, and it’s the best I’ve ever experienced. Titles such as the original Metroid Prime come close, but fail to match what’s been done here.

One of the single greatest animal companions in gaming.

One of the single greatest animal companions in gaming.


If nothing else, Shadow of the Colossus is a fantastic example of how graphics can mean both everything and nothing at the same time. As I stated earlier, the game is no technical marvel – character models aren’t overly detailed, textures can be blurry (which almost adds to the beauty of the world, but still) and the framerate tends to stutter from time to time. However, the stylistic design is so powerful that these flaws mean nothing. Developers would do well to learn that while hyper-realistic character models and flawless textures are more than welcome, without an impacting visual style, they don’t mean all that much in the end.

Look for one final post discussing Sony’s modern classic later this weekend. And if you’re good, I might crack open my copy of Ico just for old times’ sake…

Dissidia: Final Fantasy: The First Three Hours

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

At long, long last Dissidia has arrived. Lord knows I’ve been waiting for it for far too long, and I’m sure the most of you are with me on that. Ashamedly enough, I didn’t pick it up on launch day – the release of the PS3 Slim caused me to overlook it. But I quickly remedied it the next day, and since then I’ve managed to clock in a WHOPPING… three hours.

I try, okay? I really do. In any case, I’ve played enough to warrant some initial impressions of the game. A full review will follow someday, sometime.

You all know the basic premise behind Dissidia, so I won’t bore you with all of that. After creating your save file, you’re taken to a screen with multiple options for play: Story Mode, Arcade Mode, Quick Battle, and Communications Mode. Other options include the “PP Catalog,” which is where you use “Player Points” to purchase goodies such as new playable characters and costumes.

The modes are all fairly self-explanatory. The Story Mode lets you play through the individual storyline of one of the many playable characters. The Arcade Mode lets you choose a character and play through five random battles. Quick Battle allows you to customize a single, quick fight. Like, say, if you really want to see what would happen if Firion from Final Fantasy II were to face off against Kefka from Final Fantasy VI. Communications Mode is the game’s multiplayer mode. Sadly, (and shockingly) there is no online play. If you want to face off against against a real person, you’ll need a buddy with a PSP and a copy of the game.

The Warrior of Light!

The Warrior of Light!


I’ve spent some time with all modes except Communications Mode thus far. Story Mode is clearly the meat of the game, and I’ve played through two chapters of it. Upon selecting story mode, you’re treated to an absolutely gorgeous CG cutscene that you probably watched on the internet months ago. (I did.) Afterwards you’re thrust into the swing of things as the nameless Warrior of Light. How it works is this: each chapter has five “levels” that are represented by a checkerboard grid. You start on one side of the grid, and the goal is, essentially, to move to the other side. The catch is, multiple squares are guarded by baddies, and the amount of times you can move is limited by the number of “Destiny Points” – or DP – you possess. The grids are also occasionally littered with treasure chests or potions, which can aid you in your quest. (At the expense of DP, of course.)

Between each grid is a cutscene devoted to the player you chose and the companions he’s traveling with. To be utterly blunt, these cutscenes are borderline painful to watch. As cool as it is to see Cloud, Tidus, Cecil and Firion in the same place, the dialogue is God-awful cheesy and the delivery isn’t a whole lot better. Although, to their credit, Square Enix seems to have gone out of their way to re-acquire actors who have voiced Final Fantasy characters in the past. Steve Burton returns as Cloud, James Arnold Taylor voices Tidus, Yuri Lowenthal is back as Cecil – the list goes on. However, the bottom line is: don’t buy Dissidia if you’re hoping for an epic, involved Final Fantasy narrative. While the game as a whole rises above, the plotline remains firmly rooted in typical fanservice drivel.

Kuja VS. Zidane

Kuja VS. Zidane


But enough negativity. Let’s turn to the many (many) positive points of Dissidia. As I mentioned in the demo impression I wrote some weeks ago, the combat is just fantastic. For those unfamiliar, there are two attacks at your disposal: bravery attacks and physical attacks. Bravery attacks steal an opponent’s Bravery Points (which translates directly to the amount of damage a character can deal), while physical attacks deal damage in proportion to the number of bravery points the player has accumulated. Thus, battles become less about hack-and-slash, and more about striking at the right time, with the right amount of bravery points.

While it wears the veneer of a fighting game, Dissidia includes some extensive skill and weapons customization options that JRPG nerds (such as myself) will have a blast playing around with. For whatever reason it’s a ton of fun to deck your fighter out in whatever gear you manage to get your hands on. Like any respectable Final Fantasy game, there are summons, which can be called to battle to aid you. There’s a strange pseudo-synthesis system that works by meeting certain requirements in battle (frankly I’m still unsure how the system works) and there are shops to buy crap from. Outside of the actiony battle system, Dissidia features some fun and solid JRPG mechanics.

But the single greatest thing about Dissidia will have to be experienced to be appreciated: the amount of trivial fanservice Square Enix has packed into the game is unbelievable. Every option on the menu has its own tutorial, hosted by a different Final Fantasy character. References are made to spelling and translation errors in older Final Fantasy games. (“There is no Vicks! Only Biggs! Ahem. Moving along…”) To say much more would be to ruin the best that the game has to offer.

I’m loving Dissidia so far. It’s fairly simplistic, but addicting. It’s a whole lot of fanservice, but the mechanics underneath are solid enough so that the experience doesn’t feel hollow. If you’ve been playing Final Fantasy for any length of time and own a PSP, you absolutely cannot go wrong here. Look for a full review soon. And by that I mean when I finish it. Which is God-knows when.

Cop out or AWESOME out?

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Wow Flipnote Studio is the most fun I’ve had for free in a long time. So I promised lots of dumb pictures, and here’s over 50 dumb pictures that I just drew! They just happen to be put together into an animation. For those of you that have known me since I was a kid, Mr. Cloud Man needs no explanation, but this is a situation you’ve never seen him in before. HOW WILL HE ESCAPE?!?!

Part Three – The Future: Continue With Curiousity.

Friday, August 28th, 2009

I’m back!
Alright, let’s dive in. I’ve told you about my reservations and my excitement, so I think it’s about time we got the speculation train chugging.

Who is controlling whom?

Who is controlling whom?

Gameplay-
One of the most interesting things about The Last Guardian is the very strong suggestion that you play as a child. And going by the way Team ICO designs games, I’m also going to assume that you don’t really get beefed up as the game progresses either. In the E3 trailer, the child is shown struggling against a guard and any time he prevailed over one, it was because he used the environment to his advantage, not because he whipped out some crazy ninja moves. So how will the child interact with the beast? Will it be like Agro? Controllable, but with a mind of its own? I can hardly imagine that every time you ride the beast, you’ll be required to watch a cut scene. That just seems mad. But then again, wouldn’t the child be too overpowered with the beast? Well it seems obvious that the beast is too large or too clumsy to follow the child everywhere, because we see the kid inside a castle or a cave without the beast. But why does he even go to those places? Does he need to collect certain things to escape? Does he even need to escape? But I suppose now I’m touching on…

Story-

Best Buddies before a Beautiful Backdrop

Best Buddies before a Beautiful Backdrop

What is this beast? How did he meet the child? Who is the child? How did the beast escape from the chain we saw at the beginning of the trailer? The beast has the very important horns seen in all three games. Perhaps this is yet another prequel? Or maybe a tale to properly take place after ICO on the rough timeline. WHO KNOWS?! I actually didn’t think about story too much before I started talking with fellow fans today, but now that it’s on my mind, it’s actually very intriguing. The premise in Shadow of the Colossus contributed greatly to its mood, so I have to imagine the story will have equal weight in The Last Guardian as well. Innocence and bravery are two themes that come instantly to mind. Misunderstood outcasts seems to be a running theme with Team ICO, and The Last Guardian doesn’t appear to be any different. Actually, it seems to be strongest in this game because of the assumed innocence of the child. Even in Wander’s case, he knew he was entering forbidden land. Wow, the more I discuss the possibilities for this game, the more I get excited for it and my reservations melt away.
But since there’s not really much else to go off of at this point until this year’s Tokyo Game Show, I should leave the rest up to you. What do you expect/hope for in The Last Guardian? Do you care? Let’s have a fanboy fest in the comments below! The promised stupid picture post is still coming, but not until later tonight. Ethos out!

Part Two – The Middle: The E3 2009 Trailer. Enter Optimism.

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Since I laid out some negatives in The Beginning post, I will instead relay all the good things that came to me when I re-watched the newer trailer released at E3 this year. Aside from obvious graphical improvements (just compare the two trailers at the point when the landscape is first revealed), there is much about the extended preview that gets me excited.

Ah yes, ain't that fresh

Ah yes, ain't that fresh

-After getting used to the beast’s design (which is also better in the newer version), I really started to appreciate how Team ICO is making it come alive. Little quirks and movements make this completely ridiculous-looking beast entirely believable. I feel like that thing could legitimately exist in some jungle somewhere.

-The soundtrack appears to be quite promising. As my sleepy-head co-host, Riddles pointed out, Shadow of the Colossus sports one of the greatest gaming soundtracks around, and as such has set a very high standard for the “series”. My friend Andy recently lent me the ICO soundtrack which is also very atmospheric and occasionally quite good, but not SotC level, so it’s cool to hear The Last Guardian have a flavour that’s both promising and also not just a continuation from the other two games’ music.

-While I loved the barren landscapes of Shadow, The Last Guardian seems to have a far more lush environment overall, which excites me quite a bit. The swimming sections are intriguing even if deep water does terrify me, and the caverns are warm and natural.

-Like I said, the prospect of bringing back minor enemies irks me a bit, but it is encouraging that the trailer suggests that there will be no traditional hack and slash gameplay. Rather it appears like our young hero will be searching the environment for ways to use it against his foes. Which, if anything, is more like Shadow of the Colossus than ICO. It makes sense too, because could a little kid really hold his own in battle against those spooky phantom guard things?

So although it took some time, now that I’ve accepted the game’s direction, the mechanics are starting to make sense to me. I’ve been talking to other fans on Facebook, here at Riddlethos, and over at the IGN PS3 boards, and I’m going to put some speculation people have made about these mechanics and the plot in the next post. Stay tuned!

Part One – The Beginning: The “Leaked” YouTube trailer. Start with Skepticism.

Friday, August 28th, 2009

I always put “leaked” in quotations because I believe it was an intentional leak to build hype. Not that it’s a bad thing, I just want to be clear.
Long time Ethos fans will likely remember my initial reactions to the old trailer.
I literally thought it was a joke trailer when the beast was first revealed because I thought a cat face had been photoshopped on.
Now I understand that designer/director, Fumito Ueda, has since stated that the beast is supposed to look funny. I’m also sure that will play into major themes in the game as well, so that means that I reacted the way I was supposed to, I guess. Doesn’t mean the trailer was any more appealing to me at the time.
Now those worries that I stated in that old article aren’t really present anymore. I talked about not wanting to rely on a partner in the same way I did in ICO. I don’t feel that will be the case. I don’t think the beast will be an annoying Yorda clone, but far more similar to Agro. I still have worries about watering the damn thing and it becoming a fancy Nintendog (as someone over at the IGN PS3 boards put it), but overall, I’m looking forward to interacting with the beast.
No, I was also worried about a small thing that I didn’t mention in that Lusipurr.com article. There is a point near the beginning in which the beast knocks a guard into a wall. It was a badass scene, I’ll admit, but my heart also sunk when I saw another person besides the beast and the boy. I praise Shadow of the Colossus over and over for its mood and ability to capture loneliness and hope, and I felt like the shadow people in ICO only existed to take me out of the experience. Same with the ending of SotC. Most people loved it, but I just got annoyed when other characters entered the world.
Anyway, if I was worried about just one guy, the E3 trailer had another thing coming to me!
As you can probably tell, I was pretty down on the game when I first saw this trailer. I have such high hopes for Team ICO games, that I’m not sure what wouldn’t have disappointed me.
Anyway, those aren’t exactly my sentiments anymore, but one thing at a time! Stay tuned for my Last Guardian journey on-going throughout the day.
the-last-guardianwtf