As a run up to the release of The Last Guardian, the developers of both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus have re-released their previous games by remastering them in both HD and 3D for the PlayStation 3.
Ico was released in 2002, and broke new ground in video gaming. Eschewing the formula of glitzy graphics and lots of action, this game took the approach of gaming as an art form. The developers sought to pull players into a minimalistic world through sound and storyline alone, with the journey being the reason for the game.
The game was basic in concept, with the main character Ico seeking to escape a castle with a girl who, like himself, has been confined to the vast rooms and turrets of the castle. Gameplay elements include jumping, climbing and manipulating objects in the environment to progress further. There is the odd occasion where you need to resort to combat; however, these are largely a prop to the storyline rather than any great challenge.
The audio is also minimal, with the main female character speaking in an unknown and untranslated language, while other characters have their speech subtitled. This communication barrier between the hero and his heroine also adds to the mystery of the story. The music is also a key element to the game, with some wonderful tracks that serve to immerse you into the game.
When released, this game had to compete with some big first person shooter titles of the time; despite this it received nominations for game of the year, and a lot of recognition for its fresh approach to the genre
In 2005, Shadow of the Colossus — a followup to Ico of sorts — was released, and again gaming was presented as an art form. With its 15-minute opening sequence, players were introduced to sweeping vistas and towering landscapes that were both dark and breathtaking.
The game story revolves around Wander and his quest to resurrect his female companion Mono. Hardly a word is spoken, with the story and the quest laid out in the form of music and action with the slightest of verbal prompts to help you on the way. Taking the same minimalistic approach of Ico, there are only 16 monsters to defeat to complete the game. There are no other living creatures in the landscape besides you, your horse Agro and the Colossus. Each of these monsters are unique, and once found the challenge lies in how to defeat them. As the name implies, they are huge, and there is a real sense of David fighting Goliath. The initial ones are a matter of figuring out a way to climb onto the monster and making your way to its weak point to kill it. Further into the game it is more complex, with terrain playing a bigger role in how you defeat the monster.
Once again, when released this game received many accolades for its innovation and its artistic mastery.
So then, how do these games fare in an HD world on the PlayStation 3? Well, it’s a mixed bag, really. There is no doubt that both games have lost none of their magic despite their years; however, as far as high definition is concerned there is only a marginal gain, with the animation still being firmly in its original state. There is also 3D support; however, this appears to be a passing gimmick (something that Sony alluded to this past week) and one not recommended by some health professionals for long term game play.
Overall though, this is a great package of games - especially if you have never played them before. The unique puzzle and adventure elements are challenging, while the artistic elements set them apart from any other games you have played before.