The PlayStation 2 action-adventure game Shadow of the Colossus, which serves as prequel to ICO, does away with numerous conventional video game formulas to create an aesthetically breathtaking experience surrounding the massive fights that make up the core gameplay. It also features a deliberately simplistic (and largely unexplained) story that allows players to form their own story based on their own experiences. Numerous critics have hailed Colossus as a wonderful combination of minimalist storytelling and lush graphics, and it has become one of gaming's most celebrated examples of Doing It for the Art.A young man named Wander enters a forbidden land on horseback, carrying the corpse of a girl, Mono, with him. Wander travels to the Shrine of Worship in search of Dormin, a mysterious god-like being said to have the power to bring people back from the dead.Upon his arrival at the Shrine, Wander hears the disembodied voice of Dormin, who confirms that he can revive Mono — but warns Wander that he will pay a terrible price in return. Dormin then instructs Wander to seek out and kill sixteen Colossi spread throughout in the forbidden land. Once all sixteen of the giants have fallen, Mono will be resurrected.As Wander navigates the vast expanse of empty land on his horse Agro, he has only one tool to help him find the Colossi: a magic sword that he can use to reflect light and create a beam that points in the direction of the next battle. This light beam becomes less and less helpful as the game progresses, as reaching the later Colossi involves lots of long detours through shadowy mountain paths and dark valleys.When Wander engages in battle with a Colossus, he must defeat them by climbing up their fur- and stone-covered bodies to find their weak points. The Colossi do everything possible to make reaching the weak points difficult, so battles can take far longer than the typical boss battle in other video games. Once Wander kills a Colossus, he gets transported back to the Shrine of Worship, and the process repeats itself — each time with some very, very subtle changes in Wander's looks.Or spend the first ten+ hours exploringeverything.The game is unique in several ways:
While Wander can kill the local wildlife for a small permanent stamina bonus, only the sixteen Colossi serve as his enemies.
The game provides no towns or dungeons to explore or other characters to interact with. The manual explains that other people consider the land cursed, and it also implies that a previous civilization lived there (which would explain the Benevolent Architecture).
Wander has only a bow-and-arrow set and the magic sword in his inventory. No other items exist in an initial playthrough, and he cannot upgrade his current ones (except for replay value in a New Game+). The player finishes the game in essentially the same state as when he started it.
Shadow of the Colossus contains examples of the following tropes:
After Boss Recovery: After defeating each colossus, Wander is returned to the Shrine of Worship with his health meter fully restored. It also increases with each colossus defeated.
Alas, Poor Villain: Most of the Colossi aren't in any position to come attack you; they mostly just react to your attacks and your invasion of their personal space. So it's understandable that each and every one has a slow-motion (The Colossi fall slowly since they're so huge) death scene with haunting music and the whole bag, to drive in what you've just done. Phalanx in particular is absolutely stunning. It makes no attempt to acknowledge you, much less attack you, which makes you feel even worse when you give it the death blow.
All There in the Script: His name is Wander and her name is Mono, we only know this because of the credits. He does say her name after his vision of Mono's awakening though, albeit very quietly.
Annoying Arrows: Although arrows are useful in attacking a weak point or getting their attention, the sword is the only thing that can kill the Colossi. Justified in that, well, they're really big, they're partly made of rock and stone, and (according to Dormin, at least), destiny says the Cool Sword is the only thing that can hurt them. Averted, however, once Wander's the one getting shot at. Even after transforming, he still drags his left leg.
Armor Is Useless: Averted. Wander can't penetrate any part of a colossus that is covered in stone armor or thick hide. Instead, he has to find ways to get to their vital weak spots, which are invariably on the fur-covered parts of the colossus's body. In fact, a couple of them are completely covered in armor, and the only way to beat them is to knock it off somehow.
Considering that they literally collapse into dust and dirt when you kill them, it's pretty much confirmed supernatural.
Beautiful Void: The minimalist design of the game combined with its emphasis on exploring creates a world that is not only large but almost completely void of life.
Benevolent Architecture: Sometimes the geometrical arrangement of the geography seems a little too convenient for reaching certain colossi. A Justified Trope, however, since the location is one big ruin, so these structures had a purpose once. What exactly that purpose was, however, is another matter.
Actually, the colossi themselves have a Benevolent Architecture: the stone parts are usually designed way too conveniently to be natural (especially blatant during the first, fourth and final colossi)
Big, Badass Bird of Prey: One that seems to follow you at random times during your adventure. If you time it right, you can even catch a ride with it. There is also Avion, a Colossus designed like a large bird.
Bittersweet Ending: One interpretation of the ending: Mono is revived, so Wander succeeded in his quest. Agro, who was last seen falling into a ravine having saved Wander's life, is alive and reasonably well (possibly due to Dormin reviving and summoning her back to the temple, just like the fifteen times previously), and Wander himself is given a second chance at life. Lord Emon has destroyed/resealed Dormin and shattered the bridge to the Forbidden Lands, so no one can tresspass upon it, which presumably satisfies him, and Wander is indeed allowed a chance for atonement, as he privately wished. On the other hand, Wander had to go through severe traumatic experience, could have (possibly did) die during his possession by Dormin, and the three of them - Agro, Mono and Wander - are now stuck in the Forbidden Lands with no feasible means of escape. And, of course, every last one of the colossi has been destroyed and left to decay. For an alternative interpretation, see Downer Ending below.
Bizarrchitecture: Gaius resides on a mushroom-like metal disc arising out of the water at an askew angle. It's surrounded by several similar-looking but smaller discs.
Book Ends: The first cinematic opens with dark skies and clouds, as an eagle flies into the shot over the mountains. After the credits, the eagle flies over the mountains, out of shot, and the last cinematic ends with clouds and dark skies.
Boss Arena Idiocy: Common with the desert-based Collosi, but the pyrophobic hanging out in a room full of torches takes the cake.
Boss Game: There are no wild monsters to get in the way or slow you down. Just you, sixteen Colossi scattered across miles and miles of Scenery Porn, and a sword which points in their general direction.
Boss Room: A few Colossi can't be escaped from once they're engaged.
Boss Rush: Well... yeah. That's what the game is. However, there is a Time Attack Mode which tasks you with killing each colossus as fast as possible. Do well, and you unlock lots of goodies. See Time Limit Boss.
There's also the Sword of the Sun, which produces a beam even when in a dark area. Sounds useful, but it can only be unlocked on hard mode, which can only be unlocked by beating the whole game on normal mode first. So you can only obtain this sword that helps you find the colossi once you've already been to them all and know where they are.
Bullfight Boss: The 'tiny' Collosi, Celosia and Cenobia. Shattering their armor takes some figuring out.
Camera Screw: Happens whenever a solid object, like the wall or a Colossus' thrashing limb, is behind Wander and won't let you see what's going on.
Colossus Climb: The Trope Namer. Part of the challenge involves getting a colossus or yourself into position so that this can be started, and then locating its weak point while climbing it. Funnily enough, not every Colossus is a tower sized being. The smaller, tank-sized ones move ridiculously fast and are (relatively) aggressive on sight.
Concealment Equals Cover: Against any Colossi that can use projectiles, cover of any sort is acceptable. Since the setting is mostly stone, it's reasonable.
Except against the twelfth colossus, where you can hide a foot underwater to avoidů lightning balls.
At the end of the game, a child is born with two horns.
If you ride along the south-western coast, you can end up on the beach from ICO's ending sequence.
One of the bonus weapons from the time attacks is the sword from ICO's finale.
Some of the ruins resemble those found around the Castle In The Mist.
Shadowy human-shaped creatures, like those fought in ICO, can be seen at several points in the game.
Word of God also confirms the fictional language spoken is the same one from ICO, and that Wander is the progenitor of the line of horned boys.
Controllable Helplessness: Twice during the ending sequence.The second one theoretically could be escaped from, but there are invisible walls at the edge and no apparent outside.
The player also retains control of Wander in the brief moment between slaying a colossus and being impaled by the evil black tentacles that emerge from its corpse. Needless to say, it's not possible to outrun them.
You drive the eleventh one over an edge out of fear of you scorching it with a torch. How it cowers is especially pitiful.
Cutscene Drop: After striking the final blow into a colossus, a cutscene begins which shows their demise. Usually, this isn't too far away from where the actual blow was dealt and you won't notice it, but it becomes obvious against certain foes like Avion and Celosia. Even more so, when you return to find the body later, don't expect it to be in the same place where you saw it fall, or even in the same position.
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: If you happen to fall off of the fifth colossus during the fight, and manage to land on top of one of the ruins sticking out of the lake, the colossus will actually use its wings to blow gusts of wind at you and knock you back into the water, rather than swooping at you.
He'll also do this if you try to be cute and snipe at him from behind the fence surrounding the entrance to his lake. You'll just get flung down the set of stairs behind you, though.
Downer Ending: Another possible interpretation of the ending: Not only are you a baby, but you've trapped the girl in the valley (presumably) forever. And it's also implied that the valley is uninhabitable. The colossi and Dormin are dead, you've doomed yourself, the girl and your beloved horse to imprisonment in the wastelands, and, if you believe Emon is the villain, then the main villain effectively got away after nearly killing you. Keep in mind, though, this game takes minimalist storytelling to its logical extreme, so pretty much nothing has been or can be confirmed about the ending, except some Word of God that the horned boys from Ico are descended from Wander.
Dummied Out: The "dam". No one knows why it's there or what it would have been for. In its present form it doesn't even have collision data (meaning you can't stand on it), and it's only accessible through hacking and a lot of patience.
And for that matter, the entire east section of the map, that will remain covered by clouds. There is a bridge over the 12th colossus area that could have been an access to it, but there is no way to get up there.
Empty Room Psych: Averted, since none of the bonus items or powerups are found by wandering around (rather by beating specific challenges) or other plot related NPCs or items anywhere in the game. Essentially, the whole game is a love letter to Scenery Porn. There is the secret garden, which is very hard to reach and at first glance appears to contain nothing but poisonous fruit. If you search long and hard, though, you discover that it really does contain nothing else.
Some players, desperate to find something new, will invoke this trope on themselves simply by getting hyped up over finding a particularly interesting rock formation or an out-of-the-way cliff ledge. Needless to say, there's never anything there.
Everything Fades: Averted with the Colossi. Once you've killed them, their bodies will turn to stone and lie exactly where they fell for the rest of the game. If you're curious, or have a lot of time on your hands, you can go back to their arenas and take a look at the remains. Played straight with the arrows - fire above a certain quantity of arrows and the remaining ones disappear.
Evil Is Not a Toy: The price Wander pays for going against Emon and Dormin's warnings is Demonic Possession. Both Dormin and Emon warned that bad things would happen if he insisted on going through with the forbidden spell to revive Mono. That said, it might have been less Evil Is Not a Toy and more The Forbidden Power Of Reviving A Dead Person By Killing Ancient Hallowed Creatures And Harnessing Their Spirits Is Not A Toy, especially when you remember that the mysterious entity helping you ends up possessing you as a side effect.
On the flipside, both Wander and Dormin were also in danger at that time. Wander was being killed by Emon, and Dormin was at risk of losing Their human vessel, so maybe the Demonic Possession was a necessary stepping in to prevent Emon from ruining everything. In any case, They said They were "borrowing" Wander's body. They didn't say it was permanent, and who knows what might have happened next if Emon hadn't dropped the sword in the pool and had Dormin's spirit sucked in.
Fictionary: The language spoken in the game is said to be composed by some amalgam of Backwards Japanese, English and Latin.
Final Boss: Depending on your interpretation, Malus, Wander, Dormin, or Emon.
Flipping Helpless: This is the weakness of two bosses. The eighth Colossus is only vulnerable when it falls and lands on its back, while the ninth is flipped.
Gone Horribly Right: Wander wants to harness Dormin's ability to resurrect the dead by killing each and every colossus. He gets a lot more than he had bargained for.
Gotta Kill Em All: The cape where Malus resides is blocked off until his brethren are slain.
Insurmountable Waist High Fence: There are occasionally ledges which, by rights, Wander should physically be able to jump onto or climb, but for some reason he can't do so.
Invisible Wall: Even if it is a bit more subtle than an outright wall. If you manage to climb the shrine, you can actually walk the bridge that links it to the mainland. When you get at the other side you find an open exit, try to proceedů and are pushed back by a strong wind coming from outside. This may be justified if this is Dormin's doing (if They don't want Wander to go before having slayed all the colossi) but it's really just a way to say "sorry but the map stops here, what did you expect?"
Ironic Echo: That song that plays when a Colossus dies? It plays when Wander is sucked into Emon's spell.
Lead The Target: A useful tactic when fighting the Colossi is to aim your arrows slightly ahead of where the target is going to be.
Light 'em Up: Aside from literally leading Wander to the colossi and their weak spots, the sword seems to actually kick up dust/burn whenever there's an object where the light happens to gather. Since there's no discernible sun in the sky, this may be (at least partially) Dormin's ability/presence.
Long Song, Short Scene: In general, there are a lot of very nice songs on the soundtrack that are very short and only play about once in the entire game. Certain parts of certain songs are never heard in-game, and others like "Marshlands", "Roar of the Earth" (which is the subtitle of the Soundtrack), and "Sky Burial" aren't even featured in the game at all.
Luck-Based Mission: The Time Attack as a whole can fall into this. While fighting each Colossus the second time is not too difficult (give or take your own personal Goddamned Boss), doing it against a timer may force you to abandon an otherwise workable, if time-consuming, strategy in favour of a quicker one, hence a lot of trial and error and hoping that the Colossus will get into the right position quickly. Unfortunately, the Colossus AIs won't always do what you want them to do, leading to a lot of time lost and much frustration.
Meaningful Name: Every character. Dormin's is described below and is also close to dormir, the French/Spanish/Portuguese word for being asleep. Wander's name is obvious. Mono comes from the prefix meaning "single" or "alone", meaningful when you consider the ending. Agro's name doesn't seem to come from anything meaningful, although it does mean fuss or bother in the Ido language. The All There in the Manual/Word of God names from the Colossi are usually rooted in some sort of mythology.
Dormin is also Nimrod backwards. Nimrod killed a bull and wore its horns on his head in order to strike fear into his enemies, and he was also murdered and cut into several pieces. Both of which tie into the story of Dormin.
Menu Time Lockout: After beating Time Attack Mode, you get goodies which an be accessed in the pause menu. At any point during the game, you can switch between them instantly.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Depending on whether you interpret the consequences of Wander's actions as being intentional or not, they can be seen as this. Given that Dormin doesn't reveal that his spirit was trapped in the colossi until after you kill them all, it's probably a straight example.
No Arc in Archery: Wander's arrows do fly in an arch, but only if they're rapidly fired without properly tensing the bow. Holding down the aim button will straighten the trajectory so that the arrow aims for the crosshairs the player can see onscreen.
Not the Fall That Kills You: Doesn't matter what height Wander falls from, if he can grab a ledge or a vine on the way down, he'll be perfectly fine. In fact, even if he doesn't grab something, he'll still take less damage than a real fall would've done. This reaches its peak during the last colossus, where a fall from a colossus like a skyscraper is eased if you only grab one of the lower ledges at the last second. There are certain situations where this is averted, mainly outside of the Colossus battles.
One-Hit Kill: Some Colossus attacks become this in Hard Mode.
100% Completion: The Updated Re-releaseICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection for the PS3 has trophies that requires you to do absolutely everything you can think of. This includes, but not limited to, climbing to the top of the tower, obtaining every item, and maxing out your health and stamina..
Save Game Limits: On his quest, Wander can only save his progress by two methods. There are temples scattered across the land where he can pray - these are save points for the player. Reload the game after saving and Wander will be found sleeping at the foot of the temple. The other method is to kill a Colossus and wait for the screen to go dark before being prompted.
Save the Princess: Massively deconstructed. The entire tragedy of the game stems from the futility of saving Mono, and the ignoble sacrifices your character makes in order to succeed. It seems those responsible for Mono's fate want her to stay dead, going all the way to the Forbidden Land in droves to stop whatever Wander might pull off.
Scenery Porn: The lush detail added to every canyon, every field, every forest and lake, can only be explained by Doing It for the Art. It has been described on this wiki as 'a love letter to Scenery Porn'. The remastered, high definition release is even more glorious
Sound-Coded for Your Convenience: A Colossus generally has two types of music play during its boss fight - the initial theme, which is what you start hearing, and the 'victory is at hand' music, which usually plays once you've done something crucial and victory is at hand.
Trick Arrow: If you play Time Attack Mode, you can get upgrades for your bow, including whistling arrows and explosive arrows.
Updated Re-release: After seeing how the first two God of War games were getting a hi-def upgrade for a PlayStation 3 re-release, Team ICO hinted that they'd like to do the same for both ICO and Colossus, but may not because of the cost and effort involved. At least, that was initially: TGS10 had confirmed an ICO and Shadow of the Colossus HD Compilation remake with 3D, upped frame-rate, and widescreen. And The Fandom Rejoiced once it was finally released.
You can kill any of the local wildlife, including the tortoises and the doves that gather around Mono.
You're free to slash or shoot Agro. The poor horse will spook and run away from you, and is very likely to react like this for a long time afterwards whenever you draw your sword.
Virgin in a White Dress: Technically, we don't actually know if Mono is in fact a virgin, but considering white doves gather around her as you progress through the game, it's not too much of a stretch.
Walk It Off: Other than the save shrines, there's no real way to heal other than to wait as your lifebar slowly grows back. Standing still or crouching helps it speed up, but in battle this also leaves you in danger if you hang about too long in the open.
The game was originally planned to be an MMO, but the developers considered it to be an unrealistic venture considering the team's size, skills, and experience at the time. Concept video here.
The original setting was to be a massive wasteland.
The Shrine of Worship that serves as the hub was, at some point, to have been fully scalable rather than the secret garden being the limit.
Futimo Ueda originally wanted 48 colossi to face in the game. After realizing it was technologically impossible, he cut it down to 24 colossi. During the development between the original MMO concept and the final product, 8 of the colossi were cut for various reasons, resulting in the final 16 colossi. Here's the list of the cut 8 colossi:
Aberth, a Spider colossus resembling a daddy long legs. Cut for being too difficult, as it had an instant-kill attack and hitting its legs while moving through the area with Agro was deemed too hard. It was set to be fought near a body of water and its weak point was located in its mouth.
Adar Flam, a Phoenix colossus with an ostrich-like neck. There are two unconfirmed reasons for it being cut: the battlefield was too big than what the dev team wanted for the fight and it was too powerful to balance the fight. It was supposed somehow be knocked into a body of water to extinguish the flames enveloping its body so that it could be climbed.
Avus, a Rocnote a bird of prey from Arabic/Persian mythology colossus and prototype to Avion. Rumored to have been cut due to the fight being too similar to the fight with Phalanx and the dev team having trouble programming the collisions. Modeled with a longer neck than Avion, a head resembling that of a frilled lizard, and bat-like wings. It was to have been fought in a desert area.
Dionin, a Worm colossus with a flower bulb-like head. Rumored to have been cut due to being too powerful and it required a huge arena in order to dodge its attacks. Its bulb-like head was its weak point. It was said to have been a Sequential Boss to another unmentioned colossus that was fought in the same arena.
Kyos, a Griffin colossus with withdrawn joints and decorative wings. Meant to have been fought while riding Agro like Dirge, as it was fast moving, and was weak to fire like Celosia. Said to have been cut due to the significantly lengthy climb to reach its back and the fact that it was easy to fall off of it.
Monkey, a Monkey/Gorilla colossus that hung from the ceiling. It was supposed to be fought in a cave-like area and possibly needed to be shot down with the bow to expose its weak point. The reason it was cut is unknown. Doesn't have a Fan Nickname and is referred to by the development nickname.
Pholux, a Devil colossus resembling a winged gargoyle. Extremely small when compared to other colossi and the fight was considered to be fierce. Needed to have been baited with arrows and then jumped from behind while hiding in tall grass. The reason it was cut is unknown.
Sirius, a Boar colossus similar in size to both Celosia and Cenobia, whom are roughly the same size as an adult African elephant. It was set to be fought in an earlier version of quadrant G7, the Green Cape, but was cut due to the means of defeating it not working out. Sirius was unarmored, and ergo very fast, and the only obstacle was getting on its back. A Stonehenge-like monument found at the Green Cape was to have been used for defeating Sirius, and it's speculated that Sirius was to be baited to run between the monument and subsequently get stuck, allowing its Sigil to be attacked.
There was originally supposed to be an alternate ending if the game detected a save file for ICO. Mono was to have woke up earlier and spooked away Lord Emon and his men before Dormin made itself known. The result was Mono being together with an adult Wander, who looked like humanoid shadow with horns protruding from his head.
The mysterious Dummied Out Dam is a notable example. It's now only accesible through hacks and patience and nobody knows what purpose it served before it was cut out. The most common fan theory is that it was a way of accessing one of the Dummied Out Colossi but your guess is as good as ours...
Wide Open Sandbox: There's miles of beautiful territory and scenery, but there are only a few things to do:
Find the colossi; much like the fights, getting to the encounter is almost like a stretched out platforming puzzle.
Eat fruit to extend your life bar.
Kill white-tailed geckos and eat their tails for more stamina.
Try to ride a bird by jumping off Agro and grabbing it.
Find a deep lake and ride a fish by the tail.
Tour the map and rid yourself of those obstructive clouds on the map.
Which may have been the point. Like games that deal with similar themes like Metal Gear Solid 2, Spec Ops: The Line and NieR, much of the horrible stuff that happens could end if the player stopped playing the game.