The first beast lumbers in the distance. My sword is drawn as a I race ahead, jumping and then plunging it into his back calf. Blood spurts out towards me. I've been here before. It was beautiful then, but nothing like this.
Two of the most visually stunning games of the PlayStation 2 era are getting a fresh coat of paint this spring. But does it mean better games?
Yes. Yes it does.
Ico and The Shadow of the Colossus are being remade into HD (and 3D, if you can rock it). The games themselves are the same. Play the same. If you've enjoyed the original PS2 titles, then the only surprises is just how fresh the titles now feel, running in full HD. It sounds like such a superficial upgrade, but it isn't at all. This is the video game equivalent of when an old movie is remastered and put out on Blu-Ray. It's the same thing, just better.
It's been years since I've played either Shadow of the Colossus, which was first released in fall 2005, and Ico, which was released in fall 2001. Both games have aged — Ico, now nearly a decade old, more so. But the remakes address that issue.
For one, the frame rates have been smoothed out. Shadow of the Colossus and Ico both run at 30 frames per second, addressing any visual hiccups of the older games. In Ico, the smooth frame rate seems especially noticeable due to the game's age. Sony tells Kotaku that Ueda was especially keen on improving the framerate for both games.
Playing Ico was a revelation. I've long preferred Ico to Shadow of the Colossus (just a personal preference), and HD draws out the beauty of the game. While playing through the HD version, I kept finding myself stopping and just looking around. Looking at how the stones were laid in walls, just looking.
Everything is crisper and moodier, and Sony tells Kotaku that Ico needed "more work" done in HD than Shadow of the Colossus, because of its age. Ico in HD is to be savored, not rushed through. The idea of a speedrun through the HD version of this game would be like woofing down a gourmet meal. I played through the first 15 minutes or so of the game, and the entire time was a visual feast.
So was Shadow of the Colossus, which also looks utterly stellar. The game looks so good now that you don't mind missing a jump off a ledge, causing you to fall in the lake down below for the umpteenth time. The way everything looks, from the world that surrounds you to the beasts that shuffle towards you, it feels like you're experiencing something new.
You're not. Sony was smart enough not to shoehorn Move support into either game. What is new is the addition of 3D, which actually isn't new. The games' designer Fumito Ueda initially was interested in 3D support when Shadow of the Colossue was first released, but the technology at the time didn't allow it. That might be why certain effects, such as how the blood sprays or the way light reflects work naturally in 3D. The 3D effects don't feel gimmicky, like they easily could have. If anything, they, like the HD graphics, help players really enter the world of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.
These are great, great games. The HD remakes, which could have turned into a cash cow real quick, serve to bring out what's best in both games. Sony's created classy HD remakes that will hopefully be a blueprint for future titles. Players don't want gimmicks. They just want old games, but with hi-def graphics. That's exactly what Ico and Shadow of the Colossus get.