Shadow of the Colossus versus the convenience of modern game design
We’ve come a long way
After more than a year of physically copying the The shadow of the colossus remake sitting on my shelf i finally started playing it. I could immediately see why it was a classic – it’s simple yet elegant, it has a cool tradition, and I can absolutely see what made it so groundbreaking in its time. But I would also be lying if I said it was amazing to play from the start.
Just for a bit of context, I haven’t really played a lot of games released before 2010, so even playing the remake the controls are a lot crazier than I’m used to. During the first hour, this was my biggest point of contention, and let’s just say, the player rage washed over me at times.
Of course, as I pushed another hour, I slowly acclimated to everything and settled into a rhythm. It’s something I can really appreciate The shadow of the colossus as an older game – it slows me down in a way modern games don’t.
I wasn’t prepared for what this game would wait – waiting for Agro to slowly gallop where I wanted him to go, waiting for the Colossus to enter its attack animation so I could jump on board, waiting for the Colossus stops trying to shake me so I can stab him; you got the idea. While newer releases seem to throw me around as much as possible to hold my interest, Shadow feels really empty and minimal, and I mean that in a good way.
So yes, I learned a lot to enjoy this game in spite of myself, but that doesn’t mean it’s flawless. Even in a remastered version, it shows its age in many instances. I feel like I’m fighting with the camera all the time – it seems to move on its own most of the time, or move in a way that goes against what I’m trying to do. In a fight that takes place over an area with tons of water, the camera was low enough that it clipped below the surface whenever I aimed, which was pretty important as I was fighting a flying colossus. Not my favorite.
Were older games really harder?
Naturally, I got to talk with my roommate about my frustrations with the game, which led to a discussion about older games in general. As a gamer from a younger generation (my first console, ironically, was the PS2), I often hear people say how much harder games were back then. The most extreme gamers even imply that today’s gamers have gone soft, because they don’t have really hard games to help them build their character, or anything like that.
As someone who has more recently enjoyed the experience of challenging myself with games, I understand that feeling more than before, but I don’t regret the days when you would have to replay huge sections of a game. because there was no autosave, or when you had to abandon a game entirely because of its difficulty. Older games were often difficult by design, but I also found that many of them took longer to play due to design choices that I don’t think were particularly intentional.
Part of what makes modern games what they are isn’t that they’re easier, but that they have a whole host of quality-of-life improvements that didn’t exist there. at twenty. Whether or not games are easier these days is up for debate, but I’m sure of one thing: games are just more convenient now.
Like I said, I appreciate how The shadow of the colossus Slows me down in a way that other games don’t, but I’m also not an internet-less kid playing this on summer vacation. Unfortunately, I’m an adult with adult responsibilities, which means I have a lot less time to play games than I would like.
The difficulty of classic games in which you just have to brute force has its merits, but man, sometimes I think how glad I am that we’ve come this far with game design, because everything is so much more efficient than that. used to be.
The PlayStation developers even acknowledged how faithful certain aspects of the game remained to the original, even if that meant keeping the gameplay slower than modern gamers are used to. The producer of The shadow of the colossus‘remake gave an overview of their process in a PlayStation Blog post from 2018:
“There are things that we have decided not to change. For example, Wander stands still to fire a bow. Everything on Shadow is very deliberate. The way Wander moves through the world is heavy. It’s not light and fast and arcadey. He carries the burden of his actions in the way he moves. Making the game as you remember it is the most important mission we have, independent of everything else.
What really strikes me is that last sentence. After beating the first three Colossus, I probably would have disagreed with it and wanted even more upgrades on top of the few changes they ended up implementing. But now that I’ve settled into that rhythm, now that I kind of have it in a way that I didn’t at the start, I guess I’m glad they kept it the way they did. did, warts and all.
The remake finds a nice middle ground in making a gaming classic more accessible while still staying true to what made the original a classic in the first place.