Why Remakes, Like Shadow Of The Colossus, Are Awesome

Why Remakes, Like Shadow Of The Colossus, Are Awesome

After spending a little bit of time with the PlayStation 4 version of Shadow of the Colossus, I have to say that I’m really into the idea of game remakes.

Yesterday, following its Paris Game Week announcements, Sony held a small event in San Francisco for those of us not lucky enough to be visiting the City of Light.

The star of the show, which had a constant crowd of press huddled around its lone demo station, was Shadow of the Colossus, remade with all-new assets for PlayStation 4 and scheduled to be published February 6.

Although Sony has already said that the remake from Bluepoint Games, the development studio behind the remasters of Ico and Shadow for PlayStation 3, would not alter the game’s actual structure, playing the demo really drove that point home.

It seems very much like a shot-for-shot remake of the 2005 original, in which a boy must kill 16 massive, mute beasts after being promised that doing so will resurrect a certain girl.

The original is a beloved classic, and I count myself in that group of lovers (here’s my Wired review from its launch). I often tell people they should play Shadow of the Colossus.

But with every year that passes, it gets a little bit harder to make that recommendation without caveats. The little annoyances of the original, like the camera or the controls that we put up with in 2005, might cause a 2017 player much more frustration. And the graphic technology that may have been breathtaking on the standard-def PlayStation 2 wouldn’t be nearly as impressive today.

The upcoming remake touches up the graphics and sounds and tweaks the controls a bit, but otherwise it leaves the core of the experience intact. It strikes me as a great way to continue to introduce Shadow of the Colossus to new players.

When I picked up the controller and mounted the boy’s horse Agro, it felt like old times again. I galloped to the cliffside that serves as the game’s tutorial, showing you how to jump, clamber, and shimmy up the rock formation and get to where the first Colossus awaits.

This is more of an aperitif — it’s pretty easy to figure out how to climb the Colossus’ legs, jab him in the calf to get him to kneel down, and climb to his head to deliver the killing blow. The rest won’t be so simple.

It felt very much like the original; the boy’s movements were awkward and gangly, all limbs flailing everywhere. A low-angle camera captured the massive height of the Colossus fully in the frame.

Only this time, the details were crisp, the textures intricate instead of blurry, the lighting more refined. It was gorgeous all over again.

Why Remakes, Like Shadow Of The Colossus, Are Awesome

This got me thinking about The Secret of Monkey Island. I enjoyed playing this classic of the point-and-click genre back in the day, but only much later did I discover that what I played was actually a remake.

The 256-colour VGA version of the game that I played was not actually the original game as it was designed by the creators; that was the 16-colour EGA version. The content of the revamped version was 99 per cent identical, but the graphics were redone with newer technology. At the time, it was necessary to update games with VGA colours, as those who had shelled out for a new computer were unlikely to go back and play games with a limited colour palette on their expensive new tech.

So too, I think, with games like Shadow, which strikes me as the modern-day equivalent of a “VGA version.”

I jumped ahead in the demo to the fight against the third Colossus, which is preambled by a run up a spiraling pathway that leads out of the water and up onto a massive platform where the fight takes place. The original, and this version, have a notorious pain-in-the-arse jump that you have to make.

I whiffed it the first time and suddenly became very conscious of the assembled press corps surrounding the couch.

I told myself if I blew it again I’d quit the demo. Fortunately, the boy’s fingers barely clung on the second time I tried, and I got back into the fight. This Colossus is incredibly tall and swings his massive sword down at you, which you can run up to get onto his body.

As I was circling, waiting for this moment, I found myself possessed by one thought: Wow, the sun shining through the clouds looks really pretty! He smacked me with his sword. Oops.

I’m sure there are some people to whom the idea of taking an older game and giving it a modern-day technological upgrade, even while preserving the original’s aesthetic sense, is anathema.

And yes, if you do want to experience the real game as its original creators intended (director Fumito Ueda is not involved with this remake), you do need to go back and study the original.

But I think a remake can get more people interested in going back and looking at the original, by providing a more friendly entry point for new fans — and by astonishing them with graphics that make them feel the way we felt in 2005.

And for those of us who already experienced the original, a remake is a way to see it with new eyes. I don’t think game publishers should look to remake everything, but for a few select landmark releases like this, I think it’s a great idea. (Do Ico next.)


  • As long as they don’t break things, then sure, bring on the remakes. I started playing SotC on a PS2 emulator, and enjoyed it so much by the 6th colossus that I went and bought the HD remake. I had to stop playing the remake out of frustration – the character would lose balance at the drop of a hat, and it was way harder to get a full stab because the colossi seemed to shake more often. Still haven’t gone back to the PS2 version to finish it…

  • I’m sure there are some people to whom the idea of taking an older game and giving it a modern-day technological upgrade, even while preserving the original’s aesthetic sense, is anathema.
    I just cannot understand this. Sure, you can have an emotional attachment to the original, but if the team behind the remake have gone out of their way to retain the feel of the original I cannot understand being upset.
    Resident Evil: Remake, Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition & Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck’s Revenge, Metroid: Zero Mission & Samus Returns, Super Mario 64 DS, Final Fantasy III & IV DS, Black Mesa, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy… I will never not appreciate these games and how they’ve opened up classics to a new audience that don’t have the nostalgia factor to look past dated originals.

    • Maybe I can help. The short of people getting upset over Sony’s remake of SotC is that: the original developers and artists are not involved, videos of the game in action indicate that the visual aesthetic is emulated rather than retained – a problem that arises from not consulting with the original artists, and people are averse to substantial changes to a classic that are presented under the guise of retaining the look, feel, or spirit of a thing.

      What I’m seeing with that list of remakes is the converse – an acceptance of and pride in change. REmake wasn’t just a visual overhaul, numerous elements including enemies, weapons, and a new control scheme were added and advertised as improvements. Mario 64 DS had different control schemes, new playable characters, and the transformative component of portability – the reason for its existence.

      Sony is marketing Bluepoint Games’ interpretation of Shadow of the Colossus as the same but newer and shinier. Its existence isn’t reverence for the classics or the desire to share a treasured experience; its existence is to run as close to the edge of the original as possible in order to make money. That should concern us in light of the history of remakes.

      Whatever joy I feel about more people experiencing such a wondrous game is tempered with an enduring unease about the particulars of the situation.

  • I love this game. I bought it on PS2 and I bought it on PS3 and I’ll buy it again on PS4.

    It would be nice if they give the PS4 some nice packaging like the PS2 version had, but I can’t really see it happening these days.

    • The cardboard slipcase and those gorgeous postcards?

      Keep thinking I have to sort a frame some day so I can mount the latter.

      • Yeah, I’ve got both of those – Ico and SotC. Although the glue holding the cardboard sleeve together is starting to fail, I should probably fix them.

        I was hoping they’d do a matching package for The Last Guardian but they didn’t, so probably no chance of it for the SotC remake, either.

  • When I found out Bluepoint Games are behind this remaster, I already knew we were in good hands. Digital Foundry’s excellent analysis of their work on The Uncharted Trilogy & Gravity Rush Remasters already tells me what they are capable of.

  • Benefits of remasters:
    – Better graphics and sound
    – More money to original devs so they can make other games
    – Revived interest in franchise could lead to new sequels
    – Reduces number of platforms you need to own and keep around
    – Introduce franchises to players who didn’t own that platform when it was released
    – Optional enhancements like trophies/achievements, photo modes, screen recording etc
    – Bugfixes, and QOL enhancements

    – Failure of remaster could kill interest in sequels (unlikely)
    – Takes away development resources for other games (unlikely given that most remasters are handled by 3rd parties)
    – Overabundance of remasters artificially inflates size of a platform’s advertised games library (only relevant early in the platform’s life)

    Pretty clear winner there. Ultimately the key thing about remasters is that THEY ARE OPTIONAL. No one makes you buy them, and they cannot make your originals any worse. If you want to play the original SOTC, go to your mum’s house, find your PS2, plug it in and play. It’s still the same experience, even if there is a (s***ty) remaster out there.

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