The emotional and thought-provoking worlds of Team Ico

shadow of the colossus

My friend Edward introduced me to Shadow of the Colossus, and I loved it. Scaling colossi was exhilarating, Agro was a loyal campaign, and the minimalist story raised more questions as the game progressed. By the end, the arc reaches a conclusion while at the same time the game allows the player to draw his or her own conclusions. Why has Wander traveled to the Forbidden Land? Yes, to save Mono, but who is she to him? Is Wander good? Is Wander evil? Perhaps the same questions could apply to Dormin or even Lord Emon.

What’s surprisingly fascinating is all that exists to explore that isn’t put directly in front of you. There’s so much beautiful world to see in Shadow of the Colossus. There’s realizing all the poetic touches, such as the physical change of Wander, the final fate of Agro, and the relationship between Dormin, the idols, the colossi, and Wander. The game never tells you about fruit or lizard tails. The only thing driving Wander to the top of the temple is the player’s own curiosity.

ico

Like the majority of fans, I played Shadow of the Colossus first, but I soon followed it by playing Team Ico’s first game, Ico. While the gameplay is vastly different, its tone and themes are quite similar. Ico might have a companion in Yorda, but it’s still an isolating experience considering he can’t communicate with her. They might not share a language, but there’s still a small amount of communication. The game can really instill a sense of panic in me when I hear Yorda cry out and I’m not near her. Like Shadow of the Colossus, Ico has a fully whole and satisfying story arc while still leaving many things open to interpretation. Who is the Queen? What of her subjects? Was it just her and Yorda? Why was Ico brought to the castle? Miyuki Miyabe wrote a fantastic novelization of the game called, in English, Ico: Castle in the Mist. I was definitely surprised when I saw it sitting on a table in Barnes & Noble and quickly purchased it. It goes into great detail and provides fascinating background information based on Miyuki’s interpretation of Ico. It might not be canon, but I still highly recommend it to fans.

After playing both games, a whole new chapter unlocked – the relationship between the two. First, I thought about it, but that soon yielded to Internet research. The Queen’s Sword is an unlock in Shadow of the Colossus; does this imply the Shadow of the Colossus takes place later, or is it a fun nod? How about some of the Queen’s architecture found in Shadow of the Colossus? I think it’s likely reuse of art assets, but some people saw it differently. Of course, there’s the rather obvious fact that the baby at the end of Shadow of the Colossus has horns just like Ico. Fumito Ueda, director of both games, sees Shadow of the Colossus as a prequel but leaves it open for players to decide for themselves.

People all over did the world did more than look for relationships between the two games: they also searched for hidden secrets, with the biggest being the idea of a 17th colossus. The title never told players to eat the fruit or lizard tails. There’s no reason for Wander to be able to grab birds and go for a flight. Nothing tells players to climb the temple. There are large amounts of unused landscape. It certainly seemed to many that there was room for and reason to believe in more hidden in that Forbidden Land. It’s now been over nine years since the release of Shadow of the Colossus, and most fans agree that everything to be found has been found. There is no 17th colossus. But there is plenty to see in the game, and exploring for the sake of exploring can still be satisfying. In fact, exploring outside the game can be satisfying as well. Maybe there are only 16th colossi in the game, but there were still scrapped colossi. If they can’t be found in the game, they can be found in sketches and notes. Craig Owens published a great piece on Shadow of the Colossus and fans’ search for its secrets called The quest for Shadow of the Colossus’ last big secret for Eurogamer on February 5, 2013. It was a great read when it was first published, and I’ve enjoyed rereading it multiple times as well.

Team Ico revealed a follow-up, The Last Guardian at E3 2009. It was one of the reasons I purchased a PS3. Many of the development team have left, but as of just a couple months ago, Ueda says it’s in development. Hopefully the PS4 sees it eventually.

Both images taken from their respective games’ Wikipedia articles. Ico’s was uploaded by Wikipedia user Jayteecork and Shadow of the Colossus’ by Wikipedia user The Prince of Darkness.