Many PlayStation 3 owners may not know this, but the original PS3 model from Japan was fully PlayStation 2 compatible. Chuck a PS2 disc in, and bam it plays. However only those die-hard, and cashed up, importers have this feature, with every model sold in Australia and worldwide only sporting the pretty useless PlayStation 1 compatibility. But damn the PS2 had some great games, didn’t it?
Following the steps of the music industry, who has long been remastering classic albums, Sony have tried to sate fans by re-releasing classic PS2 titles with upgraded, higher resolution textures and effects. The gaming industry is actually the perfect fit for such an idea, taking an old piece of media and polishing it up, as their purely digital nature lets developers update only the graphics and sound of the game, while keeping the core mechanics and the way it feels.
After releasing a Sly Cooper and God Of War collection, Sony’s latest offering is the Ico & Shadow Of The Colossus Classics HD, featuring Team Ico’s critically acclaimed Ico and the ground-breaking follow-up Shadow Of The Colossus. Though Ico did poor commercially, it was a critical hit and the studios next game in 2006, Shadow Of The Colossus, was met with commercial and critical success.
Along with higher resolution graphics, which give the games a 1080p output, trophy support has been added for both games, as well as 3D support. Rather than review these games as though they were independent, new releases, let’s take a look at why these games deserved a re-release and what the changes have brought.
Planned and developed for the original PlayStation, Ico was finally released on the PS2 in 2002. Critics adored its reserved, minimal approach to the typical gaming adventure. With a more deliberate and artful pace than games typically employed, players controlled a boy named Ico. Born with horns, Ico is locked away in a remote empty castle by the rest of his village, as is the custom with the “cursed”. After freeing himself from his confines, Ico finds a young girl named Yorda hanging from a cage. After getting her out of her cage strange shadow creatures start appearing, trying to drag her away. Ico takes it upon himself to get them both free of the castle. As Ico you lead Yorda around, adorably by hand, beating back the shadow creatures and trying to navigate the map.
Team Ico’s second game was, of course, Shadow Of The Colossus. Later stated by its creator to be a vague prequel set in the same world as Ico, Colossus has the player controlling a young man named Wander. You start in a large temple with a young woman’s body lying in front of you. In the hope that it will restore life to the young woman, Wander’s quest is to kill 16 massive, colossal creatures that walk the vast landscape.
Paired with a horse named Agro, you use your sword to point the way towards your next Colossus, each with their own way of being taken down. More than typical boss battles, these giant creatures serve almost like levels themselves, as you climb and work your way up to their weak points. Climbing and platform is a large part of the game-play, with a stamina gauge that must be managed, lest you let go and fall at the wrong moment.
So that’s the games, but how do they look now, on the PS3? Both games output at a full 1080p resolution, and that alone is a massive step up. Ico hasn’t been completely reworked, they have kept its aesthetic and charm so it isn’t going to look like a brand new, effects laden PS3 title. It does, however, look and run smooth and with the only additions to game-play being some things left off the releases outside of Japan.
Unlike Ico, Shadow Of The Colossus launched with arguably some of the greatest graphics the PlayStation 2 saw. Tied with brilliant, fluid animation of both Wander and the horse Agro, Colossus was never a bad looking game. But reworked some and tied with a full 1080p resolution gives this game a whole new lease of life. Besides the geometry not matching up to this generations level, you could quite honestly think this were a PS3 title. In fact my girlfriend, knowing no different, remarked what a great looking game I was playing.
Trophy support is nice, but not a big deal to many gamers. For trophy whores however, Ico offers some easy gold trophies while Colossus features some that should challenge even the most hardened player.
With Team Ico’s next offering, The Last Guardian, being a PS3 developed game this classics collection is a great introduction of their unique style for a new generation of gamers. The artful design of both titles is timeless and this collection will appeal to fans of the originals and to people who never had a chance to play them. Just remember these games require, and reward, patience and run at a different tempo than your typical armoured space cowboys shooting ugly aliens game.