Thursday, January 31, 2008

Shadow of the Colossus, Part 2

Well I'm about six monsters into the game now and I think I've got the format of the game down. It's basically a puzzle game. The puzzle is how to get on to the creature in the first place. The first monster was simple: just walk up to it and start climbing. The rest haven't been so simple. It's usually involved getting the creature to lower a limb. Occasionally I've had to bait it to attack me, dodge the attack, then quickly climb up the weapon or limp before it pulls up. A couple of times I've been unable to figure out what to do. When this happens, the game gives hints. So far there's a general hint, then if I'm still running around not getting anywhere, the hint gets more specific. I don't mind this much since I prefer to progress through the game instead of wasting time not getting anywhere. In once instance the hint was something that, to me at least, was not obvious or intuitive at all. In other cases, I'm able to figure it out and feel good about myself.

The fights themselves are still always tense and exciting. However, I still feel somewhat bad once the fight has been one. I have noticed though that the creatures are starting to attack me first more often, and that because of this I don't feel as bad when they finally go down. But then I wonder, has news of my exploits spread to the other creatures? Are they using a good offense as their defense? Then again, the flying creature that I had to kill in mid-air didn't bother me at all until I shot it with a bow and arrow. I imagine that would piss most people off.

I'm mostly okay with the controls at this point. My main source of frustration now is that sometimes when climbing the beast they're unresponsive. Depending on where on the creature's body you are, it will try to shake you off. Depending on how hard it's trying to do this, my character can do nothing but cling valiantly for his life. Since there is a limited time in which I can hold on, I've run into situations where once I grab on to the beast I can't go anywhere because it's shaking too hard. So then I plummet to the ground, usually surviving the fall, and have to start from the bottom all over again. I guess this is a realistic game mechanic, but when I have one blow left to kill it and then get shaken off, I get frustrated.

All in all though, I'm enjoying the game. I've been playing it one or two monsters at a time, since the fights tend to be kind of exhausting. There are sixteen monsters in all, so I still have some ways to go. There are no hints yet as to the motives of the disembodied voice that's tasked me with killing these beasts. I'm looking forward to finding out what's going on there.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Shadow of the Colossus, Part 1

After a lot of creative rearranging, replugging, and tidying up, I got my entertainment setup all arranged with the shiny new PS2 and the Gamecube I got for free a while back. Everything seems to be mostly working, but my TV is out of inputs, so I can only have the Gamecube or PS2 plugged in at a time, not both. I definitely want a new TV.

I was housesitting my parents' house this past weekend, so when I bought the PS2 I was down in St. Mary's County. I hooked it up to their TV to make sure it worked. I also tried playing Shadow of the Colossus for a few minutes. It actually didn't work at first. Insanely long load times, graphical glitches, and lock ups greeted me when I tried to play. But after looking at the disc and wiping off the strange goop I found, it seems to be working perfectly so far. Serves me right for buying the game use.

I've heard a lot about this game, almost all of it good, so I was anxious to see how it goes. When the game loads a cutscene plays showing the main character riding his horse through a treacherous cliffside path and approaching an incredibly long bridge while a rather haunting but beautiful musical score accompanies it. After loading a new game, the cutscene continued and my character wound his way into a sort of temple. He got off his horse, and then picked up something from it that I hadn't noticed at first. I realized it was the body of a woman. He carried her to what looked like an altar then cried out for the attention of some god or mythical being. The god, whose name I can't remember, answered and basically asked what this guy wanted. The hero answered that he wants the woman's soul returned to her. I guessed that meant she was dead, and that this hero was in love with her. The god said that it was impossible for mortals, but since the hero happens to be carrying a special sword, it might be possible for him. All he has to do is destroy the colossi roaming the land. There is a statue in the temple for each one. The hero agrees to do so, but the deity warns that there will be a price to pay. The hero says it doesn't matter and goes on his way.

At this point I'm guessing that this quest isn't going to end well. The god speaking to the hero has a rather creepy sounding voice. The way he spoke about the colossi seemed vaguely sinister and he seemed to be using the hero to serve his own ends. It's just a feeling I have, and we'll see how it turns out. Perhaps the deity is one of the colossi, and is seeking to destroy the others for his own ends? We'll find out, I guess.

After the cutscene ended, I was given control of the main character. Right away, I hit a snag. The direction the camera moves is, by default, inverted from the direction it moves by default on the 360. Pushing up on the analog stick made the camera go down, instead of up like I'm used to. I was able to change this in the options, however. The controller itself took a bit to get used to. It's significantly smaller than the 360's controller, and I felt like my hands were too close together. By the end of my time, however, I was more accustomed to it.

After a tutorial that felt rushed, I found myself facing my first colossus. It was a hulking beast with hooves almost twice my height and it wielded a massive club. It was pretty magnificent to behold from a distance. It shook the ground as it walked and created gigantic cracked footprints int he earth. As I ran towards it I realized just how huge this thing was. Unfortunately, I found myself starting to wrestle with the controls. The control scheme is different from any other game I've played before, so I had a hard time remembering how to jump, climb, and grab on to things. The main portion of the game seems to be climbing these giants and attacking their weak spots until their dead. I basically got trampled to death a few times because I couldn't figure out how to climb up the beast's body. After several tries I started to get the hang of it. There's a meter that shows how strong my grip on the beast is, which helped my realize when I was about to get shaken off. I also found a few platforms on the beasts back which I was able to climb onto to get my bearings.

Climbing this thing was pretty exhilarating once I figured out the controls. I found its first weak spot on its leg and slashed away at it with my sword, and after that was able to climb higher. In some ways it seemed like a giant, furry, walking building. It had hair that I could use to climb, but it also had the aforementioned platforms to use, along with what almost looked like carved stone. It's final weak spot was directly on top of its head. I climbed its fur all the way up and started attacking it. It actually managed to shake me loose and I fell all the way to the ground again. I thought I was dead but I somehow survived. I climbed back up and dealt the final few blows, bringing it crashing to the ground. A mournful piece of music began playing, and I actually felt a little bad about killing this thing. It hadn't done anything to me, I just ran up to it and started slashing away at it. I've heard of people saying they didn't finish this game because they couldn't bring themselves to kill the remaining colossi. I can already understand why.

The whole tone of the game so far is mournful and subdued. The hero is obviously grief stricken from this gir's death, and he's traveled far to get to the temple. The music is sad and mournful. The color scheme so far is washed out browns, yellows, and some greens. It's not a cheery landscape to ride across.

So that was my first hour or so with Shadow of the Colossus. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to play more. I'm not sure how many colossi I have to kill. Maybe eight to ten in all. I know I've read the number somewhere, but the exact number escapes me at the moment. Here's hoping it's a fun quest.

I bought a Playstation 2

Yup, I went out this weekend and bought me a shiny silver PS2. Along with that, I also picked up Final Fantasy X and XII, Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, Killer7, and Shadow of the Colossus. I also have coming in the mail Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, for the Gamecube. I've wanted to try out the Metal Gear Solid games for a while, along with some of the other franchises I've missed over the years, so I plunked down the money and am on my way to not-quite-retro gaming bliss. Can you believe I was still in high school when the PS2 came out?

In other news, I recently completed Tomb Raider Anniversary, the remake of the original Tomb Raider. It was fun, but it was interesting seeing how the series has come since it first started. Most of the levels revolved around a hub room, with several rooms branching off. To solve the main hub room puzzle, you had to solve the puzzles in the other rooms first. Tomb Raider Legend was much more linear. You enter a room, solve a puzzle, then go to the next room and solve its puzzle. Anniversary (and I guess, by extension, the original Tomb Raider) felt much more contrived and "game-ish." It didn't bug me too much though. They also dropped some hints that linked Anniversary's story with the story that began in Legend and, I assume, will continue in the recently announced Tomb Raider Underworld. There was also an unexpected but welcome bit of character development.

I honestly don't remember how this played out in the original game, but in Anniversary Lara doesn't kill any body until near the very end of the game. She kicks the crap out of folks a couple times, but comes short of taking their life. Near the end, though, she finally has to kill a man to continue on her quest. After she does, she realizes what she's done and is horrified, and tries to wipe her hands off. She can't wipe the blood off though. They really nailed her animation and facial expressions when all this is going on. Contrast this with Tomb Raider Legend, where the first enemy she meets is a faceless mercenary she casually guns down. I'm wondering if they'll touch on this in the next game.

Anyway, my plan now is to try Shadow of the Colossus and write about it here as I go along. Once I finish that I'll start on Metal Gear Solid, and then maybe Final Fantasy X. I don't want to play all the games in each series in a row or else I'm liable to get tired of them. It should be interesting.
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