Why the Shadow of the Colossus PS4 Remaster Doesn’t Matter
"I’m done. I’m spent. I’m so very, very bored of remasters."
My old PlayStation 2 is one of my most treasured possessions, and my original 2005 copy of Shadow of the Colossus (SOTC) even more so. When the game was released for the PlayStation 3 in 2011, I was overjoyed at the prospect of playing it on a modern system. A constant frame rate, beautiful world free of jagged edges, the same gameplay seemingly improved in most ways – what’s not to like?
So why on Earth is the PlayStation 4 getting a remastered version in 2018? Could there be anything less exciting to announce at E3? If this was an Xbox game, it would already be on the backwards compatibility store with tonnes of people pleased to have it in their collections for a tiny price. But it’s not, it’s a Sony-exclusive title, which means in the era of the PlayStation 4 there’s no backwards compatibility at all, so the only way you can play it on the current system is with a full-price remastered version. Sigh.
Mine’s a Colossus
SOTC was an ambitious game, that’s why it holds such a special place in its players’ hearts. It suffered, as many games that tried to push a system to its limits, with framerate issues and other technical limitations. But none of that detracted from the game’s ability to grip its players.
It was a game of its time too. A sprawling masterpiece of environmental storytelling back when that was all the rage and it seemed like some game studios actually made an effort to do something different. In today’s industry, it sometimes feels like there’s a cookie cutter for each type of game. Back in 2005, we were just entering that age, and SOTC was rightly singled out as being more the sort of thing the games industry should be trying to do.
From the main character and his horse, to the sombre titular Colossi and their environment, this game understood that to have all must mean everything fitting together perfectly. The basic premise of the story – boy loves girl, girl dies, boy takes girl to forbidden land to bargain with dark entity that says it can bring girl back to life (that old chestnut) – is just enough to give you purpose. The environment is mysterious and perilous, the towering enemies that you must kill to save the girl are unknowable yet beautiful, and your actions always seem questionable despite their love-driven nature.
But when is love not a questionable reason to kill for? At the heart of the game is the growing concern that your mission to save one by sacrificing so many more is hurting you. It’s a tough realisation, and the game allows enough pause for contemplation of this. With every Colossus you kill, the more corrupted your character becomes. He is suffering for love, yet driven to see it to the end, and you’re right there with him. Every step of the way.
The trouble with remasters
The previous section is how I view the game, my memories of what the game left me with. Will a remaster destroy those? I don’t want that. Part of its charm was knowing I was playing something cutting-edge and of the time. Will enhanced graphics and a fixed camera remove the feelings of struggle that wove with steel wire to the player character, making me feel his struggle was mine as much as his?
I’m not treading new ground here, but maybe my angle is slightly different. Remastered games are nice to have, but ruin the games we know and love. New graphics, fresh coat of paint, same game but not.
Full Throttle’s remaster served only to remind me how clunky some of the original was, but before I played the remaster I always thought of the original as an excellent game that made clever use of the technology available at the time. I don’t remember it like that anymore.
The Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 remasters offered a new gloss of paint and better cutscenes, but they were still the same games at the core. They still had the same issues, and I never quite fell in love with them as much as their originals. They were a distraction.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was remastered, but it’s taken nearly six months for rumours that it will be sold separately, without having to buy Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare as well, to surface. As if I was ever going to shell out all that money for a remaster of a game I can play on my old Xbox 360 and a game I never wanted.
I could go on, and the tone of this article would shift into the abyss of bile. I can’t go there, but I think I’ve made my case relatively strongly.
Will I buy the SOTC remaster?
No, I won’t. Why? Because I can already play it on two consoles I own and feel that rush and excitement right now. I am not going to wait with bated breath to play a shinier version of a game that is already shiny and perfect as it is.
I’m done. I’m spent. I’m so very, very bored of remasters. And this one, was so far down on my list of “it would be interesting to see if anyone will remaster this” games that I hope it will pass me by without disturbing me with its whiff of money-making silliness.
UPDATE: Sony just officially confirmed that it’s a remake, not a remaster.