Team Ico: Lords & Masters of Big Bosses
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It’s no secret that Shadow of the Colossus is one of the finest video games ever made. The endless praise, and acclaim that the game has amassed over the years has given it an untouchable status. With review scores hailing it as a 9.7/10 (IGN) or 91/100 (Metacritic), it’s hard to see just how they made a title so gracefully gigantic. Naturally, it’s not perfect. The frame rate can be choppy. The camera doesn’t really cooperate half the time, and sometimes the grab keys don’t work. Since nothing ever truly is perfect though, it’s pretty close in relative terms.
In keeping with the theme of the month, great boss battles, anyone would be hard pressed to not talk about this PS2 gem in all its glory. SotC is regarded by many gamers the world over to be one of the best examples of truly unique boss design (as well as just awesome fun). This style of design, whereby the team only has boss-level enemies, works wonders for the gameplay because you get to approach each one differently. There’s no interruptions either. No annoying side quests, no mobs, no NPCs to butter up. Hailed as one of the few games that can be considered art too, SotC is minimalistic in its execution.
The beauty of many of the Colossi isn’t in their intimidating size, or the way they react to Wander, instead it lies in the way you’re forced to engage them. Bosses usually have a specific gimmick that, once learned, allows players to slay them faster on another run through of the campaign. Each of the 16 Colossi have a specific weak point to attack, and while that may seem to be a tried-and-tested method of wearing down a bigger enemy, their brilliance is in how Team Ico crafted each one. Some of them are so big that they physically don’t notice the player making attempts to attack them, others are more aggressive in their assault. Because of their size, it relays this fantastic sensation of terror, and wonder.
Their boss design was so inspirational that other games have since made ‘titan’ class enemies that require a player to grapple them, or scale them in order to reach the soft spot. Lords of Shadow attempted to replicate the grandeur of these fights with their own larger bosses, but were nowhere near as nail bitingly fun to battle. What they lacked was a sense of danger. A real, overpowering feeling that this creature before you can, and will, kill you without so much as an afterthought. While Team Ico weren’t the first to have massive boss enemies, they were the first to nail the formula to the letter.
Other titles like Dante’s Inferno, Demon’s Souls, Twilight Princess, and so many more, all borrow tiny bits, and pieces from Team Ico’s original designs. This emphasis on size over the protagonist is something that we now see everywhere, with enemies in games becoming bigger, and tougher to try and relay more of a challenge to the player. The original vision to change how players should see bosses in games was lead by designer Fumito Ueda, who decided to strip everything else away from the game in order to focus the team’s efforts.
With only a team of thirty-five, and four years of development, Ueda, together with lead composer Kow Otani, and producer Kenji Kaido managed to create a masterpiece. Once you see how other games have been influenced by these Colossi, it’s difficult to unsee. SotC is one of the rare few titles ever produced, that makes its mark so prominently on the community that it’s seen in other games for years to come.