Nostalgia and rose-tinted glasses can be a funny thing. Fumito Ueda games are notorious for being gorgeous, but also, sadly, for having controls that feel a bit stiff and unresponsive. It’s a signature part of games like Ico and The Last Guardian, and it’s one of the things that remains largely unchanged in the PS4 remake of Shadow of the Colossus. This is the exact same game that we’ve come to know and love on the PS2–then again on the PS3–only its visuals are more gorgeous than they have ever been before (and there are some minor controller tweaks, like moving the jump button to X).
First things first, Shadow of the Colossus looks like it belongs on the PS4. The crisp and detailed visuals are updated in such a way that you’d never guess this masterpiece came out over a decade ago. The sheer monumental scale of the beasts you face and the immense world both really pop in full 4K or at 60 FPS (depending on which PS4 Pro mode you choose). Both look gorgeous, and to be honest, I couldn’t tell much of a difference one way or the other without a side-by-side comparison of each.
Speaking of side-by-side comparisons, it’s entirely possible that the controls have been smoothed out and made to be less stiff, but without a direct reference point of the original Shadow of the Colossus right there to test, it was impossible to say. Compared to many of the other titles I played at PSX, however, Shadow of the Colossus still felt like one of the least responsive and most sluggish games. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing. It remains true to the original in that respect, but I always found the task of scaling the colossi to be less than enjoyable when I was fighting with the controls more than I was the creature. At the very least, they’ve made some design changes that adapt to modern gaming sensibilities, like moving jump to the X button, with the option to use classic controls if you’d like.
As I scaled the colossus, I felt that old fight coming back. I’d barely made it towards the first platform when I was flung off. I went to try again, this time managing to make it all the way to the glowing spot on his head with a few harrowing moments on the way. The harder the challenge, the more savory the rewards though, and taking down that colossus felt great. In fact, it felt like twelve years ago, when I picked up Shadow of the Colossus for the very first time. Sometimes for the classics to remain the classics, they have to remain unchanged. Something about playing as an awkward boy climbing these beasts is what makes Shadow of the Colossus what it is, and updating the controls to be more quick and responsive would take that away.
What’s amazing to see is games that came out a long time ago being treated to the wonders of technology today. They are given a chance to breathe and let out just a little bit more of their potential than time-limited tech would allow them to a decade or more ago. Shadow of the Colossus benefits from being revisited on the PS4, and opens up Ueda’s older games to a generation of gamers that may have missed their previous releases. The controls are decidedly Ueda-styled, and while I have always felt that means these games feel stiff, some may see it as authenticity to his style and be appreciative that the remake doesn’t change that. What we can all agree on is that Shadow of the Colossus PS4 looks amazing and it will be a great chance to visit the PS2 classic for what feels like the first time all over again.