Shadow of the Colossus, when released in 2006, helped further establish that video games were not simply a mindless time-wasting activity with zero depth or substance, but could be a powerfully effective medium for artistic expression. With the symbolism in the tragic story of Wander, developer Team Ico helped solidify the fact that games could tackle such impactful subjects as death, grief, and the overwhelming desperation we feel when we lack acceptance of the things we cannot change.
The score composed by Kow Otani beautifully suits Shadow of the Colossus with its fierce intensity, intricacy, and dynamic emotional soundscape. The scale of colossi is massive and the music matches it appropriately.
Enter Prohibited Art, where the use of somber legato strings and woodwinds establish the mournful tone of Wander’s torment over the loss of Mono, and that for his own selfish purposes, has struck a deal with Dormin to bring her back from the dead if he destroys these sixteen colossi.
In The Opened Way, there is a sense of the magnitude of what Wander is facing to bring Mono back. Big brass, percussion and sweeping woodwinds heighten the sense of the enormity of the colossi, their sheer strength, and what Wander must do to them in order to fulfill his end of the deal.
The End of The Battle – As a colossus falls to its demise at the hands of Wander, the tone is not one of epic victory, but instead brings into focus the sad equilibrium of answering tragedy with tragedy.
In Counterattack, the story has developed into later segments of the task that Wander must carry out. His countenance has devolved into a weathered, demonic look, and it is clear that this journey is taking its toll on him.
For the sake of saving it for some of those that may have not experienced this classic gameplay experience, I will shift the focus away from how the story continues and concludes.
The beauty and tragedy of this game proves once more how effective this medium is for putting you in the shoes of the main character, resonating with the player on a personal level. Death is the apex of life's challenges to cope with, and Shadow of the Colossus addresses this subject head on. On its surface, knowing little about it, it is still a gorgeous adventure game with some of the greatest music in gaming history. The music itself is exclusively used for the intense battle sequences with the colossi and following cutscenes, and it gains an even more personal impact when you understand its context: a message about the difficulty coming to terms with the crippling pain of losing someone.
Shadow of the Colossus by Kow Otani is available on Audio CD on Amazon:
I searched for a digital distribution link, and it appears that one does not exist for a legitimate distributor. If someone happens to know of one, please share in the comments below.