Ico - I'm With You

I love the way the lyrics seem to have been written for Ico. Cheesy song, brilliant video.

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Cut Colossi

This is a video of the Colossi that didn't make it into the final game. Some of them, particularly the huge dragon look amazing. It's a shame that they will never be seen again. I'd love to battle a dragon...

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Ico - Theme Tune

I love this tune, simply wonderous.

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Shadow of the Colossus - Run

The song 'Run' by Snow Patrol suits this video for SotC so well I simply had to post it. I became quite emotional when I first watched it. It was through my experiences with the game that made me feel sad or lonely or even frightened at times and this video managed to tune into that feeling.

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A Bridge Too Far

The long stone bridge which connects the outside world to the tower at the centre of the landscape in SOTC is truly massive. Having reached the secret garden I wanted to explore further and I was aware that, having rode underneath it so many times, the stone bridge was massively long and very high.

With the destination in view I set off from the tower along the bridge. Now I never really appreciated just how long this bridge was until I undertook this wandering. Literally five minutes later of running along the narrow bridge I was still someway off the end and the entrance to the forbidden land.

Looking down at the ground as I ran became slightly hypnotic, each new tile blurring into the next and giving the appearance that the journey was not preceding. This continued for another five minutes until I finally bumped into the wall at the end and fell over.

I got to my feet somewhat bemused and bruised and attempted to exit the forbidden land but due to the weather I was not able to escape. A strong wind refused to allow me to walk through the corridor between the two pillars guarding the entrance. Every-time I tried I was blown off my feet and cast to the ground. So it appears that once you enter you are a prisoner, your only chance or survival is to eat the lizards and fruit and chase tortoises until you finally die of age.

Having reached the other side I was in no mood to walk back again. I gave out a long hard whistle to my loyal horse Agro. After a few minutes she finally arrived below the bridge, running in circles and calling to me. Equipping the Cloth of Desperation I jumped off the bridge and used my chute to drift slowly down onto Agro’s back. Pulling sharply on the rains Agro reared up and we galloped off into the dusty distance towards the tower to hunt the next Colossi.
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A Pale Horse

When you have completed SOTC for the fourth time you are rewarded with a white Agro instead of the standard black. I discovered this when I restarted the game and watched the opening sequence. Instead of a black horse, Wander was riding a white horse. At first I thought it was a glitch but upon continuing the game I was surprised to see Agro was white. Normally I would have to enter a ‘cheat’ code to get the white Agro after completing the Hard Time Attack mode, but when the game has been completed four times or more you no longer need this cheat to ride a beautiful white Agro.

The saved game files, upon each successive completion of the game do carry a marker to indicate this fact. So I have continued to complete the game up to nine times at last count. I suspect that there may be further rewards for completing SOTC so many times. At present I am yet to receive anything but it isn’t going to stop me and besides, I enjoy playing.
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The huge tower at the centre of the landscape in SOTC houses, at the midpoint a secret garden. If you’ve ever completed the game itself and watched the closing credits you will have seen the girl and Agro transcending the stairs to the garden. This garden is reachable by Wander but to access it is a challenge of patience, skill and persistence.

When you start the game afresh your stamina is too low to hang onto any surface for more than 30 seconds, indeed to climb the walls of the tower to reach the garden requires more stamina than you start with. The only way to do this is to collect the white tails of certain lizards which increase your stamina marginally.

The instinct to climb this tower was so strong in me after conquering all the colossi that it seemed the next logical step and one which was going to take plenty of time to execute. It took me 3 months to find enough lizard tails until my stamina was literally occupying the right quarter of the game screen. There is another method utilising diagonal jumping but you will still need a lot of stamina to reach the path to the secret garden.

When I finally reached the top I was so overjoyed my hands were shaking. I cried out “Yes!” as Wander dragged himself over the last edge and stood up on the path leading up to the secret garden. Upon reaching the garden my expectations were fulfilled as the garden itself was quite lovely, full of animals and birds, trees and big blocks of granite carved into the walls. As I explored I speculated that one could climb higher into the clouds and possibly reach the very top of the tower. This unfortunately is not possible. I have since tried everything to reach the summit of the tower but my efforts have been in vain. I only wish that this was possible and if you’ve ever heard of anyone reaching this summit I would very much like to hear from you.

There are many reasons why Team ICO may not allow players to reach the top.

1. There wasn’t enough time to program all the ledges for Wander to cling onto.
2. There isn’t enough space above the garden to allow the geometry for such a tall platform.
3. It wasn’t meant to be reached adding to the air of mystery surrounding the tower.

I for one wish that it was possible, I believe the view to be wondrous but I suppose it wasn’t meant to be. So the summit remains unconquered but at least I know I did everything I could to reach it.
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Ico - The Sequel?

Ico was the first game released by Team ICO and SOTC the second. But this does not necessarily represent the order of things. ICO is possibly the sequel to SOTC, not directly but one can speculate that the boy with horns called Ico is a descendant of the tiny horned child discovered by the princess at the end of SOTC. This of course is only speculation but it is an idea that is widely accepted.

Whether the boy with horns from Ico or the child with horns from SOTC is related is not proven. But I enjoy entertaining the fact that they could be. It makes the stories from both games just a little more intriguing and, when playing either game; I am consciously looking for clues to that relationship. Team ICO’s next game in development; The Last Guardian has a creature which also has horns and while that in itself is not remarkable, it is intriguing to me as to why this creature has horns at all and whether the creature shares a relationship to either Ico or SotC. I suppose I will never know for sure, but that is the way I like it.
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The Giants Cradle

Shadow of the Colossus is a huge game. The vastness of the open plains, the towering cliffs and the tall ruins make exploring the landscape a real challenge and one which I relish. If you’ve ever explored the landscape as I have, looking for white lizard tails and fruit trees, you will have found plenty of hidden nooks and crannies. I love finding new areas for myself and Agro to traverse and navigate through and sometimes we even get completely lost making the journey even more ‘fun.’ Exploring the southern eastern area you will find a huge dessert, a lonely fruit tree silhouetted against the sea, an oasis containing a lake with fish and a huge cave full of lizards.

Some of the best locations are to be found along the cliff walls, simply choose a cliff and follow it. There’s even a secret beach at the bottom of a cliff on the southern side. There are still a few areas I haven’t explored simply because I went left instead of right that time and I haven’t been back there yet. I love the contrast between some of the areas, the lush dark forests hidden over the north eastern bridge or the narrow cliff path snaking its way toward the thundering waterfall. Each location feels as accomplished as the next and each have their own unique feeling and purpose. Exploring the landscape sometimes feels like climbing a giant colossus and one can only wish, after 3 years of wandering, that the landscape went on forever.

There is one area of the map that is clouded, permanently inaccessible by traditional methods. Even grabbing a ride on a hawk does not permit access to this area. The north eastern part of the map is completely unreachable and to this day I am yet to find a path through to its secrets...
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About a Boy

Imagine inheriting something that sets you apart from your friends and family; a physical feature you cannot hide but which will see you cast out from your homeland.

A tragic inevitability haunts your birth - you know you will never reach adulthood. Alone and entombed, exiled from your family as a harbinger of bad luck, isolation is your only friend...

Now imagine finding a kindred spirit in the darkness that surrounds you. Looking up and seeing a light so bright that it illuminates your path and asks for your help.

Suddenly, escape seems possible. There are two of you now, and together you know much can be achieved. You know that a friendship like this can overcome whatever lies in your way...
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Relationships with a Pixel

Team ICO’s games are enjoyable because they capture a feeling for the player that is seldom explored in games. If you’ve ever played a modern videogame then chances are you will have had a relationship with your on-screen avatar whether it be to shout at them for not doing what you want, to feeling a little sad when they are killed to even feeling fear for them when threatened.

Team ICO tends to exploit this feeling by showing the player this relationship on screen between two characters. By doing this the player can’t help but feel in some way connected to the characters, like a surrogate parent nurturing the on-screen relationship and protecting it. In Ico for instance, the relationship between Ico and Yorda is so innocent and childlike that one can’t help feel for them both and every effort is made by the player to protect them both.

I have played other games where this doesn’t happen. Tomb raider for instance; my time with Lara Croft was quite a dominant relationship to the point where I would find interesting and gruesome ways for her to be killed. I think this happens because I don’t feel protective of the avatar and indeed she is there to obey me. In Ico, Yorda and Ico are relying on each other for protection and look to me for guidance therefore I immediately feel a different kind of connection other than to dominate.

It’s this dynamic which is at the centre of Team ICO’s games and one which I look forward to exploring with each new release. From what I know of The Last Guardian, this dynamic is again exploited in the relationship between the young boy and the creature, Trico.

There are examples of this in other games within the industry. Games of note are ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ for the PS2 and the Gamecube, the relationship between Jade and Pey'j. You may also want to look at the recent ‘Prince of Persia’ game and the relationship between the Prince and the Princess, although this is less successful due in part to the lack of substance the game presents. Team ICO seems to understand this dynamic more than any other game developer and this is one of the reasons their games tend to feel much more human than the crowd.
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Fumito Ueda Discusses The Last Guardian

Published in Famitsu Magazine on 6th March 2009, an interview with director Fumito Ueda(Director/Lead Designer) that blows the door open on both the trailer and everything else that he and his team are aiming for with their first publicly-announced project in four years.

The trailer's focus is naturally on Trico, the "great man-eating eagle" of the game's Japanese-language title and a creature with a bit of bird, cat, dog, and everything else you can think of in him. Did the game's core concept begin with this guy's design? "We thought we could take the relationship you built with Agro as you went through Shadow of the Colossus and make that more of the main focus of the game design," Ueda said. "Also, both the PlayStation 3 and Japan-made video games in general haven't exhibited a lot of energy lately, so we chose a theme for our game that instead offered a very strong presence."

Discussing Trico's design, Ueda revealed that his team's primary focus was to create a virtual creature that was interesting to interact with while being as realistic as possible. "Replicating a real-life dog or cat is not impossible, but if you have a dog or cat in real life, you're always going to notice the unnatural idiosyncrasies of the virtual animal first," he said. "The current design is a product of thinking about what works with the game's design while looking as natural as possible. It's a mixture of features from many animals, and even I think it's a pretty strange combination. That's what we were aiming for, though. We kept it deliberately unbalanced because looking strange was important here.

"There are lots of games that have cute-looking characters, but that 'cute' is mostly a symbolic 'cute,' taking real life and deforming it. The traits of a real animal are much more complex, but I think video games, and in particular the power of the PS3, have the power to express them. The challenge for us is to show truly animal-like expressions -- the way the eyes move and open, or the way it moves or raises its hackles."

In The Last Guardian, the player controls the boy seen in the trailer, interacting with the eagle as he explores the game world. Exactly how the boy and eagle meet up is still a secret, but one scene in the trailer seems to show the boy giving the eagle some food. "You can feed the eagle, as well as take out any spears or harpoons stuck in his body," Ueda said. "You're free to interact with him at any time, but having to care for him constantly would be annoying, so we're striking a balance. Building your characters and solving puzzles are important parts of any game, but an animal strikes a presence in your life simply by looking at it. There is an air of mystery to them, since you can't be sure what thoughts could be crossing their mind, and that's another reason why animals are a main theme of the game."

Interacting with your griffin-ish friend is not going to be smooth going from start to finish, however. "The eagle does not simply follow all of your directions," Ueda said. "Throwing something that catches his interest will get him to move -- you aren't working with him and giving him orders, but you're more taking advantage of his natural behavior. Sometimes, you'll need him to sit still in order to finish a section, but he'll run off on you instead. He's not all that smart, and he won't necessarily do what the player wants all the time."

As Ueda put it to Famitsu, the classic Ico/Colossus gameplay -- climbing up, grabbing on to things, figuring out how to get from point A to point B -- will be the main thrust of The Last Guardian as well. "This game, unlike the previous ones, runs on a full physics engine, but it's not just for the purposes of technology," he noted. "I think it's important that any piece of technology you use contributes to the themes you're trying to express. We're very serious about this -- for example, in the scene [in the trailer] where the eagle grabs the barrel and swallows it, that's not simple animation; the barrel makes interactive contact with his mouth, and physical momentum drives it down his throat. We learned a great deal about AI processing in Ico and transformative collisions in Shadow of the Colossus; here, we've put the two together and brought them up to PlayStation 3 level, and that lets us make this world the kind of inviting, 'I wish I could go there' place that Ico and Colossus had."

Sony Computer Entertainment announced at E3 that The Last Guardian is a 2010 release, and Ueda declined to go into further specifics, other than to say "there is definitely a reason why we are announcing this when we are." Online compatibility is still up in the air -- "There are things I'd like to do with the online environment," Ueda said, but "I can't definitely say whether it will happen."

Article taken from 1up.com. Written by Kevin Gifford.

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Ico is the first game from Team ICO. Released in 2001 on the Playstation 2, Ico was originally destined for the Playstation 1, but it was decided by Sony that the fledgling consoles weak game line-up at launch needed stronger better games. And so Ico's release on the PS1 was cancelled and it was developed and released for the PS2 instead.

Ico is very unusual and is not like most other Playstation games. Ico blends soft flowing imagery with harsh angular architecture to produce a dreamlike quality which is rarely seen in games.

Ico is also the name of the playable character, a young boy with horns. His aim is to escape a dark crumbling castle in which he was imprisoned. Early on he rescues a young girl called Yorda from a cage suspended from the castle ceiling and they both must escape while avoiding being captured by strange dark creatures which also inhabit the castle. These creatures are not unlike those seen standing around Wander in SOTC every-time a colossus is defeated. The creatures attempt to kidnap Yorda if she’s left alone for too long and you have to call to her or grab her hand and pull her to safety while attacking them with a stick or a sword. It’s all very tense at times and the creatures are quite persistent.

The main attraction is the castle which is quite simply massive. Each room contains a puzzle or a path which is related to another rooms puzzle. It’s quite difficult to understand how the rooms link together and you must keep track of where you are and where you came from. This is the challenging part of Ico, the castle is a massive puzzle of interlinking rooms and pathways that for the most part don’t give any clues as to how they relate to each other. Only persistence and careful thinking about how the rooms relate to each other will allow you understand the puzzles.

It took me about a year to complete Ico. When I did it felt very rewarding. I won’t spoil the ending for you, needless to say it is worth the effort should you choose to undertake such a task as beating the castle and its secrets.

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The Last Guardian

I am simply beside myself with joy at the prospect of playing the next game from Team ICO. The popularity of SOTC should ensure the developers new game gets a warm welcome.

The Last Guardian(TLG) was unveiled at this years E3 and seems to share many similarities with Team ICO’s previous games. The playable character has to care for a creature (or person) and the game is built on this relationship between an NPC (non-playable-character) and the avatar. I remember being devastated by the ‘death’ of Agro in SOTC or feeling afraid when the dark creatures were kidnapping Yorda in Ico.

During the video shown at E3, the boy(avatar) seems to be feeding the creature and in return the creature helps the boy in many different ways. This dynamic is at the core of Ico and SOTC and I’m sure will be an essential part of TLG. One can also speculate that the creature can communicate with the boy, perhaps not using a vocabulary but with gestures and calls. The creature itself appears to be based on both a cat and a bird and is reminiscent of a legendary creature called a Griffin.

The visuals in this game are sure to be breathtaking and I can only hope that they share the same dreamlike quality that their other games do. Team ICO’s work on the PS2 utilised the consoles architecture brilliantly making SOTC one of the best looking games on any console in recent times. The raw processing power of the PS3 cell engine is sure to make TLG look incredible.

There are hints that the landscape the game is situated is either the same as or inspired by SOTC. The architecture of the castle is also reminiscent of Ico and shares the same dark looming structure. Though they have never confirmed that either Ico and SOTC are related it is popularly believed that SOTC is the prequel to Ico. I am hoping that the saga continues with TLG being related either directly or indirectly to Team ICO’s previous games.

So here’s to baited breath while we await the coming of the third game from Team ICO and the knowledge that we can expect the same dynamics, the same clarity for a visual style and the re-assurance that TLG will be an incredible game.

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The First Encounter of a Massive Kind

After watching the intro movie (it helps set the scene in any game) and thinking how beautiful the game world looked with it’s tall structures and watercolour palette, Wander and I set of on our trusty steed toward the light as ordered by the voice in the sky.

Getting outside for the first time I witnessed a huge area of grassland framed by tall cliffs on all sides. Holding aloft my sword in the sunshine I saw a beam of light piercing from the blade heading straight ahead. Crossing the plain toward the light I came across a cliff wall. Looking up I could see a path up the cliff so I jumped down of my horse whose name I had learnt was 'Agro,' and proceeded to scale the vines upon the cliff.

After a few acrobatics I reached the top at which point a cut-scene played showing the colossus walking past, shaking the ground and the trees. I was in awe at the sight of this giant of rock and fur and my mind wondered at how I was going to kill such a beast.

I scrambled up the rest of the cliff and walked slowly toward the colossus which had his back to me in the distant mist, plagued by a flock of birds. He started to turn. His eyes looked on me and I felt fear as I engaged the colossus for the first time.

Running toward his feet while looking up at the huge towering beast, his club came down, smashing the ground and causing me to lose my balance. Then his foot landed just short of my head and I was thrown about the ground causing myself injury.

I got to my feet and looked about his. Surely I must scale this giant to take it down? Jumping at his heels I finally managed to grab his thick hair and was tossed onto his calf. I stood there for a moment before his leg swung violently, flinging me off onto the ground again.

I quickly composed my self and again headed for his heels being careful not to get trod on. Eventually I managed to get onto his calf again and this time I noticed a gash on his leg. I raised my sword and brought it down into the giants ‘flesh.’ He roared with pain. I did it again, this time with more aggression and the giant fell to his knees.

I continued climbing the giant using his fur to scale his legs toward a small platform I found on his back. Up further still I climbed, all the while the colossus writhed about, trying to get me off himself.

I finally reached his head where I found a glowing patch of white skin. He wasn’t happy I was there and flung his head about violently trying to remove me. I prevailed and raised my sword to bring it down into his skull. He roared with pain as black magic spewed from the wound. I raised my weapon again and drove it into his head several more times, each time the dark gas spewed forth until finally he fell to the ground, tossing me off his head.

I got back to my feet and looked at the slain beast. He was completely still and silent, like a statue. He was being enveloped by a dark layer of mist along the length of his body until he was entirely consumed. I hadn’t notice that at the same time thick black spines were whirling about the sky. They sought me out and impaled my fragile body through the heart at which point I collapsed into the dust beneath my feet.

The world became serene and I faded out into a tunnel of light.

I awoke back at the temple, my horse had returned and as I tried to make sense of it all I heard a deafening noise behind me as one of the statues was pierced with white light and came apart into a thousand pieces.

I then heard the voice in the sky telling me ‘thy next foe is…’

I was terrified, but I couldn't wait to see the next!
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The Shadow of the Colossus

There is no other game I have ever played which made me feel the way Shadow of the Colossus does. The attachment I have to this game means that I will probably play it for the rest of my life.

Released onto the PS2 in 2005, I remember the first time I heard of this game. I am an avid reader of Edge magazine and the review gave it nine out of ten, which in Edge is a very high score indeed. Rarely do games get a score as high, indeed only Ico beat it with a perfect score of ten out of ten. I read the review with great interest and after reading it I hatched a plan to get a copy as soon as possible.

After two and a half years of playing SOTC I finally completed it for the ninth time. Even though I have played it so much and for so long it still surprises me every-time I pick up the joypad. The last thing it taught me was that patting Agro recharges your stamina quicker.

For me it’s the tiny details and minor touches that make a game uniquely playable and enjoyable. SOTC has never let me down and will continue to be regarded by myself as one of the greatest pixellated adventures you can buy.

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Shadow of the Colossus
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