I’m about to type something that might prove…irksome.
I don’t get Shadow of the Colossus.
Oh, I heard that gasp! alright. But hear me out. I’ve only just started the game and have taken down a mere four colossi. It took me three of them to really understand the controls and tactics of the game, so I feel like I’m off to a slow start anyway. I see where the story’s going, but it’s far too early to know exactly where it’ll lead. And it’s is a really gorgeous game, so I’m not balking at its look or style. It’s just…well, it doesn’t feel terribly compelling at this point, because all I’ve done so far is find colossi and take them down. And while the battles with them have been amazingly intense, I feel like I must be missing something.
Whether I am or not, my guess is that Shadow of the Colossus is an experience that occurs in stages, and I’m just not far enough into it to understand its concept (outside of large monster encounters). Whatever the case may be, I plan to stick with it.
Interestingly, my experience with Shadow of the Colossus has so far been very similar with my attempted playthough of Metroid Prime a couple years back – one of expected but yet-to-be-seen (on my part) ingenuity. Both games were heralded in their times, praised beyond words by fans and critics alike. Both game have loyal followings and are often cited as the best of the best. And, most recently, it was announced that both games will be making comebacks, Shadow of the Colossus in the form of a remaster, and Metroid Prime in the form of Metroid Prime 4.
With Metroid Prime, a game that I tried to play when it was new, I kept waiting to get hit by the tidal wave of enthusiasm that had been seemingly promised with the game. I kept wanted to find in it the utter joy that I found in Super Metroid. But the other shoe never really dropped. I enjoyed Metroid Prime quite a bit, but I didn’t fall in love with it. And I have to admit that I likely wouldn’t include it in a personal top favorite games list. I can’t help but wonder, though, had I stuck with the game when it was new, would my feelings be any different? Did playing the game some dozen years after its rise to popularity, and carrying with it all its praise, hamper my experience? This is how I feel with Shadow of the Colossus. I keep thinking that I wish I had played it while it was new, because something about its simplicity feels rather dated now. I could also say the same about The Secret of Monkey Island, as well. A great game with tons of past (and present) fandom, but one that I found just okay.
This sense of playing games past their prime certainly isn’t some sort of blanket issue. I assume that everyone’s going to feel differently about the games that they play. Borderlands 2 is five years old, and it sucked me in right quick. It felt new and refreshing, but that may have only been because FPS games are new and refreshing to me these days. Bioshock, which turns ten this year, and I only just played for the first time a couple months ago, was a knockout of a game that absolutely blew me away. Nothing about it felt “old.” Like with the Borderlands games, its fandom has quieted down in recent years, so the Internet isn’t clamoring as frenetically about these games as it once did. And yet, nothing about them feels less than prime. I could say the same about Assassin’s Creed II, as well. A great game with tons of past (and present) fandom, and one that hooked me despite its age.
Video games don’t come with statutes of limitations. And yet, there is something to be said about playing games in the moment of their release, when everyone is playing and talking about the same thing. When you and your friends all come together over a single game that all agree is amazing. When a game seems to take over the thoughts processes of the Internet and the world at-large (a la Portal, I’m thinking). Once all that hype has died down, a great game becomes no less great, but it can be accompanied by baggage, positive and negative, in later years. I’ve certainly been chided for missing out on the best of the best in games, but am I really missing out? While I’m glad that I did play Metroid Prime in earnest, I likely could have passed it up and not been the wiser. I’d like to think that Shadow of the Colossus will be different, and I hope it is. But if it isn’t…? Well, I suppose the jury will be out on that until I see the credits roll.
What are your thoughts on playing yesterday’s most hyped games today? If you pick up an older game to play, do you care about its past praise (or vilification)?