‘Shadow of the Colossus’: To scale and slay the towering beast, Malus

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Shadow of the Colossus
Team Ico
Sony Computer Entertainment
PS2

For something that means the world, would you obliterate the world itself to save it? The persevering hero Wander of the 2005 innovative masterpiece, Shadow of the Colossus, sought to not only move mountains but slay them in a bid to awaken his dear Mono from her cursed slumber.

Shadow of the Colossus is a gorgeously minimalist take on the boss rush. You steer Wander and his steed, Agro, through a vast and empty world in search of each monumental bounty. Wander is tasked to eliminate the 16 colossi by Dormin, a god-like entity that advises the boy that the Ancient Sword he wields can awaken Mono if he destroys the stone idols that surround her altar. The idol’s incarnations walk through The Forbidden Lands oblivious to the great reckoning that has been cast upon them.

Each colossus requires great cunning, enduring strength and undying fortitude to conquer. Wander must scale the body of each colossus, gripping on stone and fur, in order to find the weak spot marked with a special insignia. Some insignias are obvious but others require some puzzle-solving to reveal. Once the glowing area is found, Wander must take his Ancient Sword and thrust it into their thick hide repeatedly to take the beasts down. Beware, however, as the colossi will not take this onslaught lying down. They will shake their bodies to try to rid themselves of your nuisance and unless Wander can keep his grip on the colossi, he’ll be sent hurtling toward the earth.

The 16 burdens plaguing Wander come from the sky, sea and sand. They will fly through the air, dive underneath the depths of the darkest waters and burrow through mounds of sand and earth to avoid certain death. Their sizes can range from that of large horses to staggering skyscrapers. But no matter how big and mighty, they all must fall.

Malus, the tallest and most imposing of the 16 colossi, stands before Wander as the final stepping stone to fulfilling Dormin’s prophecy and freeing Mono. This final colossi towers over the rest like a fortified temple reaching to the heavens; a living, breathing Tower of Babel waiting to be conquered.

Wander enters the ruins and plains that surround the ominous silhouette of Malus standing against a stormy sky. The giant bombards him with never-ending shots of electricity prompting Wander to use the ancient tunnels dug beneath the earth to navigate closer to Malus. These purpose-built tunnels and barriers seem to tell of a time where man and Malus met in battle ages before Wander set forth on his journey. The ruins eventually lead Wander to stand toe-to-toe with Malus as the true battle begins.

It requires the utmost perseverance to take down Malus because one wrong move during this grand scaling will send Wander crashing back down to earth, losing every inch of progress on the way.  If the boy is able to avoid death from the fall, it becomes a matter of getting back on his feet and trying again.

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Once Wander climbs past the labyrinth of walls, rock and debris, he reaches the monster’s back which is the first of a few vital areas to target. Stabbing the back of Malus will bring his arm close allowing Wander to latch on and go for a death-defying ride. So begins the dare-devil gymnastics of jumping from one limb to the other, battling not only Malus’ movements but gravity, in an attempt to get closer to the head. Keep in mind, Wander is so high up at this point, the ground is now hidden below the dark clouds. The only thing visible is Malus’ glaring eyes embedded in a head of stone.

The end goal is the very tip of Malus’ head. Amidst desperately gripping to the colossus’ scalp, Wander drives the Ancient Sword through its skull, thrust after heavy thrust. One wrong move or loss of grip strength will result in almost certain death at this height.

Finally, the ending blow to the head is given and Malus becomes petrified, leaving only a chipped and ruined husk of a beast. The final idol is destroyed and now Mono can be awakened.

The entire boss battle is a symphony of the clashing elements that made up the entirety of Shadow of the Colossus, and as such, it forces the player to use everything they’ve learned and observed in the 15 prior colossus battles. Synced with a powerful score and visuals that drive home your minuscule nature in the face of such a monster, it’s a fitting finale to the grand epic that became one of gaming’s finest endeavors.

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