[Disclaimer: This game contains information on the ending to the video game Shadow of the Colossus. Why a disclaimer than a traditional "spoiler" tag? Because this game is one of the GREATEST games to come out of the PS2 and everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, SHOULD have played it by now. If you haven't played it by now, go out and buy it; it costs like 20 bucks or less for the PS2 and maybe 40 bucks for the HD remastered PS3 rerelease. To everyone else, read on. :) ]
"How could this have happened?" a young man muttered, in his native tongue, under his breath as he rode his horse, who galloped across the land. A single teardrop scrolled down his face as he turned to his "cargo:" The corpse of a beautiful maiden, wrapped in a cloth, not unlike a mummy. "This isn't fair," he spoke again, reminding himself of her fate, as he finally came across a shrine he had been looking for this entire time.
Upon entering the premise, several shadow-like beings attacked him, but they were no match for him; using the light from his sword, he quickly vanquished the beings, causing the surprise of a deity named Dormin. After a little back and forth, a deal was struck: In exchange for bringing the girl back to life, which had been taken for her because of something that wasn't her fault, the young man was tasked with the objective to slay sixteen colossi located across the Forbidden Land.
But the deal had a catch to it; The colossi are hard enough to take down, but the young man is doing on the bare "promise" that Dormin would revive the woman. Not only that, Dormin even gave the young man a warning that there may be an even bigger price to pay when this is all said and done. But the young man, determined to revive the young woman, set out regardless.
Over My Dead Body
With a premise to a game like that, there's surely no one who could resist not knowing the ending of the game. Sure, the game boasts some wonderful design with large landscapes uninhabitated with people, a wonderfully melancholy color palette for the world, and, of course, epic boss battles against enemies 100x your size, but for some people, those are just the "appetizers" and "entrées" to the meal; the end of the journey just has to be worth the effort of the journey itself. After all, when you had crab cakes and a steak dinner, if all you had for dessert was a single piece of candy, you'll be disappointed that the dessert couldnt top the meal.
But don't get me wrong; I enjoyed every minute of the game. From scaling the hairy backs (and goatees) of these humongous beasts to jumping off a horse onto the wing of a flying dragon over a sea of sand (everyone's favorite: the 13th colossus), it's hard to put down the controller; you'll be playing for hours just wanting to see who you had to fight next, and, of course since you're there, actually slaying it. Speaking of slaying, that part of the fight makes the game much more interesting actually; The thing is, whenever you deliver the final blow to the monsters, causing them to spew black blood out of their wounds in a spectaculur fashion, you'll have little time to celebrate as black tentacles of "energy" spring from the corpse and stab you in the chest, piecing your heart. But you don't die; you merely fall to the ground, succumbing to your wounds, while staring at a bright light, before magically appearing back at the altar of the shrine, surrounded by the shadowy figures who attacked you in the first part of the game.
And this doesn't just happen once, oh no, it happens every single time you killed a colossus. The first time it happens, you're shocked and bewildered at what's happening, and the next time it happens, you'll even try to avoid it. You don't however... And eventually, possibly after the 5th, 6th, or even the 16th colossus, you'll accept that it happens and just let it take you over (like with every hentai involving tentacles). However, over the course of the game, there seems to be a slight, subtle difference with this routine: With each colossus slain, there appears to be more of those "shadow" figures watching over you as you sleep. Not only that, the last thing you hear before you succumb to your wounds, the voice of a young woman, possibly the young woman who's dead, seems to be getting louder and clearer with each dead colossus. But before you celebrate the sign that she could be coming back, the young man's skin and hair colors grows a tad bit darker...
And the group of monks who's chasing the young man, for stealing the sword he carries and for running off to the Forbidden Land, are getting closer and closer...
With the rising action of the story getting more and more intense, sooner or later the game's eventually going to reach the climax and the inevitable "falling" action... And for people like me, that's something we fear. I mean, I don't fear it like a plague... It's just that I fear that it might not be as good as it needs to be to top off what's going on. But finally, after a tear-jerking selfless sacrifice of your horse's life to save you, and after slaying every beast from here to Timbuktu (or whatever's the equalivant in this world), you finally face an epic battle between you and the final colossus. After dodging fireballs, running through the trenches of a battlefield, and scaling the biggest colossus of them all, you finally take down the last colossus and fulfilled your promise to Dormin. With the last time you get pierced by the black tentacles, the finale starts.
Upon making it back to the shrine, the young man meets the monks who've been chasing him for committing the crimes. However, rather than taking the young man in, the elder monk declares the young man, who looks like a zombie by now apparently, "possessed" by the dead, and orders his two men to kill him. After trying to reach the young woman, the young man is shot with an arrow as another man stabs him in the chest with a sword. In an odd, unexpected surprise, black blood spews out of the young man's body, just like the colossi he stabbed, as he falls to the ground, succumbing to his wounds (yet again).
However, in a strange turn of events, the young man's body is covered in the black, "shadow" essense as it appears that Dormin, the deity that the young man had been working for, possesses his body. And in a strange revelation, Dormin reveals that, apparently, his power was "locked" with these 16 colossi, and when the young man slayed them all, Dormin is now at full power. Dormin then goes to possess the young man, using his body as a vessel, tranforming it into a giant colossus itself, which isn't hard to do considering that every time one of those "black tentacles" pierced him, the young man was actually absorbing the dark energy of Dormin.
With stories like these, it's hard to imagine that video games have come a long way, from playing things like Pong
and Space Invaders
that only had little to no story at all. However, with almost every medium out there, it's still possible to tell a story like this. I mean, it might be portrayed differently, like as a book, it'll go into explanations and character thoughts while a movie would be short and cinematic, but that's because it's playing to its strengths. So what's the strength of video games? Actually using the game, and even twisting the game's mechanics, to further strengthen the story.
Going Through Changes
After Dormin possesses the young man, you don't just sit back and watch a cut-scene of Dormin trying to kill the monks... You control him. Finally, after being the David to the Goliath, you become Goliath yourself, towering over the ground. You can swing your arms around in an attempt to kill the people who shoots arrows at you, which by the way, doesn't hurt much. However, while you're huge, you swing your arms very slowly, with walking being even slower. It's a very stark contrast to the young man, who's been nimble and agile enough to traverse enviroments and even dodge attacks at a moment's notice. The controls feel sluggish not because its a bad game, as after all, you had the whole game to get a feel for it, but it's intentionally sluggish to give the weight of being a giant.
Of course, all of this is in vain; No matter what you do, you're destined to fail. After all, you spent the whole game as the little man who takes down enemies way bigger than him... Size doesn't matter. Becoming something of a colossus yourself, it was time for you to be taken down; After a vain attempt to kill the men, the elder monk takes the sword and walks back to the "pool" of the shrine, which had always been in the background but had never been used up until now, and casts a holy magic to seal away Dormin once again. In a splendid cut-scene, Dormin's dark presence is being slowly sucked into the pool (which is now the equalivent of a whirlpool), fading away, leaving the young man exposed underneath, while all this time, tries to desperately reach the young woman.
But the young man isn't spared this wrath; The young man is also being sucked into the vortex, viciously trying to claim him. However, you don't just watch this happen; putting the controls back into your hands once again, you control the young man as he desperately tries to make it to the young woman, who still lies in the same spot since the beginning of the game. What I love about this part is that there's no objective telling you what to do; you saw during the cut-scene that the young man was trying to reach the girl, so you assume that that's what you need to be doing now. You probably think that he can do it too... But then again, you probably believed that you could've killed the human enemies when you became a shadowy giant...
And how'd that turn out?
Look What You've Done
You could try running towards the woman, but you'll never make it. You could spam the jump button and even make it farther, but the game just pushes you back all the same. It's like no matter what you do, you'll only go up to 5 steps forward, but you'll always be pushed 5 steps back. Eventually, you WILL get sucked into the vortex (ironically like the way you've been sucked back into this game after taking a break) and you will, after all this time, lose. But hey, people got to lose sometimes, right? The thing is though, the thing makes this scene so powerful isn't because the character loses... It's because you (and I) did. Sure, you could watch a scene of a movie, and if it was set-up EXACTLY like this, you'll probably shed a tear or two. But for me, the thing that really gets me is that, no matter what buttons I pushed, no matter how much I held "forward" on my joystick, the young man doesn't escape his fate, just like how the young woman didn't escape hers.
To reiterate the point of how putting the controls in your hands compare to watching a movie, imagine watching a horror movie... Now, when things get a little close, you yourself is probably sweating bullets, with your body tensing up in fright. The emotion you feel is true, but when you think about it, you really are a member of the audience; As in, no matter what YOU do, whatever happens in the movie, be it that the person gets away or killed by the villian, is going to happen regardless. Don't get me wrong, this happens in video games as well during cut-scenes, but recall playing Uncharted 3,
specifically when the thousands and thousands of spiders swarm over to kill Nathan Drake.
Now, according to the script, Nathan Drake survives the encounter, but think about when you're ACTUALLY playing that scene... Instead of just watching the scene of seeing Drake escape his insect pursuers, you actually need to make it happen by pushing the buttons on the controller. Otherwise, Drake will succumb to the fury of the 8-legged freaks and perish, and believe me, seeing his lifeless corpse being trampled on by spiders is a disturbing sight, one that only happened because you (yes you *points accusatory finger*) screwed it up. And, to avoid that from happening, you need to take control of the situation by taking the controller, as if playing out the fate of these characters in order to fulfill their "destiny."
Careless World: Rise of the Last King
What I'm trying to say here is that it's fine for a video game to try to emulate movies. After all, without their influence, we wouldn't have games like Final Fantasy XIII
and Uncharted 3
(and that'll be a sad world to live in). However, for a game to truly stand out on its own, to do something a movie or a book can't, it needs to play to its strengths and incorporate game mechanics into the story. I'm not saying all of these moments needs to be playable, but some of the best moments of gaming incorporates the game itself (like, if I recall correctly, in this one Final Fantasy,
this one monster will NEVER attack a certain teammate, and when all the other teammates have fallen, the monster will have no choice but to attack itself... That just wouldn't feel the same if you had seen it in the movie).
I may have been side-tracked for a moment, but I just wanted to explain how this ending, which I'll finish in a bit, really stood out to me. I mean, any game could have a deep, emotional cut-scene at the end of the game, but only the greatest games actually ultilizes the fact that its a game into its story. And speaking of ending, the ending to this game was bittersweet as hell;
The young woman, after all has been said and done, actually wakes up from her "slumber," but sees no one in sight. Upon exploring off on her own, she finds a baby (where the young man had been sucked into) with horns on its head. She picks up the baby and carries it out of the shrine, eventually finding a green garden to reside in, with the horse that "sacrificed" itself to save the young man limping in to accompany her. It's bittersweet because despite all that the young man had done to bring her to life, he never got to see her again. It's like spending your life to amass as much gold as possible and dying before you had a chance to spend a penny.
Some may say that its depressing how it ended. I, however, say it ended just fine; after all, not every story needs a Hollywood-styled ending.
Especially not one that isn't even remotely close to Hollywood.
"I used to be an adventurer like you until I took an arrow to the knee."
I'm so sorry, I couldn't resist :P