Shadow of the Colossus is a game I force myself to play.

I love the barren, expansive landscapes of the world, empty of living creatures except for me, my horse, and a few birds and lizards.

And something else, but I’ll get to that.

I have spent many hours wandering through old forests, gazing on abandoned, crumbling temples. I have given my steed free reign to gallop over wind-swept grassy valleys, giant distant broken bridges, and marveled at the world’s simple beauty. So why did I never complete this game when I had it for Playstation 2, and why am I having to force myself to play it now?

I spend many peaceful hours exploring the terrain, but eventually I am confronted with the task before me, and I suspect I am the game’s villain.

The game begins as I ride up to a weathered castle with a lumpy package draped over my saddle. I place the package on an altar in a great hall lined with 16 statues, and it becomes clear that the shape in the cloth is a woman, eyes closed, dead or unconscious. A booming voice from the ceiling tells me to reconnect her soul to her body, I must slay all the Colossus.

The game falls into a pattern after that. Raising my sword in the air, a beam of light guides me through forest, hill, and gorge to the Colossus I must slay. Sometimes, they’ll be in a cave, or atop a hill, or at the bottom of a ruin. Towering several stories high, they are some strange amalgamation of stone and fur. Their craggy faces look chiseled as if a statue’s, and rock juts out from their joints and spines. They come in many shapes, some on two legs, others on four. At least one flies. For the most part, they ignore me, stomping slowly on some unknown task.

Finding some purchase on their lower extremities, I climb up their furry backs, high above my  anxious horse. Irritated, the Colossus rolls its shoulders, shakes its arm, plunges into the water, anything to get me to slip off.

This dance is the most challenging and fun aspect of the game. Each Colossus becomes a puzzle. When do I dare let go and rush further forward before the shaking begins again? After many failed attempts, I reach the head and plunge my sword into a glowing crest. The creature bellows, and slowly topples, still graceful, into a heap. And I feel like a jerk.

Why do I have to kill these majestic creatures? Why does a statue crumble in the great hall every time I slay a Colossus, and a continuous beam of light shine up from where it was slain? What if I am slaying the guardians of the land? I have no assurance that the voice in the great hall is benevolent and good, or even that it has the power to revive the woman I love. Even if she is revived, will the price I paid be worth it? I can’t shake the feeling that I am the monster in this game, not the lumbering giants.

When I first played this game, I stopped after killing seven Colossus. I have now killed ten. Judging from the six remaining statues in the great hall, I have six more to kill.

I’m not sure I can do it.

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