Speaking with Shadow of the Colossus producer

You can’t fail to have heard of a game called ICO on PS2. The wonderful, critically acclaimed SCEI title bombed at retail, but hopes are high for a smash hit with its spiritual successor Shadow of the Colossus. Here’s the interview with the game’s producer Kenji Kaido.

Question (by Kikizo): Can you remind us of the story and setting for Shadow of the Colossus?
Kaido: There’s a young man on a horse, with a girl. You can see that she’s unconscious, and this is because she has lost her soul. He takes her to a temple-like area that exists at World’s End. He is trying to revive her and recover her soul. In order to do that, he has to defeat the Colossi.

Question: What is Wanda’s relationship with the female – is it similar to the relationship in ICO, and what is the relationship between Wanda and the horse?
Kaido: For the relationship with the female character, as with ICO, I want to leave it to the user’s imagination. But the players will know that they are tied together somehow. As for the horse, it is just a partner. It’s not something to be protected or saved like Yorda in ICO.

Question: Story-wise, Ico was about a guy who was thrown into a situation he didn’t want, and along the way found Yorda – but Wanda seems to be on a self-chosen mission against the Colossi, is that right?
Kaido: Well, we wanted something different from ICO. It’s natural that the story is very different. Obviously, we also wanted to make it more action-oriented.

Question: Do you think this game will end up have wider appeal than ICO?
Kaido: Yes, we do think so. We have to be satisfied with our result, but it has to meet the users’ satisfaction, as well.

Question: How long has the game been in development now? Did you build a new engine?
Kaido: It’s been in development for about two years or so. There’s a new engine – Ico was set in a rather confined environment. Wanda is a lot more open, and almost endless. We attempted to use the same engine at first, but we decided to remake it from scratch instead.

Question: Are there any special gameplay features you can elaborate about?
Kaido: The feature that we talked about before, “organic collision deformation”, means that while you are fighting, the field you are on is actually the colossus itself. Because it is a sort of living being, it’s constantly moving and changing. You can’t stand still on the field, you have to keep moving. The horse, also, has its own AI. The horse essentially becomes the main character’s partner. The Colossi are really, really huge and you have to move across them – they are part building, and part living creatures.

Question: Was there a specific reason why the majority of Ico was set in relative musical silence, and can we expect more of this in Shadow of the Colossus?
Kaido: It was intentional. It’d be easy for us to use music to inspire emotion, but it’s sort of fake, in a way. We want the users to involve their own emotion with the game. We want to make it feel as if the game world is real. Using too much music would ruin this mood. Wanda will likely be in the same fashion, but we haven’t decided yet. We’ll make a choice we feel will suit Wanda’s game world.

In its first week at retail in Japan the game sold 140,000 units. Almost exceeding the 209,000 units of ICO sold in Japan in total. In America the game sold over 94,000 units after launch, and it’s going on sale in Europe February 2006.