Shadow of the Colossus has already gone down as one of the greatest games to have ever emerged on any platform. Every bit as stunningly emotive as ICO before it, the SCEJ Studio-developed title takes players on the kind of journey that will be talked about for years to come, and is one of those rare games that delivers a real sense of 'place'.
Conjuring a serene sense of isolation, you ride around on horseback in a diverse and beautiful world in search of 16 fearsome colossi - in the hope that slaying each one will bring your lost love back from the dead.
And it's these vast, screen-filling giants that are the real star of the show, managing to redefine the very notion of what a 'boss monster' should be. They manage to not only look as spectacular as any creatures ever created in a videogame, but tax the player in ways that no other game has before or since.
Shadow of the Colossus is a trip, and it's a game that everyone should play. It's that simple.
And last week, we got to talk to two of the creators of this magical adventure; Kenji Kaido and Funito Ueda, two of the most gifted visionaries this entertainment medium has produced. Read on, as they discuss all the burning issues on Shadow of the Colossus, such as their inspirations, and whether the PAL version will be improved...
Eurogamer: Where did you get the art inspiration from for the game?
Kenji Kaido: Many people have asked the same question, but there wasn't one particular inspiration for the game. Maybe it was something I saw before, in a film, in a cartoon. Maybe it was something I read in a book or something I played when I was little - that sort of mixture might be the inspiration.
Eurogamer: The themes of isolation and sadness seem to prevail in both ICO and Shadow of the Colossus - was that deliberate?
Kenji Kaido: The sadness was focussed - in ICO's case, but in terms of Colossus, when you're riding around in the field, maybe that's where you get your isolation. But when you're fighting against the colossus there are similar feelings. Maybe after defeating each colossus, that might make you feel sad, but once you finish the whole game then you get a better picture of the feelings.
Eurogamer: Will you continue to make one-off games, or would you ever consider making a sequel to either ICO or Shadow of the Colossus?
Kenji Kaido: At the moment there is no definite plan for the future. But because we always want to keep challenging new things [unlike] other third party companies - that's our concept as a platform holder. That lets us design all different types of genres and different types of game in the future.
Eurogamer: Did you design the game around the technology, or was the technology designed around the game?
Kenji Kaido: In terms of Colossus, we had to realise how the hero grasped onto the arm of the enemy, so that was how we started the game design, then we thought how the technology could realise it. Apart from that, in terms of something you might call art - the movement, motion, and scenery - that has been made within the limitations of the hardware rather than making something and trying to think, 'I want to make this, so I cannot do it technically'. We made it within the limitation of the hardware, so just thought, 'how can we do it within the technology?'
Eurogamer: Do you already have an idea of what you'll be doing on the next generation? Do you know what your limitations are already?
Fumito Ueda: We don't know anything about it! It's not anything to do with being secretive or anything; we just haven't seen [the PS3] yet.
Eurogamer: Will the European version of Shadow of the Colossus feature any exclusive content?
Kenji Kaido: At the moment we are doing the development of the European version, so we are considering whether to include any additional elements. In the case of ICO, the European version was the best-completed version, so now we are expecting something similar to happen to this one...
[Another Sony Japan rep at this stage interjects that Ueda-san was talking about the packaging.]
Eurogamer: What are your thoughts on the delay of releasing the European version in February? Do you think that's too long for us to wait? Why is it taking so long?
Fumito Ueda: It takes time in order to get a full screen PAL version working, and also translation into five different languages. Also, from the PR and marketing point of view, they know when the best time to release it, so that the distribution is successful.
Eurogamer: To buy a copy of ICO on eBay costs a lot of money! Any plans to re-release ICO in Europe?
[Sony PR rep interjected at this point and said: "There is a plan to re-release the original. Exact details have not been 100 per cent nailed down as yet, but ICO will be re-released."]
Eurogamer: Technically speaking, Shadow of the Colossus looks fantastic, but there are issues with the frame rate and a few pop-up issues. Is that something you can maybe iron out for the European version?
Fumito Ueda: We cannot promise everything will be improved because of the limited deadlines, etcetera, but maybe there will be some improvements.
Eurogamer: Obviously, you only fight 16 colossi, and in between there isn't a great deal to do in between, apart from riding around and checking out the scenery. What was the reason for not giving you anything to do between fighting each colossus?
Kenji Kaido: It was in order to enhance the spirit of fighting, and so the team's resources could be concentrated on the [colossi]. The contrast between the quietness of travelling and the fighting is more pronounced.
Eurogamer: With hindsight, having now finished the game, would you have done anything differently?
Kenji Kaido: Of course, it's the same as ICO, when you reach that point where you go, 'oh I wish this and that', but it's the same for any other developer, as well.
Eurogamer: What sort of game do you want to do next?
Kenji Kaido: I can't say anything. I can't give exact details, but the same as ICO or Shadow of the Colossus; I'd like to make a game that I'd want to play.
Eurogamer: What is the significance of horns in your games?
Fumito Ueda: I like to leave that to the player's imagination! For us, it's much more fun to listen to what the players have to say, telling us what it meant to them...
Eurogamer: It was one of the greatest endings to a videogame ever, I have to say...
Fumito Ueda: With the ending, there are many films and books that deal with bringing back the dead, but usually it kind of has bad consequences, but what we wanted to provide is use all the humanity to provide a happy ending,
Eurogamer: Is that the definitive ending, or is there another ending if you do things differently...?
Fumito Ueda: In Japan there is much speculation that there are different endings depending on how you play. What I was trying to do, is each time you killed the colossi you can't escape from your own fate...
Shadow of the Colossus is released in Europe in February 2006. Until then, check out our full in-depth review.