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Ascadia and The Other Mystery Seekers of SotC

Most Playstation 2 (PS2) owners are systematically familiar with two things; one being why the “Analog” button on a Dualshock 2 controller exists, and the knowledge of that LAN-party cafe in their place, which ‘jailbreaks’ their PS2 to run pirated video-game discs.

Now the stores which sold these DVD-ROM copies of the games, situated in either a bustling commercial area or a shady alley, had two to four shelves to house them. The titles were either arranged in alphabetical order or based on their genres.

People bought pirated discs for two reasons: either due to their price being ten times cheaper than the original ones or because the titles got sold out.

The most spacious or emptied part of the shelves was where the action/adventure games were kept. With publishers releasing tons of amazing titles, the genre’s games were highly sought after by PS2 owners.

And one of the games which were the most demanded action/adventure pieces of their time was undeniably 2006’s Shadow of The Colossus (aka SotC).

The need to play this exclusive amongst PS2 gamers was so much, that SotC was out of stock in both pirated-discs’ sellers’, and general video game stores. It was very tough to find a copy, during the initial month of this game hitting the markets.

During the first week of release in Japan, over 140,000 copies of the game were already sold. The total sales are estimated to be above one million, according to numerous sites such as VGCharts, Wccftech, and videogamer.

In 2018, Blue Point Games made a ground-up remake of SotC for the Playstation 4. In just one week, the remake outpaced the overall sales of PS2’s version by a whopping 73 percent. It topped Sony Computer Entertainment’s charts and received highly positive views from various magazines and independent reviewers.

But what makes it so special? Of course, the foundation of a remake is to take its original fans on a memory lane, through a much more polished road. They’re quite essential in the video game industry because unlike movies, instilling modern-day graphics, lighting, character-designs, and textures for a classic blockbuster won’t rob it from its essence.

Still, SotC never needed a remake because it’s inherently fantastic and has aged brilliantly over time. But we still needed it. For that esoteric community of highly dedicated fans who’ve spent years exploring in the game, trying to find newer surprises. Here’s the story about their iron-willed system of belief.

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The Seekers of The Mysteries

Contrary to popular action/adventure games, SotC had no ‘violence-inducing’ elements such as hack and slash, or shooting enemies to gain XPs and progressing further in the plot. The story takes place in an ancient, mystical kingdom where the protagonist’s primary mission is to defeat sixteen mammoth beings, called the colossi, to revive a maiden.

He sets off in a vast, breathtaking land filled with plains, forests, lakes, high cliffs, and caves in search of those colossi on his horse called Agro. It has neither people nor characters you can interact with, so you’re guided by the light of your sword to find those colossi, and finish them one after the other.

But is that all there is to the game?
Nope!

This “vast land” is filled with countless opportunities to explore, for finding secrets, and discovering newer places. It was not easy to find them, and most were bumped into by chance. Gamers spent months in search of these undiscovered locations, and eventually, this became an equally big (or bigger) concern among SotC enthusiasts. There’s an interesting reason for why the game was designed this way.

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Fumito Ueda, the game’s director said in an interview “the reason you use the sword to search is, after all, this is a world without people. There are two things that I hate. One is invisible collisions. For example, there’s nothing there, but you can’t go forward. Another is the character who repeats the same phrases. For example, when you go to hear his story, he gives you a hint. But he phrases it again and again, making the character lifeless. I didn’t want to make that mistake and  I wondered if I could find a new solution. That’s when I thought of the sword.”

Game’s map with shrine locations | Image Credits: Some Ordinary Gamers Wiki

So a group of people who called themselves “The Secret Seekers” often posted findings of their discoveries, in Sony’s official SotC forum. It was a group of people inspired by discovering secrets in the game’s spiritual predecessor called ICO, in which one of them included a lightsaber.

These seekers posted locations and methods for finding special items such as a parachute and explosive arrows, locations for shrines, and also areas where one wouldn’t find during the normal quest. The forum altogether got filled with over fifty-thousand posts, till it lasted.

One of them would be a user called Ozzymandias, who made the forum popular by discovering a hidden garden through it. Through users such as him, lots of in-game stuff was disclosed to the public. This encouraged the rise of theories for new secrets, and the most ambitious one of them all would be about the existence of a 17th Colossus.

But was it ever discovered?

The Last Secret

In 2007 just after Christmas, another secret seeker who went by the username ‘Ascadia’ posted his theory which shook the forum. It seemed to be the most credible one, as he tried to back it up with what seemed to be some empirical evidence.

His idea called “resonance of intersecting points” made gamers presume the secret location of the 17th Colossus, to be at someplace in the northward points of SotC’s map.

Map of intersection points | Image Credits: Nomad’s Blog

As mentioned in the blog of Nomad Colossus (another seeker), Ascadia analyzed four types of glyphs/tiles found in the game’s primary temple. Each of this glyph represented a location, where the protagonist would defeat a colossus.

Now the point between those four locations, was where the secret’s possibility lied. It leads him to the arena of Celosia, the game’s 11th colossus which was situated in a deep cave.

In the same arena, players can find an intricate wall that seemed like a secret door. This was what led players to the pinnacle of curiosity.

“Game design is typically utilitarian by necessity. Making a game is hard and expensive. You don’t build a giant stone door for no reason, right?” said Youtuber Jacob Geller in his video about the same topic.

The search for this final boss kept going endlessly, till August 2008, when a new user called Pikol literally passed through walls in the game by emulating. He scoured through every corner of the game through his emulation, including the door.

But only to nuke on everyone’s faith.

There was no 17th Colossus.

A heartbreaking moment for all.

But that never made the seekers even flinch from keeping the forum active through Ascadia’s thread. This was mostly because of Pikol’s simultaneous contribution to the community, as the members had to lay off from the search. The user brought out a plethora of information, about the game’s design, boundless world, and the endless possibilities of figuring out more geometries that were ramped in by Team ICO’s devs.

After his Youtube channel was terminated, Nomad Colossus took his place and started posting more findings, through his own emulation of the game. The forum’s gears started to spin again until the most celebratory moment for the seekers occurred. This was when the SotC remake came out.

Now to answer the previous question on why a remake was needed.

The Sword of Dormin | Image Credits: IGN

The developers laid out another secret, in honor of the seekers. The player has to find 79 glowing tokens, that’ll help him open a hidden door located at a place called “the shrine of worship”.

These tokens were set in honor of Nomad Colossus and were addressed as “steps” when the game’s credits rolled his name. The door led to a sword and a throne, with the sword being a collectible.

 

That’s nothing mind-boggling. But at the same time, it is everything for the seekers. A rewarding gesture by the developers for every fan’s 12 years of wait to revisit the supposed area of the last secret. An esoteric community, but pillars of the fandom.

Unfortunately, in the comment section of Geller’s video, Ascadia’s cousin mentioned that he passed away. His actual name was Will.

 

Ascadia’s cousin breaking the sad news

So let’s get this right. Some of the most overlooked boons of a generational leader, happen to be contributors for that game’s particular forums.

These are the true pro-bono researchers. Shadow of The Colossus has turned into one of the most ignored historical movements of modern gaming. The crazy amount of dedication put by these couch-adventurers just to find some self-assertive feel of being rewarded, is a treasure trove for enthusiasts who later choose to dig into the depths of this 2006’s masterpiece.

All led by an unbreakable chain of belief.

Rest in Power, Will.

Written by Pramshu Peri

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