Shadow of the Colossus proves that “good enough” graphics are still relevant


Does the above in-game screenshot look three years old to you? It shouldn’t (even though it is) because Shadow of the Colossus for PS2 is still one of the most impressive-looking titles to behold, next-gen consoles included.

The reason: artistic always trumps technical, as was the case with Mario Galaxy released for the underpowered Wii last year. So if you have capable hardware (which I would consider both PS2 and Wii still capable), developers can still create lasting and impressive imagery, even in a post PS3 and 360 world. Game makers can still create great-looking games, ones that encourage players to play them for looks alone, for years to come.

It is this very reason that I believe Nintendo was right when they said Wii would have “good enough” graphics back in 2005, upon announcing the system. This is not to say there isn’t a place for HD graphics in gaming, and Nintendo is sure to support HD as prices drop. But art will always be more appreciated by gamers than power, whether they know it or not. Shadow of the Colossus (which you should play right now if you haven’t already), and numerous others are living proof of that concept.

So if “good enough” looks like Colossus and Galaxy, I’ll be more than happy as a long-time gamer when playing my Wii.


  1. MadWorld has so much style sometimes I forget it is a Wii game.

  2. Hey hey, i just played and beat this game a few weeks ago. I love seeing old games like this. I think this game is coming back because i see it everywhere.

  3. 1st Party games are the best ones.. and the only ones i’ve buy and i’ll buy for the Wii.

  4. I feel the same way, though I think that it also applies with all older consoles as well. Quality artistic impression is timeless which is I am visually more interested in games from across the board.

    For example; just yesterday I saw a trailer of Dino Crisis 2 (PSone) on YouTube which to me looked infinitely better than the last Gears of War trailer that I saw which was just smattered in grey. While none of these games are overly artistic I think that it gets the point across.

  5. Couldn’t have said it better myself, Blake.

    And for the record, I own both a Wii and a 360 (in addition to a PS2 and several other systems), and if you ask me, Super Mario Galaxy is really up to par with what the HD systems have to offer. Nintendo really pushed the limits on that game and did a wonderful job.

  6. Except that Sotc was plauged with wonky controls and camera as well as slowdown and glitches. I really wish they had put it out on the xbox, or would remake it, the game was simply too much for the ps2.

  7. Mausx why do you only buy first party games??? You are missing out on great game for example zack and wiki (wii) trauma center, phoenix wright, ect. Just because a game is first party doesnt mean its worth buying you should look around there are other great third party games.

  8. I personally didn’t find the controls or camera wonky at all, but I’m more forgiving than most. I will agree about the framerate issue, but considering how connected they made the experience (no load screens with 100 mile draw distances), I’m willing to let it slide.

    If anything, it adds to the argument. Sure, there were some issues, but nothing deal-breaking. That’s like the textbook definition of “good enough” right dere.

  9. Well.. i was particulary refering to Nintedo Games, like, Metroids, Zeldas, Marios, Smashes and Star Foxes… still, i do have Zack and Wicky, Bloom Box, HP TOOTP and some others..
    You know Nintendo Games are fisrt quality games and will never dissapoint you… at least they’d never dissapoint me…
    This happens in other consoles too..
    But there still very good Third and 2nd parties on the way..
    Like Konami, Capcom, Square Enix, Bungie, Epic, Vivendi, Team ICO, Team Ninja, BioWare, Ninja Theory, Midway, EA (some), Rockstar and much much more..

  10. why is it necessary to remind ourselves of this every so often?

    saying ‘good enough’ graphics are still good enough, out of the blue, seems like apologism. i’m glad michelangelo didn’t stop with ‘good enough’. imagine if the xbox gamers were on their forums proclaiming their system ‘good enough’. I can hear the infendo forums laughing in their general direction!

    sometimes i feel articles are written to help convince the author he likes what he has. since blake is writing though, i’m not thinking that here. BUT put it this way. shadow looks great. but imagine it on the 360, or on a crysis capable pc. Forget HD, just the added detail in standard def could be amazing.

    the wii is nifty. but posts that sound like ‘i’m so glad it’s not better! way to go nintendo!’ bother me a little. yeah you saved a buck, but that argument is less relevant for the multiple console crowd and fails for those who would run out to buy the Nintendo Pinto sight unseen. so it seems a bit like this ‘good enough’ concept confuses dollar value with entertainment depth (even if the depth is just skin deep)

    i’m sure this sensitivity is just me though- but i’d feel muffled if i didn’t add it just because i know it’s unpopular. bring on the firemen- i need to go finish zelda II on my DS…. cheers

  11. Not once did I express gratitude for inferior Wii technology. I was only commenting on the power of artistic visuals over technical ones. And you can imagine Colossus and Galaxy with better graphics all you want, but that still doesn’t take away from the good looks you see pictured above — not at all.

  12. It’s really all about how they utilize the graphic limits they have. Limit what they have on the screen and they can maximize the graphic potential.

  13. Yea, true… but Wii’s “good enough” should be something in the likes of Smash, not PS2 games… You know, if games would be closer to smash (even if not totally but somewhat close) quality im sure we eouldnt have this argument.

    Anyway I think it shouldnt be a matter of low end vs high end like deep depics it, but of limits. As in if its not that big of a game then okay make it look good enough for a WII game, not good enough for a freakin ps2 game…

    Of course, if you talk more of a bigger game (let’s say CoD5) then you’d want to push the Wii harder (thanks for at least trying so far activision or whoever is developing it). I have a good feeling about it.

    If developers would do this, im sure everyone would stop itching….

  14. There was actually a really good article by the SotC developers on the technical tricks they pulled off with the game. It’s one of the most technically advanced games of its generation, either supporting or approximating HDR, Bloom, Rim lighting, a pseudo vector based motion blur, lit fur shading, Volumetric soft self shadowing, lit volumetric particle effects, a cool sort of specular effect on the horse, inverse kinematics, physical simulation, and even what I interpreted as a sort sub-surface light effect. It’s a really interesting read that I recommend.

    The point I’d actually make isn’t that art is king (of course it is – we all know that here), but that with clever work, the last generation of consoles were really on the very cusp of being capable of pretty much every effect they use today. It was a significant technical point. Once you enter the territory of being able to handle these effects and a few others like Normal Mapping on your full scene, there are massive visually appreciable gains from a small amount of additional power. These are really the last set of low-power:high-gains effects that you get before you see rapid diminishing returns. The additional power of the HD systems (dragged down by the added weight of resolution) makes less and less observable difference. At the same time they approach uncanny valley territories.

    @ Deepthought
    While it’s true I’d much appreciate a more powerful Wii, with EFFORT (the key ingredient sorely lacking atm), the power of the system really was a fair financial compromise. Sure I’m saving money, but also consider the sustainability of the platforms in addition to the consumer end savings. Sony was losing another >$240 on top of the $600 retail price tag. They’ve lost about $3billion on PS3 to date, and the 360 is in the same territory. Neither one is reasonably tenable, and should either have won the generation, they would be recouping their losses by gouging the consumer. Anything else would be stupid. The whole situation was a mess the industry wasn’t quite ready for. It’s not simply ‘good enough’. It’s what was reasonable. As it is, the money I saved on Wii really can aid my purchasing power of games. Having said that, hardly ANY change to the GC, particularly the lack of standard programmable shaders is a major disappointment and one that was well within Nintendo’s capability. What can I say. On the one hand I totally agree with your sentiments. On the other hand I’ve made my bed, and I’ll do my best to enjoy sleeping in it.

  15. blake- sry, didn’t meant to put words in your mouth- was just trying to infer a subtext that i think many readers would glean, whether it was intended or not.

    and i was also thinking- the line between art and technology is significantly blurred recently too! the bioshock opening scene- fire on the water at night, had me in awe. i was stunned. but this part was more an attempt at realism than style (the style came soon enough though).

  16. elmer- definately agree that there is plenty to enjoy. but i try to distance my evaluation of a console’s business position from what i want in games. i’ve never played a game and said, well the AI is mediocre, but that’s OK b/c I saved a buck. hence, i enjoy my xbox, but hate microsoft. call it cognitive dissonance.

    also- came up with a good article analogy: an xbox forum saying that double thumbsticks are good enough, and they’re glad to have their console a year early as a result of less r&d. they’d certainly sound like they’d prefer wiimotes!


  17. I agree about “good enough”…however the problem has been so few Wii games have even had “good enough” graphics. Outside of some first party games and a very few 3rd party, the graphics have been definitely not as good as even PS2 games. Some I’d argue were Dreamcast level.

    I’ll give you the art/gameplay/etc. over graphics, but when you put out visuals that are a generation old on a machine capable of much better (and not a port), then that smacks of laziness.

  18. Blake, I completely agree with you. The only problem is that developers are forgetting Wii is capable of producing even better visuals than Shadow of the Colossus, Resident Evil 4 and the other last-gen visual stunners. The perception is that Wii games must inherently have poor graphics. But that’s not true at all…in fact, Wii games could have incredible visuals.

    Super Mario Galaxy proved that, and I’d wager even better can be done on Wii. I expect Factor 5 to push the system to unprecedented levels.

    Developers have succeeded in propagating the notion that Wii is the retarded little console that shakes around and looks ugly. And that is a shame. I’m not 100% reliant on great visuals to have a great game experience, but visuals ARE very important to a game.

    Just some of my thoughts on these issues. Good post, Blake.

  19. I agree Derek. What I’ve seen transpire in the lifespan of the Wii so far is that it’s seemed to go from arguments of “The Wii is more powerful than last gen so as soon as developers get familiar with the Wii, we’ll see better than last gen visuals” to now it seems the cry is “Gameplay over graphics/last gen’s graphics are fine”.

    I believe this is what deepthought was alluding to, that it seems it’s gone to a more apologetic type stance instance of asking why developers aren’t working harder on the visuals. As usual it’s not Nintendo’s fault, they’ve proven the Wii can put out better than last gen visuals. It’s the 3rd parties. They seem content on only PS2 level graphics (either through ports or by developing a game on the PS2/Wii at the same time), or they feel like must go the ultra cartoony look. Those seem to be the only options that 3rd parties have given themselves.

  20. “Developers have succeeded in propagating the notion that Wii is the retarded little console that shakes around and looks ugly.”

    Precisely. But that will change as developers start using better graphics to entice more gamers.

  21. @ Blake

    Not gonna happen anytime soon.

    If after 1 1/2 years of expectation breaking sales Capcom STILL can’t be bothered to go into THIER OWN libraries and reuse the RE4 engine for a Wii game, then what do you think the prospects are for everyone else to make a decent engine from scratch, without a GC background to work from?

    It’s kind of silly that it’s taking the makers of Leisure Suit Larry to show up the likes of Take Two, Ubisoft, EA, Capcom, Square Enix, Sega, Activision, NamcoBandai, Konami etc. And it still won’t change their practices.

  22. It took me a while to get used to the fact that when you push forward, you don’t go the direction you’re facing,you go the direction your character is facing.I was so frightened by the first creature that I stopped playing after the first attempt at climbing him.I almost peed in my pants when he saw me and started coming after me!What do you expect? I’m 12!Good thing I was borrowing it.The graphics are great and all,and I love Super Mario Galaxy,but I find no need for good graphics.Super Mario Bros. doesn’t have good graphics but it’s still fun!

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