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The Music Theory of Shadow of The Colossus

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Shadow of The Colossus’ soundtrack is special, not only because of the beautiful composition but because of how that composition is used to compliment each encounter in the game.

Shadow of The Colossus is one of those games that magnificently uses silence to compliment its musical moments. A close analog I can think of is Zelda Breath of The WIld, however that soundtrack was more sparse and subtle. Shadow of the Colossus’s musical moments are grand in nature but it all starts from silence. The game divides its silent moments and its musical moments by when you’re out exploring the world and when you encounter a colossus.

The sounds of exploration are atmosphere driven. There’s no music. You hear the wind blowing along with the chirping of birds. In the new PlayStation 4 release, the sounds of nature are even more enhanced. This stylistic choice is one that calls back to Mario 64.

That was a game where as soon as you boot it up, you’re placed outside of peach’s castle with the sound of pure nature there to greet you. The origins of 3D video games began with a decision that Shadow of the Colossus adopts and uses throughout its open experience. And shadow of the Colossus uses its silence well.

To contrast the game’s use of silence, the music of Shadow of The Colossus immediately picks up when you encounter one of those brooding beasts. Driven by the orchestral composition of Kow Otani (sorry if I pronounced that incorrectly), the attitude of the music is curious. It’s filled with intrigue and wonder.

The music conveys the feeling of anticipation. It stays this way until the Colossus is provoked, and then… then we get the full breadth of what the soundtrack has to offer as the sounds pick up and are hectic, motivating, scary even. Each Colossus gets their own dedicated song at this point to complement the unique presence that each of them bring to battle. From the epic sounds of a giant beast to the frantic sounds of something sinister. Shadow of The Colossus’s score is amazing in composition which cannot be overstated enough but the build up is where the game excels. From silence, to anticipation, to impact, the soundtrack cooperates with the happenings on screen and enhances that feeling of taking on a Colossus.

And to end it all, when a Colossus is defeated, we are treated to the bittersweet sounds of sad violins that represent the moral ambiguity and implication of wrong-doing from Wander. The music signifies the depressing cycle that Wander is in that directly contradicts the heroic melodies that were on display prior. It’s a fascinating duality that occurs in the music that communicates the purposeful mis-messaging which telegraphs the overall themes and direction of the game.

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