VGM Wednesday – “Demise of the Ritual” from Shadow of the Colossus
“Demise of the Ritual” from Shadow of the Colossus, by Ko Otani
Shadow of the Colossus is one of those games that I never, ever thought I would beat. I don’t know why, but I had this fear of it, like I wasn’t very good or something. I knew a ton of people who’d beaten it, but I never thought I’d be one of them…
… until one day I was.
I picked up the Ico/SOTC Remaster for PS3 and started playing it, getting to the third colossus and being unable to make the jump on the platform. For those who’ve played, it’s this one:
Ugh, so hard, except it’s not. Once I learned the back jump control (R2 + looking back + triangle), it wasn’t hard at all. I just didn’t understand the controls, which I needed to learn. The game gave me a situation where I needed to figure it out so I could use it later on, which is just good game design. Once I got it, I got it for the rest of the game.
Then I fought the colossus and fell into my old traps of thinking I couldn’t do it and that I wasn’t good enough to beat him. How was I supposed to beat this game if I’m stuck on the third boss? There are thirteen more after this! So I kept running, falling off, and eventually dying.
But each time I died, I did a little better each time. This is a concept that comes up in our classroom a lot: Failing better. Every time I died, I was further along than I was before, and on the fourth round, I beat him and there was much rejoicing. Then I fought the fourth one and beat it the first time, and the same with the fifth. I was getting better. I could do this. As we say in the band room, when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
I still died at times as the game progressed, but I was dying less and less and getting better at figuring the puzzle of beating each colossus. The game got a lot more fun once I overcame my self-sabotage. If I reframed my perception and my approach, the game (or, at least, the playing of it) was entirely different experience. It was fun. It was exhilarating. There many times where Wander was literally holding on for dear life and I was right there with him.
Before I knew it, I was at the sixteenth and final colossus. I had reached the end of a game I never thought I’d finish.
That’s where the music comes in. Ko Otani’s score is absolutely gripping and I would finally hear “Demise of the Ritual” in the game environment. A lot of the battle themes are moved around and reused, but not this one. This one only happens during the last colossus and, in the spirit of honesty, I never thought I’d hear it while I was playing.
And hear it I did. By the end of the nearly two-hour battle, I was humming all of the inside parts and singing some of the beautiful English Horn writing whenever it came up. It’s a humbling experience to die five times on the final boss then win after hours of fighting, but I was failing better each time. On my third attempt, I hadn’t even reached him yet and had no idea how to proceed. It was one of those experiences where you just have no idea how you’ll ever succeed, where you collapse before you’re even close to the finish line. And we’ve all been there, right? I’M SO TIRED AND IT’S ONLY TUESDAY!
But then you keep going. You assess where you went wrong and what alternate solutions are. You keep doing what you did right and changing what you did wrong. If you don’t do something exactly correct, you practice until you get it, and that’s where video games shine:
If you can’t do it, you can’t move on. There are no pity passes or half-marks, it’s pass/fail and that’s it*
In the end, I did it. It was a gripping feeling to finally beat a game I didn’t think I could ever finish. As weird as it sounds, sometimes I feel like a fraud or a phony for not beating games in the core repertoire. Granted, there’s an argument that the need to finish games isn’t entirely necessary to experience them, but I try to finish things that I start. I haven’t beaten Ocarina of Time yet, which is embarrassing, but I felt the same with it that I did with SOTC: I just can’t do it…
…except that I can, and taking down SOTC showed me that. So I guess I’d better get on that!
PS: (I’m going to try to create some content again because that’s important)
* Mostly, not every single game has pass/fail, like that ridiculous option to skip parts you can’t beat in L.A. Noire, which is garbage.