It is very difficult to define an entire game by a single song, so I am always looking for chances to show more than one song from a game – which is a little different than simply showing a series of interesting songs. Shadow of the Colossus (2005) falls in both categories – a game that I would love to show multiple songs from because one song simply cannot capture the entirety of the game, but one that contains several songs that play well on their own. The soundtrack is very exotic, containing interesting combinations of strings, percussion, brass, harp, fagotto (a kind of bassoon), and choral which ultimately create a cross between medieval and fantasy – I would love to know what Kow Otani’s influences are. You really cannot mark the style as being anything other than native to the world of Ico. The album with the Japanese title Wander and the Colossus ~Roar of the Earth~ is marked with a series of battle tracks as well as interludes that serve to break up the action – so not only is the album aesthetically pleasing, but it is also well arranged.
Shadow of the Colossus ~Roar of the Earth~ – “The Farthest Land” (Kow Otani)
Though one of the battle themes such as “The Opened Way” might serve to better illustrate the bulk of the game, “The Farthest Land” is my favorite piece. It serves as a kind of intermission – or more accurately, an overture for the second half of the album and an illustration of the spirit behind the game (the colossi, while central to the game, are not the entirety of it). I think I love the track the most because of its beautiful melancholy, its recalling of a distant land, a legend, and a young man with hopes and dreams that are not quite fulfilled the way he desires. The chimes, tambourine, and flute give the piece a dreamlike, magical quality, a kind of lullaby, while the echoes of (what I think is) a dulcimer send the emotions of the piece across the desert to peoples distant both geographically and temporally. It’s simply an amazing piece. Interestingly, “The Farthest Land” plays twice on the album, first halfway through, and again at the end as a reprise.
Shadow of the Colossus happens to be my favorite game (even though I’ve played it only once; I think I’m about due for a second play-through!). This is due to the emotions of playing it, the beauty of the world, and the richness of the battles. Other excellent songs from the album are “A Swift Horse”, “In Awe of the Power”, and “A Despair-Filled Fairwell”. Each song sounds very different from the last, creating a rich tapestry for the entire album.
Kow Otani (sometimes spelled Kow Ohtani), has composed music for both games and anime (notably Outlaw Star). One of his earliest compositions was the interesting hybrid shooter Philsoma (1995), a launch title for the PS1 and fairly difficult to locate.