In the sea of sequels and me-too titles that have flooded through publisher doors in the last couple of years, only a handful of games have stood out as offering an experience truly refreshing in the way they dare to shirk popular videogame conventions. The fact that ICO and Shadow of the Colossus - two such titles - were born from the same creative minds is testiment to the skill and unique approach of the team.
However, despite huge critical acclaim, ICO failed to make much of a buzz in Europe, thanks largely to Sony's under-promotion of its stunning in-house title. Over the proceeding years since its release, the clamour for ICO's haunting tale of a boy and his mysterious young charge has resulted in the game reaching astronomical prices in specialist stores and on eBay.
Now though, with the arrival of Shadow of the Colossus in this territory, Sony's seen fit to give the original game another chance and European punters who missed out first time around will be able to sample both sublime offerings from February 17.
In celebration, we chatted to Fumito Ueda, the creative force behind both games, about everything from his initial aims for ICO to the perfect monkey/zombie/pirate game...
ICO and Shadow of the Colossus are obviously two of your best-known titles, but what has your team worked on previously?
Fumito Ueda: "ICO" was our first work ever as this team. There are members in the team who had experience with video games, and there are members who had no experience at all. There are probably more non-experienced members within the core members.
By the way, I worked for a company called "WARP" before I joined this team in SCE. I was an animator for a title called "Enemy Zero" of Sega Saturn.
At the time of its release, ICO was applauded for its fresh approach to action-adventure titles. Did you intentionally set out to create something new and unique - what were your main goals for ICO?
Fumito Ueda: As for "ICO", my goal was to create something different from ordinary video games - entertainment created by using computers. That is why I started by questioning things that was "normal" such as the theory of video games. The main concept for "ICO" was to differentiate it. "Shadow of the Colossus" was developed by taking away those restrictions.
ICO was originally released in 2001 and now European gamers are getting a second chance to experience the game when it's released alongside Shadow of the Colossus this year. In hindsight, what do you think the most successful aspects of ICO were in terms of design and what might you change if the game was in development now?
Fumito Ueda: Just after the development of "ICO", I wanted to increase the interaction part of the game. For example, increase the number of objects (including small animals) in the stages and add some sort of interaction to it, or increase the movements of Yorda - the heroine in "ICO".
Movie adaptations of videogames are huge at the moment. What would you like to see in a movie version of ICO?
Fumito Ueda: I would choose a Japanese hero as Ico and a non-Japanese heroine to act as Yorda to make a real situation of not being able to communicate.
Moving onto Shadow of the Colossus, the game is - at its simplest level - sixteen boss battles with some running around in between. Why did you decide to take this unusually focused approach?
Fumito Ueda: There are many reasons, but the main reason was to concentrate on the battle with the 16 colossi. Another reason is to differentiate it from other games.