Boss Fight Books: Shadow of the Colossus (#10) – Nick Suttner

3 out of 5

Though passionately and maturely written – and correcting, up front, one of my problems with the general wishy-washy tone of Boss Fight Books’ entries, with author Nick Suttner clarifying that he’s going to write as though readers have not played the game – the tenth entry in this series nonetheless continues to suggest that it’s, like, hard to pack a full length book with content all on a single game, especially when the focus is more on the game’s impact than its developmental genesis or technical components.

Nick Suttner does join the small (thus far) set of authors on this series who bring a very satisfying authorial voice to their entry: Suttner avoids winky meme-isms and sticks to his topic, of the majesty and mystery of Shadow of the Colossus, and successfully convinces one that this is no simple game, but a true work of art. But he’s also limited by something the books demand: to fill up pages. While the snippets of interviews (with game designer Fumito Ueda, or others who’ve spoken on the game) and selections from various takes on the psychology of SotC are fascinating, and very well woven in to the text, they’re also spread very thinly across the book, as Suttner laid down a colossus-by-colossus structure, necessitating at least 16 chapters, and thus a reason for each chapter to exist… He does a good job of differentiating (and describing) the experience of tackling these in-game “bosses”, and how they tie in to and add to the game’s themes, but it still amounts to only enough material and emotional throughlines to support a well-researched article; stretched out to full length, it often feels like you’re just being floated to the next factoid.

I was a bit worried that my bias toward Shadow of the Colossus, being one of my favorite games, would either nostalgize the read – making me automatically like it more than other BFBs – or make me overly judgmental of it. Thankfully, Suttner does such a professional job that I felt like I was allowed to be clear-eyed when reading, well remembering the experiences as Suttner “played” through them, and able to re-appreciate how well the game’s openness and themes work. However, being familiar with the material also made the main issue I’ve mentioned above apparent: if BFBs are not going to be technical deep dives or full-on histories, there’s only so much they can say. I appreciate that Nick made his 150 pages an easy and entertaining read, but I’d also say it’d have a much stronger impact if boiled down to its core elements, perhaps mirroring the “subtractive” design of Shadow of the Colossus.