- For the character, see Ico (character).
Ico (イコ Iko, pronounced "ee-co", stylized ICO) is the first of Team Ico's games, first released for the PlayStation 2 in 2001. The game has since received a European reprint in 2006, to celebrate the PAL release of Shadow of the Colossus, Team Ico's second game (as well as a "spiritual prequel" to Ico). Ico was re-released alongside Shadow of the Colossus as part of The ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection for the PlayStation 3 on September 2011.
In a remote, sunlit forest, several masked men travel on horseback to the edge of an enormous sheer cliff overlooking the sea. Off the coast is an otherworldly, dilapidated fortress, built on tall rocky spires. Some of the men have horns on their helmet. These horns look like those of Malus's head. The men proceed down a winding path towards sea level, get in a small boat, and row silently towards the castle.
They have a prisoner with them: Ico, a boy with an immediately identifiable characteristic: two large horns protruding from his head. These horns are the result of an ancient curse, one that has stricken Ico's village for generations and earned him all its hatred and blame for whatever misfortune comes to its residents. The men have taken him to the castle after his twelfth birthday to place him in a mysterious coffin deep inside the fortress's darkened halls, where he will either starve or succumb to the cold. To open the way to the coffin, they take an enchanted sword that has the ability to open the idol-shaped gates that lead to the room.
The men force him into the coffin, ordering him not to resist and telling him they do this "for the good of the village". After they leave, however, a tremor caused by the castle's many aged moving parts dislodges Ico's coffin from the wall, breaking it open but knocking him unconscious. During this time, he experiences a strange vision, set in another part of the castle - a spiked stone cage hangs from the ceiling of an enormous cylindrical room. As Ico approaches the cage on a spiral path that runs up the room's walls, a shadowy substance amasses at the bottom of the cage, overflowing and dripping onto the floor far below. Another shadow emerges from the walls behind Ico, engulfing him and ending the vision. He wakes up.
Ico begins to explore the old castle, pulling levers and opening doors in search of a way out. Soon, however, he finds himself at the bottom of exactly the same room he saw in the vision, including the metal cage hanging from the ceiling. Ico ascends the spiral path until he reaches the top of the room again. This time the cage contains a young girl, Yorda, who sits there quietly. Ico calls out to her and promises to find a way to let her out. He reaches a lever, which lowers the cage close to the ground. Ico makes his way back down and jumps on the cage, sending it and a dislodged piece of wood crashing to the floor. The impact opens up the cage door, freeing Yorda.
The ethereal young girl takes a few delicate steps out of her prison. She quietly asks Ico who he is and what he is doing in the castle, but she speaks in a different language. Ico tells her of his village's attempts to sacrifice him, wondering if Yorda was also being sacrificed.
Their meeting is cut short, however - a shadowy being emerges from a dark portal in the floor and grabs Yorda. Ico holds on to her hand before she is completely pulled through. At this point he may choose to fight off the creatures with the board of wood, or quickly take Yorda to the mysterious gate on the other side of the room. When the pair gets close to the gate, an otherworldly crackling energy comes from Yorda, and the gate opens (the same power that the mysterious sword showed earlier), much to the surprise of both her and Ico. As the pair continue through the castle's many rooms and passages, it quickly becomes apparent that Ico and Yorda need to utilize each of their diverse talents if they want to escape. Ico is the only one capable of fighting off the shadow creatures, and Yorda is the only one who can open the many gates that block the way forward.The pair arrive at the castle's main gate, which is connected to the mainland by a giant retractable bridge. The gate, however, begins to close. Ico takes Yorda's hand and runs, but Yorda trips and falls. As the gate closes completely, the Queen of the fortress - a ghostly woman covered almost completely in shadow - appears before Yorda. She warns Ico to leave, revealing to him that Yorda is her daughter and "cannot survive in the outside world", and vanishes. Though Yorda is shaken by her mother's appearance, the two resolve to find a way out of the castle together.
A long trek through more of the castle's crumbling structure slowly reveals a mechanism by which the main gate can be opened again. On either side of the castle, sitting atop giant spires of earth, sit two auxiliary buildings that block two large reflectors from shining their light onto two orbs above the castle gates. Getting to the buildings, solving the puzzles behind the reflectors, and returning to the gate courtyard twice while facing off against progressively fiercer shadow creatures is no easy task, but eventually the gate is ready to be opened again. The pair return to the courtyard one last time. Yorda manages, albeit with great difficulty, to open the gate at last. She can barely walk, and even slips from Ico's hand a few times, but freedom is only meters away.
However, as the pair are halfway across the bridge, a great bolt of energy flies through the orbs above the main gate, striking the pair and knocking them down. The bridge begins to retract, separating Ico from Yorda and dragging the latter back towards the castle. At the last moment, Ico manages to jump back toward Yorda, who tries desperately to grab his hand, but a great shadow is already spreading across the bridge towards her. It begins to envelop her, and Ico can see the Queen's body begin to loom over the edge. Before the shadow can reach him, Yorda whispers a quiet "thank you" to Ico, who falls from the bridge before it fully retracts.
When Ico comes to, he finds that he landed on top of one of many cage-like platforms suspended above the sea by chains. It is now nighttime, and a giant storm is sweeping through. Ico jumps carefully across the platforms, and runs back into the castle alone. He carefully navigates the water-filled underbelly of the castle, and eventually comes across one of the boats used by the masked men to transport sacrifices to the castle. He finds the sword they used nearby as well, meaning he can now open idol gates on his own. The gates take him to an elevator leading to the tombs where he was first imprisoned, but to his horror finds several dozen shadow creatures - each shaped just like Ico, horns and all - dancing around Yorda, who has been turned to stone by the Queen. Ico cuts them all down with the sword, and opens one last gate to the castle's throne room.
The room is dark and empty. Ico approaches the empty throne - nothing still. As he attempts to leave the room, however, the Queen appears, taunting Ico and telling him that he is too late. The Queen reveals that she is dying, but she will renew herself by possessing Yorda's body. Enraged, Ico lunges at her, but she knocks him back violently. Ico's right horn breaks off, and he gets up in pain next to the sword, which has fallen close to him. The Queen summons a protective barrier around herself, and the final battle begins.
Ico eventually shatters the barrier. With sword in hand, he charges up the steps to the throne and kills the Queen. With her dying breath, the Queen tells Ico that Yorda will never be able to leave the castle, and knocks him away as she dies in a powerful shockwave. Ico slams into the wall at the other end of the throne room, breaking his left horn off and knocking him unconscious.
With the Queen's demise, the castle rapidly begins to break apart. Back in the previous room, the remaining sarcophagi light up and send numerous bolts of energy at Yorda, transforming her into a shadowy figure of herself. She goes into the crumbling throne room, finds Ico, and carries his body down to the underground docks. She places him in the rowboat and pushes it away to safety, bidding him good-bye. The castle crumbles and sinks completely beneath the waves, the storm ends, and the sun pierces through the clouds.
When Ico regains consciousness, he finds that he has washed up ashore on a lonely beach next to the gigantic vertical cliffs. He looks around, gets out of the boat, and walks down the beach alone. However, he sees something washed ashore up ahead - as he gets closer, he realizes it's Yorda. She is human again, but shows no signs of life. Ico walks up to her, looking at her and not knowing what to do. Suddenly, however, her fingers curl, her eyes open and her head turns towards him. She whispers to Ico happily as the camera fades to black. If the game has already been completed once (and the game is not the U.S. version), Ico can bring Yorda a watermelon from near where his boat landed, and the two will sit by the tide, eating watermelon together.
Paving The Road To A Dream
ICO formed in Fumito Ueda’s mind long before he acquired the necessary assets to realize it. In February 1997, he tried his luck and sent Sony Computer Entertainment his application to join the giant’s software division. Although he did not have an extensive past experience working with 3D software, or with video games in general, his artistic vision and quirkiness* impressed enough to be given a chance and sixteen weeks later, when asked the question ‘Why do you want to join Sony?’ his answer was simply ‘To create a game called ICO.’
Fumito Ueda spent the first three months of ICO’s creation in front of a small fifteen-inch monitor, working alone for many hours each day. He wanted to transfer his vision into something which could be used to pitch his ideas and gain the right resources to make it into a product. Using Lightwave 3D, he created a two-minute long clip depicting the adventures of a young boy, and a slightly older girl with horns fleeing the castle in which they were confined.
When the day to present the demo came, the board presided by Shuhei Yoshida, impressed by Ueda’s effort, called for Kenji Kaido, who while still fairly fresh at Sony, had already amassed ten years’ worth of knowledge working with video games. Kaido’s latest project was Ape Escape, the first title to truly exercise the new DUALSHOCK controller capabilities to their full potential. The reason for his call-out was that the board saw fit putting these two men working together as their individual skills and talents united would ensure a bigger possibility of success. In September 1997, with Ueda as Director and Kaido as Producer, ICO was given the green light for a PlayStation release, and a budget was allocated for its full production.
Note: One of Ueda’s portfolio concepts was ‘Tyrant Kitty,’ which showed unwary art gallery patrons peering into what seemed to be an empty cage before being sprayed with dirt, supposedly kicked up by an imaginary subterranean cat.
|Basics||Idol Gates · Save points|
|Weapons||Queen's Sword · Spiked Club & Shining Sword · Stick|
- Main article: Demo
A playable demo for Ico was distributed with an issue of PlayStation Magazine in 2001. The demo lets the player explore and solve a few select areas from the beginning of the game up to the first encounter with the Queen at the castle's main gate.
Changes from the initial U.S. version
- Main article: List of Changes from the U.S. Version of the game
Since the game was first release in North America, the Japanese and European versions differ on multiple elements:
- The cover art was changed to a drawing by Ueda which was inspired by Giorgio de Chirico.
- Yorda helps the player to solve puzzles.
- Camera angles were different for some rooms.
- At the waterwheel stage, the piston jump is not the same.
- Shadow creatures appear at different spots.
- You can get a light saber the same way you can get the Mace if you were able to get the Mace in your first game (the Steel Apple Side Quest).
- There is a two-player mode, allowing Yorda to be played on the second controller.
- You can access an extra ending scene.
- After completing the game once, there is a new option called Film Effect to change the game graphics like if they were from an old film tape.
- Holding hands is executed differently: in the North America version you press the R1 button to hold, and press it again to release grip. In other versions, the button must be held to keep your grip.
- A PlayStation 3 remaster sporting high-definition graphics, 3D capabilities, trophies, and other features (like PlayStation Move functionality) was released on September 27, 2011 in the NTSC region. The game is based on the Japanese/PAL versions and includes all of its enhancements along with a HD remaster of Shadow of the Colossus. In Japan, the two games were sold separately, while being internationally sold together on one Blu-ray disc as The ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection.
- Main article: The ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection
The game was exclusively re-released for the PlayStation 3, featuring 3D support and trophies.
Ico received strong reviews, becoming a cult hit among gamers. The game has received aggregate review scores of 90 out of 100 at Metacritic and 90% at GameRankings. In Japan, Famitsu magazine scored the PlayStation 2 version of the game a 30 out of 40. The game is considered by some to be one of the greatest games of all time; Edge ranked Ico as the 13th top game in a 2007 listing, while IGN ranked the game at number 18 in 2005, and at number 57 in 2007. Ico has been used as an example of a game that is a work of art. Ueda commented that he purposely tried to distance Ico from conventional video games due to the negative image that video games were receiving at that time, in order to draw more people to the title.
5th AIAS (Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences) Achievement Awards
- Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction
- Outstanding Achievement in Character or Story Design
GDCA (Game Developers Choice Awards)
- Excellence in Level Design
- Excellence in Visual Arts
- Game Innovation Spotlight
ECTS 2002 The Edge Award
- The Edge Award for Excellence in Development
CESA (Computer Entertainment Suppliers Association) Game Award
- Innovation Award
- Special Award (Special Jury Prize)
Sales Breakdown (since release)
- America - Released 26 September 2001 - 250,000;
- Japan - Released 6 December 2001 - 160,000;
- Europe - Released 20 March 2002 - 200,000;
- Asia - Released 2002 - 20,000;
- Korea - Released 2002 - 20,000;
- China - Released January 2004 - Figures not yet disclosed.
Video gallery (Early Version)
Collector Art Cards
- Talking ICO: An Annotation by PeterEliot - A guide to Ico's story; highly recommended reading for those who have finished the game
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