Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Shrine of Worship

In this post I will discuss the Shrine of Worship and present some possible explanations as to its purpose and function (all speculative ; ) This vast and beautiful work of architecture sits right in the center of the forbidden peninsula, and through some unseen and unknown force is linked to the dislocated colossi spread out across the land, you could say it's the 'nexus' of the forbidden lands. Home to Dormin's restless spirit, it towers above the plains in level upon level of spectacular design, crafted and built by some unknown and now long dead race of people, surely giants! Forgotten for centuries it lay undisturbed until one day a lonely wanderer set foot across the threshold setting in motion the dramatic events we are now familiar with.

The Main Hall
The Shrine of Worship consists of three main sections, 1) the main hall that houses the idol statues, the altar, Dormin's oculus and the pool of water, 2) the secret garden and 3) the upper levels of the temple (which are inaccessible). You could also include the outer shell of the temple as there are many ledges and pathways surrounding it, however these are also inaccessible in the game (sadly).

Heavenly light shines down into the main hall

Our first glimpse of the main hall is revealed in the opening cut scene. We are presented with a large open, cathedral like space with Romanesque style arches flanked by enormous niches, each holding a stone statue. The stone statues are strangely stylized, reminding us of the totem poles of the native American indians. As Wander passes by the statues he is drawn to another imposing structure that seems to hang down from the high ceiling above a simple stone box, the altar. We can surmise that this altar is the main feature of the temple and would have been used before to resurrect the dead, in fact I had the idea that Dormin also used this altar when he wanted more souls, like a reverse resurrection machine if you will. The hapless victim would be placed on the altar as part of a ritual or ceremony then Dormin would drain his or her life force away. The large hanging structure may have been utilized by Dormin in some way, an ancient technology beyond the scope of its faithful followers (again mere speculation).

 Stone statues within their individual niches

Note: It's possible to Agro launch up to the top of the roof above the statues! This was first discovered by a user named 'SotCshado' in September 2008. You can exploit a glitch in the game where Agro seems to 'lurch' up as she walks over a stone step in the temple... by racing to this place at high speed, then hitting the Triangle button at just the right time, Wander will be flung up to amazing heights to easily reach the top of the statues.

See video here:

The altar - with the strange hanging structure above

Note: The devs most likely placed the large hanging stone structure above the altar so that players couldn't jump onto Mono's altar. The hanging structure stops Wander from hopping up there and desecrating Mono's resting place. I remember one user on the Playstation 2 forums speculating that the hanging structure would lower down onto the altar and 'cook' Mono in order to resurrect her xD. We only needed to find the right sequence of events to make this happen.

Oculus of light set into the roof of the main hall

Above I said the Shrine of Worship was the 'nexus' of the forbidden lands, but if you look closer, it is actually this circular hole in the roof of the main hall that is the nexus. This is where Dormin's disembodied spirit communicates with Wander, somehow it is a conduit for Dormin to speak with Wander. How this is possible is unclear, as Dormin was split into 16 segments (one for each colossus), so how then can Dormin also be at the Shrine of Worship? There is also the problem of how the shadow people appear in the opening cut scene, we see only 5 shadow people raise up out of the floor of the main hall until Wander dispatches them with his sword, gaining Dormin's notice.

It makes sense that Team Ico only used 5 shadow people in the opening and ending cut scenes, as having 16 shadow people standing around would have looked too cluttered I think, Ueda was all about keeping the game clean as simple as possible. 

I once speculated that the Shrine of Worship was like another character in the game, an 'anti-colossus' if you will. It has all the characteristics of a colossus, it is huge, it has moss growing on its sides that you can climb, a circuitous path to reach the summit (the garden) and fruit that 'reduces' your health and grip strength. It's like the last colossus that gives you back your humanity after your long ordeal fighting the 'actual' colossi which took it away.

Mossy path leads to the summit

When Wander stands directly under the oculus his shadow is directly under him, but as soon as he moves away (either North or South) his shadow always points to the North. This suggests that Dormin is the source of light in the forbidden lands, in other words, Dormin is acting like the Sun. Which makes sense as most early religions (such as the Egyptians) worshiped the Sun as a God but were replaced by later 'human' type deities. But there appears to be a second source of light, way off to the South as wherever Wander travels his shadow is always pointing North. I have yet to identify this 2nd source of light as Wander casts no shadow when you leave the confines of the forbidden lands.

Wander under the oculus - his shadow is directly below him

Wander at the Norther cliffs - his shadow points North

Wander at the Southern cliffs - his shadow still points North

So you would think when Wander is in the South lands his shadow should point South, but it doesn't, it still points North. The only explanation for this is that there is another source of light further South than the southern cliffs. Somewhere out in the endless void of the surrounding ocean hangs another celestial ball of light. So it seems Dormin isn't the only source of light in the forbidden lands... I wonder where the Southern light source exists?

View of the main hall from the outside

Hidden area above the altar facing East

Facing West

This hidden area is directly above the altar hanging structure, it's like a long hallway with open ends, of course you can't go to these places but I like to show everything I can, however trivial. Below I've put Wander inside the hanging stone structure above the altar, there's a little window there just about at Wander's height that he can look through.

Inside the hanging stone structure

Small window inside the hanging stone structure

Above you can just make out the beam of light above the 1st colossus. Although it looks like a window it's most likely just a missing texture in the back side of the structure.

 The so called 'surfboard'

This strange flat rectangular structure juts out from the very top of the hanging stone structure above the altar. Unlike the image above it has no collision detection (I'm using the standing hack here). You can see it by looking up but it's hard to make out against the background. It's a very mysterious structure as it serves no purpose and makes no architectural sense, so why they put this here is just another mystery. 

The only idea that surfaced in regards to the surfboard was to drop down through Dormin's hole (the oculus) with the parachute and somehow land on it, which was speculated to be a switch of some kind. When Wander's weight touched it, it would trigger the hanging stone structure to lower down over Mono on the altar and miraculously revive her! Problem is there is no way to reach Dormin's hole from the secret garden as it's surrounded by high walls, and even if you could drop down through the hole, the surfboard is too far South to reach. But at the time on the Playstation 2 forums it was one of the more interesting new ideas to surface as to finding a hidden secret.

Wander inside Dormin's hole - bathed in heavenly light!

On a high ledge at the top of the hanging stone structure

Top of a high stone arch

Standing on one of two stone platforms above the stairs

Viewed from outside

I always wanted to get here once I was interested in the game. You can see them clearly from below, but how to get up there? Why are they there when there's no way to reach them? Finally, once I learned how to do the 'jump hack' I flung Wander up there only to fall back down with a grunt of pain on the stairs. There's no collision detection on these two platforms, they are just for show. Later I used the SoW save stone to make a platform just under the floor textures, so Wander had a solid surface to walk on. I did this with both the surfboard and the two stone platforms. When WWWArea worked out the 'standing hack' I could move around up there and take some shots. Note: The standing hack I always mention is enabled by taking down Wander's animation codes while he is standing still. There are four hex codes that determine this, once you lock them (in MHS) Wander can stand up in any area of the game, even in mid air!

You can see the surfboard and this high platform in this video, I've used the save stone here (squeezed down or stretched out) to walk around in these places:

Top of the main hall - showing the outside of the spiral path

Panned out view - again no collision detection here

Small circular pool of water at the back of the main hall

After each time attack trial (in Normal and Hard modes) your rewards magically appear in this pool. Defeat two colossi and you will get a cut scene showing a glowing object under the water in the pool. Use R1 to take the item, Dormin will explain what each item does, rinse and repeat to receive all extra items for each mode. Note: In the Preview version in Hard mode, you can get all the items from both Normal and Hard mode at the same time. So when you click on the 'item' in the menu you will see all 16 items listed. See my blog post for a tutorial as to how to do this here (about 1/3rd of the way down):

Top of the spiral ramp looking down

The pool also plays a crucial role in the end cut scene when Lord Emon throws the ancient sword into the pool, this (somehow) creates a beam of light that draws the darkness into it like a huge vacuum cleaner, destroying Dormin and then pulling what's left of Wander into the pool. The water evaporates leaving just a small fragment of what Wander once was, his infant self. This reveals that Wander was not wholly taken over by the darkness, there was still a little light left, just enough to keep him alive although reverted to his baby form. 

In the game when you enter the pool of water, the ancient sword is submerged... why then doesn't this create a whirlpool of light? Could it have been the height the sword was dropped from? The velocity of the sword when it hit the water? Or perhaps Emon chanted some archaic incantation to unbind the sword's power, releasing it in a torrent once it hit the water in the pool? Since you can't drop the sword in the game there is no way to test this (not that it would work anyway ; )

Looking up the stairs to the door we first entered the temple (now locked shut)

Looking up to the high oculus far above the pool

Note: There are two holes in the Shrine of Worship, one is the oculus Dormin speaks to Wander through, this is the South most hole near the altar where Mono lays, the other is at the back of the temple, directly above the pool of water, to the North. This one provides you with the Time Attack items after defeating the colossi in both Normal and Hard time attack modes. When in the secret garden, the South most hole is hidden behind some high walls and is inaccessible, but the North most hole (above the pool of water) can be found under the upper platform of the garden, it's at the back of the garden near a fallen tree. You can jump into this hole if you wish but you will die! 

All paths lead to the Shrine of Worship

After every battle with a colossus, Wander is 'magically' transported back to the Shrine of Worship, he then wakes up and receives the next message from Dormin. This ambiguous invisible spirit tells Wander where to go next, but is it just playing with Wander for its own sinister agenda, or does it have Wander's best interests in mind? This is one of those unanswered questions left up to the player to decide. 

Colossus is linked to its idol statue over great distances

Imagine if you will the Shrine of Worship (SoW) being like an enormous energy source with conduits spreading out from it and connecting to each colossus. When a colossus dies, a surge of energy flows back to the SoW and destroys the idol statue that represents that colossus, that is the power that resides in the colossus has now been released and (as is it linked to its idol statue over great distances) instantly snaps back like a rubber band being cut. This sudden release of energy overwhelms the dense structure of the idol statue and destroys it. Of course, this is just my interpretation of how something like this might work in a real world sense, instead of relying on 'magic' to provide the answers.

There are two models of the temple, one is high-res, the other (seen from a distance) is low res. So using this, I once moved the low res temple up to a high place, so it couldn't be seen from ground level - which would give the impression (from Wander's standpoint) that the Shrine of Worship had disappeared! The effect was quite good, as Wander could look over the plains where the temple once stood, but could see nothing but grass!

See video here:

Outside the Temple
Once you head outside the first thing you'll notice is the save stone. Standing 3 metres tall it looks much like an over sized head stone you would find in a graveyard. This is the only free standing save stone in the forbidden lands, all the others are built into the save shrines or as the art book calls them 'observation points'. They refer to the save stones as 'stone monuments'.

Free standing save stone outside the temple

A couple of small trees

Outside of the temple I head East around the outside past two trees nestled in a small alcove. I always liked this area as it seemed to me as a nice place for a secret ; ) I once thought that if I shot arrows into the tall standing tree, I could use the arrows as a makeshift ladder and climb up to a higher place. The arrows do indeed stick out of the tree but (of course) there is no way to grab them. I also wondered how old these trees were to see if I could use them as a guide to how old the SoW was, the trees appear quite young in comparison to the other (larger) trees we see in the forbidden lands, one just a sapling! But in the end this doesn't really prove anything as seeds could have drifted here from the nearby Autumnal forest or even from above on the high ledges of the SoW.

Moss growing on the sides of the temple

After passing some indented alcoves that Wander can jump into, you come to an area where you see some moss growing up the side of the temple with a few small plants growing out of the base. It looks very intriguing and enticing, and indeed you can climb up this growth. Wander can test his climbing skills here and learn how to drop and grab onto the moss but you can only climb up to a height of 20 metres, here the moss ends and you have to climb back down.

Strange square door set into the wall of the temple

Next you pass by this strange stone door, what fans call the blue (or purple) door. This has confounded so many players looking for secrets since the game first appeared, I mean, look at it - how could you not think that this was a door that could open! You can reach the base of the door by launching off Agro, or you can just move Agro right up next to the edge then stand up and jump off to reach the door. Once there all you can do is fire your weapons at it... not much else you can do in this minimalist style game ; ) As expected, nothing happens, the obstinate door doesn't move an inch! If I warp through it I end up in the empty void surrounding the main hall model. Why did Team Ico go to the trouble of adding an obvious door like this but deny us the satisfaction of opening it? 

Symbol at the centre of the stone door

It's interesting to note that the very first intersecting points idea (by Barab_Negra) speculated this door would open if you shined the sword light from standing atop the correct save shrine. Later another user, Ozzymandiaas speculated that if you lined Wander up just right during the battle with Basaran (#9) its energy blasts would travel all the way to the SoW and destroy this door, leaving it smashed open once you returned. 

Another patch of moss

Next we arrive at yet another growth of moss (or vegetation) crawling its way up the sides of the temple. This one is also 20 metres high, the same as the previous sunlit area, so again Wander can climb up this growth in the hopes of finding something, only to be disappointed yet again. You would think that Team Ico would make the 2nd area of moss a little higher in order to test your grip strength, but it's the same height as the previous one. Why have two areas of climbable moss exactly the same height?

Another mossy path leads up the side of the temple
Temple Climber
Finally we come to the last mossy path that leads up the side of temple, but this one extends a whole lot further than the previous two. You need to have an enormous grip strength to reach the summit (in the PAL/PS3 version). So it seems the other two mossy paths were just there to give you a taste of what was to come - the actual summit!

I always wondered who was the first intuitive player that worked out this 'final' secret in Shadow of the Colossus - but from my research it seems the secret was 'given' away when the earliest demo was released. That is, there was no incentive for players to actually look for this 'ultimate' secret as it was handed to them on a silver platter before the final release was even finished. Here I will reproduce the article listed in issue 97 of the OPM (Official Playstation magazine) which came with the first demo of the game:

Top of the Word, Ma!
We probably shouldn't be telling you this, but there's an interesting little quirk in the demo. If you jump at an angle while hanging from a ledge, vines, or whatever, you don't expend any of your grip strength. This would make it possible to climb an infinitely tall climbable surface. Not that we're saying any such surface exists. But if it did, you could climb it. And if you saw, you know, a ledge or something nearby, you could probably jump to it. And if you were really good at platforming and were willing to take a couple of leaps of faith, you might even be able to get up to a very secret, obviously unfinished location. Too bad such a location does not exist.

Headless Mono statue in the OPM demo

So there you have it, the final 'Last big Secret' in Shadow of the Colossus wasn't ever a secret at all, it was given to players in the very first OPM demo of the game. When the first players used the 'diagonal jump' glitch to reach the secret garden they found a headless Mono statue standing in the doorway. This must have peaked their curiosity and led them to hope for more secrets, but as we now know, none were found. The stone blocks at the West side of the garden led all the way up the the next 'higher' platform but were not grippable. They are stacked up as if to lead you to this higher platform, but again Team Ico has denied us any further progress.

First ledge on the climb up the temple (35m high)

You can make it up to the first ledge after defeating the first 13 colossi in a new game, however it's a dead end so there's no reason to go there. The exception is if you are adept enough to land on the top of the broken ledge (left of Wander in above image), here you will start to slide off, but if you keep running and holding the left analog stick at an angle (i.e. the direction of the moss) you will regain your grip strength. It's a tricky maneuver to pull off, but if you can master it you will be able to climb up much higher.

Running on the broken ledge to regain your grip meter

I should be noted that climbing the temple is easier in the NTSC (US) version as there is a rest spot half way up where you can regain your grip, this is also true in the Black Label and Greatest Hits edition, however in the PAL (European) and PS3 versions this rest spot was removed. You can also exploit the diagonal jump glitch in the NTSC version which hadn't been fixed after the OPM demo, but again, this was fixed in the PAL/PS3 versions so it was no longer possible to climb the temple without a huge grip meter.

Rest spot in the NTSC version - Wander is crouching on the ledge (55m high)

In the PS3 version there is another spot where you can regain your grip strength further up the side of the temple, but it only works in the PS3 version for some reason. I've tested it in the NTSC and PAL (PS2) versions but Wander can't hop up to this grassy ledge like he can in the PS3 version.

Second rest spot only in the PS3 version (64m high)

See video of how to do this in the PS3 version here:

Arrival at the top after a long climb

From this point you only have only two places to visit, the secret garden or you can take the long journey (8.5 minutes) across the stone bridge to reach the Entrance temple. As mentioned above, the door to the temple is sealed shut, there is no way to open it... which is strange as it obediently opened for Wander at the start of his journey and opens again when Emon and his soldiers arrive. Perhaps you need a horse for the door to open? The extra weight of the horse triggering some ancient mechanism that opens the door? Of course, I have brought Agro to this spot many times, but nothing happens... the door only opens in the cuts scenes (as it was programmed to do ; )

I once put the forest cut scene from the opening around the SoW which totally transformed the look and feel of the landscape surrounding the temple. There are tall trees growing through the temple as if after thousands of years the temple was overgrown, much like we see today at places like Angkor Wat in Cambodia or the Inca ruins in Peru. The sky is dark with grey clouds and the light is completely different to what we are used to seeing in the game... watch it here:

Temple Ledges
Around the outside shell of the SoW are a number of ledges that are overgrown with trees, plants and vegetation. They are really beautiful to behold, very scenic and tranquil places that would have been really enjoyable to explore, but these ledges are off limits. They are surrounded by an invisible wall that causes Wander to tumble and roll until he reaches the edge at which time he falls to the ground below.

In 2006 on the Playstation forums players like RyuKaze were trying their best to reach these higher ledges using the 'hawk humping' or 'bird riding' technique which involved using a controller with a turbo button. This causes Wander to hold then release the R1 button in quick succession which allows him to hold onto the hawk indefinitely. He managed to reach some of these ledges only to roll off and fall to the ground, but it was the first time someone ever proved that these ledges were inaccessible in the game.

Unique symbol on a high ledge

This strange symbol can be seen perched up around 30m above the west side stairs as you leave the temple. You can also see a variation of it on the path that leads to the secret garden. It is unlike any other symbol in the game and as far as I know these are the only two places it can be found. If you see another let me know.

2nd strange symbol on the path to the secret garden

Strange stone structure jutting out of the temple

This weird 'tongue in groove' like structure looks like it could move up and down on the tall stone rail it's attached to. Again, players had all sorts of strange theories about this structure such as using it as an elevator to take Wander up to the top of temple... which makes sense as it looks like some kind of mechanism.

Trees grow out of sunlit, moss covered ledges

Other ledges are forever in shadow

Other ledges are clearly man made - now overgrown

High above the stone bridge on a small outcropping

Panned out view of a ledge under the garden

Wander pauses to take in the view on a ledge above the altar

High ledge above the tongue in groove structure

Ledge looking up at the upper levels of the temple

Ledge near Dormin's hole and secret garden

Next to stone pillar above the secret garden path

Top of stone pillar looking down at the path

All these places are revealed in my 'SoW ledges' video here:

The Secret Garden
The reward for all the long hours of killing colossi and gathering up white-tailed lizards is to reach the garden revealed in the ending cut scene. As shown in the chapter above, if you are skilled enough you can reach the garden in your first play through in the PS3 version, but for the rest of us mere mortals you will have to beat the game 3 to 4 times in order to gather enough grip strength to climb up there.

The secret garden

Some players have remarked that they were disappointed once they had explored the garden, as there is nothing to do up there except to shoot down some fruit from the trees which lowers your hard earned health and grip meters. But others welcomed the experience, noting there is something special about this place. It holds a tranquil beauty of its own, the sound of the waterfalls, the ornate columns and arches, the light streaming down from above and the way the leaves fall lazily to ground... the experience is magical and is a fitting end to an otherwise near flawless game.

Shoot down the forbidden fruit

Notice how large the fruit is compared to Wander!

For Wander to eat just once piece of this fruit would keep him going for days! Compared to the diminutive figure of Wander, the fruit seems about as large as a basketball. By pressing R1 Wander will crouch down and eat the fruit, sometimes three pieces at a time. But this is akin to Wander having an infinite number of arrows or carrying a huge assortment of weapons that are invisible until he draws them out.

Sometimes the fruit appears black - at least in the NTSC version

Upper levels of the Shrine of Worship

Above the garden you can see the rest of the temple, towering level upon level up to dizzying heights. Players noticed that arrows shot up there would bounce off the walls, suggesting it was solid. This is true to a point, I have found that only the tops of the structures have no collision detection, the other parts (i.e. below, front, back and sides) are still solid. So the result of this is that if Wander tries to stand on the top of these platforms he will fall through them. But why didn't Team Ico remove all the other collisions? I'm convinced that it was once possible to climb all the way to the top of the temple, but due to time restrictions or memory issues they had to abandon this idea.

The garden is fed by water which gathers in these aqueducts

Here we are reminded of #14's lair with the same right angled water catchment areas. Since both #14's area and the secret garden are open to the sky, we can assume that these trenches are rain fed. There are also a few waterfalls in the garden which feed these pools.

Stone ramp opposite the entrance

This ramp is significant as you are drawn here once entering the garden. It's directly ahead of you once you enter, to your left are some high arched walls preventing any further access, to your right is a large area revealing the North most oculus or well that leads down to the circular pool of water, and some stairs that lead up to a dead end. But the ramp leads up to a higher level where you find some stacked blocks of stone.

Strange stone blocks stacked haphazardly at the end of the ramp

Here we come to one of the most intriguing and infuriating part of the game. The blocks in the final version do not grant access to a higher set of stairs, clearly visible from below. Again, it is Team Ico denying us the satisfaction of closure... in the OPM and PSU demos the blocks are stacked all the way up to the stairs but were not accessible (i.e. you could not grab onto the edges of the blocks), here we can climb the blocks but some have been removed so we have no way to get any higher.

Some players had the idea of using explosive arrows to blast down a block from above (there are two blocks positioned above next to the stairs), but try as they might nothing ever happened. Some even suggested luring a colossus out of its lair and have it smash against the walls of the temple in order to dislodge the higher stone blocks - crazy!

This place...

In one of Pikol's iconic videos (New bugs and secrets part 5) he finally managed to do what other players had only dreamed about... reach this higher platform. Of course there is no legitimate way to do this, it required exploiting glitches in an early version of the PCSX2 emulator. He could blast Wander up to great heights only to come crashing down for an instant death. But once he managed to get the parachute he had the means (finally) to make it up to this enigmatic area. Note: It turns out that Radical Dreamer was the first to do this with his superior hacking skills, but he never mentioned it to anyone. It was only years later when I got to talk to him that I discovered this, but since Pikol made a video about it I think he deserves the credit as he was good enough to share it with the fans.

See his video here: 

Note: This particular video probably inspired me the most to begin searching for more secrets in the game, and was the catalyst for all of my future explorations ; ) Props to Pikol!

Inaccessible upper stairs and platform

Upper platform - panned out view

Over sized plant next to Wander

Here is one small piece of evidence that may suggest players were never meant to get to this platform. The plant above has been blown up many times its size as if you were only meant to see it from a distance. You can just make out the very tip of this plant from the garden below, but unless you were looking for it you would never notice... I'm only basing this on other off limits areas in the game where you find over sized plants, such as the opening cut scene for example.

Wander next to a similar plant at ground level

Upper platform view

Waterfall inlet

There are three waterfalls in the garden, two of them are identical and feature a reservoir of water at their base, the other is found above the stacked stone blocks. You can jump into these pools of water and swim around, but again it serves no purpose... they are just there because they are there.

Wander wading in the pool of water below a waterfall

Romanesque style arches surround Dormin's hole

Peeking over the walls into Dormin's hole - using a camera mod

Again, it was Pikol who first managed to get into this secret area (see previous video link) which conceals Dormin's oculus, the hole through which Dormin gives guidance to Wander. It's a simple stone well with grass surrounding it and some crude stone walls on either side but it has the same architecture we see in the garden. The only time you can see this area in the game is at the end cut scene, when the hawk flies out of the garden you can pan the camera down to get a quick glimpse of this area.

Steps lead up to an empty platform and a bare stone wall

At the North side of the garden are some stairs that lead up to a wide stone platform. Again, there is nothing significant about this area but one has to ask - why are there stairs leading up here? There is an enormous bricked wall here as well which seems to suggest it might hold some significance... perhaps praying here would reveal something? It doesn't..This place was the basis for one of the most fraudulent myths in the history of the game, the so called '17th colossus'. Here is how it was first described way back in 2005. You had to beat the game in all four modes, normal mode + normal time attack, then hard mode + hard time attack. Once you had done this your grip meter would be large enough to climb to the secret garden...

Let's stop here, as this is completely wrong! Once you start a new game in hard mode your health and grip meters revert back to what they were at the start of a new game, which isn't enough to climb up to the garden (unless you were using the NTSC version rest spot or diagonal jump glitch) - you could do this without defeating a single colossus in any case. So the myth was flawed by this reason alone - whoever first put this rubbish onto a cheat site didn't realize this simple fact, but believed that your health and grip strength 'carried over' from normal mode to hard mode... which it doesn't.

The next step was to climb up to the secret garden (which is the actual final secret) but as mentioned above, if you were playing the PAL version you would have to complete the game 3-4 times to do this. Once at the garden you took Wander to this empty place at the North side of the garden (as shown above) and the 17th colossus would appear, smashing through the large bricked wall! it's interesting that they never described this so called '17th colossus' or provided an image... just that it appeared.

Another variation of the myth required Wander to again beat all four modes, climb up the temple then run across the bridge to the Entrance temple, here the 17th colossus would appear and chase Wander all the way across the bridge (for 8 minutes mind you) until you reached the temple again at which time you could kill it. How this colossus could run all the way across the narrow stone bridge isn't stated, but ridiculous ideas like this can still be found on old cheats sites. 

Top of the Temple
Of all the secrets, fans most wanted to climb further up above the secret garden to the upper levels of the temple - I know I did! In fact I was obsessed by this idea... but at the time, I knew it probably wasn't possible. In fact, before 2009 it was completely ridiculed as impossible on various forums... that was until WWWArea managed to warp Wander up to these platforms in the PSU demo. This surprised even Pikol, who had no idea that the demo temple was solid. He had previously taken Wander up above the NTSC version of the temple, only to find (to our collective disappointment) that there was no collision detection.

Jessie's ledge

Later, WWWArea managed to find a spot high up on the final version NTSC temple that had been ignored when Team Ico had deleted the collisons of the upper temple parts. I call it 'Jessie's ledge' as that is WWWArea's first name (mentioned way back by Pikol on the Playstation forums)... his channel name has changed since then to 'SpaceOmega5000', check out his videos here:

I should mention that after talking to Dark0ssX (another early hacker who helped WWWArea get started) he revealed that he had been the first to reach the top of the temple in the PSU demo. He explored it looking for something special (like another save stone for instance) but found nothing, so he moved on to other games. Like Radical Dreamer he just didn't bother telling anyone at the time, which is strange as he was posting a few videos on Youtube back then.

The OPM demo also had a solid upper temple, as did the rare gem we were lucky enough to our hands on the 'Preview version'. It seems in earlier versions of the game the upper temple was solid and made for Wander to climb up there.

Pikol's amazing image of the PSU demo temple from above

Then Pikol took Wander to the top in the OPM demo and found lots of unfinished grey patches up there, proof that the game was far from finished when the OPM demo was released. But the textures in both demos are different from the retail release games and look quite different in comparison.

Same view from the NTSC version

You can see there isn't as much contrast as the PSU demo image as lighting effects have been added making everything a little more hazy, some more plants were added and the top of each platform now has a different grass like texture, the overall effect is much more striking and grandiose.

Unfinished temple in the OPM demo

So, the big question is, 'How was it possible to reach the top of the temple?' If it was once ever possible (which I think there is evidence to support this) then there must have been a way... somehow. There is no evidence of ropes, chains or ladders in the game, although one of the staff members 'Shunpei Suzuki' recalls 'We had specifications for Colossi that threw things and Colossi you’d climb after lassoing them with a rope'. So using ropes was once considered but abandoned early on it seems. So that only leaves us with the method we used to climb to the secret garden in the first place - the moss/vines/vegetation (whatever you want to call it) that grows up the side of the temple. I will just refer to it as 'moss' from now on.

In the Pre-release (Preview) version we learned that it was once indeed possible to legitimately reach the upper platform in the secret garden as the blocks were stacked right up to the stairs and were climbable. So we know it was once possible to reach the upper platform - but where to from there?

Wander standing on the blocks leading to the upper platform

Moss growing up a wall at the upper platform (montage)

Shimmy along the ledge (red line) to reach another patch of moss

Note: This is complete speculation as there is no evidence you could ever even climb up to the higher parts of the temple from the upper platform in the secret garden, but if it was ever possible, I think this would have been the logical way you would have done it. You would see some moss growing up the side of the wall which you could climb then shimmy along the stone ledge to another patch of moss, which would lead you to a higher platform.

Follow the moss all the way to the top

It would have to be the same all the way up to the top of the temple, perhaps like climbing to the secret garden, but three times as long! For this to work there would have to be a conveniently placed patch of moss for Wander to climb at each level, which seems a little too obvious to occur naturally you would think. I counted at least 10 levels where you would have to climb a patch of moss to reach the summit, but it might have been like a mini game where you had to explore each level to find the next patch of moss.

Near the top - there is still moss to climb up to the very top (speculation)

All ledges are grippable

Wander can shimmy around every ledge on his way up to the top of the temple (in the Preview version) as all ledges have a 'grippable' surface that Wander can grab onto. When you move Wander to the edge of a platform, he does his little dance of imbalance before he falls, hold R1 and he will grab onto the ledge - just like in any part of the playable game. This is good evidence that the top of the temple was once playable.

Another good piece of evidence is how the camera pans out automatically when Wander is at the top most levels of the temple. In the Preview version (the only full version we have with a solid upper temple) when you reach the 250m level the camera pans out. This is a small castle like turret that extends out from the East side of the main central structure.

Camera pans out at this turret like area (250m elevation)

This automatic camera panning effect only happens when you are riding across the landscape, at the top of save shrines and at certain areas of the colossi arenas. Team Ico programmed these camera effects to give the player an epic view of the surrounding landscape, so when the camera pans out at the top of the temple we can only assume that this was once a playable area of the game. Note: I checked the two demos (OPM & PSU) but the camera does not pan out here.

Camera pans out to showcase the surrounding landscape

If the moss climbing idea seems a little too far fetched to reach the top of the temple we are left with only one other option, mentioned in the official art book, Ueda talks about an item that would 'warp' or teleport Wander to specific areas in the forbidden lands: 'I had the idea of being able to warp through the use of an item, for example, but the huge field would have become pointless'. So it seems Ueda played around with this idea but it was abandoned (like many others). Perhaps one place you could warp to was the top of the temple? This would explain why there is no obvious way to reach the top, perhaps this mysterious item would bring up a text menu, you would choose where you wanted to go and 'magically' appear there, much like the debug menu found in the Preview version. But like Ueda said, once you got this item, there would be no point in riding Agro across the landscape to the next location and as such, you wouldn't appreciate the vast, empty landscapes which is one of the reasons the game has resonated with so many players over the years ; )

This is what you see at the top of the temple

I remember on the playstation forums, players argued that there was no way the surrounding lands could render from such a high vantage point, that is, Wander would see large holes and low res textures from up there, but once you consider the 'bloom effect' which is like a bright light, it all makes sense. In the above image you can see the surrounding landscape is obscured by the intense white light which hides all the missing textures and holes in the landscape.

 Top of temple without the bloom effect

Here we can see every detail of the surrounding lands with the bloom effect removed. In fact, in all my videos after July 2010 there is no bloom effect. This is due to a user named 'Elliot Cougar' who managed to adjust the GSDX plug-in of the PCSX2 emulator which removed the bloom effect. After this, I never looked back! After all these years, I still use this plug-in for all my Shadow of the Colossus videos ; ) But you can see that this is 'not' what Team Ico wanted you to see, the image with the bloom effect is the original 'native' image. 

So in the final analysis, there is no reason why Wander could not have reached the top of the temple - the temple was 'designed' for Wander to get up there. The secret garden blocks lead up to the higher platform in the garden, there is evidence that an item might have been used to 'warp' Wander up to the top (or perhaps it was climbable?), the camera pans out at a high point of the temple which is good evidence that this was once a playable area and the bloom effect obscures the surrounding landscape (as it was meant to do). Sadly, this is all I have about this subject. Until we find an earlier build of the game this is the best evidence I have as to how Wander could reach the top.

In September 2011, I discovered an animation that exploited what looked like Wander actually climbing the temple. I used Wander's animation codes of him climbing, then used them at the higher parts of the temple - but it's never possible in the game.

See video here:

Also check out my earlier (low res) videos which feature a multitude of explorations here: