Friday, May 9, 2014

13th Colossus

The vast desert lands... 
A giant trail drifts through the sky...
Thou art not alone.

Developer Name: Snake_C
Fan Name: Phalanx (Aeris Velvolus) - Trail Drifter
Location Name: Desert
Map Reference: E6

Colossus 13 Hints
- The power of the sword will not get thee close to it...

Phalanx is often cited by fans to be their favorite colossus, perhaps because it is the most peaceful of all the colossi? It in no way poses any threat to Wander as it floats majestically above its desert environment. It is the largest of all the colossi with a length of 145 metres (or 476 feet) and a wingspan of 50 metres (or 164 feet). According to Wikipedia, the longest dinosaur ever recorded is Amphicoelias at 70 metres (230 feet) long... but this is less than half the length of Phalanx! 

Note: In the above image Wander is far outside the range of the colossus, normally it would disappear from this vantage point, but I have used a code to 'lock' the lands in place, allowing Wander to travel much further away from its arena than normal. I also used this code at the far South of the colossus (below image). Wander is standing on the grass way off to the South of the desert, yet Phalanx can still be seen in the distance. Notice that Wander isn't in his 'fighting' stance as he is outside the influence of the colossus.

Phalanx from a distance

Colossus unloading/loading indicator

You will notice when you are leaving a colossi's area after you have triggered it that Wander's grip and health bar (HUD) will appear briefly as you are moving away. This indicates that the colossus has unloaded and no longer exists in its environment. The game does this to save memory as you are heading into another area and it needs the space to load the models etc. 

Size of the Colossi
I have a theory about the sizes of the colossi that may explain their temperaments, i.e. their behaviors. If each colossi is infused with 1/16 of Dormin's essence then it would follow that the smaller colossi would be more aggressive since they have a smaller frame in which the essence of Dormin is contained, i.e. the essence is more concentrated, the larger colossi would have more room for Dormin's essence and therefore would be less aggressive, as it is spread out in a larger container (so to speak). Perhaps this is why Phalanx (the largest colossus) is the most peaceful?

But of course when we look more closely at this it falls apart. For instance Dirge #10 the sand worm is one of the most aggressive colossi and it is the third longest of all the colossi, Malus is the tallest and is very aggressive with its relentless lightning bolt attacks, but generally this idea holds up. Quadratus #2 is the largest of the bipedal colossi and is harmless unless Wander gets in its way, Hydrus #7 the water serpent, will ignore Wander and happily swims around its lake, Avion #5 also ignores Wander unless provoked, and the two smallest colossi Celosia #11 and Cenobia #14 are very fast and aggressive!

Each colossus contains 1/16 of Dormin''s soul
Phalanx body
Phalanx wing
Phalanx before Activation
I had a hard time finding Phalanx before activation (as I call it). I looked everywhere but had no clue as to where it was sequestered before it burst out of the desert floor when Wander approaches the ruined desert temple. Finally I posted a comment on the Playstation forums and was given the help I needed to find it by Shlockthropus who pointed me to this video: which shows Phalanx magically appear for a brief instant at the spot where it first breaks out of the sand. So I knew it must be under the sand somewhere in the vicinity, but I still couldn't see it.

Phalanx glitch in the NTSC version

So, using the emulator and recording the game play I managed to get a clear shot of the glitch. Phalanx only appears on a few frames of the 60fps video, so it is very fast! But you can see the frame frozen in time above. In fact, it was speculated on the Playstation forums that both Dirge and Phalanx were appearing here! As if this glitch somehow melded two colossi together  - a wild idea today, but back then all options were open to discussion ; ) I finally settled the matter with the above image. The idea of two snake like colossi merged came about from the low quality of the video, you only see a flash of the colossi and as such, some players saw two colossi instead of one (I know weird)... but I digress.

It turns out that it was way down below the desert floor, 387 metres deep which is 87 metres below the death floor! So this is the only colossus that starts below the death floor. To get to it I had to warp Wander below the death floor, or shift the camera to it. Either way, you can see Phalanx suspended vertically in this unworldly environment, the sounds of the desert sands still swirling about. Note: In the PAL version it is much higher up (above the death floor).

Of course, we have to imagine that if this were real Phalanx would be entombed in sand, not floating in an empty void. It was designed to swim through the sand like a fish swims in the ocean and its strange proboscis (or nose) is perfect for pushing the sand to either side as it swims through it. Unlike Dirge (#10) that has a flexible jaw which chews its way through the sand, Phalanx can also fly and as such is a 'chimera' type colossus having both flight and sand swimming attributes.

Phalanx below its arena (-387m)

Phalanx suspended in the underworld before being triggered

Here I have frozen Phalanx just as it is breaking out of the desert floor

Phalanx before activation video: (Note: this is an early video and as such the quality is poor, perhaps I should redo it in HD?) At the time I was still learning how to hack the game so at first I could only warp Wander under the sand and float past Phalanx, but over time and with WWWArea's help I gained more experience ; ) There are no solid parts to Phalanx before it's triggered so there was nothing to grab onto, it has no collision detection at all sadly.

Desert Temple
I've always had the feeling that this small circular temple is one of the oldest structures in the forbidden lands due to its ruined state. Of course this could be due to the surrounding environment sand blasting it for centuries. It is the only structure apart from the Shrine of Worship, main stone bridge and Entrance temple that feature the stone glyphs. The Shrine of Worship is connected to the bridge which in turn is connected to the Entrance temple and these three structures look well preserved in comparison. So why is this far off temple adorned with these symbols? Was there a reason for this? Was it the first temple built in the forbidden lands when they were merely a place of habitation and home to a forgotten race?

Ruined temple at the Southern desert

We can see from the image below that the temple has six support columns topped with six rectangular slabs pointing inwards (each made from 4 stone blocks). A low octagonal wall surrounds the temple and originally had only one entrance through an arched doorway (south in the image). There are two low profile platforms on the floor of the temple (now covered in sand) both are dodecagons (12 sided shapes), a smaller one built on top of the larger one. The smaller raised platform was made to be the trigger for the colossus, as soon as pressure is applied to it Phalanx is released from its long slumber buried under the sand.

Birds eye view of the temple in its finished state

Platform that triggers Phalanx

View of temple from Phalanx's perspective

Shadow of the Colossus
When Phalanx is floating above you will see its enormous shadow pass by, of course the other colossi cast their own shadows but here you really notice it. I always think of the title of the game when this happens. Note: It was Kyle Shubel (Senior producer/manager at Sony from 2003 to 2012) who came up with the English title for the game. The Japanese title was 'Wanda to Kyozo' ワンダと巨像 which translates to 'Wanda and the Colossi'. But since 'Wanda' is a name for a female (as in the movie A Fish Called Wanda) it was decided to change the name for an English speaking audience, and as Kyle had noticed the shadows cast by the huge creatures, he came up with the title 'Shadow of the Colossus'.

An actual Shadow of the Colossus!

Early Designs of Phalanx
From the NICO dvd and art book sketches we see Phalanx in its early design stages. The first version (which I refer to as the Alpha build) reveals a crude snake like colossus with various rounded spines diving in and out the the desert sands. At this early stage, the colossus moves in and out of the ground, looping through it as if it were the surface of a lake. Later designs show an enigmatic red icon on the colossi's wings (a symbol of power perhaps?)
Art book sketches of Phalanx - it seems they had many designs

Alpha build of an early Phalanx

Another design sports red icons on its wings

Closer to the final design - an icon (lower left) reveals its weak points

Strange tendon must be cut to access its weak point

The art book says "In the beginning, you’d defeat it by cutting a muscle within an opening that contained its weak point". So there was a tendon that stretched across a hole that you had to cut with your sword, it would snap loose like a rubber band and Wander could then get at its weak spot by stabbing the hole. There are no flaps that open and close like we see in the final version, instead they employed this strange method. If you examine the art book sketches above you can see a couple of designs of this tendon snapping idea.

Three Eyed Colossus
Phalanx is strange in that it has two eyes on the left side of its head, but only one eye on the other, right side. Why would the developers do this? A non-symmetrical, three eyed colossus, very strange. Does it need to see more on its right side than its left? You would think not as it follows a predictable path around the desert and never deviates from this. So we can put this down to the developers imagination, perhaps they just wanted to add something even more bizarre to this already bizarre colossus?

Right side has one eye

Left side has two eyes
Phalanx Suspended
Before Phalanx is triggered I can shift Wander's camera to the colossus. When I do this I get to see it under ground level (as mentioned above) floating vertically in the void. By pressing D-pad 'down' Phalanx is activated and the intro cut scene starts, but as the camera is now focused on Phalanx, something strange happens... instead of it flying around the desert as normal it stops in mid air and freezes (or at least I thought it did) but actually it is still moving very slowly! Why this happens is a mystery to me, no other colossi does this if I trigger them with the camera locked onto them, so in this case Phalanx is unique. 

Phalanx into cut scene

Phalanx freezes here instead of continuing to fly around the desert

Once Phalanx is frozen in mid air (just above the temple) I can move Wander up and run around on its suspended body. I can shoot its air bags or stab its weak points but apart from this there is nothing to do except to explore the length of its huge snake like frame. In this mode Wander doesn't get kicked off so I can stay up there indefinitely, but there's no reason to do so apart from the novelty of exploring this frozen colossus suspended above the desert. 

Wander exploring Phalanx frozen above the desert

As mentioned above, even though it looks like Phalanx has been frozen at the end of its into cut scene, it is actually still moving but at a much slower speed (glacial in fact) I wasn't even sure it was moving at all until I noted its position co-ordinates and they confirmed it was moving to the east very slowly. So I waited until it was far away over the mountains and took the below image to prove it, but it unloaded once it was out of its native arena. I noticed that it was heading Southeast towards the coast, so I think next time I will make Wander ride it and lock the lands so it doesn't unload and see where the colossus ends up. It's a bit of a mystery why it moves in this heading at all and not back to its home desert? 

Phalanx flies Southeast over the mountains to some unknown destination

Stone Rings
There are four stone rings at what seem like random locations in the desert, two are intact and two are broken. The two intact rings can be found at the Northern end of the desert close to the ruined temple, the other two broken rings exist in the centre of the desert and far to the South. This last broken ring seems to play no role in the game as Phalanx flies nowhere near it.

Intact stone ring

Broken stone ring

So I had the idea that the stone rings purpose was to constrain Phalanx's movement, to keep it locked in the desert so it didn't fly away to some other part of the lands. All the other colossi are land locked by their environments (with the possible exception of Avion) so it would follow that Phalanx's arena would also have some mechanism to keep it from flying away. I made a video about this and it has become my most viewed video, it may be in the title 'The Mystery of the Desert Rings' that entices people to watch it, but I've received quite a lot of flak about this idea. Many players have pointed out that the rings are just a decorative feature of the desert and serve no purpose and that I'm over thinking this preposterous idea, and in a way I agree with them. I even wrote in the video comments that there were problems with this idea, but it seems most viewers can't be bothered reading the video comments. 

Path showing Phalanx's flight path around the desert

The problem is there is nothing to stop Phalanx at the South West of its flight path. It flies around the rock promontory but there is no reason why it can't just continue to fly South if it pleased. So to resolve this dilemma I speculated that there was another (now missing) Southern ring that repelled Phalanx, keeping it locked in its flight path.

Pile of rocks at the South West of the desert

I found a pile of rocks in just the right place to act as evidence of a missing ring, a small pile of rocks next to a larger rock. Could this have been a stone ring that had disintegrated over the centuries of erosion? Probably not, as there is always some evidence of what the object was, a piece of broken masonry for example. Team Ico like to leave some evidence of what has fallen down from a structure. You can see it in many other areas around the colossi temples. If you see a broken column for instance, more often than not you will see a part of that column at the base of the column. But here there are just some generic rocks.

Rocks scattered around one end of a stone ring

Three of the rings have stones scattered around one end of the ring, again I think this is just evidence of pieces of the ring that have fallen off over time. But it matched well with the pile of stones at the South West. So in my video I 'added' this missing stone ring to the other four, making five. With the five rings acting in concert there would be a web of energy that repelled Phalanx' movements and kept it from flying away. But as I said, this is wild speculation and in no way can be proved or disproved, it's just story telling.

Mysterious stone slab structure

I didn't touch on this structure much in my video, but I think it is a key piece of Phalanx's desert. Phalanx is repelled by this structure at the Southern end of its flight path, as if some invisible force was emanating from it. It's also a very strange looking structure, which (to me) looks like an upright column of rock has tipped over and is now leaning against another rock promontory. The Southern ring is far off to the South beyond this structure, so this stone slab seems to be important in keeping Phalanx fixed. 

Worm colossus may have existed here?

The stone slab structure serves no purpose in the fight with Phalanx and is no more than an intriguing odd structure. To me it looks like a hiding place, so perhaps this structure was designed as such in an earlier build of the game? It has been suggested that the discarded Worm colossus once existed here. If you examine the above image you can see what looks like a desert environment and cliffs behind the Worm, could this be the same desert? If so, then perhaps the stone slab structure was a convenient hiding spot to regain some much needed health as you battled against the Worm (again, wild speculation ; )

When you see Phalanx fly past this structure it seems to twitch as if some invisible force is acting on it. I remember seeing a documentary about a shark aquarium, there was a giant Nurse shark that would twitch in aggravation when it passed a certain spot as it swam around the tank. The aquarium staff noticed this and found that a rusted bolt was to blame. The electromagnetic field produced by the rusted bolt was interfering with the shark's own biological magnetic field which it uses to navigate. So this gave me the idea of how Phalanx navigates it desert arena. So perhaps as well as the rings, this stone slab was also incorporated into the desert to keep Phalanx locked into its flight path.

Rings act as solar accumulators

I further speculated (based on the same stone rings seen in ICO) that the rings somehow harnessed sunlight. Although it's not clear what energy the reflectors in ICO are using... once they are aligned they seems to gain charge, perhaps from the sun or they could be absorbing energy from the ground in some way? The metal plates on the rings focus the energy and were aligned by the builders when the rings were installed (so they are locked in place). The stone the ring is made from is crystalline in structure and as such can absorb sunlight (or solar energy). There are those that speculate that the pyramids in Egypt also act as solar accumulators, and that each granite stone is crystalline in nature and can absorb energy from the sun (or draw energy from an underground aquifer).

This technology would also work 'under the sand' as each ring is only half exposed above the sands, the other half is under the sand and therefore would keep Phalanx locked in place even when it is swimming under the desert sands.

Rings act the same under the sand

Same stone rings can be seen in the West and East guard houses in ICO

ICO rings act to focus energy to the main gate spheres

In ICO, the reflectors at the East and West guard towers send a burst of energy through the stone rings (the same stone rings we see in Phalanx's desert) which in turn energize the large metal spheres above the main gate. This energizes the main gate, first the East side then the West, allowing ICO and Yorda to attempt their escape. But unfortunately, the Queen uses the metal spheres to send a bolt of energy into Yorda, knocking her unconscious! This suggests that the spheres act as huge capacitors which can build up and hold charge, as even after the gates are opened there is still some charge left to deal with Yorda. The rings appear to focus the energy from the reflector onto the spheres. 

But in the end, without the Southwest ring my idea falls apart and it also requires the stone slab structure to act as a repellent to Phalanx which further negates the theory. I don't think Team Ico had this in mind when they designed the desert arena, they probably just thought it would look more interesting with some stone rings and recycled these from Ico for that purpose. But it's fun to add them to the story in any case.

Phalanx stays at a steady altitude

I also realized that if Phalanx was too high above the desert, Wander's arrows would not be able to reach its air sacks to bring it down to a lower altitude. The rock promontories seem to be the limit at which Phalanx can fly. Perhaps it was designed this way, there is only enough air inside each sack that is able to lift its enormous bulk above the desert. You would think that some noble gas is responsible, like helium or hydrogen? One player recently suggested that when Phalanx dives into the desert sands it does so to inflate its air sacks, ingesting the elements it needs to inflate them from the minerals in the sands? A controversial idea but to me it seems to make sense. So it can't rise above this altitude (due to the volume of gas in its air sacks) so it is forced to navigate around the rock promontories.

At the very end of the video I added an image I had created in Photoshop to show the desert many years later, perhaps many centuries later? Some loyal soldiers sent by the Queen of the Castle in the Mist have arrived at the location she had described 'Go forth and find for me the ancient stone rings of power, I will have need of them. They are located in the southern deserts of the forbidden peninsula.' Although how the soldiers removed them and shipped them back to the castle is left unsaid. Perhaps they dug them out then dragged them to the shore with their horses, mounted them onto their ships then sailed back to the castle. Once there, they were installed into the East and West guard towers by skilled craftsmen. The Queen was well pleased as she now had an infallible security system to stop anyone from attempting to escape from the castle.

The Queen's loyal soldiers arrive at the stone rings

Mysteries of the Desert Rings video here:

Update: As part of my 10,000 subscribers video I made Phalanx fly outside its arena, but as the video would have been too long I decided to make it a separate video. In it, Phalanx keeps flying south with no regard of the stone rings ; ) I made this for two reasons, one because it looked cool, and two to make a point that the rings have no meaning in the game, apart from what fans imprint on them. As I've said too many times, my 'Mystery of the Desert Rings' video was just story telling and in no way proclaims a reason for the rings, it's just theorising about a game and its history that I like to speculate about.

 See video here:
Phalanx Over Land 
In a much earlier video I had the idea of Phalanx flying above grass and trees instead of a desert. I could have tried to move Phalanx to another area but this had always posed problems because as soon as I move it out beyond its native arena it turns around and flies straight back there, making a beeline for its desert home. In fact all of the colossi do this, it seems they are programmed to return to their arenas if they find themselves outside of it, as if they have an in-built homing mechanism. So instead I moved some land from G7 to where Phalanx lives at E6. This took a long time as I had to find many pieces of green grassy land and move them to the desert. 

Green land pieces moved up into the sky

You search for a float value of 1 then modify the results to zero. When you see a piece of land disappear you know you have the code (address) for that piece. You then have to find a code near that piece that moves it up and down, rinse and repeat until you have enough pieces. I moved the pieces up into the sky to keep track of them, it's a tedious process and takes hours of work, but once I had what I thought were enough pieces of land, I moved them west then north to Phalanx's desert.

Hole in the ground after moving away the pieces of land

I was quite happy with the result although the problem was the contour of the desert lands didn't match those of the grass lands, so I had to move them up and down in order to match the profile of the desert. Wander could run around on the grass but invariably would sink into it or disappear from view entirely! So in the end I could only record video of Wander standing still as Phalanx floated past. You'll also notice the clouds are missing, I did this so I could create a black sky as if to show Phalanx over land at night, but in retrospect I should have left the clouds there.

Phalanx over land

Here I've left the clouds intact - a much better result

Phalanx over land at night

In the end the video didn't make much of an impact and the views were low, so it didn't stay up very long. I remember some of the comments felt I had gone too far and was 'raping' the game! In any case you can still see it here as part of my compilation video: (Note: You may have to 'refresh' for the video to jump to the correct time index). 

Phalanx Under the Sand 
As we all know, once you have gained access to Phalanx via its wings you only have a short amount of time to take out its weak points before it dives back down under the sand. It does this so you don't have enough time to take out all three weak points, although some time attack players can manage all three at once, but for most of us mortals we have to start over again once it reappears above the sand. So what happens to Phalanx while it is under the sand and out of view? Does it disappear (unload) or does it just fly around down there? In another early video I warped Wander under the sand to see what Phalanx gets up to. It was an idea of TresDias (a solid contributor and friend) from the Playstation forums that I attempt this, and after a little experimentation I did it. Phalanx does indeed fly around under the sand in an ethereal green light cast from above. Wander can grab hold but it doesn't take long before he starts getting violently kicked off! When the flaps covering the weak points are closed it seems Wander is forbidden to ride Phalanx. I only have a few seconds to look around and take in this strange desert underworld before Wander is thrown off, spinning wildly to his death!

Riding Phalanx under the sand

Wander gets kicked off as Phalanx re-enters the desert above

Watch the video here:

The Dune Sea
There came a time (in July 2010 to be exact) when I was introduced to a new plug-in for the PCSX2 emulator by a user named 'eliotcougar' which eliminated the bloom effect in the game. From then on I could play the game and record all subsequent videos without the annoying bloom effect which was so intense at #13's desert (amongst other places). The sky would fade to a blinding white light and completely wash out any details. You can see this in my early Phalanx videos, some of which are so washed out it's hard to see what I was doing! But without the bloom effect one location really stood out. Just after you exit the western cave of the E5 forest and turn south to head towards #13's desert the light softens and reveals the desert arena in all its glory from a distance.

Soft, sandy hues of the desert

The Dune Sea

#13's is desert revealed in all it's glory!

Later I was contacted by Duncan Harris, the creator of a popular games art website who was interested in some of the images I had created:
He wanted me to teach him how to hack the camera so he could create some of his amazing game images (and his images are truly amazing!) but instead I convinced him to let me submit some of my own that he could post on his website via my Flickr account. He was very picky as to what he would allow to posted on his website, you uploaded images to Flickr then waited to see if any of your images made the cut. One of the images he accepted he called 'The Dune Sea' (see above). Sadly, he no longer accepts images from other gamers and the image has been removed, but you can still see it here.

Controlling Phalanx
In yet another early video (February 2010) I found a way to control Phalanx's movements. So I could change its direction to dive into the sand or fly straight up into the sky. Phalanx will fly straight up and continue to do so until it has breached the dome of clouds that surround the forbidden lands. I must admit, you really get a sense of the enormous height as Phalanx is flying straight up, even to the point of experiencing vertigo! (yep, that's right, video game vertigo!) At this altitude there is nothing but a grey lifeless sky with a circle of clouds below, quite serene as long as you don't look down xD. The sad music is still playing but again Wander gets kicked off after a while and falls all the way down to the desert below.

Phalanx begins its ascent

Phalanx has risen above its regular altitude

It doesn't take long before Phalanx is at a dizzying height above the desert

High up above the clouds

The ground below has become a patchwork of low res textures

Inevitably Wander is kicked off and falls spinning all the way back to Earth

I can also make Phalanx fly in any direction N, S, E or W, but after a short time the lands below unload leaving just an empty void beneath, so it's not very interesting. Only the desert area Phalanx needs is loaded in hi-res (it's the same for each colossus), the far off surrounding lands are low res as they are only meant to be viewed from a great distance. So when Phalanx leaves its hi-res arena it soon disappears leaving only some low res lands, these in turn also disappear as Phalanx moves further away until there is nothing left but Phalanx itself. But flying straight up has no effect on the desert as it is still underneath Phalanx, even though it travels a great distance up into the heavens. 

Wander's perspective of Phalanx way up in the sky

Riding Phalanx Up Front
There's a cool legitimate move you can make during the battle with Phalanx! Once you have climbed up its wings and onto its back move forward until you reach the back of its head. From there jump over the bony frill of its skull to land on the top of its head. It might takes a few attempts as the wind is pushing Wander back, but once there you have a great view of the surrounding environment and it's completely stable, that is Wander will not be blown off. You may have to re-position Wander slightly as Phalanx changes direction but generally it is quite stable from this unique vantage point. If you are ambitious enough, you can continue along its head and stand on its nose (see video link).

Wander standing on Phalanx's head

Relax and take in the view ; )

Riding Phalanx up front video here:

East Side Mountains of the Desert
There is 'almost' a legitimate way to explore the mountains at the east side of the E6 desert but unfortunately an invisible barrier bars Wander's way to proceed so it's a little pointless adding it here, but I thought I would show you how far you can get. You start out at the green ledge outside the E5 forest, perched on the cliff that looks down into the hidden valley. There is a single fruit tree at the end of the ledge and Agro will reach a point where she can't move any further (see below image).

E5 green ledge

From here you Agro launch onto the cliffs next to the fruit tree (it's a fairly easy launch). Use your bow and arrow to spy out any voids in the cliff face and make your way along them until you see another lower grass covered ledge.

Another grass ledge can be seen not far away

Wander will be stopped by an invisible wall (large red triangle)

If you could continue along the cliffs and reach the lower grass ledge you could then just run up over the top and reach the E6 mountains as the ledge has no obstructions. The invisible wall is quite high and on the other side of it is rock with no collision detection, and if you try and bypass this you will slide off the cliff and end up at the bottom of the hidden valley. The large red triangle in the image above shows the barrier that stops Wander, the smaller red triangle reveals the next piece of solid rock, but the gap is too large to negotiate on foot.

You can follow this path up to the E6 mountains

At the top of the grass ledge is the path to the E6 mountains

If you could somehow make the jump you could then proceed up the next grass ledge to the rim which overlooks the Southern desert. The textures tend to turn on and off here but all it takes is a running jump to make it over to the solid texture of the E6 mountains. Once there the views are superb as you run South along the mountains overlooking the desert and ruins. Note: there are still some void holes in the textures but if you stay close to the edge you will be OK. Of course those players who own the Pre-release (Preview) version could make it up here using the R2+X command to lift Agro up into the air, then jump off and land on the cliffs.

Start of E6 mountains

Highest point of the East side mountains

As far as you can go without being pushed off

Further South there is a large area of walkable land behind the cliffs and the remains of a grassy field (in F6). Since it's at the very southern edge of Phalanx's desert it probably has nothing to do with the colossus, but I was always interested in this area. Why had they made this land solid? Was it part of an earlier build of the game that was once a playable area?

Grassy area of land behind the cliffs

Top down view of the area behind the desert cliffs

Large plateaus of walkable land are unreachable in the game

Most of this land has no obstructions i.e. you can run around like normal, but some parts do have what I call 'molasses floors' that slow Wander down and are tedious to navigate through. I find by pressing the 'jump' button over and over you can push through it. Wander can't jump in these areas and gets stuck easily. From the southern tip of this plateau you have a direct line of sight to the final colossus' gate way off in the distance.

But you can stand on the western edge and look out over Phalanx's desert, so perhaps it was once part of the game, or if in fact the Worm colossus once existed in this area (which is pure speculation) perhaps it was a leftover from that early colossus arena?

As mentioned earlier, the only symbols or glyphs present at the desert are found on the small ruined temple. But only three of the four symbols are here? I carefully checked each column and fallen block but you only see three of the symbols repeated. The bottom left symbol shown below (which looks somewhat like a sad face) is missing. Is this significant or just an oversight on Team Ico's part? I guess we will never know.
Phalanx's Death Screen
Image you see when Wander dies during the fight with Phalanx.