Welcome to You Were There
This is a fansite dedicated to the PlayStation 2 game Ico. It is aimed at people who have already played the game and are interested in finding out more about it, if you have not played the game I recommend you go here instead.
Ico is difficult to explain to people who have not played it, so rather than try I simply suggest you play it.
On this page:
A Brief History of Ico
About the Website
About the Analysis
The main content of the website is the walkthrough and the Ico analysis which I have written. The rest of the content is drawn from the manual and the official website, the only 'canon' information about Ico outside of the game itself. There are also links to some other Ico websites.
To navigate around the website use the menu on the left. The 'Configure Appearance' link allows you to change some graphical settings of the website. These options require cookies enabled to function.
Many of the pages on this site have a 'Read Comments' link at the bottom which allows you to read and post comments on that page, any and all comments are appreciated.
A Brief History of Ico
If you have played the game, but do not know its background and want to learn about it, just read through this.
Ico was originally a PS1 game but it was eventually moved to the PS2, in part because the level of realism they wanted to incorporate could not be achieved with the PS1's hardware. During development they also shaped Ico from quite a different story to the final product that was released by applying an interesting design methodology.
The Presentation in the menu on the left details not only the design methodology of Ico but also some of its history, so that is a good place to start. If you want to see what older versions of Ico looked like, there is a link in the Links section which leads to a YouTube video of PS1 and early PS2 versions. The video will make more sense if you look through the presentation first.
There are different versions of the game, which you may not be aware of if you have only seen your region's version. The US release is a standard DVD box with different cover art than that used in Europe. The original cover art, which was used in Japan and Europe, is far better. In Europe there is both a standard version and a 'limited edition' version, although it wasn't really limited except in that supplies of Ico are very limited anyway. This version has a cardboard box and comes with four art cards.
In terms of content, the European release has a number of extras, the most significant being that Yorda's dialogue is subtitled in English rather than in runes on the second play through. You could guess what she was saying anyway, but it is nice to know. There are also some other differences, like an extra puzzle and an extra hidden weapon, and numerous minor changes. There are no major differences and no story changes however.
Ico was not hugely successful. While highly praised by players and reviewers alike, it is still quite unknown, earning it titles such as 'the greatest game you never played'. The 'spiritual sequel' to Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, was designed with more mass-market appeal in mind. While that may sound like a bad thing, it really just means that it is a bit more 'gamey', the 'artistic vision' at the core of Ico is obviously still present in SotC.
Aside from the visual style and the control system, SotC is a very different game. It is more action-oriented, and features none of the key gameplay elements of Ico.
It is set in the same world, and does tie in to Ico, however the body of the story is completely separate. SotC was more successful than Ico, and while its fame has spread awareness of Ico to some extent, the differences in the gameplay and atmosphere of the two games mean that Ico will not necessarily be enjoyed by those who enjoyed SotC. In Europe Ico was re-released around the time SotC was first released.
Team Ico, the people responsible for Ico and SotC, are currently developing a game for the PS3 which looks like it is going to be the third entry in this series.
About the Website
I originally started work on this website shortly after I first played Ico at the end of 2002. I decided not to put it online until the content was complete, however it never reached that complete state because I kept changing the content. The original content was focused more on Ico as a game than the world within the game, and the walkthough is the only part of that content which got finished. Over time, as I continued to think about the game, I started to see the patterns in the background world, and started to write down my observations. Due to this the website became more and more focused on that content, so that now it is almost exclusively about it, the only reason for including the walkthrough being that it was already finished anyway.
In the end I changed my mind about putting the website online incomplete, as I realized that I may be adding to the analysis on and off for years to come, and with that as the primary content I would end up keeping the website offline indefinitely.
About the Analysis
My Ico Analysis is divided into three sections, the magic analysis, The Forces of Light and Dark in Ico, the character analysis, creatively titled Character Analysis, and the plot analysis, A History of the Fortress . I start by analysing the magic because to understand anything about Ico's story you need to understand the basics of how the magic works, because practically every plot element ties into the magic.
The magic analysis is divided into two parts. Part 1 examines the various elements of the story/world which are related to the magic, attempting to determine what each of these can tell us about the magic with relative certainty. Part 2 is where I take my observations from Part 1 and discuss them futher or build them into bigger theories.
With the magic dicussed, the Character Analysis covers what we can learn about the characters themselves. A History of the Fortress is divided into two parts like the magic analysis, the first covers the events seen in Ico and all probable past events which lead to these events, the second containing further discussion and theorisation.
Shadow of the Colossus offers a great amount of information about the background of Ico. In particular it more or less confirmed some of my preferred theories, and eliminated some of the alternatives. Most importantly it confirmed that I was getting somewhere with my analysis, and that the games' writers aren't just making it up as they go along (not completely at least). However, this website and analysis were originally intended to be exclusively about Ico, and I intend to stick to that, so both are written as if SotC does not exist.
I have an SotC analysis which essentially carries on from my Ico analysis, as with the Ico analysis it starts with the assumption that the other game doesn't exist, but have an extra part which dicusses connections to Ico. The SotC analysis can be found here.
The analysis is a work in progress, I will update pages from time to time.
8th March 2010
I've added a new page, The Fortress to A History of the Fortress. I've also added a small amount of content to The Art of Ico. This will be the last new content for the forseeable future - future updates will likely merely be improvements of the existing content and will not be mentioned here.
25th January 2010
Another year, another update. As always I have put a large chunk online at once, adding whatever was ready on the date I chose.
The updates are all to the plot section, which is now a section rather than a single page. The section is titled A History of the Fortress and currently contains a largely rewritten Collapse, and several new pages. The Ancients covers the race who built and lived in the Fortress. The People with Horns covers people like Ico. Atonement explores a possible subtext based on the previous two pages.
More general changes include a rewritten front page, a modified menu, and some mildly improved background images. The domain name for this website has now also changed to the shorter youwerethere.com, though it can still be accessed via the old name.
I still have some more content to add, and I will be improving the new content, so hopefully there will be another update in the coming days.
9th February 2009
Added a small amount of content to Collapse.
2nd February 2009
Rewrote Spirits as Dual Beings from scratch, the newer version is better structured and goes into more detail. The SotC analysis will be the main focus of any work I do on the analysis in the near future, but I do plan to add a whole new section to my Ico analysis at some point in the future, touching on topics I have left out until this point.
25th January 2009
It has been much longer than expected since the last update. As I said last time I have been actively looking at the site since then, but I held off on putting the new content online in order to get a good chunk of it online at once when I finally put it online, as I did with this website one year ago today. This time it is my Shadow of the Colossus website, entitled The Forbidden Land.
As for this website, no updates this time, but I do have some plans for some small changes to the content in the near future... hopefully.
2nd September 2008
As promised it has been quite a while since my last update. All I am adding this time is an updated version of The Art of Ico - all the changes are just editing, the content is exactly the same. This is more to note that I am actively looking at this site again, so there is a good chance of updates over the next month or so.
17th May 2008
Added the plot analysis section of my analysis, titled 'Collapse'. It's a bit rough around the edges compared to the other sections as I have not had much time to work on it. I won't have much time to work on this site for a while, so updates will stop for now. The next major update will probably be to put the beginnings of my SotC analysis up, this will obviously require more work than just adding a section to my current analysis, another reason why the next update is probably a good while away.
3rd May 2008
Added a new page entitled 'The Art of Ico' discussing the way Ico works with the medium it is in to create the emotional bond it is known for. More content is still on the way, but the length of this document means I haven't had time to work on anything else, so it will be a week or two before another update.
23rd April 2008
Over the last couple of weeks I've had time to work quite a lot on my Ico analysis. Some of the new material is finished and uploaded, there is more which isn't ready to be uploaded yet.
I have updated the pages on Yorda and the Queen in Part 1 of the magic analysis. This is to go along with the new version of The Queen; Light or Dark? in Part 2, which I have rewritten from scratch. In Part 2 I have added two new pages, Light and Dark II and Spirits as Dual Beings. I have also added the second section of the analysis, the character analysis. At the moment it only covers Ico and Yorda, I'll add some notes on the Queen at a later point.
As mentioned I have much more material I want to add, hopefully I will be able to update the site fairly regularly over the next few weeks, but it is very dependant on how much free time I have. I have also started work on my SotC analysis, which I hope to start putting online over the next few weeks as well.
5th April 2008
Added 'Brief History of Ico' to this page
25th Jan 2008
Website put online
4th July 2003
Basic website design created