And then there's ICO. I had to make a choice between Gran Turismo 3 and ICO for the symbolic Returning of the PS2 Controllers to the Deprived SAT Tutoring Student (see below for the full story I think), and I chose ICO because I remembered that I needed an extra $100 steering wheel to fully enjoy GT3.
ICO has terrible character sprites. They have crummy animation, they're textured like they're from FF7, and composition-wise, they remind me of my old models of Oynx in 3-D. Does this sound like a bad note to start out on? Well, I'll make up for it by saying that this is one of the best games I've ever played. Simple story, simple premise, but AMAZING gameplay, graphics, sound, and most importantly, A.I.
Yorda, the ghostly princess that Ico helps out, reminds me of most of the girls in my school. They're spaced out, they don't pay attention, and they are terribly na´ve. (In contrast to Yorda, though, they're really loud and annoying.) She wanders off to play with birds, is terribly scared of chains (subtle Mr. T reference, perhaps? (whacks self)), and in a nutshell, acts like any other fairy-tale damsel in distress.
Changing the subject... let's talk about graphics (besides icky character sprites). The visuals in this game are astounding. Each room is frighteningly intricately textured and detailed. Light shines through church-like windows. Dust flies from old, ignored wooden platforms. It's amazing to look around the massive rooms of this seemingly never-ending castle Ico is trapped in.
The sound is also great. Ambience changes from one room to the next. If Ico is in a massive hallway, anything he does echoes through the walls. In a small passage (there aren't many), Ico's haunting breathing can be heard. The voice acting is really nice, also. Ico gasps and yells if he falls or hangs off a ledge, and Yorda gasps in surprise if Ico suddenly swings his stick. My only gripe is Ico's calls for Yorda. They're limited to two sound bytes of him yelling ("Oooiiiii!") and of him saying something French-sounding (sounds like "pourqoui?").
The puzzles in the game are challenging at times because of the massive rooms. Of course, Yorda becomes somewhat of an obstruction when it comes to solving puzzles. But these aren't complaints - the puzzles are fun yet DANGEROUS!
But I give ICO a ZERO because of too many cutscenes of Ico falling on his head and seemingly breaking his neck.