Note: Originally posted on Manic Expression on October 9, 2012.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is an aesthetically rich action game on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. The game comes from the mind of Takeyasu Sawaki, who worked as a character designer on Devil May Cry and Okami. It was inspired by the Book of Enoch. The game is definitely one of those games that are destined to because cult classics. How does this destined cult hit fare?
The story is about a scribe named Enoch seeking the seven fallen angels to prevent mankindâ€™s destruction from a great flood. In order to do this, he gains the help of a guardian angel named Lucifel who is Godâ€™s right hand man and wears casual clothes and uses a cell phone. Enoch is also helped by the four archangels: Raphael, Uriel, Gabriel, and Michael. Lucifel and the archangels watch over Enoch as he tries to save mankind.
The setting is very unique and refreshing from the sci-fi and fantasy settings of many other games. The story has several religious references throughout as it is based on a Jewish text. Unfortunately, the setting and premise canâ€™t hide the severely flawed story. Characters come and go and there are sudden time skips that completely keep the player at a distance which is not helped by the fact that the story never lets you get a grasp at what is really going on. Because of this, you never get a grasp on your bearings. With the exception of Lucifel, the characters are not particularly interesting and they are underdeveloped and because of that, you canâ€™t become emotionally invested in the story.
The gameplay is simple yet unique. The game is very linear with almost no opportunities to deviate from the path laid out to you. The combat in the game is where things get really interesting. Only one button is used to attack. While this may seem like the combat is a repetitive bore, there is a surprising amount of depth to the combat system. There are three weapons to use in the game: the Arch, a sword type weapon used for quick combos allow Enoch to descend slowly while jumping, the Gale, a long ranged weapon that fire projectiles at enemies and allows Enoch to perform dashes over large gaps, and finally the Veil, which is a heavy weapon that is slow but does heavy damage to enemies and allows Enoch to break objects that canâ€™t be broken with the other two weapons. These weapons can be found by stealing them from enemies when they take enough damage or finding them in the platforming segments and boss battles.
Back to the combat now. When Enoch takes damage, he loses more and more of his armor until he is wearing nothing but a pair of jeans. When gets hit in this state, he goes down. However, itâ€™s not quite game over yet as you are given a few seconds to press certain buttons, depending on the console the game is being played on, as fast as possible at the same time. This will revive Enoch back to full health. However, the more and more you do this, the harder it is to get him back up. Eventually, you will come to a point where it is too late to revive him. When this happens, you have to continue from the last checkpoint. Thankfully, checkpoints are frequent enough that this never becomes to frustrating.
After a certain point in the game, you will be able to activate Overburst mode with the assistance of archangel Uriel. Overburst mode allows Enoch to deal increased damage to enemies. You can also perform a special combo attack in this mode. You can only activate this when Enoch is burst in small flames.
When fighting enemies, your weapon will dull over time, causing the weapon to cause less damage, which require Enoch to purify it or steal another weapon from an enemy. However, when purifying your weapon, you are open for enemy attacks and left vulnerable. This makes it crucial to make an opening to allow Enoch to purify the weapon without taking damage.
The game accumulates in one of the most frustrating final bosses in recent memory. Without risking giving out spoilers, letâ€™s just say that you will probably resort to GameFaqs to help you with this part of the game. Battling enemies in general, while for the most part enjoyable, can become very tedious due to the sheer amount of enemies the game throws at you at a time. There are also an annoying puzzle near the end of the game that just makes you want to throw the controller.
There is no denying that El Shaddai is a gorgeous looking game. While the game is not particularly impressive from a technical standpoint, the art direction is simply exquisite. Taking from several inspirations, the most notable of which is the famous animation house, Studio Ghibli. While there is an anime style in the game that is in many Japanese-developed games, the way the art style is done in this game is nothing short of breathtaking. While the art design does cause problems with the gameplay at times, there is simple nothing else to say about how this game looks other than what has already been said.
The soundtrack is also pleasant. While it is more ambient than bombastic, it really fits the game well. The English voice work is excellent. Despite a confusing script, the voice actors do a really good job of acting out the scenes in the game. However, the standout in the voice cast is easily the always excellent Jason Isaacs as Lucifel. He really manages to bring a sense of sophistication and mystery to the character. Purists will be happy to know that you can switch to the original Japanese voices.
El Shaddai is a really hard game to pin down. While I did enjoy the game overall, thereâ€™s no denying that its flaws prevent it from the greatness it was clearly aspired for. The poor storytelling and fun but sometimes frustrating gameplay prevent the game from being as good as it could have been. The production values are top notch and the game is enjoyable. While the flaws do prevent me from giving a high recommendation, it is still worth a rental or buying used. Thereâ€™s just no denying that the game isnâ€™t as good as it could have been which makes you wish for a much improved sequel that might not come to be.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 7/10