When you think of Japanese games that have come across the pond, you’ll instantly think of titles with stories that will grip you, sometimes even confuse you. When UTV Ignition announced El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron and videos started surfacing, it looked like your typical slash ’em up. You know the type, stylish blonde haired kid beating up hordes of random enemies up. Here at NGB we got up close and personal with the third-person action game, learning the secrets that lay inside it in the process. Is it another Japanese classic? Read on for the full review.
Game: El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
Developer: UTV Ignition
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Based on the a story from the Dead Sea Scrolls, you play a character called Enoch and you have been given the task from God to recapture and purify seven Fallen Angels. Guided by Lucifel, who has the occasional mobile phone conversation with God, you’re tasked with climbing up a tower which has been built by the Fallen Angels in a bid to defeat and purify them. By doing this you are ultimately aiming to stop a flood that is threatening to destroy all mankind. If all this sounds very cliche and linear, well, it is. Whilst that’s not necessarily a bad thing, a few story related choices and diversions would have made Enoch’s tale that little bit more enjoyable.
One thing the story is filled with though is strange characters. For example, during his quest Enoch encounters creatures known as Nephilim. Born from the union of humans and Fallen Angels, the mere concept of the Nephilim is a little far fetched. One look at them and you would probably think they belong in the Pokémon universe, but in fact they compliment the surreal tone of El Shaddai perfectly.
This is where the game truly shines, each stage or level of the tower looks absolutely gorgeous. One moment you’ll be fighting in a lush 3D environment, the next you’ll be running through a 2D environment that could have been lifted straight from a Super Mario game. The mix of 2D and 3D environments compliments both the story and gameplay superbly. One specific section of the game will literally will blow you away, as you run through a part of the tower, only to glance behind yourself and see a shadow of another battle that is taking place. Whether you’re playing in 2D or 3D, the stunning visual design makes the battles in El Shaddai a pleasure.
One aspect that could be better is the camera. Occasional poor positioning makes it difficult to judge simple jumps, which in turn means that sometimes you’ll finding yourself plunging to your death through no fault of your own. As you can imagine, this becomes rather frustrating. It’s shame, as otherwise El Shaddai is graphically very impressive.
As expected from a Japanese game, the sound fits compliments the tone of the game rather well. Expect some intense music during boss battles and some lighter, more natural music whilst moving around in a level of the tower. Voice acting is handled well for the most part, but there are moments where you’ll see your character’s lips still moving even though there is no sound. However, that is more a graphical (lip syncing) issue than anything else. Other lighter audio aspects are also quite well done. For instance, although this might not be a major point,
When playing any third-person action game like El Shaddai, the main point of interest in terms of gameplay will always be the combat. Does it feel repetitive? Not in this case, no. When you come up against boss or a standard enemy in El Shaddai, you will have three weapons at your disposal. These weapons won’t all be available at the start of the game, but a few hours in you’ll be able to choose which weapon you go into combat with. Not all the weapons will be in your inventory, you will only have access to one. To swap weapons you will have to “steal” them whilst the enemy is in an unconscious state. You will know when they are in an unconscious state as the enemy will have a blue ring around them. Once in the enemy is in this state you will only have a few seconds to initiate the steal, so if you want that shiny new weapon you will have to be quick.
The three weapons you will have access to are the Arch, Veil and Gale. The Arch is a light blade that you can use to perform fast attacks. It’s the first weapon you are handed and it just might be the one that you end up favouring. The second weapon is the Veil, and is best described as a heavy pair of gauntlets that you can use to pummel the enemy with brutal yet deadly blows. The last weapon is the Gale, and has the ability to fire small darts in quick succession from range.
Each weapon has a numerous amount of combinations that you’ll keep being introduced to, even after several hours of gameplay. Each weapon has its advantages and it is up to you which one you choose and fight with. Every one of the three weapons also has a special attack attached to it, which will deliver multiple blows that will make enemies drift into unconsciousness at a faster rate. As you progress through the game, you will eventually gain access to an ally that will help you in battle. This ability is only available when your weapon reaches a stage that sees fire emanating from it (yes, you read that correctly). You’ll actually hear him call out, telling you to unleash him so you he can help you in battle. He ends up doing exactly that, making your life that bit easier during some of the more tougher battles.
As satisfying as the combat is though, you’ll spend the majority of your time hammering the X button. Not only does this becoming a little tiresome, it can also lead to one might sore thumb! The lack of varied “standard” enemies doesn’t help matters either. Despite these factors though, the mix of fierce combat and well designed platform sections means the overall gameplay experience is ultimately an enjoyable one.
Unless you want to explore each level of the tower and fight enemies for fun, there’s not much content here to keep you coming back for more. The game does provide a decent enough challenge on hard, but even with that difficulty level taken into account, El Shaddai will take you around 7 to 10 hours to complete.
To answer the question posed at the beginning of this review, is El Shaddai another classic from the shores of Japan? Well, yes and no. Although the story has some high points and is certainly intriguing, it isn’t the deepest. Despite that though, thanks to a combination of eye catching visuals and imaginative gameplay, El Shaddai is a third-person action game that is well worth your time. You won’t play anything else like it this year, that’s for sure!