If El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron was to have been developed in the West, chances are that the amount of attention it would have receieved from media outlets such as Fox News would have been enormous. Not for the reasons one would usually expect when it comes to videogames, such as sex or violence, but instead for an aspect that hasn’t really been touched upon before by videogame controversy: religion.
See, El Shaddai is based on the Old Testament’s ‘Book of Enoch’, which describes the fall of the Watchers, an order of angels, and the titular Enoch’s visits to Heaven in the form of travels, visions, and dreams. As I’m sure you can understand, Fox News could have a field day with this type of stuff. However, with development taking place in Japan, under the guidance of Devil May Cry’s Sawaki Takeyaso, El Shaddai seems to have flown under the radar, which is both a blessing and a curse for the game. After all, any publicity is good publicity, right?
In El Shaddai, you take on the role of Enoch, or at least a heavily-stylised Japanese interpretation of him, with bright blond hair and shining white armour. Gameplay consists largely of a mixture of close-combat and platforming, a mix that those familiar with the previously mentioned Devil May Cry series will remember well. Aesthetically, El Shaddai makes some interesting choices, with cel-shading throughout, and colour palates switching frequently. What also switches, surprisingly enough, is the perspective, which is one of the main quirks of this demo that piqued my interest. About halfway through, the at-first-glance fairly generic 3D-platformer switches gameplay up to a 2D sidescroller that has you surfing on clouds, before plonking you back into a 3D world after 10 minutes or so. Judging by the fast-paced montage shown upon completion of the demo, this will become a fairly regular occurrence in the main game, with various different tasks being expected of you depending on the perspective.
Whilst Dante was perhaps as famous for his sword as for his swagger, Enoch starts off El Shaddai unarmed, and instead has to remove weapons from his enemies’ grips and purify them, before he can use them as his own. In an interesting choice, the more enemies you kill causes your weapon to become less purified, and with it, less effective, meaning that you constantly have to be disarming enemies and changing your weapon if you want to be successful. From what I saw in the demo, weapon choices are fairly limited, and you mainly rely on either a curved blade, used for close-combat, or a series of ring-shaped projectiles, which can be fired from afar. Damage from these weapons can be seen effectively through the state of your enemies’, and your own, armour, which visibly degrades with each hit, in a similar manner to the Soul Calibur series.
Killing enemies results in them dropping ‘Flames of Power’, which are apparently used to increase your latent abilities, but had no real effect from what I could see in the demo. You can also collect items known as ‘Freemen’s Notes’, which offer backstory aside from the main narrative, and ‘Fruits of Wisdom’ are placed at certain points along your path to allow you to change your weapon if necessary. I’m sure there are plenty of other rather obnoxiously-named items for you to collect through the course of your journey, one which seems to be full of typically Japanese eccentricities, such as a sharply dressed gentleman in a black suit, who appears to be a narrator of sorts, wandering amongst heaven’s clouds whilst talking on his cell-phone, and a variety of steampunk-inspired boss fights.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron was a game that I really had no preconceptions of coming into the demo, and to be honest, whilst I came out of the other side still having no real idea what was going on, I greatly enjoyed my time with the game. Aside from certain platforming areas where I found the camera made it difficult to judge the distance of your jumps, I have no real grudges against anything found in the demo, and in fact, it has achieved the very objective that demos set out to achieve, which is raising interest in the main game. Hopefully, this interest can be passed along to you, as really, El Shaddai is one of those games that you need to see for yourself to understand.
- Jack Moulder
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