An El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron Review

El Shaddai is one of those rare gifts to the world. A game so beautiful and well received I barely heard about it. I came across a copy of the game in a store in my home town and asked if the game was worth it. Of course I was meet with a play it, you’re going to love it.

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Gladly nobody was trying to play me like a damn fiddle. The game is truly a gift to the world, filled with such wondrous beauty that every screenshot could be a desktop wallpaper or a promotional poster.

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You know a game is arty when you can just hang it on a wall

But who made it? Who were the people behind it?
Well, that’s actually a very good question. Aside from the credit roll at the end of game and the last pages on the artbook The Wonders of El Shaddai, I find very little information on the team who worked on this game and what they previously worked on. I know it was directed and with character designed by Sawaki Takeyasu, produced by Masato Kimura and with music by Masato Kouda and Kento Hasegawa.

From what I can find, Sawaki Takeyasu worked on Devil May Cry and Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen (the Fatal Frame game for the Wii) amd Masato Kimura actually worked on a lot of things like God Hand, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Devil May Cry and The Evil Within.
Actually that explains a lot about how the game looks and feels. The gameplay is very similar to Devil May Cry, although simple, and the way it looks isn’t very far from a very surreal version of Twilight Princess.

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Looks like this
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Plays like this

That’s a very interesting combination of two very different yet beloved video games.

Actually, Devil May Cry is a recurring theme in El Shaddai. The composers of the game’s music also worked on the DMC series.
Masato Kouda worked on Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 2, but also on Mega Man 2, Darkstalkers 3, Resident Evil Outbreak and the Monster Hunter series.
Kento Hasegawa worked on Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening and Devil May Cry 4.

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El Shaddai reminds me a lot of the original Devil May Cry when it comes to gameplay. Slow, but fun and precise. The difference is that El Shaddai doesn’t allow for instant weapon switching and requires a bit more strategy than hitting and dodging.
Each one of the three weapons has a specific enemy it is more effective against and the player must this in his/her advantage in battle. Once you found the right weapon for each type of enemy, battles become easier.

There are only three weapons: the Arch, the Gale and the Veil.
Arch is your sword and first weapon. Balanced, it really has no weakness or strengths but I find it to be affective against slower enemies since it’s a fast weapon.

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The Arch doing what it does best

The Gale is your firearm. Since you don’t actually have firearms in the game, you’re presented with 6 projectiles which may or may not be controlled by the ring that floats behind the character’s back.
It is a fast weapon that can keep at distance but it has a weak defence and attack, so I ended up barely using it and avoiding the weapon, even though I was aware that I should have used it for certain enemies.

 

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This looks like something out of Star Wars

The Veil is a strong defence and low attack based weapon, which can be divided into two gauntlets for attack and combined into a round shield for defence. It’s a bit like having the Royalguard style on Beowful while playing Devil May Cry 3. It has a strong range, but that isn’t really a problem when you can time your attacks. The greatest problem is how slow it is which was also a problem with a gauntlet type weapons in DMC. The weapon’s lack of speed will leave you open to quick attacks and that can be pretty much your downfall.

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This punching session has been approved by God

The way you change weapons is by stealing weapons from your enemies. When a enemy is down you can steal his weapon and purify it and it will become yours.
I find it a quite creative way to add some tension to the game and have you thinking about each weapon you should get your not, while in DMC you can pretty go in guns blazing and use anything as long as you know the correct combos.
If you do that in El Shaddai you might end up reduced to your jeans.

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The game is also rather unforgiving. If you fail to guard against an enemy you might end up catch in a combo that will leave you only with jeans on or dead. Thankfully the game has a revival system that lets you tap bottoms of your controller to get back to action, the problem is the more you use it the harder will be to get revived in battle. If you lose you’ll be revived in your last checkpoint or save point because this is not your point in time to die.

Now this must sound very strange. All this talk about gameplay and none about story. The truth is that I did that on propose.
A lot of people will say that this game is style over substance, but that will only happen if you’re distracted by the beautiful scenarios or you don’t know much about the story of the Nephilim.

The game is a very loose adaptation of the Book of Enoch, which is kind of a fanfiction of the Bible. The Book of Enoch happens before the Great Float (and keep in mind that Enoch is Noah’s grandfather) and follows the fallen angels known as The Watchers or The Grigori as they teach humanity forbidden knowledge and father countless Nephilim. These human angel gigantic hybrids are what lead to the Great Float along side with humanity’s corruption.

The story of the game is not very far from that. Enoch, our protagonist, was called to Heaven by God to become a scribe and record all the things he observed, but was send back to Earth to seal The Watchers and avoid the Great Float.
Sadly most of the story has been locked away in Japan in the manga, web comic and the three novels. This leave the West without some of the most interesting parts such as explaining the reason why the leader of the Watchers wanted to fall and, apparently, a romantic relationship between Enoch and the archangel Lucfiel.
Yes, there is a lot to talk about but it has mostly reminded in the land of the rising sun away from us sun setting plebs. As such we put the bits and pieces together with translations and rumours online and that is the weakest point of the game.
Whatever we can know about the past or future of the characters is out of our reach.

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It sucks to be a Western

 

After all this talk is it worth it?
Yes. It totally is. It is a beautifully made game with fun gameplay and interesting take on Biblical characters. You can get it for cheap for now so you should get while you can. I have the feeling this will become one of those rare cult games that costs more than 40 euros to get a copy of, like NIER.

I know, I know. I forgot about the characters, but I do want to do a separate post where I can talk all I want about the characters without confusing anyone with connections with mythologies and whatnot. Hope you forgive me for that.

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