The lights are on
Very rarely do I experience a game that presents me with such a blending of fantastic artistry and epic story telling. Okami, Shadow of the Colossus, and Ico; all these titles have presented us with such a mix.Now El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
can join these titles in the ranks of great examples of video games as
art. Skylines melted away in the sky before me, a kaleidoscope of colors
and patterns swirled around me as I acrobatically dismantled my foes,
and fallen angels fell to my weapons as an angelic soundtrack played in
the background. All this as the world prepares for its end. These
aspects merge to create a gaming experience of literally biblical
As some may be able to tell from the first look, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is the creation of Takeyasu Sawaki, the man responsible for the character design on Okami and Devil May Cry.
Though it plays a lot like a typical third person hack and
slash/platformer, as stated above Sawaki and Ignition created something
not only artistic, beautiful, and…a little trippy, but also blended it
perfectly with a story based on the apocryphal Book of Enoch.
You control the book’s titular character Enoch and take him through a
landscape of beauty and color as he hunts down the Watchers, a group of
fallen angels, and return them to Heaven to be imprisoned for their
sins. Enoch must storm a tower created by the Watchers. Each floor is
unique both visually and platforming wise, from the milky whites and
runny grays and baby blues of the beginning’s skys, to the rainbow
colors set to the dark hues as you approach the tower, to the futuristic
Matrix/Tron inspired world of Azazel. These diverse environments ensure
that dull gameplay is something rarely experienced.
As you may imagine, the Watchers can probably hold their own against
Enoch, God’s chosen one or not. That’s why the Lord has sent his
Archangels to perch on your shoulder and give you a hand or wing from
time to time. The Devil is there to help out too. Weird, I know. He goes
by the name of Lucifel and is constantly keeping the big man upstairs
up-to-date via cell phone. All these companions add some much needed
depth and voice to the story, due to Enoch’s role as a mainly silent
protagonist, and keep the journey from getting too boring, helping you
fight evil with special skills, and Lucifel keeping you interested with
his modern-day wit and humor.
While Archangels and a comical sitcom version of the Devil are great
to have in a pinch, it wouldn’t mean anything if Enoch couldn’t fight for himself. The combat system in the game is very simple, but is the main staple in the gameplay. However, it isn’t overly
simplistic. You attack with one button, but with three different
weapons that present completely different play styles, and a timing
system that produces different strikes depending on whether you delay
pressing the attack button at certain times, El Shaddai’s
combat is simple enough to be easy to use, but diverse enough to look
and feel rewarding when executed. It’s also enjoyable to mug your
opponents for their weapons and use them against them. The only down
side is the vulnerability you experience while attacking a single enemy.
It isn’t the easiest thing to stop a combo or turn in the middle of an
attack before you are sideswiped by another foe.
Taking damage isn’t as unnerving as you would think in El Shaddai.
A health bar is absent from all life in the game. Instead, damage is
seen through Enoch’s and his enemy’s armor. The more damage you or the
Watcher’s lackeys take, the more armor lost. Not to worry, however. If
Enoch loses all of his “life,” you can rapid fire on the buttons to keep
Enoch alive. Enoch then jumps back to his feet with some flakes of
armor back on, so death is almost non-existent.
Keeping death at bay is apparent in other forms of the game. When the
player falls from a platform, which will happen often, you will spawn
back very near where the fall took place with a minimal amount of
“damage.” This is probably a good thing due to the lack of precision
platforming. Though the platforms and camera positioning work well
together to frame your jumps, the jumping itself is very touchy and
imprecise. A single jump may keep you just out of reach of your
destination, but a double jump may send you clear over the edge.
Aside from a few collectibles and some hidden areas, Enoch is pretty
confined to a single “straight” path. However, it is a very, very pretty
path. It seems the developers did not want you to forget this, since
you will be doing a lot of running through the stages. There aren’t
enemies around every corner, so prepare to enjoy the view.
Aside from a hiccup on the combat here, and a burp on the platforming there, El Shaddai
offer an artistic and story driven experience that is not to be missed
by anyone true gamer. From trekking through the wondrous dreamscape of
damnation, to the epic confrontation with the fallen angels themselves,
this piece of art is a rare find and a good one at that.