Cult Classics – El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
El Shaddai is trippy. As Andrew Reiner wrote in his review about the 2011 release, it's as close as he'll ever get to knowing to what it's like to be on hallucinogenic drugs. The experience of playing El Shaddai is unmatched; it's a testament to how the developers let their imaginations run wild, creating mind-bending landscapes with intense kaleidoscopic colors.
During my trek, I was mesmerized by the creativity, ambition, and uniqueness of it all. The art style has no boundaries, and I encourage anyone who hasn't touched the game to play it for this reason. So often in the industry landscapes and visions become contrived, typical, and developers refuse to color outside the lines. Developer Ignition Entertainment doesn't even recognize the lines exist. Its artistic risks are equivalent to a child who doesn't follow the rules, takes a chance that goes against the norm - and is better for it. Takeyasu Sawaki, who worked on art for Okami and Devil May Cry, took his talent a step further with his team for El Shaddai and it shows.
Few games make me stop and look at the scenery, but in El Shaddai, it's impossible not to soak up the psychedelic visuals. In one area, the world looks painted by watercolors, in another the darkness is illuminated by neon eyes. The best part? Platforming through these levels that feel like they came straight out of a dream world. You also never know what to expect when playing El Shaddai with the backdrops and plot. Things take bizarre twists, and just when you think you've adjusted to the zaniness, it amplifies tenfold, leaving you dazed and confused.
And the game wants just that - to make you think about more than what's on the surface. Foreshadowing and motifs flood it. The fact that the story is religious and based on an actual sacred work, the Book of Enoch, might have made it a difficult tale to tell, but El Shaddai makes it work. If anything, the narrative keeps you on edge, with an eerie feeling that things are not what they seem - as if there's some darkness behind this beautiful scenery.
Throw in the fluid and fun combat, where you punch the equipment off enemies, then acquire their weaponry. It keeps things interesting with counterattacking and combos. It may not be the most complex battles you've encountered, but it's fun to switch weapons and ruin an enemy's day. And don't even get me started on the cool Tron-like motorcycle levels...
What I love so much about El Shaddai is its uncompromised vision; not walking away from being different, but totally owning it. My quest kept making me ask questions like, "Are we too rigid in our approaches to art in games?" If you want to embrace something that goes off the rails and paints a world unlike any you've entered before, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is begging you to step in. And on this Memorial Day, I want to celebrate it for being one of the most unique experiences in gaming.
Want to know more? See for yourself below when Reiner and former editor Phil Kollar showcased it.