If I had to describe El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron in one word it would be ”gorgeous”. After seeing the game it probably wouldn’t surprise you to hear that El Shaddai’s develop was headed by Okami lead character designer Sawaki Takeyasu. The brightly coloured, pastel ce-shaded visuals are a dead give away, and they just absolutely ooze style.
But is it more than just a pretty face? Hit the jump for my impressions.
If you’re unfamiliar with the title, El Shaddai is loosely based around the Book of Enoch from the Dead Sea Scrolls. The demo featured the game’s third chapter where Enoch, the title’s protagonist, enters The Tower of Babel to confront the fallen angel Eziekel. Enoch must capture Eziekel and six other fallen angel’s souls in order to prevent Heaven from releasing a great flood upon the Earth.
While each section of the game has its own unique environments and themes, the Tower of Babel exudes Ezekiel’s obsession for the natural world. Visually, it’s minimalistic and like a fantastic moving watercolour all at once. Between battles, players will traverse the world in 2D and 3D platforming sections. Unfortunately the platforming sections weren’t always entertaining, ranging from unengagingly easy to frustrating. At times its difficult to tell what you can land on and I found myself starting over from checkpoints quite a few times because of this.
The combat, on the other hand, is quite enjoyable. It’s a fairly simple, yet surprisingly deep, one button combat system. Timing, jump attacks, what type of weaponry you have, and how long you hold the attack button play a big role in what types of attacks you can perform. While I enjoyed my time with the demo, I’m not entirely sure the combat will stay fresh throughout the game. However, upon further investigation, screenshots of the title show several enemy types that were unseen in the demo.
When Enoch does enough damage to another character a blue ring will encompass the enemy. At this point Enoch can disarm the enemy, steal the weapon and use it against his foes. There are three types of weapons: the arch, gale, and veil. The arch is essentially a sword and the most basic weapon of the three. The gale is a weaker, faster, projectile weapon that also allows Enoch to glide when platforming. Finally, the veil (not featured n the demo) is a much stronger, albeit slower, weapon. After a short time weapons must be “purified” to remain useful. Weapons continue to degrade during combat and will eventually require you to steal a new weapon off an enemy or purify manually, leaving you vulnerable to enemies for a brief moment.
Something both Francisco and myself enjoyed about El Shaddai is the complete lack of a HUD. This allows you to take in the fantastic visual landscapes that UTV Ignition have created. If you’re worried about not being able to tell if you’re winning or losing a fight, fret not. Instead of giving you a health bar, armor will chip away depending on how much damage has been done to a character.
Also, I have to tell you that the game is absolutely hilarious. Throughout the game Enoch is guided by Lucifel, Satan before he decided to get all rebellious was cast into the burning lake. Lucifel wears designer jeans, which UTV Ignition has actually made a few pairs of apparently. One of the guys at the booth was sporting a pair, and others have been sold “at a very high price” in Japan. Also, Lucifel contacts God on his cellphone. While I haven’t read it myself, but I think they may have took some liberties with the ancient Jewish texts on which the game is based.
If you’re interested in checking it out for yourself, the E3 demo should be available on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live tonight. Look out for El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron on July 26th.