It’s very rare to find a videogame that’s based on a religious text. And even rarer for such a game to be any good. El Shaddai takes its inspiration from an ancient Jewish text and tells the tale of Enoch, a priest who has made it his mission to seek and retrieve the fallen angles before god sends a flood of biblical proportions to end all life. Now naturally, this is not a good thing, so Enoch sets out with the aid of four archangels and a guardian angel (Lucifel). The story is simple enough, but that is where the simplicity ends in this game. El Shaddai has been worked on by some of the same people that bought us Okami and Devil May Cry so you know it will be good.
The way the story is told in El Shaddai is quite cool, you have your normal cut-scenes, but also parts of gameplay where a narrator is talking at you. I truly loved how this game looked, indeed it’s the main selling point. During play you will not want to take your eyes off the screen, trust me. It’s an absolutely gorgeous game, but not because the graphics are cutting edge, quite the reverse. The cartoony/arty/constantly visually changing way UVT Ignition Entertainment has rendered this game makes it marvelous to look at and play. There are 11 chapters all together and all have their own unique design and creativity to them. There are both 2D and 3D portions to and while the 2D platform sections are fun to play and jump around in, the 3D aspect show the depth that El Shaddai truly has. It has to be said, however, that the camera angles leave a lot to be desired. They make some of the 3D sections harder than they should be, as judging distances becomes a problem.
El Shaddai is much more than just unusual and visually breathtaking graphics, however. The gameplay has a pleasing flow to it, and although this is a hack and slash game, there is a level of complexity to everything. To defeat the various enemies you need skill and determination. Attacking is based on the square button only. Yes, just that one button. Taping it sends out nice combos, while holding it breaks the guard of enemies allowing you to then steal their weapons. This is the only way to arm Enoch with one of the game’s three weapon types which include the Arch, a swinging blade-type weapon, and the Vale, a bludgeoning tool. There’s also a ranged weapon called the Gill that hurls arrow type objects towards enemies and while it’s not as powerful as the first two it allows you to move around and free some space so you can attack better.
Depsite the fact that certain enemies have weakness to specific weapon types helps add a bit of extra strategy to how you plan your attacks, repetitiveness in the combat can set in. With enemies only have one of three weapons and the same reoccurring weak points, figuring out how to beat them becomes quite simple. The boss battles, however, add a very nice change of pace and these in themselves are sometimes quite hard to complete with each boss needing to be finished off in a unique way.
A weird thing about El Shaddai is the total lack of a HUD. I found this odd as there is no meter to show you the points you have or how close you are to launching a special attack. There isn’t even a life meter. I think what UVT Imagination has tried to do is make the game stand out from the rest – something they’ve certianly done – but it is rather odd that once you complete the game not only do you unlock the harder difficulty but the next play through you gets you a HUD.
El Shaddai’s music is as intense and varied as its graphics. The soundtrack range from rock music to calming tribal voices and flowing hymns. The character voices are ok, although, for me, they weren’t the game’s strong point and could have been slightly more in tune with the characters themselves.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is a game that’s probably different from anything you have ever played before. The combat system is simple yet complex and the graphics are a treat for your eyes. The music sets the scene very well and ties in to the characters and environments. It’s true this game has some problems with camera angles and the lack of a HUD but I hope that gamers award the developers for their attempt to bring something new to the hack-and-slash combat game genre. Its always nice to see someone break the mould and try something new and El Shaddai, for the most part, succeeds in this. Play the demo via the PSN and you will be hooked on this one.
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