It’s been 10 years since El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron released on PS3 and Xbox 360. Character-driven action games have come quite a long way since that generation with graphical and gameplay improvements. Even then, El Shaddai offered a unique gameplay experience that built a cult following and a spin-off/sequel, The Lost Child. This is thanks in part to the mind of director Sawaki Takeyasu. Takeyasu also worked on games such as Devil May Cry, Okami and Fatal Frame. 10 years later and a Steam version is finally available, giving El Shaddai a chance to shine in a new era of gaming with returning and new players alike.
Down to Earth
El Shaddai begins with Enoch, chosen by God to return seven fallen angels back to Heaven. Yes, this game is inspired by Biblical events but it takes some crazy turns in a very video game sense. Enoch dawns his Roman-like armor and Wrangler jeans to battle one of the fallen angels, only to get squashed in mere seconds. This is where Lucifel, messenger and friend of God, steps in and tells Enoch that he can keep fighting. Time gets distorted and then sends them both back before the fight started. From here, Enoch gets his mission and help from the Archangels. In order to face off against the fallen angels, Enoch must travel down to Earth with Lucifel and find them. Enoch must defeat them and send them back to Heaven to prevent a grand flood from destroying mankind.
Centuries pass, many friendships are forged and Enoch finally gains an inkling of where the angels may be. Lucifel then calls up God (with an actual phone) and tell him that they’re on their way to the location. The location becomes distorted and a large oval gets cut into the fabric of space and time, revealing a large demonic tower. It turns out that the fallen angels went down to Earth to live with humanity and gained large worship. As a result, they’ve built civilizations and realms to serve as their new home within the tower. Lucifel then calls up God and says that the journey might take a while. Enoch and Lucifel then head into the tower to begin their mission.
Angel May Cry
The influence from classic Devil May Cry is clear in El Shaddai with the combat on the surface. However, the combat system has very different traits. Enoch can wield 3 different weapons: Arch, Gale, and Veil. Each weapon focuses on balance, range and strength respectively. For instance, the Arch acts as a standard hack-and-slash sword while the Gale uses ranged missiles in rapid attacks. These 3 weapons have weaknesses and strengths like a weapon triangle. Weapons must also be “purified” by Enoch to maintain their potency. Additionally, players must keep Enoch’s armor in mind which acts as a health bar. As enemies land attacks, pieces of Enoch’s armor shatters until he’s vulnerable in just his jeans and sandals. It’s important to guard and parry at the right time to prevent armor from chipping off in combat. Counter attacks are especially powerful against opponents with a disadvantaged weapon.
El Shaddai features a lot of platforming so fans of the genre will feel at home here. Overall, platforming in the game feels precise and satisfying with fight sequences in between. It’s worth keeping an eye out though for secrets such as breakable objects, gateways into The Darkness and lore notes given out by the Freemen. The aesthetic and art design of El Shaddai is quite unique with lucid colors, dark hues and symbolism. It helps Enoch stand out with his appearance against the environment and enemies. El Shaddai can be beaten in a couple of hours but those with that action hack-and-slash itch may come back for seconds. This is especially true after finishing the game, chasing achievements, and unlocking costumes & extra difficulty modes.
The Woes of El Shaddai
On PC, the only settings players really have at their disposal are resolution, v-sync, aspect ratio and choice of renderer. It gets the job done but I would have liked more features in the settings department. Luckily, performance is great across the board and it shouldn’t take much horsepower at all to get the game running. The real woes of the game come into play toward the end. Unfortunately, development constraints back then prevented the game from really getting its intended ending and final missions. There are plot points that don’t get wrapped up by the end of the game. It’s very disappointing to see since it feels Enoch’s journey comes to an abrupt end. However, the development team included some extras with the Steam release to make up for it.
Players have access to a “Clear Bonus” extra after completing the game. The Clear Bonus is a 148-page PDF containing concept art and a very lengthy script for the ending events of the game that were supposed to be developed 10 years ago. There’s art alongside the script to showcase what’s really going on too. The PDF is a very fascinating read that depicts many events transpiring between Enoch, Lucifel and other characters involved in the story. It’s a serious shame that none of it is available in the game to play through as it really could have elevated it into something even greater.
Like the original release, El Shaddai is a great game with constrained potential due to the unfortunate circumstances that may come with game development. The Steam release gives new players a chance to explore what this cult classic is all about while giving old players the opportunity for a replay. I enjoyed my time traversing the levels, learning the combat system and discovering the game’s lore along the way. There are wacky moments that can give you a pretty good laugh too! El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron may resonate well with fans of niche Japanese games and works from Suda51 and SWERY to name a few. With the current discounted launch price of $24.29, I believe its worth checking out when it releases on September 2nd if you are already interested in what niche Japanese games offer.
Special thanks to Crim for giving us a review code and the opportunity to check out El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron for Steam!