I remember playing the demo for El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron sometime back, and the first thing I thought was “Oh my goodness, this game is gorgeous.” Unfortunately, that was about all that I could say was interesting about the game. After playing both Devil May Cry 4 and Bayonetta, I found the combat in the demo to be quite stale; to me it just felt like a button masher with a fair amount of challenge. The game quickly disappeared from my mind. However, after the game had released and dropped in price (shoutouts to the wallets of jobless high school students), I decided to give the game a try.
With all of the various action games out there that promise intense action, epic boss battles, water park sprinklers of blood, and jiggle-physics, it’s a bit difficult to find any sort of appeal to El Shaddai on paper. The game has no blood, the enemies that you face aren’t the largest or the most grotesque, and the only women in this game include a girl that’s not even legal yet and a saggy old Fallen Angel. Also, the game has religious themes, so that as well turns some people away (which I personally think is kind of silly, but I digress).
What makes El Shaddai so appealing, however is how strikingly beautiful it is. The game is, without a doubt, the prettiest game that I have ever played. Hell, just looking at the game makes me feel pretty. I’m personally not a person that is big on graphics, but several times I found myself dropping my Xbox controller just to foam at the mouth and take in all of the game’s sights because of how breathtaking they can be. The story plays out in a tower, and every single level is filled with life thanks to the various colors and shapes that all blend in together to create a Bob Ross painting in motion.
Most gamers typically do not care at all for story in their action games because, well, they’re action games. You want to fight the things that are trying to kill you (and pots containing power-ups/health items), not lines of text. Unfortunately, story has a large focus in El Shaddai; fortunately, the story is pretty interesting. Enoch, the game’s main character, is sent on a mission by God to capture seven Fallen Angels, the Grigori, before members of the Heavenly council decide to send forth a flood to rid the Earth of all humans and the Grigori that have lead them down the path of an unnatural evolution. You, Enoch, are aided by the archangel Lucifel, a time traveling badass that has God on speed-dial, and the four archangels: Gabriel, Uriel, Michael, and Raphael. The story was inspired by the Book of Enoch, so it’s not exactly original, but the whole ride proves to be fairly interesting. There were many moments of pure mindfuckery where everything just stopped making sense completely, but they were at least entertaining to experience.
Of course, because El Shaddai is an action game the main focus should be on the actual gameplay. Most hardcore gamers are a bit skeptical about this game because, with games like Bayonetta out there with deep combat systems, what is the point in playing El Shaddai when there is only one attack button? Honestly, that’s actually a fair point; for pure action gameplay purposes there is no real reason to pick up El Shaddai. Does that mean that it is a bad game or not worth picking up? Not at all. While the combat system in El Shaddai may not be the deepest or the most stylish, it is still pretty fun and challenging. The initial impression that most people may have on the battles in the game are that you simply mash the attack button while jumping around to dodge attacks and BAM you’re done. Let me just say that mashing will get you killed quickly in the later stages of the game. Though the game does not make this at all obvious or really even give a hint to this, the three weapons in El Shaddai focus on their own certain rhythm. It’s not so much that you just press Y-Y-delay-Y-Y-Y or anything like that, but you have to time your button presses so that you are hitting the attack button RIGHT when your attack lands to get those long, fancy, damaging combos that will make quick work of your opponents and stun them so that they cannot just shrug off your attack and fight back. To be quite honest, it took me until the last three chapters of the game (eleven chapters in total) until I figured out each weapon’s timing. As soon as I saw Enoch pulling off the Dempsey Roll with his Veil weapon, the fun factor of the game multiplied by ten for me. It’s one of those “easy to learn, hard to master” bits, and it brings out a sense of accomplishment once you truly get it down.
Unfortunately, El Shaddai does have its shortcomings. The boss battles are pretty. . . average. Granted, I just played all three games in the Devil May Cry HD collection before finally finishing El Shaddai, but I was hoping for a bit more. There is also very little variety in the types of enemies you will encounter; the biggest different between enemy types will be the weapon that they carry for you to steal from them (stealing weapons is a major part of the gameplay, for your information). The biggest issue, however, is the game’s replay value. Or at least, the replay value going by action game standards. There are only two or three collectable items in the game so most of the fun of looking for such items is out, and there are no skills or parameters for Enoch to level up to become stronger. The only real reason to replay the game is just for the challenge factor. That is not at all a bad thing, but having something else to look forward to upon completing the game a second time would be very much appreciated.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is definitely not the best action game out of the shelves, but it is also most definitely not the worst. It’s selling pretty cheaply now, so if you are looking for a pretty interesting game and have a few bucks to spend then go right ahead and enjoy the show. However, if your gaming hunger needs to be satisfied by something a bit more “hardcore” then you may want to pass on this game. Overall, I give El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron six shots of ginger ale out of ten.