Every now and then a than a game comes along which you can’t really slot into a category or genre. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron (what a mouthful) is one of those games and it pulls it off quite well, this won’t be to every ones taste however. The game itself is always trying new things and you need to keep your wits about you just to understand what’s going on. For example as soon as the start the game you’re thrown into a fight, you lose and are encouraged to bash at the controller buttons to revive yourself. This has the effect of turning back time and you end up back at the title screen. You’re left wondering if that was quite right, but after hitting start you carry on with the game. Then there are the times where a character in the game speaks directly to you and not the character you’re controlling. There’s a few odd instances like this, it can be quite strange, but kudos to the developer for trying new things.
The basic story here is that you control a character called “Enoch” and God has sent you down to the earth to retrieve some fallen angels. It can be a bit confusing and in fact seems like you’re deliberately kept in the dark, you can overhear some conversations about your progress. There is plenty of twists and the cinematic cut scenes can be quite in depth. It’s kind of everything you would want from a Japanese game here, they’ve taken an interesting twist on the story of angels and god and really made it into a unique journey.
Presentation here is for the most part outstanding, the main characters appear to be cel-shaded from the off, which the game doesn’t seem to rely on full time thankfully. There’s a lot of variety here some stages can really be quite stunning to point that some look like water colour paintings where some are simply playing a cut scene in the background as you’re progressing. It can flip to a sort of grey scale scene and go right into a vivid colourful stage with fireworks going off in the background, then into an urban cityscape riding a motorbike through waves of enemies. At times it can be quite breathtaking and always manages to bring you something new.
The game play is quite interesting, at it’s most basic level you have an attack, block and jump button, but you can perform a few interesting combos by delaying button presses and charging attacks. It’s one of those games where it’s very easy to pick up and play, but it takes some time to be really effective. There’s a few extra bits in combat, at times you can see rings above enemies heads, the colour of the ring tells you if you have an advantage or a disadvantage with your current weapon. With the three weapons available, it’s very much a case of rock paper scissors, everyone weapon has a strength against another as well as a weakness. What make this tough is that you can only carry one weapon, you can’t just switch to the right one for the job. The only way you can change weapon is to steal it from an enemy. If there’s no one around, well tough you just have to deal with it. The boss fights follow the same sort of action, just on a much larger scale. Bosses generally have a limited number of attacks, so it’s a case of learning patterns there and going in for the kill in between their attacks. Unfortunately the combat doesn’t really evolve that much at all throughout the game and it can get a bit repetitive after a while, you will be fighting the same sort of enemies even though they appear in slightly different forms.
The game play shifts around quite a bit. For the most part it’s a third person hack and slash, but at times it shifts into a side scrolling perspective, at times you even need to interact with the background to progress. As mentioned before there are also some driving sections, which are fun. There are a lot of throwbacks to classic games and films here, some of the bike sections can look like something right out of tron, some of the side scrolling elements can look extremely similar to early mario games. Some gamers might be a bit young to get all the references here, but it certainly put a smile on my face.
One of the downsides here is that it’s quite a linear game, but then the story sort of demands it. It isn’t an RPG so there’s no real exploring to do, you just keep moving forward dealing with groups of enemies and then progressing. There are some basic puzzles to deal with, some of which can be quite tough to figure out (well I’m not particularly bright). This won’t appeal to gamers who like to explore at all, this is purely story driven.
A very artistic and unique game, you should give it a try you might get hooked.