Okay… I need to say one thing before I start the review for this game. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is a game that makes absolutely no sense. It seems as if it was borne from a nightmare that a Japanese game designer had after reading the bible before bed while on LSD. It is bright, colorful, stylized, garbled, sort of follows the mythology of the Bible, and is extremely Japanese. Now, if you can appreciate El Shaddai for what it does right, it is a game that you can have some fun with despite its coherency flaws. If story is a necessity for you to enjoy a game, pass this one up. For everyone else, let’s break it down.
- Press Start:
El Shaddai starts with a very long introduction from one of the main characters named Lucifel, who appears to be… God’s secretary maybe? He tells the story of a priest named Enoch who was tasked with sealing away seven fallen angels to prevent a great flood from destroying all of mankind. It’s a decent introduction to the “story” and opens up into the surprisingly fantastic music that accompanies El Shaddai’s menu. It is easy to navigate and very pretty.
- Story: 1/5
The only way I understand what went on in this game is because I did research after I had finished it. Basically, the plot is “inspired” by the Book of Enoch, an ancient Jewish religious work. Apparently Lucifel is actually a guardian angel who exists outside of time, instructed by God to assist Enoch, the individual you play as, by being casually sarcastic and giving status updates to the Lord via his cell phone. It’s an interesting idea, at least. Enoch is also accompanied by 4 Archangels, Raphael, Uriel, Gabriel, and Michael. They basically just follow you and tell you things sometimes, and take the form of huge geese. Enoch travels down from heaven on a massive stone hand and lands on earth in…. I suppose it could have been Antarctica. It’s blue and trippy and sort of looks like ice, so your guess is as good as mine. You fight random shadow beings and occasionally people wearing uniform armor with a huge eyeball instead of a face. The opening level is a good introduction to just how weird and chaotic this game is.
Throughout his very lengthy tale, taking more than 300 years, Enoch finds his way to the Fallen Angels tower and discovers that they have garnered an impressive fan base, the tower being filled with their followers. Enoch goes from level to level, each with its own style, and along the way meets a girl with a pet Nephilim, a weird tan blob thing that is apparently the spawn of human and angel. These creatures are highly cannibalistic, and upon eating each other they catch on fire and become very powerful. The rest of the game proceeds to make even less sense that this so far. Its oddly entertaining in how confusing it is. What inspiration it received from religious mythology doesn’t do nearly as much as it should, and is often violently butchered.
- Gameplay: 3/5
Despite its WTF story, El Shaddai can be very fun to play. The combat is third person, and is based on the concept of purification, which looks very cool and is an interesting gameplay mechanic. Hitting enemies slowly corrupts your weapons, and a fully corrupted weapon will break. You can steal weapons from all enemies, but having said that there are only three types of enemies and weapons. They are all very different, and suit very different fighting styles. The combat flows well and is decently polished, but can be repetitive since there aren’t very many different enemies.
The platforming in El Shaddai ranges from cool to extremely annoying. Certain levels are insanely difficult, and require upwards of 30 tries for the average gamer. This fact will likely dissuade some, but if you can make it past the occasional frustration, they do not appear that often.
- Graphics: 4/5
While El Shaddai’s story is a joke and the overall game has some bland textures, the style is where the game shines. This game has some of the coolest looking things I have seen in a video game, and some of the most badass setpieces for boss fights and the like. The animations are also great, especially for some of the more disturbing creatures. The lead director of this game worked on Devil May Cry and Okami, and his influence shows. The characters are overall decent, but the stylized nature of the whole game is quite cool. Each level of the tower is vastly different in looks and level design, but will likely cause lots of seizures.
- Music: 4/5
El Shaddai boasts a fantastic soundtrack filled to the brim with epic instrumental music and angelic choir. While the gameplay ranges from fun to boring and the story is a joke, the music never disappoints. It creates a great ambience, and fits the game’s style and identity perfectly. Some tracks are more generic than others, but overall it is a surprisingly good orchestral experience.
- Replayability: 3/5
This game supports a new game+ and unlockable difficulties and costumes, meaning that if you wish to come back for more nonsense, you most certainly well can. The game lasts roughly 11 hours, and the achievements are overall pretty easy to get.
- Final Grade: 3/5
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is a game that few people will enjoy. Whether it is the pretty colors, cool concepts, or awesome music, some people will love this game despite its flaws. I congratulate those people, because to me El Shaddai was just one great story away from being a good game, and it is very difficult to appreciate a half-baked experience. I fully acknowledge that while this is not a game for me, it may end up being a cult classic just for being what it is: a Japanese LSD Trip through religious mythology, and thus it earns itself 3 out of 5 angelic seizures.