If you didn't get it in the teaser, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is a game based loosely on the Bible. But before you let that turn you off let me start by saying it's still a traditional game, and overall a good one.
El Shaddia is a hack and slash with platforming elements that tells the story of a group of angels who have purposely fallen from heaven, in the hopes of making earth into their own image. A veil to hide from god, the angels erect a tower allowing each of them to rule over the world as they see fit in their own domain. You play as Enoch a scribe of heaven, who's job is to cleanse the fallen angels and return them back to heaven.
The plot is simple, and so is the execution which is unfortunate, because there was a chance for a truly deep and emotion story here once you've met the cast of characters. You're given orders by Lucifer and anyone familiar with the Bible knows how he turns out. But in El Shaddia they play with the minds of anyone with that prior knowledge and constantly have you second guessing whether his intentions are pure or corrupt until the end. But again this is the only driving force of the story, as the rest unfolds as uneventful events throughout the game. A couple of twist are thrown in, but they do little to move the story into revolutionary grounds. Not to say the story is bad, far from it. But when the rest of the game continues to digress the story should have been as important as the beautiful art style.
If ever has the argument been used to say games are not are. Then point the disbeliever (pun intended) to El Shaddi. The art style for El Shaddia is comparable to masterpieces such as Okami, Journey, Flower, and other games that push creativity and imagination over horsepower and realism. From start to finish El Shaddia is a beautiful painting, that proves amazing graphics can be produced through simpler means.
The game comes across as a love child of Bayonetta and Asura's Wrath, leaning more towards the latter. The game uses one button for combat which will cause most players to button mash their way through the game. But if you take the time to learn the combat system then you'll fine a simple but efficient style under all that simplicity. Holding the attack button allows special moves similar to Ninja Gaiden, but timing attacks allows various combos to be used which inflict greater damage. There are 3 weapons that can be used to add to the diversity. The Arch which is a bow-like weapon you use as a sword. The Gale which is a ring that controls floating arrowheads that you can fire from long distances. And the Veil which is a powerful shield that also boast powerful attacking and defensive powers. If you've played any other hack and slash then El Shaddai should be familiar turf for you.
While the combat is simple and fun, the frustration soon starts to kick in when platforming sections come into play. The platforming sections are simple enough, but the camera and switching from 2D to 3D can cause irritating problems. You will die more from falling to your death than you will from enemies. Thankfully falling to your death doesn't take you to a load screen, but instantly wraps you back to where you were albeit a few platforms prior. You weapons make platforming easier or a nightmare depending on which one you have. The arch makes jumping sections simple. By holding the jump button (X or O) you can simply float down to the platform allowing you to see if you're going to make the jump or if you need to double jump. The Gale is just as easy allowing you the perform a mid aid burst the propels Enoch forward a short distance. The Gale is best for moving through the stages. The boost attack allows you the speed through entire sections at blistering speeds that you can't achieve with the other items. Finally the Veil. While powerful in combat, this weapons will make you rage when platforming, ESPECIALLY IN LATER SECTIONS. The Veil is so bad at platforming that I truly advise you to restart from a previous save if you end up with the Veil on a difficult platforming section. The time spent repeating the section will be shorter than constantly falling to your death with the Veil. IT'S THAT BAD.
But enough with the negatives. Let's get to the confused. El Shaddai has some great ideas and concepts, but many fall short of greatness and settle for mediocracy which is angering, because it stopped the game from being a true sleeper hit. The music and voice acting are great, but then you play as silent protagonist. The boss fights are good, but in an effort to extend the game they throw random boss fights at you constantly against the fallen angels where they run and live to fight another day and another day and another day. The pacing starts off great, but the it goes all over the place and you literally have no clue where you are in the game and begin to ask yourself, am I halfway finish even though I've only beat one fallen Angel. The answer yes, because everything is shoved in your face near the end. There are just a bunch of positives and the are weighed down bad developer choices that it brings the entire game down a notch from where it could have been. In an effort to entend the game they ruin the natural pacing the game started off with. And the final boss is probably the most anticlimactic I've ever seen for the
But all in all El Shaddai is a decent game. It brings some brilliant ideas, concepts, and originality into what's becoming a stale final year(s) of this console generation. However, for all it's strengths there are some minor weaknesses that hold it back from greatness. While the art-style is great, the game could have benefited from better technical graphics as well. While the voice work is great the game could have benefited from a vocal protagonist. While the gameplay is simple and solid, it could have benefited from a bit more diversity (an extra attack button) and enjoyable platforming. El Shaddai isn't a perfect game at all, but it's an enjoyable and refreshing game, and if you're a fan of the genre, one that should not be missed.