El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron Review
Hang out with a dude who talks to God on a cell phone.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron released about five months ago in Japan to critical acclaim. I think I’m going to have to find some of these critics and ask them what it is I’m missing here. El Shaddai scores major points for its art style and subject matter but fails in just about every other aspect. I truly hate having to trash a game that takes a brave new angle in style and story but this game is a mess. Read on to find out why.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron sounds so cool on paper. It’s an action game where you take control of Enoch, an Angel sent to Earth, by God, to bring back a number of fallen angels. The story is based on the Book of Enoch, a real world ancient religious text that is sort of mysterious due to the fact that it isn’t considered canonical by most churches. The characters and places in the game are taken directly from this work but aren’t represented literally. Lucifel, your guide during the game, is dressed in modern clothes and carries a cell phone which he uses to report back to the Lord on Enoch’s progress. Enoch has jeans on under his celestial armor.
The environments, meant to represent Earth and the dominions built by the fallen angels, are represented by sweeping abstract paintings. They look like some sort of cross between Anime and Dr. Seuss. In a good way. If you saw a few pictures of El Shaddai you would likely think this game looks pretty cool. It does. After you take in you are done taking in your surroundings is where it starts to go downhill. Though the story is based on a super cool premise, it isn’t told in a way that is interesting. The story is given to you in tiny snips of conversation, mostly one-sided, between Lucifel and God. Every once in a while a random narrator jumps in with some detail. There is no sense of direction. If I didn’t know the story of the Book of Enoch (I read up on it when I heard this game was based on it) I wouldn’t have any motivation for why I was beating up some fallen angels.
The gameplay boils down to “stop here, fight a few enemies, short platforming section, break some jars to collect orbs that have a vague purpose, reapeat”.The fighting system is touted as being deep and nuanced but it isn’t. You attack by pressing X. The timing of your button presses affects what sort of attack you will do. That sounds interesting but all you really have to do is wait until an enemy isn’t blocking and hammer X about 15 times. The combat was said to be so hard that Ignition included an Easy mode in the western release but the only reason this game is hard is because it’s poorly designed. Attacking enemies will cause your weapon to become tainted. You will have to periodically cleanse your weapon to keep its effectiveness up, a move that leaves you vulnerable in the middle of combat. This game is hard because you have to cleanse your weapon every 20 seconds or so and you will get clobbered nearly every time.
Every so often you will be thrust into a 2-D section where platforming is the object. These sections aren’t any more interesting than the rest of the game as the path is always fairly clear. It almost feels like Ignition realized the game was boring so they tried to throw something different in there. Too little too late.
There are no multiplayer or co-op modes in El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron.
Nearly every achievement in El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is a secret one. I won’t ruin it for you but you’ll have most of them by the end of the game.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron was an original, bold idea that simply forgot it had to be fun as well. If you’re really interested in the story, wait a couple of months and the bargain bin at your local video game store will be full of these.