Despite the pedigree of the team behind El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, it was always destined to achieve little more than a cult following. The off-the-wall biblical presentation and eccentric visual style would have suggested to many that El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is not a game for them. Yet in that same regard there is a core market of gamers that’ll find the concept very intriguing. With the original release back in 2011, it’s clear that El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron held true to form, delivering as expected to both parties. Now with a re-release on Nintendo Switch looming, it’s time to look back at exactly what made the game so special.

Cast as Enoch, a human scribe in heaven, the player is given the task of seeking out seven fallen angels. These angels were originally intended to watch over humanity. However, having become fascinated with the human world the decide to leave heaven in favour of Earth. Vengeful in their ways, the Heavenly Council decide that they shall prevent humans from moving towards an unintended path by flooding the Earth. Objecting to this unfair punishment Enoch is offered an opportunity to save humanity by returning the seven angels to heaven. With the aid of Lucifel, an angel that exists outside of time and space, Enoch will travel to god forsaken lands and worlds beyond imagination in his quest to defeat the seven angels.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron screenshot

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron Hits Differently

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is targeted at the long time gamer in both plot and gameplay design. A core demographic that’s keen to explore rather than sticking to the well trodden path of first-person shooters and racing games. It’s aimed at a knowing audience, and it’s not afraid to utilise this knowledge. After the selecting the difficulty setting the player is plunged into a boss battle with no indication of how to fight, jump, or even move at all. Once you succumb to the inevitable failure the game will begin doling out advice. Beginning with your recovery after a defeat. This early on, it’s a sign that throughout the game there will be no one to hold your hand. You’ll have friends, but this task is yours and yours alone.

The game is essentially made of two halves. In each of those pieces it experiments with the formula enough to make most players intentionally uncomfortable. What seems like a three minute walk in the park will most likely be followed by a steep jump in difficulty; leaps of faith are not rewarded, but are occasionally your only means of progress; currency is deemed as an important asset early on though its use is never explained. It’s a game that’s made of riddles, as opposed to presenting them as the challenge. In essence core gameplay can be defined as platform and beat-‘em-up style combat, but in practice it’s clear to see that El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is much less regimented than two labels.

Merging Platforming & Combat

The platform gameplay is fairly traditional at first. Offering a 3D spectrum and double jump combo that stretches the player’s ability a little, this acts almost as a warm-up for the main event. Lead along a linear path, it’s the subsequent 2D gameplay that taxes the player’s dexterity to a much greater degree. Throwing challenges that require perfect timing, swift judgement and even to evaluate the opportunity to reach greater heights without actually pressing the jump button. Once these solid foundations have been laid, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron throws both 2D and more difficult 3D Platform sections at the player with abandon, keeping things fresh throughout its extensive campaign.

The combat is a much more varied affair from the start. Though the player has two inputs for strikes, they both command the same blows. Combos are more dependant on timing than positioning, distance or any other variable. Pressing the combat buttons in a variety of ways will unleash many different manoeuvres to follow each previous blow. The system is so flexible that it’s unlikely anyone will be able to remember every single combination. Learning a few staple combos is enough to pull you through. However, suggesting that the entire game can be completed by just bashing a button is missing the point somewhat. This system offers more opportunity for those so inclined to experiment. When in those positions that a few combos come-up short, you can always rely on the more simple assaults.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron screenshot

Equipped for Battle

There are three weapons available throughout the game (with you bare fists acting as a fourth). Each has its own significant advantages and disadvantages in both the combat and platform sections of the game. The Arch is a swift and aggressive melee weapon with the ability to glide after a double jump. The Gale allows for longer range combat. The Veil is a heavy shield that can be broken into two heavy gauntlets, but will greatly slow you down. You can only carry one weapon at a time, and rarely will you be given the choice. More often than not, the only way to change your weapon is to disarm an enemy. In addition, weapons must be purified by way of a simple press of the left shoulder button. Essentially a reload command, it requires precise timing to avoid taking damage.

On top of all this standard action gameplay comes power-ups and special moves. Both are subtly interwoven into the existing structure. However, the system is so well devised that rarely will the player need to call upon these additional assets. That’s despite having significant impact when they do. This in itself shows the balance of the combat. Teetering delicately on a ridge between entertaining and challenging; fair and demanding.

El Shaddai: Descension into Boss Fights

For all of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron’s precision delivery, there are a number of issues which prevent the game from being a resounding success. The boss fights offer fantastic interludes to the core gameplay experiences. However, the irregularity of their appearance and occasional reappearance will have you questioning which are necessary to defeat. Not only that, but even if some can be defeated at all. The lengthy levels feature some questionable checkpointing, especially those which come before an unskippable cutscene. The dictated camera angle occasionally throws up some poor viewpoints, and can even have difficulty making up it’s mind. Costing you vital health in the process.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron screenshot

Ascendsion in Style

Visually El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is a stunning game. From the bleak whiteness to the metropolitan skyline, the neon ascendance through a watchful tower to the chaotically dull brown crystalline backdrop. Never is El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron anything less than inspirational in its locales. The lead characters are also well presented, regardless of the fact that the localisation of their speech is far from perfect. However, the same cannot be said of the basic enemies. Bland and far too frequently reoccurring, players will get bored with the foes they vanquish far sooner than the task of vanquishing them.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron pulls no punches. It’s a game designed to be as unique in its presentation as the CV’s of the team that designed it. A strong show of support from the core market will surely prove El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron appeals to more experienced gamers in the same way as Killer 7 or Deadly Premonition. However, those less keen to entertain the notion of games stepping beyond the common template aren’t likely to find it too welcoming. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is a gamer’s game, and for all the right reasons.

Categories: Games