Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hands-On with El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron

A demo for Ignition's El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron came out today for the Japanese Playstation Store as well as the Japanese XBL Marketplace since its coming out at the end of the month over there with a U.S. release slated for sometime this summer. You probably have not heard much about this game, but some known Japanese developers worked on this game. You may have also noticed the visual style being very colorful and artsy to the point its straight out of Okami. Turns out that some of the art guys that worked on El Shaddai did work on the Capcom/Clover critical hit. The story for this game seems crazy with the religious themes and such, but it is still interesting especially being something that has not really been touched on in today's games.

At its core, El Shaddai is a combat action game with some platforming elements spread throughout the journey. The Okami influences not only are seen in the art design, but in the combat sequences being arena-based with waves of enemies that pose a threat out of the gate and can kill you if you're not careful. The way it controls is not what you expect if you played other Japanese action games like Bayonetta, Devil May Cry, and Ninja Gaiden as it is an one-button attack system. Attacks being centered on one button seems questionable at first as you can be mashy right away, but if you want to do other fancy moves, you have to time your button presses carefully. The weapons have some rock, paper, scissors type of feel to it as mentioned in the Giant Bomb Quick Look I put two or three weeks ago. However, you do start the demo with nothing in which you have to steal enemies' weapons in order to use them. The one you'll use a lot will be the some blade looking thing that glows blue, but glows red after hitting enemies a certain number of times. There's the whole light/dark mechanic to the combat with the blade as it seems that you will do more damage to enemies when lit up. Later on the demo, you can use a projectile-like weapon tossing DMC3 Vergil-like knives at enemies. If you saw the video, you probably noticed there's no HUD and that's true since your character's look is his health and the less clothes you have, you'll probably going to die in a hit or two. However if you die, you can mash some buttons and revive yourself back to the action, but I think you can do it a certain number of times. Its a nice touch considering the checkpoint system is not as generous as seen in most games, but this is a Japanese action game and these type of games love to challenge and frustrate you at times. The core combat system as a whole works fine, but you can't reckless as you can lose health right away if you're not blocking or evading opposing attacks.

Then there's the platforming elements that break up the action up a bit especially in this demo. You can double jump in the game, but the various camera angles can be a little problem trying to judge how far the gap as holding the jump button does increase the floatiness of it, but you don't want to drop down to a bottomless pit as it will result in a loss of health or even death if you're flashing red as seen in shooters. Other than that, these platforming sections do their part especially when jumping on moving clouds in the day/night cycle sequence, which is probably the coolest looking thing you'll see in the demo.

I was pretty impressed with my brief time with El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. Its definitely one of those sleeper hit games that can creep up on you when it comes out here this summer. I might have to spend some more time getting better at the combat encounters and such, but this is definitely worth paying attention to if you're in a mood to play something that is pretty crazy and different. If you have a Japanese PSN or XBL account, give this demo a shot and see if it fits your cup of tea for a crazy action game.

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