El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron Demo is as Awesome as its Title is Long
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is an action platformer whose visuals are reminiscent of Okami and whose gameplay is reminiscent of Devil May Cry. This is not surprising considering Sawaki Takeyasu, the art director for both, is the mastermind behind El Shaddai.
According to the official site, the main character, Enoch, is a scribe from heaven trying to prevent a great flood by capturing renegade, probably corrupted angels. Enoch narrates a bit to himself at the beginning, but the rest of the dialog of the demo is taken by an archangel named Lucifel (Lucifer), who speaks on the phone as you pass and is not afraid to break the fourth wall to introduce a boss to you (though you do not get to fight the boss in the demo). It is a rather Clover/Platinum Games-esque narrative, and considering their track record, I am one-hundred percent okay with this.
One can tell from the first playable moment that this game is some kind of artâ€”the whole world looks like a negative, with black surrounding and a white protagonist surrounded by trees made of flame-like clouds or cloud-like flame. Take a few steps forward and a drawn face floats across the screen accompanied by a laughing voice. The world shifts and changes around the character and it never gets boring just to look at. I found myself wanting to rush forward just to see how the environment would shift or just to see what the next screen looked like, since despite the dark silhouette motif everything remains interesting to look at. The demo goes back and forth between 3D eight-way movement and 2D side-scrolling. Platforming exists in both, but the 3D scenes tend to be more combat-focused while the 2D were entirely jumping and moving. It is the side-scrolling segments in which the environment changes the most drastically, in some cases having swirling, wave-like clouds rise from the bottom of the screen to act as solid ground for platforming. It is nothing short of cool to look at, and makes the simple task of walking forward something more than just a way to get from one in-game event to the next. Few times during the demo did I find myself staring at a static worldâ€”there is almost always some kind of movement.
Combat is smooth and fluid, and much like the environment, is fun just to look at and explore. There are really only four button commands in the demo: jump (x), attack ([_]), block (R1), and disarm/charge (L1). Though there is only one attack button, or perhaps because there is only one attack button, stringing combos together is smooth, fluid, and simple. The different attacks and strings of attacks are based on the timing of the button presses, such as how long of a pause is taken between attacks and how long the button is held down. There is a sort of rhythm to making strong combos. Enoch’s attacks are fun to explore and watch, for despite the one-button system there are all kinds of cool things you can do, and discovering a new attack was always satisfying. You start off unarmed, but once you wound an enemy enough you can disarm it with L1, which permanently takes their weapon. You can hold on to it as long as you want, or you can switch it out with another one, but weapons get weaker with use, and every so often must be charged by holding L1, leaving Enoch vulnerable for a bit. It forces players to think a bit before just spamming the basic attack combo over and over, as it will exhaust the weapon quickly, and encourages them to find more efficient ways to use the weapons. At first I thought it might get annoying to have to charge the weapon, but since you can still attack enemies with a worn weapon to knock them away and deal a little damage, it just made combat more tense. Hopefully this affect will not be lost in the full game. There are only two weapoins in the demo: a sort of arched blade thing and a halo with eight floating arrowheads. Both are nothing short of awesome, but I fell in love with the halo weapon almost as soon as I saw it. Its attacks are all beautiful projectiles that you can whip around and fling and spin all over the place. Everything they do leaves a glowing trail behind, and I doubt I will ever get bored with it.
Music is always hard to do justice with words. Put simply, the music fits. It is not some swelling orchestra, nor any sort of instrument, nor is it chip-noises. It is made up entirely of sounds, some of them sound choir-like, but they can not really be described as anything but sounds, and they are always appropriate. Ambient is the best way to categorize it. While platforming between fights, the ambient sound is calm and subtle. During combat, it of course picks up, but it stood out to me because it was not loud or distracting. I cannot stress enough how important that is. Despite the connection and resemblance to Devil May Cry, El Shaddai’s music is exactly the opposite of the music of DMC.
Overall, the demo kept me engaged the whole way through (as demos are wont to do), and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys action games, pretty games, or generally awesome things. As a final note, when this game hits shelves I hope there is an option to turn on Japanese voices, because the main character’s voice in the demo is exactly what I expected it to be.