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By Spencer . March 1, 2011 . 1:47pm
Based loosely on the book of Enoch, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is a third-person action game that shifts into a 2D platformer. While the game is set on Earth, the defiled world is presented in a trippy watercolor style.
I started my hands-on in Act 3: Ezekiel, a level quite early in the game since Enoch only has two of the three weapons he can use. He started the level, like all levels, with no weapons. Unarmed Enoch can still punch and kick enemies into submission, he just isn’t as powerful. Two of the creatures I fought were wielding the Arch, a weapon that looks like a bow, but is used like a sword. After mashing the attack button with an occasional dodge roll, a blue aura appeared underneath one of the enemies. That was my cue to press L1 and steal the enemy’s Arch. Enoch quickly purified the weapon and now had a whole new set of attacks. Jumping in the air and slashing extended the Arch’s reach as if Enoch had a magic blue whip. This was a useful move since it also moved Enoch out of harm’s way.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron uses a rhythmic combo system. By adding pauses between presses you can change what move Enoch does. Take the Arch as an example, if you press attack, break for a second, and press it again Enoch uses a wide slash instead of a lunge. It’s a subtle system since the game doesn’t show a combo meter or even a life bar (although, the latter is an unlockable option).
After the enemies were defeated, I moved on to platforming in 3D. The abstract art style made some jumps deceptive. There are times black patches represented solid ground. Other times they were holes. If you fall into a pit the game deducts a bit of health and brings Enoch back to the ledge he just fell off. Soon El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron shifted into one of its many 2D areas. There weren’t enemies to fight here, just platforms to leap on. The Arch is a good choice of weapon here since you can use it to glide down to the ground. Some of the jumps are intentionally tricky and impossible to reach even with Enoch’s double jump. There’s a trick to pulling them off though. Fall off a ledge and Enoch gets a third jump, so slipping off a platform and triple jumping can actually take Enoch to higher areas. While Enoch is hopping from one gravity-defying platform to the next, painted waves crash in the background. As a neat touch, the platforms disappear later on and Enoch has to ride the same waves by jumping on them to move on.
Enoch was thrown into a chamber with enemies afterwards. Enemies come in mixes, like one enemy with an Arch and another with the Gale. Purify the Gale to gain a ranged weapon, but since Enoch can only carry one weapon at a time, you have to give up the Arch. The Gale gives Enoch green bullets to throw. These lock-on to enemies so you can retreat while throwing them. If you want to get up close, the Gale gives Enoch a dash attack and a rising attack where all of the Gale blades soar to the sky before crashing to the ground with Enoch’s fist. It’s a nimble weapon, perhaps most effective against Arch users since you can stand out of their reach. One downside to the Gale is it gets defiled faster and it takes longer to purify, leaving Enoch vulnerable to attacks. The system is almost like a holy durability system. Light weapons, like the Gale, have less durability than solid ones like the Arch.
I should have mentioned earlier that enemies in El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron are aggressive. They team up and attack Enoch with spinning dashes and Arch combos. Players have to block or dodge roll around enemies to avoid attacks. Hit block right before an enemy attacks and you’ll enter a parry state giving Enoch a chance to strike back. Get hit and Enoch takes… costume damage. Eventually, you’ll see his shirt and jeans (a gift from the future from Lucifel) torn to shreds and finally shirtless Enoch. That’s a sign that you’re near death. Get hit a few more times and Enoch begins to close his eyes and the screen wipes to black. But, the game isn’t over yet. If you can mash the shoulder and face buttons fast enough you can revive Enoch who will say his favorite phrase: "No problem, everything’s fine."
The build I played had Japanese voice acting and English subtitles. Shane Bettenhausen explained the Japanese version, which comes out next month, will not have English text. The international version will have Japanese and English voice acting plus text localized into six European languages.
I finally reached a steampunk-ish robot holding the last weapon. Lucifel breaks the third wall and mentions the Veil is Enoch’s final weapon. Slow, but strong the Veil acts like two giant shields tied to Enoch’s fists. Being a defensive weapon, the Veil deflects the Gale and you can move while blocking when its equipped.
While it sounds like there is a lot of fighting, it’s possible to avoid many encounters. Pick the Gale as your main weapon and you can fly past enemies with an air dash. Lucifel, breaking the third wall again, taunts players by saying its possible to beat El Shaddai in just eight hours if you’re really good at the game. Expect your first run to be in the twelve hour range, though.
Ignition has not set a date for El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, but hope to release the first game from their Japan studio here this summer.