As we progress through each generation of consoles, it’s inevitable that some games are going to get left behind. Sometimes servers go down, sometimes companies lose licenses, and sometimes, well…nobody bothers to make a port. That’s no longer the case in at least one instance – we’re now able to play 2011’s PS3/Xbox 360 cult favorite El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron on a modern platform thanks to a PC port, and it’s definitely a trip worth having.
Heaven’s supposed to be a pretty nice place, right? It’s hard to imagine ever wanting to leave, really. There’s even a song about how Heaven is a world where you can skateboard as much as you want and the cops will leave you alone. Apparently that’s not all it’s cracked up to be, because a group of angels called the Grigori have decided to fall from grace and start getting into mischief on Earth. It’s up to Enoch, a human chosen by God, and his incredibly stylish handler Lucifel to bring them back.
El Shaddai leans hard into the surreal. The quest to recapture the Grigori is very much meant to be metaphorical in nature; the areas Enoch visits tend to be seizure-inducing lightshows, for instance, and when you aren’t making your way through the rave dimension you might be platforming a la Mario. All the while, Lucifel spends his time on a cell phone talking about your progress to God. It can be a little tough to wrap your head around what exactly is going on or where you are, but that urge to see what crazy thing is going to happen next is part of the charm of the game.
As for gameplay, while the weird nature of the game means that it’s hard to fully place it, Enoch’s adventure amounts to an extremely bizarre take on Devil May Cry (fitting since both games share Sawaki Takeyasu in their credits). He’s got five actions: attacking, blocking, jumping, stealing weapons from foes or purifying the one he’s already carrying and, some ways into the game, entering a temporary super mode.
While Enoch can fight barehanded, it’s a bad idea, and he’s far better served grabbing one of three divine weapons.
The enemies use the same weapons and the three have a sort of rock-paper-scissors relationship, so if you need to switch things up, you can beat up an enemy and grab their gear to use on their friends.
Rather than the extended and complex nature of DMC, El Shaddai aims for a clean, minimalist sort of combat. You might note I only mentioned a single attack button – that’s because Enoch’s array of moves all amount to varying your combo timing. If you want to break a target’s guard, for instance, you can delay an attack so Enoch hops over them to strike their back. If you need space, holding down the attack button allows you to throw out a powerful charged attack.
“Simple” doesn’t mean “bad” here, as while El Shaddai’s weapon arsenal is fairly limited, figuring out which of the three weapons to use in any given fight and how to best put that weapon to work is pretty satisfying. Likewise, El Shaddai’s boss fights are fantastic, from mighty armored boars to the Grigori themselves.
El Shaddai might not make a lot of sense on the surface, but it’s certainly a wonder to look at. Each new area slaps you in the face with sensory overload. It’s great, really, and it’s very much worth progressing through the game to see it all; El Shaddai’s not especially difficult so even action newcomers should be able to make their way through. This PC port is surprisingly solid, incidentally, with a variety of resolution and graphical options to ensure it’ll run on most systems as well as no obvious bugs.
As one of the games from the seventh generation of consoles that never made a lot of headway since its release, it’s nice to have the chance to play El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron on a modern platform. It’s a strange adventure through biblical apocrypha that’s all about time travel, fancy blue jeans and punching the hell out of bad guys that should appeal to Devil May Cry fans everywhere. If you’ve yet to experience this unique brawler, check it out as you really can’t go wrong.