El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron

Ah thanks for the clarification... *checks shelf and sees Viewtiful Joe and Okami*

I would also recommend it highly. As long as you understand you're not getting God of War here.

momgamer wrote:

I would also recommend it highly. As long as you understand you're not getting God of War here. ;)

And thank God for that.

Stele wrote:

*checks shelf and sees Viewtiful Joe and Okami* ;)

Dammit! I was really hoping someone would have wriggiddey-wrecked themselves in this thread.

Also: why am I not surprised to see momgamer and Minarchist posting in a stylish Japanese game thread?

I would be more worried about it if we weren't.

Speaking of, seems like a good time for an avatar change.

Purchased for 19.99. I suck at this pile thing.

I'm sure I'll be posting in this thread in the next 6 months when I'm cleansing my palette of Mass Effect 3.

Wonky platforming aside, I was quite taken with the demo.

Okay, so let me try and sell this game while it's still on sale. Here's a slap-dash writeup of my experience:

El Shaddai is a game that defies some of the normal classifications. The team has great pedigree, as has been discussed up-thread; and while you can see roots in games like Devil May Cry and Okami, it uses them as a springboard to jump somewhere completely unique. The game plops you down in a setting loosely (very loosely) based on the non-canonical Book of Enoch, with which you may be familiar if you know much about the Dead Sea Scrolls. The general premise is that you (Enoch) have been tasked with going down to earth and "purifying" seven fallen angels who have basically taken over the world, or God will flood the earth again. Very tower of Babel-esque. Your "guide" through this is a pre-fall Lucifel, who converses directly with God using an anachronistic cell phone. Still with me? Good. There are three main aspects of the game to touch on:

The Story

This has gotten knocked by some people, but I think mostly by the types who refuse to use their brain when they're gaming. It's not a spoon-fed story like most AAAs, but neither is it completely emergent like Dark Souls, where almost everything is left to discovery. Kind of a mix of the two. There is the over-arching story, as mentioned above, which takes a lot of interesting twists and turns. Your narrator seems unreliable (that may be projection in my case, but I think he's written that way), and Enoch has a personal relationship with a couple of the characters. In truth, that's what affected me in the story. The relationship between Enoch and Nanna, and Enoch and Armaros, are a very clear and very personal story of redemption told in an endearing and gentle way. Each character, despite minimal text for most, is very clearly written. If you go looking for it, it's a very bittersweet and romantic (in the classical sense) narrative. It's also nice that much of the story is told while you're running around and platforming, so unlike many Japanese games you aren't sitting through hour-long cut-scenes. So again, if you invest in it, you will be richly rewarded. If you're looking for a drive-by story, you will be disappointed.

The A/V Feast

Much has been made of the game's visuals, and with good reason. They are simply stunning; sometimes arresting in their beauty. You can kinda, sorta, maybe get an idea of them from screenshots and videos, but that's kind of like getting an idea of the Great Pyramid of Cheops through a pamphlet. The way the scenes interact, and the way you interact with them...it has to be experienced. They are fresh every level, and despite an incredible disparity they always seem to gel together -- I don't remember seeing any transition that I thought of as jarring. I could run through the stained-glass room or some of the other side-scrolling sections again and again and never get sick of them. This is, simply put, the Most Beautiful Game Ever™. There is also no HUD at all your first time through the game, which adds to the immersion (it's on by default after you beat the game once). Your only cues are armor breaking, either your own or your enemies'...and with a male-dominated game, there's a lot of beefcake in here.

The music, as a companion, is also intriguing. It's atypical for the genre but does a good job of complementing the wildly varying scenery and otherwise staying out of the way. I'm generally pretty hard on game soundtracks, but I rather enjoyed this one.

The Gameplay

The platforming generally works very well in this game. The 2D stuff is spot-on and very responsive. There's some "weight" to the character -- he isn't Mario -- but things are never unfair. The 3D stuff almost always works well, and often during your run-up to a jump you will see the camera pan to the perfect spot to make your jump and then hold still, which is wonderful. Occasionally some of the visuals can impair perfect precision in the 3D world, but that's mostly limited to a single level.

The combat is deep and rich, despite there being a total of three buttons: attack, block, and jump. Combat is very flow- and timing-oriented, with two quick taps of a button giving a different action than a hit, delay, hit, which give a different action than holding a button down. Plus there are combinations. Combat can seem weak and boring on Easy or Medium difficulties, but if you bump it up to Hard or Extra you will be forced to learn its intricacies in order to advance. This is one of those games where you can watch people G-ranking (highest score) the game on Extra difficulty and wonder if you played the same game as them, because what they are doing is completely different from anything you accomplished. That level of depth. Reviewers knocked the combat a lot, but they may have been skipping all the tutorial screens or something...I dunno.

There's a couple places where they'll switch things up on you, including an F-zero-esque racing level that screams by and runs at a rock-solid 60 fps; so it's hard to get bored if you're investing in the system (as mentioned at the beginning of this review).

It's hard to pin down exactly what excited me so much about this game as I played it. The visuals are obvious, but it seems like it was more of an experience than many other games I played. The combination of the visuals, sounds, story, and interspersion of those with the gameplay just felt so...whole. A very cohesive experience. It wasn't that the visuals were great but I stumbled through the story, or the story was good but the gameplay didn't support it, or even that all the elements were good but they didn't mesh together -- the whole thing just felt like a tightly-woven package that took me places I didn't expect a game to take me. So please, let me recommend this game to you if you ever like something a little off-the-beaten-path.

Here's a few interviews with the director. I thought they had some very interesting information in them, and are all worth a read. I like this guy.

One
Two
Three

Those are awesome links (as long as you remember to stay out of the comments on GiantBomb :shudder: ). And the new avatar made the switch while I was reading them. Nice timing.

momgamer wrote:

as long as you remember to stay out of the comments on GiantBomb :shudder:

I don't know what happened over there but the comment section has really nosedived as of late. Which is a shame because the rest of it is entertaining as hell. Great interviews though.

Perhaps this just isn't the type of challenge I am really wired for. I like a lot of games that others find frustrating - Catherine comes to mind, but even with the hectic pace of that game it wasn't so much about fine controller movement and timing as it was about planning and logical progression. I suspect I'm just not so good at combat-oriented titles as my gaming background never really consisted of fighting games and the like. I am nearly done with the game and while it is visually beautiful and the story is intriguing, I am finding the gameplay to be a pain in the ass. How I wish I played on Easy. I believe I would have enjoyed it much more.

Minarchist may have found the depth in the combat but I am close to the end, and really haven't felt like the game has done much to teach the system. I am still often confused as to why one enemy's attack seemed to be blocked or interrupted by a guard and another passed right through my defenses, or vice-versa. If there is depth there it is subtle and the way of tapping into it is poorly communicated to the player.

There are also a couple immensely frustrating platforming sections. Whoever thought it was a good idea to place a semi-transparent static image over the realm of Belial should be kicked in the nuts. Artistically motivated or not, it served as a recipe for eyestrain and frustration.

I would definitely agree that it was poorly taught in some cases; this may be due to poor or simply obtuse translation. Though it does give some more specific hints, usually it's just "here are the buttons! Try different timings and combinations of them!", which is not all that helpful to someone who just wants to be told what to do.

You can block in this game, and it can be tolerably effective on the lower difficulties, but really it's all about parrying. Parrying is done by hitting the block button (RB or R1) at the same moment as the enemy's attack strikes. An easy place to figure this out is where they give you the tutorial on how to parry, because there are two arch-wielding enemies who telegraph their attacks well and usually only come at you one at a time. Parrying is critical for the human form of the fallen angels, and everything can be parried -- I discovered this on accident once when I parried Sariel's "column of doom bats shooting out of the ground" attack. The bosses are even better, because they have very specific telegraphs for each of their attacks, and the game is kind enough to help you learn them in short, meaningless battles with those bosses early-on that you can win or lose.

The other crucial technique is guard break. When you press attack, if the enemy guards, you can continue attacking them to no avail. However, if you attack, it's guarded, and you wait a beat then attack (we're talking maybe a second), you'll perform a really cool and powerful attack that will break their guard and allow you to get some easy hits in, and from observing the HUD that turns on after you beat the game I think these guard-break hits are even more powerful as far as health drain. You can usually tell you peformed this because the game will slow down and zoom in for just a second. With the arch, I think you flip over their heads and smack them from behind; the veil is a big pound; and I think the gale is where you shoot them all in a big arc over your head to rain down missiles upon your enemy.

There are other important combinations to learn. You've probably already discovered that pressing attack and block together performs a special attack (usually to drive enemies into the air), and that block and jump together are a special "move" that changes depending on the equipped weapon. But your attack also changes if you hold the attack button down, if you press it rapidly and repeatedly, if you jump and hold attack down, if you jump and press block/attack simultaneously, if you jump and hold block/attack simultaneously...there are a ton of different moves that can be very helpful (like say, isolating an enemy in the air to give them a beat-down without the others breaking your combo) with only the three buttons you have at your disposal. As I mentioned earlier, it is very much a rhythm-based combat game.

So if you like to explore and mess around with things, the sense of discovery and subsequent feeling of power are awesome, and almost unmatched in today's game culture. However, since our modern diet mostly consists of games that tell us exactly what everything does and in what situations it's best to use those options, I agree it can be a bit bewildering.

As to the Chapter 8 overlay...yeah, that kinda sucked. I struggled with it the first time. Oddly enough, though, on my Extra difficulty run and subsequent easy run of that level to finish it without dying or falling off, it was pretty easy. I guess you get used to it in fairly short order. Just remember that he always has the floating ability that Enoch has when equipped with the arch, and take out the damn boxing-glove birds in short order.

Addendum: In discussing the above post with RoughneckGeek, who I also talked into playing the game (hehehe), I was reminded of watching a video or two of a crazy Japanese guy G-ranking (highest rank) a stage on Extra difficulty and thinking, "It's like this guy isn't even playing the same game I played." There really is a ton of depth to this system, but they really simplified the control scheme while presenting that depth -- one of the interviews I linked to above mentions this. There's no hand-holding and often times the clues that help the most are subtle and easy to overlook.

So what you're saying is I'm just too dumb and lazy to appreciate this game...

[size=6]That's probably true[/size]

imbiginjapan wrote:

So what you're saying is I'm just too dumb and lazy to appreciate this game... :drool:

No no, but if you aren't an explore-everything completionist whore it may not click.

Here's a list of controls that I found. I forgot to mention that the hold-down-attack is a counter-attack -- if an enemy has you in a nasty combo, you can hold down attack to break it. You'll take a couple hits in the interim, but it's very helpful.

EDIT: I should note that that is by no means a complete list, and certain button combinations will have different purposes depending on the weapon you have equipped. It's pretty deep.

Finally picked this up. Had a little leftover $$ on a gamestop gift card so at $14 it was a steal. Looking forward to firing it up once I finish my second MassEffect3 run. Super excited.

Just popping in. I'm a few hours in and I really dig it. It's a great example of minimalism in games. And the art style(s) is/are beautiful.

I could do without the "Darkness" levels though. Those kinda suck.

Aaaaaaaaaand done. ~12 hours. My early impressions still carry weight. No other game looks like this. Tremendous art direction. Would love to play another.

nel e nel wrote:

I'm sure I'll be posting in this thread in the next 6 months when I'm cleansing my palette of Mass Effect 3.

Wonky platforming aside, I was quite taken with the demo.

And here I am! Ended my premiere play session at the start of Chapter 2, right after I discovered the Tower. I'm assuming time passes differently as I only played for an hour or so, yet 300 years have passed in the game world.

Some of the best opening credits I've seen in a while.

nel e nel wrote:
nel e nel wrote:

I'm sure I'll be posting in this thread in the next 6 months when I'm cleansing my palette of Mass Effect 3.

Wonky platforming aside, I was quite taken with the demo.

And here I am! Ended my premiere play session at the start of Chapter 2, right after I discovered the Tower. I'm assuming time passes differently as I only played for an hour or so, yet 300 years have passed in the game world.

Some of the best opening credits I've seen in a while.

It only gets crazier, man. It only gets crazier.

I wish the gameplay clicked for me like the setting and visuals did. I could never get into the system... console fighting action games were never a genre I played much in my formative gaming years and I never came to grasp the nature of the action in this one. If I had more intuition in that realm I suspect I would have enjoyed it more.

Minarchist wrote:

The Story

This has gotten knocked by some people, but I think mostly by the types who refuse to use their brain when they're gaming. It's not a spoon-fed story like most AAAs, but neither is it completely emergent like Dark Souls, where almost everything is left to discovery. Kind of a mix of the two. There is the over-arching story, as mentioned above, which takes a lot of interesting twists and turns. Your narrator seems unreliable (that may be projection in my case, but I think he's written that way), and Enoch has a personal relationship with a couple of the characters. In truth, that's what affected me in the story. The relationship between Enoch and Nanna, and Enoch and Armaros, are a very clear and very personal story of redemption told in an endearing and gentle way. Each character, despite minimal text for most, is very clearly written. If you go looking for it, it's a very bittersweet and romantic (in the classical sense) narrative. It's also nice that much of the story is told while you're running around and platforming, so unlike many Japanese games you aren't sitting through hour-long cut-scenes. So again, if you invest in it, you will be richly rewarded. If you're looking for a drive-by story, you will be disappointed.

I was thinking about this today as I was reading the manual (which is a rarity these days as it actually has some story and character background in addition to all of the - rather detailed - combat and gameplay information), and I'm wondering if the reason alot of reviews had issues with the obtuseness of the story is because they had review copies which did NOT include the manual. I could easily see jumping straight into the story without reading those few pages as being a bit more of a mystifying experience.

At it's core, it's a pretty straightforward video game plot, not unlike Dante's Inferno: go defeat these 7 bosses, and save the world from imminent destruction.

nel e nel wrote:

At it's core, it's a pretty straightforward video game plot, not unlike Dante's Inferno: go defeat these 7 bosses, and save the world from imminent destruction.

I would argue that what you list is the superficial story, but the underlying story, the "meaning" of the game if you will, is quite different and very universal, dealing with themes like duty vs. justice, the nature of freedom, friendship, redemption, and

Spoiler:

fatherhood,

with a sprinkling of Dostoevsky's "The Grand Inquisitor" thrown in for good measure. That's the part that takes a bit more peeking behind the curtains to see. But as you're only in chapter 2 you won't really have seen any of this yet; they're just laying the groundwork.

Minarchist wrote:
nel e nel wrote:

At it's core, it's a pretty straightforward video game plot, not unlike Dante's Inferno: go defeat these 7 bosses, and save the world from imminent destruction.

I would argue that what you list is the superficial story, but the underlying story, the "meaning" of the game if you will, is quite different and very universal, dealing with themes like duty vs. justice, the nature of freedom, friendship, redemption, and

Spoiler:

fatherhood,

with a sprinkling of Dostoevsky's "The Grand Inquisitor" thrown in for good measure. That's the part that takes a bit more peeking behind the curtains to see. But as you're only in chapter 2 you won't really have seen any of this yet; they're just laying the groundwork.

Absolutely agree about some of the underlying themes. I also went on a research rampage when this game was first announced, reading up on The Book of Enoch. I was also familiar with the concept of the nephilim and the fallen angels (hey, I saw The Prophecy II), so I'm fully expecting alot of those themes you mentioned.

EDIT: I would also posit that these themes are foreshadowed with the setup. They aren't new, and pretty much seem to go hand-in-hand with these types of storylines.

About 1/3 of the way through now, and just realizing that there is a theme of evolution as well to this game with the Nephilim and whatnot.

Googling 'enoch ishtar' yielded a website dedicated to biblical evidence of the belief in evolution, with one entry focusing on the story of Gilgamesh and his parentage. It's a bit tin-foil-hattery, but it was an interesting find nonetheless.

http://www.jesusbelievesinevolution....

Seeing as the Book of Enoch is a contested entry into various versions of the Bible, it makes me wonder if there are other books out there with more stories about this subject that have been selectively removed over the millennia.

So obviously on sale right now at Newegg for $9.99

After reading a few more reviews I still decided to pass for now, and maybe for good. A lot of complaints about platforming and fighting the camera. I just suffered through a bunch of that while playing LEGO Batman and am not eager to repeat the experience.

I'm trying to finish this during the off-week in the release schedule, and ran into a peculiar problem. I ran into the same problems with the game that imbiginjapan did, originally. Always bums me out when I'm the guy that makes a thread and never plays the damn game.

My old save was at the boss of the third chapter, the two armored boars. Somewhere in the middle of the fourth level, I got an achievement for killing 50 of Sariel's Lovers (wispy ghost-women) and from that moment on the game hitched after each enemy died, between half a second and two seconds every time. Very frustrating. The thread I found on GameFAQs about this suggested reinstalling the game (I'm playing on a disc, with it installed), and if it persists to restore my gamertag and clear my 360's cache.

Anyone else run into this issue?

I'm on the final boss.

Why do I never

Spoiler:

fight Semyaza? I mean, the game says "Let's go take out Semyaza" and you just fight Azazel again.

At the risk of sounding like a simp, too many areas of the game's narrative make no damn sense. Another one..

Spoiler:

We head to Arakiel's level, only to find that he's dead. So here, fight this rehash of the level 3 boss again. I understand that Ezekiel was a loose string, but why bother having a level for Arakiel in the first place if you're just not going to deal with him? Talking to Minarchist, I figured maybe there's something about Arakiel they wanted to convey via level design, but ... it comes across as just another example of the game shooting for artistic, missing, and hitting obtuse instead.

Generally I've not had a good time with the game. My feelings are almost directly opposite to those toward Gravity Rush. In GR, a lot of the individual systems are half-baked or clumsy, but it coheres well enough to be endearing in spite of all that. With El Shaddai, the combat is pretty good (too much of it, though), the visuals are often stunning and usually at least intriguing, and the level design is clever, but there's not enough connective tissue. It feels like the whole experience is too fragmented to accurately express my feelings on the game.

Edit: Alright, so my first complaint was remedied. But still!

Just finished this game, really strange trip. Worth it probable just for the atmosphere and visuals alone. It's got more style in it's menus than most games have. It is definitly going to be a love it or hate it for most. The platforming is something you will never enjoy in the game, bearable at best. The combat takes quite a while to grok, once I understood it, I started to really enjoy it. The story, well I'm gonna go read an explanation for it cause I still don't understand a lot of it. Still liked the story oddly enough. The characters are fantastic, whoever did lucefel needs a raise.

Really worth the time if you get a chance.