Nowadays games like to play it safe. Things like narrative, controls, gameplay and graphics all exist to appease the average gamer. Every so often however a piece of software comes along that is so outrageously against the grain, that even the most middle ground of mainstreamers find it difficult to ignore, El Shaddai is definitely one of them.
As of now El Shaddai's quirkiness is yet to hit Western shores, with it due to arrive on the 9th September. Pocket-lint however were lucky enough to give a few levels of the game an extra early play through.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
What platform is it on?
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
When's it due out?
9 September 2011
What other game is it like?
Umm nothing really....Okami, Devil May Cry
Does it use any new tech like 3D, PlayStation Move or Kinect for Xbox 360?
El Shaddai is the directorial debut of legendary game artist Sawaki Takeyasu, known for his work on titles like Okami, a beautiful cell-shaded RPG involving an adventuring dog. It uses extremely intuitive rhythm based controls, varied gameplay and quite frankly one of the most outrageous story and art directions we have seen. Expect plenty of 'only in Japan' moments as you lead Enoch, the games lead, on his quest.
To kick things off on a quirky note, the game is very loosely based on the dead sea scrolls. Lead character Enoch has been told he needs to track down seven fallen angels otherwise a massive flood will destroy mankind. Lucifel, a sort of pre-cursa to the devil himself, helps Enoch out on his quests by doing things like chatting to god on his mobile phone and keeping him posted on progress. Archangels Rafael, Uriel, Gabriel and Michael all also chip in on the epic quest which from what we played appears to involve ascending the tower of Babel through various different stages. Story-wise things are pretty much a bizarre as they get, so expect a full play through before we can offer a proper insight into characters and the like.
Trailers, demos and video
Our first impressions
It is difficult to describe exactly what it feels like to play a game like El Shaddai. On the surface it appears so bizarre and so stripped down in terms of controls, that there doesn't feel like there is that much to go on. After about five minutes of play time however we realised that the depth needed was definitely there, it was just that we were rubbish at playing it.
El Shaddai uses a single button for combat, responding to rythmic presses and button-hold modifiers in order to tweak moves. Your character Enoch has to steal enemies' weapons in order to battle against them and each has a very different feel to it; some are ranged, some close combat, other quick, others slow. Different enemies carrying different weapons will often surround you, forcing you to choose which item to use and when. The more enemies you hit, the 'dirtier' your weapons becomes, losing power constantly and forcing you to tap L1 when you want to 'purify' it. This must be perfectly timed otherwise you are left entirely open to enemy attacks. It feels like a combination of the combat timing of Devil May Cry and the ultra inventive battles of Okami. Once you nail the combat style and begin to realise just how deep the move-set goes, it becomes a very fluid and enjoyable gaming experience.
The gameplay however isn't just about combat, switching between complex platforming sections with mind-bending graphics that force you to take massive amounts of care when making leaps of faith. Both side scrolling and third person platforming areas exist, with the demo we played putting us through both. A particular highlight was using clouds to surf between vast chasms in what appeared to be a sort of 1960s version of Pink Floyd's idea of heaven.
The graphical style is so out there in fact that it becomes enjoyable playing through the game if only to see what sort of bizarre character creation or landscape comes next. To give you an idea, we had about 30 minutes of play time, during which we saw Lucifiel chat on a mobile phone, a giant baby in a sort of nappy outfit with interesting facial features, our lead characters' armour smash off to reveal a pair of Edwin jeans and faceless goblin-men leaping about in sumo towels.
Things came to an end far too quickly for us, especially when hints were dropped at what gaming treats lay in store later on. El Shaddai felt like a game that totally reinvents itself at every possible turn, keeping fresh and inventive whilst maintaining a highly addictive approach to gameplay. From what we have played we expect the risk will be worth it on 9 September, but until things have been put through their paces completely, it is impossible to know.