It’s time to stop the great flood! Eat that Noah… but really, that is actually the case here. El Shaddai is loosely based off of various religious texts, most notably the ‘Book of Enoch’. Yes, we’re playing a gane based off of a loosely adapted Jewish religious text animated and drawn by the Japanese. Sounds like a bit of a contradiction, doesn’t it?
Let me tell you a tale…
So here’s the story as we know it. God created humanity, and had a divine plan for them. He appointed angels to watch over them. Over time, these angels grew to love humanity and descended to earth and took humanity directly under their wing, forcing evolution and change upon them. They took humanity, and using their power created a haven, a concealed world where the humans they’d taken would live hidden from God – the Tower of Babel. This leads God to decide that he needs to flood the world and start over. This is where you come in. You play as Enoch, a human who was so good that God granted him permission to come to Heaven without even needing to die. He has become immortal, and beloved among Heaven. He hears of this plan and pleads with God to grant him a chance to bring the fallen Watchers back to Heaven and free humanity. God grants him the chance, and he begins his quest watched over by a Guardian Angel who exists outside of time named Lucifel and 4 Archangels named Uriel, Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. And this is where our story begins…
Battling the Fallen
The game is an action game, and as such needs… well… action. That’s where the fallen angels and their servants come in. As you progress through the Tower of Babel, you’ll encounter various different types of enemis wielding different weapons. Enoch has the ability to steal the weapons and use them for as long as he wishes. There are 3 different types of weapons – the gale, the arch, and the veil. The gale is a ranged weapon allowing you to fire small darts(by the way, EVERY game needs a gale; most fun weapon ever), the arch is basically a sword, and the veil is a shield that splits into two gauntlets for hand to hand combat. Weapons will over time become corrupt and need to be purified by Enoch in order to do their full damage. This can be done fairly easily, but it does make you stationary and open to attacks. Stealing weapons automatically purifies them, so you have to balance between purifying your weapon or just stealing a new one which makes for interesting dynamics.
The combat is a very unique one-button style combat based on timing. Using the gale, for example, if you just repeatedly attack you’ll just fire darts over and over again. However, if you wait until just after the dart has finished firing and push again, you’ll instead fire a stream of darts upward creating a line of ‘bombs’ out from you. The combat system is really intuitive, but also has an incredibly deep level of customization, allowing for a lot of different options for handling any situation. I was impressed by the fact that they managed to make one-button combat work so well without feeling boring – the developers should certainly be pleased with that. If you perish in combat, in most places you have a chance to revive yourself by performing a ‘rapid fire recovery’ by spamming buttons on your controller. It gets progressively harder the more times you do it during combat.
Alternating with the standard 3d action sequences are 2d side-scroller platforming sequences. For the most part, the platforming in both the 3d and 2d sequences was fairly easy. A few places the jumping isn’t as responsive as it could be, which lead to a bit of frustration but since the system is so forgiving it really isn’t a huge problem. There were even a few parts where the platforming was a ton of fun, and I enjoyed those parts immensely, so it all balances out.
The game also has a brief ‘racing’ sequence – think the motorcycle game from Final Fantasy 7 and you’ll be pretty close to the mark – that was a big surprise, but quite responsive and entertaining.
From the Apocalypse to….. Tron?
You might have guessed by now that this game is not… how to put it… predictable? Well, the environments will just make it even less so. Ranging from an underwater paradise to what looks like an abstract artist’s dream come true to an obviously Tron-inspired futuristic cityscape… it’s all there. Each floor of the tower is completely distinct from the floor below it, portraying the Watcher who built that floor’s personality. And they’re all absolutely breathtaking. Probably the most amazing moments in this game are those first few seconds after you step into a new stage. The backgrounds and environments are just unbelievable until you’ve seen them yourself. I cannot stress enough just how incredible the art style is for this game. One of the most beautiful games I’ve ever seen.
That isn’t to say the graphics are amazing, in fact in some ways this game is a bit behind the times. The character models are a little less-than-perfect, the enemy animations aren’t very cohesive, and the game doesn’t do a very good job of making distance apparent. But none of that really matters all that much once you get immersed into the game’s incomparable style. Now, if you can’t handle abstract imagery and positively crazy style, then you might find yourself wondering what all the fuss is. But if you have enough of an open mind to lose yourself in the absolutely magnificent piece of artwork that they’ve created, you’ll see exactly what I mean.
The Sound of Angels Singing
Like the video, the audio is very unique. The music definitely sets an appropriate mood for each stage and for each major game moment. With a very orchestral sound and good use of the choir as an instrument, the music definitely has a very ethereal feel to it. Aside from the music, the sound effects of the weapons are all suitable and definitely make the weapons feel like they have appropriate impact and feel for what they are. Certain enemies make some really annoying sound effects, but they definitely add to the overall ambiance of the game. The voicework, on the other hand isn’t all that noteworthy. It’s good, but nothing all that special. None of the voice actors names are familiar to me, but as I have only recently started being really interested in voicework, that may not be indicative of anything.
El Shaddai is an incredibly weird game, one of the weirdest of all time. The strong religious overtones could take away from some peoples’ ability to enjoy the game but the huge changes made to the religious story should override that for most people. The unique one-button combat system combined with the absolutely amazing backdrops and truly fantastic environments make for a gaming experience unlike any you’ll have elsewhere.
- Functional 1-button combat system
- Dynamic weapons allowing for various combat styles to be supported
- Unbelievable backgrounds
- Truly unique art style
- Incredible variety in environments.
- Very fitting and well-made music
- Decent voice acting.
- Sound effects are quite cool.
- Religious overtones could be a deterrent.
- Over-artistic style may not appeal to all.
- Some of the character models are not the best.
- Graphics quality is not up to recent par.
- Game may be too weird for some.
Review Written by: Sean