Whenever we discuss re-propose any multimedia work to a new generation, it is never easy to find the right approach that can try to please both aficionados and possible new audiences. In particular, in the videogame market various companies decide to focus on the opportunities offered by remastered, which can afford “quality of life” additions in order to stem certain problems and facilitate the approach to a product of the past, or the different remakes that reconstruct the original work in a new light thanks to the technologies of the moment. A category that, curiously, may seem the laziest but at the same time the bravest is that of the simple porting, where you take the original source code and bring it back to a new platform without graphic changes or new playful mechanics whatsoever. The game we will talk about in today’s review is part of the latter category described, namely thatEl Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron who knew how to get fans to discuss ten years ago.
The courage of an author
Before talking in detail about this videogame work, it is necessary to make a general historical picture of the project and its director Sawaki Takeyasu. We are in the mid-2000s and this artist has already demonstrated his style and talent through the role of character designer in the first Devil May Cry, Steel Battalion and even with the famous Okami. After the decision to leave Capcom and take an important role in the newborn Ignition Tokyo, a development studio founded in 2007, has been working for years on the work we are analyzing today. In short, already with this brief and superficial analysis of the context it is possible to understand how El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron proves to be a product created with inspiration and passion, a project that is not high-budget but that after well four years of work has resulted in a work that seeks to express Takeyasu’s artistic vision not only through the characters and the game world, but also through his same gameplay. That’s probably why the boys of Crim company ltd, authors and publishers of this port for Steam, have decided to leave the author’s original vision intact. This choice has partially limited the interest behind this operation, but finally allows a new user to live a unique artistic experience.
In this review, we have again seen how the narrative setting of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is strongly inspired by an apocryphal text of the Christian religion, namely the book of Enoch. The protagonist is named just like Noah’s ancestor, or Enoch, and is an immortal scribe to whom God entrusts a dangerous task, to bring back seven fallen angels to the kingdom of heaven. This was obviously not done by pure chance, given that the success of the mission serves to prevent a dangerous flood from destroying the whole of humanity. The proposed script therefore seeks to explore important issues such as religion, the gift of free will, justice, devotion and more, all in a journey that can be completed in about four or six hours of game. Just like ten years ago, unfortunately this element proves itself too much unclear and superficial, leaving the player at various times without a real view of the whole; which is a shame, because what he would actually like to show are strong themes that could reach the hearts of many users but, unfortunately, when you reach the end credits you realize how the production has not been able to fully express its potential. We cannot say the same thing for characters, which, although characterized in an extremely simple way, manage to remain well impressed in the player’s mind through both the character designer and their effect phases. Enoch then proves to be a protagonist who does not speak but full of emotions, as well as his partner Lucifer who remains mysterious and interesting from start to finish.
An enviable scenic presentation
In this review we have found that the purely stylistic element of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron remains still enviable today. In every moment the title tries to surprise the player, offering settings and situations capable of differentiating themselves in every possible and imaginable way. We prefer not to detect you too much to leave intact that feeling of surprise desired by the development team, but we can tell you that even this alone manages to keep curiosity high from the beginning to the end credits. Thanks also to the technique of cell shading, the settings still manage to make a good impression today, unlike the models of the characters who show more their years on their shoulders. Unfortunately, not all that glitters is gold, and even if you notice how the artistic imprint has been put in the foreground, it is the latter that sometimes hinders the user’s life. In some areas it is not immediately understandable to the eye where and how to reach certain places, which are masculine with the surrounding environment, all aggravated by a camera that offers beautiful shots but not very functional in certain situations. Apart from the aforementioned problems, the fact that this re-release leaves the original vision of the product intact shows how even today it can offer a lot to the entire gaming industry.
However, a video game is not made up of only artistic essence, and must have some kind of interactivity that makes it part of this multimedia medium. In this case, Ignition Tokyo’s first and only work is a action game with platform elements where the player will have to explore the paths of each of the eleven chapters featured in the pack while fighting in waves. Unfortunately, exactly like ten years ago, also in this review we have to confirm that El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron did not turn out to be perfect and has several structural problems. To begin with, the combat system is not very thorough and simplistic albeit with some good basic ideas. Enoch is able to use three kinds of weaponry that have the classic difference of the light attack, the heavy one and the ability to hit from a distance. This leads to situations in which it is necessary to understand which is the best to use based on the enemy that is in front of you. Unfortunately, the whole thing works halfway due to a strong imbalance of the paraphernalia which almost always leads to the use of the shield-shaped one.
At the same time, it is not possible to carry out combos or other actions that can adequately differentiate common fights, with an underlying repetitiveness that will make itself felt very quickly. On the other hand, the gimmicks related to having to purify one’s weapons after a certain use are nice, as well as that of stealing them from opponents instead of selecting them normally from any inventory. These offer that little bit of extra strategy in a product that in the end almost exclusively requires you to hit the attack button in order to win the game. Unfortunately, the last feature described leads to a variety of truly common enemies reduced to a minimum, differentiated by design but not by actual attack pattern. Finally, we cannot forget the mechanics of awakening, inserted for narrative reasons. In fact, once we are defeated, the player has the possibility of regaining his strength by pressing certain buttons on the keyboard or controller as quickly as possible. Obviously, it is not possible to abuse this feature too much, and every time we take lethal blows it becomes more and more difficult to wake up. This idea works in the game economy, thus giving a function to Enoch’s immortality, but it all further facilitates an experience that in itself is all too simple of its own. However, there are various levels of difficulty that you can select, although for some it is necessary to wait until you have completed your adventure at least once.
Jumping between one Nephilim and another
Interesting to note even the lack of any HUD in the journey of Enoch. It is therefore not possible to see the life of the enemies, that of the protagonist or all the other characteristics that are marked as in most of the products on the market. Definitely a courageous choice that works perfectly thanks to the visual destructibility of the different characters on the screen, which the player immediately manages to associate with a kind of life bar. However, we point out that, once the credits are reached, several of these omitted elements are inserted in-game, so as to offer a slightly different experience within it. Speaking instead of the more distinctly platforming sections of the production, in-game we will have to follow paths almost always linear, in which the player has to jump from one platform to another, paying attention to find collectibles or secrets of any kind. Everything turns out to be extremely simple and approximate – like the rest of the production -, leaving however that little satisfaction once you reach the end of the section. However, the game designers managed to express Takeyasu’s artistic vision very well, implementing visually incredible settings and situations in the gameplay.
I am another story instead the collectibles, which know how to be well hidden especially in the optional parts set in the dark. To benefit is certainly the replayability for lovers of completism, who will have to work hard to find every secret. Precisely this element should not be underestimated, given that once the credits are reached, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron offers different incentives to start a second run. We prefer not to spoil the whole thing further, but if you are a lover of 100% completism, the production will undoubtedly offer you several more hours of fun. Finally, an honorable mention still goes to the boss battles, which prove to be the most successful part of the whole production. During the adventure the player will meet several, with battles always able to keep the adrenaline high in the body.
Ten years later
So far we have talked about the work itself, but what does this new version produced by Crim look like? As we have already explained previously, instead of some kind of remake or remastered we are facing a real porting of the version originally published in 2011. The gameplay already imperfect at the time it proves so further aged, especially if we consider how the reference genre has evolved over these long years. However, we cannot say the same regarding it the wonderful soundtrack and the effective artistic vision of the work, with the latter element which, although suffering from the folds of time, still manages to surprise the user today. In addition, the technical detail that is anything but exciting allows you to enjoy the gaming experience even on low-end computers, so as to become a product that adapts to an extremely wide audience. We also confirm the support for both the keyboard and the controller, although we recommend the latter to live the experience as it was originally designed. Finally, we point out the presence of a dubbing in English and Japanese with written translation in several languages, including Italian.