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El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron

( Well, that was certainly awesome.) I'd try to create some type of contrast between this and Duke Nukem Forever, but it's been a few weeks since I've touched that, and El Shaddai's good enough on its own. Again: awesome. I probably wouldn't have thought that when I first got the game; I just wanted to make a few Transformers jokes (remember, I played this game solely because of this video), but after having played this game, I wouldn't have been surprised if Metatron jumped in for a racing mini-game while singing this with this voice. Hell, I wouldn't have been surprised if El Shaddai invented a Transformers character named Metatron just for that, even if Metatron is a character already. It's the most insane goddamn game I've played this year, and probably the best.
 
Wait, Metatron, Japanese anime girls, insanity....HOLD ON A SECOND! Let me warn you right away that this insanity has absolutely nothing to do with it being Japanese (I think it's Japanese; the only two voice options are English and Japanese). If anything, I'd blame it on the religious aspects, because they are heavy. The game starts with a textbook douchebag (seriously, look) by the name of Lucifel telling us about the game's story. It takes place anywhere between 14,000 and 360,000 and concerns itself with Professor Brothers angel Enoch. (Given those two pictures, it's no surprise that I found a lot of yaoi when I Googled Lucifel.) He's being sent down to Earth to whack some sense into some other angels who decided to create....I'm not exactly sure what the hell they created. The important thing is that the plot isn't too important. In fact, until about chapter 8ish, there really isn't a plot to speak of. Oh, sure, there are cutscenes and end-chapter plot recaps and stuff, but that doesn't mean there's a plot. For that to happen, the events need to connect in a meaningful way. That doesn't happen. (Oh, and that's not at all a criticism. I'll tell you why later.) But wait: if there's no plot, then how the hell is there sy...er, how are there themes? OK, a theme, and one that it does pretty well: love. Remember those Fallen Angels from before? They created that...whatever...because they love humans so damn much, both physically and emotionally. Unfortunately, God's not into that hippie crap, so he comes off as a bit of an asshole. Think about it: he made the spawn of angels/humans a Kirby penis doomed to kill itself (that's how much he hates love), and I don't remember Lucifel ever ending one of his phone calls with the guy with, "Yea, I love you, too." Speaking of Lucifel, at one point in the story, he sees one of the Fallen Angels sobbing over his friend having plunged into the deadly darkness. Lucifel's response? Call him an asshole and question the validity of his sorrow. Did I mention that Lucifel's an utter douche? (Oh, and I'm pretty sure that that's not a mistranslation of Lucifer; he's in pretty good standing with God, even without the love.)
 
  Oh, shit. Is Lucifel reading this blog on the mobile site? You know what? Fuck it. He's giving me all the evidence that I could ever need.
 Oh, shit. Is Lucifel reading this blog on the mobile site? You know what? Fuck it. He's giving me all the evidence that I could ever need.
But again, that doesn't matter. None of that matters in any sense of the word "matters". Remember when I said that this was the most insane goddamn game I've played? I wasn't exaggerating for comedic effect. Or any effect, really. This game is just too insane to put into words. There's absolutely zero cohesion with...anything. The only thread uniting this is "God and stuff." That may sound lazy, but El Shaddai simply doesn't give a fuck. The only thing it cares about is not making sense to you in any way whatsoever. What's that? You're starting to come to terms with how insane this game is? You're making sense of it? Well, then...nipples. Nipples everywhere. And not even in a sexual fashion, like Duke Nukem Forever. Just walls of nipples, staring at you...forever staring at you. That's what El Shaddai does: it changes things up in the strangest of ways just as soon as you're beginning to understand it. In fact, I actually wrote down little summaries of the levels about halfway through the game, when I first understood that this insanity was permanent. I wish to stress that absolutely none of the following words are jokes. Let me begin: first, I wrote down that one level is pretty much Kirby if he sucked up a dildo and lit himself on fire. Oh, we're just getting started. After that, Enoch dresses up like Isaac Clark, jumps on a motorcycle, and begins ripping off Final Fantasy VII in unimaginable ways. Just like in Final Fantasy VII, it's goddamn awesome. Then this, because why the fuck not? Next up is a platforming sequence that can best be described as "what happens when Super Mario Galaxy makes furious love to the Mad Madam Mim part of Lords of Shadow" (that's too many Don Bluth jokes for one blog). Then lunch, then you jump through Q*Bert Land, followed up by a fight against the aforementioned alligator. Finally, the credits, where it turns out that the people in charge of localizing this game were called The Mustard Corporation. Oh, El Shaddai. You are only consistent in how ludicrously crazy you are.
 
Meanwhile, the game is just assaulting your eyeballs with more types of crazy than the DSM-IV cares to record. Just try to count all the crazy art styles El Shaddai tries out. I couldn't, because my eyes burst into flames around chapter 2. (More religious symbolism, I take it?) It mixes and matches all of these surreal techniques and styles in  a way that I don't think I've seen in any game before. You have your cel-shading (wait, look at the title...Is it actually called Cel Shaddai? Oh, UTV Ignition, you magnificent bastards), your Bahamut Lagoon-esque filter craziness, some weird experimenting with shapes and lighting and stuff, and a bunch of other things. If there's a Photoshop filter to be found, then El Shaddai has probably based an entire level around it. Oh, but don't think that this game only looks good artistically. What? You think that? Go to my last blog and look at how awful Duke Nukem Forever looks. I'd say that I just think this game looks good because I'm fresh off Duke Nukem, but two things: first, I haven't played that game since September 3rd. Second, El Shaddai just looks good on its own. Kinda. I'd demonstrate with a screenshot, but oddly enough, none of the screenshots on the site do this game justice. None are as smooth as Enoch's perfectly rendered ass is in-game. Also, none are animated GIFs, so you can't see all the fluid animation and other things I like. In short, I want to fondle Enoch's smooth ass in all the right ways.
 
 It's like a far better version of Okami! (Again, I can sense disapproval from Lucifel. And again, I don't care in the slightest.)
It's like a far better version of Okami! (Again, I can sense disapproval from Lucifel. And again, I don't care in the slightest.)
Oh, why have I not mentioned the gameplay yet? Well, I guess it may be due to just how many gameplay styles are on display (again, I was dead serious about those Don Bluth jokes). For now, let's focus on the most obvious: the Devil May Cry combat. Again: I was not joking in any way when I said that Enoch had to "whack some sense into some other angels." He has a lot of options for whacking those angels about. He has a sword, a shield, some peashooter thing....that's it. But trust me, you can build up some pretty awesome combos with these...on their own. Unfortunately, there's no mixing and matching of weapons, but for one good reason (again: none of these are insults). That reason? Weapon stealing. Slap an enemy about enough, and you can steal their weapon. It's actually a bit more awesome than I'm making it out to be. How, you ask? How do you ask? Anyway, first up is the flow. Remember what I said about the graphics being smooth and fluid and all those other nice words? It all applies to the combat, too. There's a great satisfaction to be had in jumping from enemy to enemy, eviscerating their very being, and getting your ass knocked against the wall. As it turns out, combat actually requires some amount of skill. You know, reading enemy patterns and timing dodges and stuff like that. I'd say that this goes for bosses, too, but some of them don't really have any noticeable patterns. Oh, they have attacks you can dodge, but they don't use them in some sort of special pussy order. You'll just have to learn how to dodge their attacks, which probably explains why I got my ass kicked so much. But you know what? I'm OK with that. You know why? You lose some of your armor with each major hit, eventually leaving you with a shirtless blond boy with washboard abs and denim jeans. I am just fine with that. Alright, I have to end this paragraph somewhere.
 
So I guess platforming is up next, right? Where should I start? 2D or 3D? Because it has both, and they're both pretty damn cool. I guess 2D is up first, mainly because it's just so damn unexpected in a game like this. Oddly enough, the more I reflect on it, the more I find it to be pretty standard. Sure, you're jumping through bouncy, cutesy levels in a game that doesn't really commit to bounciness nor the properties of being cute, but that's just eye candy. At the heart of it, you're just playing through some pretty decent platforming levels. Nothing more, nothing less. If you want some of the cool shit, upgrade a single dimension. That's where all the crazy "read paragraphs three and four again" stuff happen. I've already mentioned the "Gabriel's sexiness+Mario's excellence=Enoch's sexyllence" level, but there's so much more to it. You know, like Carnival Night Zone "jumping makes me go up" platforms, that Q*Bert stuff, something vaguely ripped from the world of Castelian, and perhaps a more obscure reference than that. The only real complaint I can lodge against all of this is that it's a bit forgiving. Did you fall off the platform because you're a stupid bastard? Don't expect El Shaddai to use such crass language (Duke Nukem Forever certainly would); instead, expect it to stick you back on that platform, maybe with some health (read: clothes) taken away. It's like they're rewarding you for all that! In fact, fuck that criticism; a world where my failures are rewarded with a half-naked Enoch is a world I would be happy to inhabit.
 
Of course, not all can be perfect. Finally, this is the paragraph where I (softly and very timidly) insult this Metatron's ascension. First up, the lips sometimes don't match what the characters are saying..........That was a fucking terrible insult. I know I've a better one waiting for this game. How about "progress in this game is pretty confusing"? Yea, that'll work. Turns out that all that eyeball exploding confusing has a dark side: not knowing if you're advancing the game. Part of the problem is the narrative: it says that some levels are kinda optional, so you come to think that you're only playing some of these levels because you kinda chose to at some point early on. I know that it sounds weird, but I guess it's something where you had to play the game to understand. Let's avoid that with the next point: kinda boss battles that have the same problem. In fact, a lot of the time, El Shaddai just boots you out of these into the confusing parts I explained earlier this paragraph. It's not even a skill thing; sure I got my ass kicked fairly hard before being booted into some of these levels, but other times, I was doing fine. I took a couple of hits, but I knew for certain that the boss du jour was taking many more hits. Yet at some point, the game decided that it had enough of this shit and dropped me in those awesomely crazy platformy/combat parts. Meanwhile, you have all these elements that are either improperly explained or never brought up at all. Of course, I'm talking about the meter on the pause screen and the scores. The former serves no immediately clear purpose, while the latter seems to exist only in the pages of the manual, or New Game +. I'd call all of this a lengthening tool, but the game's kinda short at 12 chapters long. I managed to plow through it over the course of three days. But again, none of that matters. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this game is awesome. I could go the traditional writer route and just parrot off everything I said before, but I'll just say this: El Shaddai has one of the best achievements in the incredibly brief history of achievements. It may not look like much at first, since it's just for getting all the achievements (a hard task when almost all of them are secret), but the name completely justifies it: Lord of the Metatron. I'll just leave this link here and let nature take its course.
 

Review Synopsis

  • Have you ever seen an episode of Regular Show? You know how each episode has that one moment where you can pinpoint when things went totally off-the-wall? Imagine if somebody made an entire game around that concept.
  • How do you manage to combine Devil May Cry and Kirby? Outline the logic that made this possible.
  • Its only flaw is that its flaws fucking suck at bringing the game down.
  • Here's a fun drinking game: take a drink every time I say "again." That "again" counts, as does that one.
 
 
 
 
For those who have not played El Shaddai, but would still like the El Shaddai experience:
  
  

Silent Bomber

( Wait, something about this feels a bit familiar.) No, I'm only kinda talking about the last blog I wrote, where I spoke of a PS1 game alongside an Xbox 360 one. Instead, it's just about how, again (drink up), both of these games feel kinda oddly similar. Oh, I forgot to introduce the game I was talking about. Silly me. Anyway, it's Silent Bomber, an action game from the fine people behind...Tail Concerto? Really? That Tail Concerto? Well, at least it's better than Tail Concerto.
 
But about as ridiculous, give or take. Imagine Metal Gear Solid, only set on a space battleship in the future. Allow me to explain: there's a war going on, and there's this battleship that needs destroying. Enter Jutah (pronounced you-tah (likely a typo)), hardened war badass extraordinaire. He heads in to destroy it, but shit goes downhill before the beginning of the damn mission. The rest of the game consists of two things: figuring out specifically why things went downhill so fast, and pushing things uphill, and then down the other side of the hill. Hopefully, something explodes at the end of it. (More on that later.) All that entails is a stupid yet enjoyable action movie with just as much cinema as Metal Gear Solid (see what I meant before?). And I do mean stupid. For example, there's a line about chess at the beginning of the game. Somehow, that's enough of a reason to have a chess level at the end. I will say, though, it's much better than the chess level in Shining Force II. Actually, the reason is that the villain says so. Speaking of the villain, the big twist is that he's...an obscure anime villain? (Given the El Shaddai segment, I should have gone with this instead.) Wait, I meant "and I do mean enjoyable" all the way back there. Just take those things I said before and add the cinematic part. Dear god, this game is cinematic, but in all the right ways. Who would have thought that a PS1 game could have actual mouth movements when characters are talking? (I'd have said "competent voice acting", but, uh...) Not even Metal Gear Solid had that! Hell, not even Metal Gear Solid looked this good. I'd call Silent Bomber the best looking Playstation game ever, but Dino Crisis is better, as are a few other games, so it'll have to settle for one of the best, instead.
 
  I didn't know that lack of emotion and hating murder were
 I didn't know that lack of emotion and hating murder were "screwed up."
Yet despite all that stuff, this is not a movie, but a video game. However, they both have one thing in common: a deep-seated love of explosions. In fact, that's what Silent Bomber is all about: not-at-all silent explosions. Your only means of attack is to throw bombs at enemies, which is actually a cooler process than I'm making it out to be. There's a certain rhythm to shoving bombs on an enemy and jumping out of the way to separate their small intestine from the rest of their bodies. (Wait, most of the enemies are robots.) Imagine if somebody based an entire game around the parts of Duke Nukem Forever where you could throw C4 on enemies. Only add some other forms of C4, like napalm C4, gravity C4, electric C4,...wait, no, that's it. But there's decent enough strategy to be had with that small amount of weapons. Should you make a wall of napalm and wait, or make a wall of regular-ass bombs and wait? (I'd say the same of the RPG system, but it's kinda confusing and the best strategy is always "SHOOT MORE BOMBS FROM ANYWHERE!".) But don't think that it's all explosions (even though it should be). You also get some platforming! It's not particularly good or anything. Moving right along, you also get a grading system. (Kinda like El Shadai?)  You know, like in Sonic Adventure! Only unlike Sonic Adventure, the grading system in this game is ridiculously harsh. Most of the levels angrily handed me a D for my efforts, and no, I'm not going to make a joke about how stupid I am. I'm not even sure how the grading system works; I'd blast through one level for a D, but spend twenty grueling minutes on another for a B. Is it based entirely on how much I suffered?
 
Actually, now that I think about it, this is a perfectly challenging game. Oh, wait, it's just a challenging game. You don't even need to go for the greatest scores like an anachronistic obsessive-compulsive madman to experience it. Remember what I said about the rhythm? Often times, it's interrupted by taking a stray bullet to face or something like that. Hell, it doesn't even have to be from the enemy you're trying to kill; there are just that many enemies to go around. In fact, I'm fairly certain that that's where Silent Bomber gets a lot of its difficulty: tons of enemies. It just gets tedious and cluttered after a while. Things get especially bad in one of the later missions where you're expected to defend one of your teammates from dinosaurs. Too many dinosaurs. When you think you've got rid of one, another shows up just to spite you. That is not how you're supposed to make a game difficult. Boss battles are better about it, though. It's just you and the boss, so if you get hit in the face with enough lasers to gain X-ray vision (or go blind; I don't know a lot about human anatomy), that shit's on you. No blaming it on a billion robots deciding to use you as practice for the inevitable robot uprising.  By now, I'd have called the game out for being short at 14ish missions over two hours (especially with the difficulty thing from before), but I'm not really angry about that. It's got enough variety to keep things interesting, and I never have anything against the concept of exploding everything that there is in the worlds to explode. I'd make a comparison to Metal Gear Solid again, since it's like that but with explosions (especially in mission #6, which was unsubtly ripped from Metal Gear Solid 1), but I'm not sure that would do it justice. I was never really a fan of the explodey bits of Metal Gear Solid games. I might as well end things here before I start rambling on about fat people on roller blades.
 

Review Synopsis

  • It's like Metal Gear Solid in space. Also, bears disappear in Ikebukuro or something. I'm a bit muddy on the details.
  • Is there anything to hate about explosions....in video games?
  • I never thought I'd say this, but there are sometimes too many things to blow up.

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