El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron HD Remaster Review

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron HD Remaster Review

The original El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron was a cult classic 3D hack’n slash game that melded genres. There were sequences where the gameplay shifted from 3D to 2D platforming and some walking-sim moments where the experience relaxes from the storms of intense action.

When it was new, El Shaddai failed to stand out in the crowd of the steady flow of action games coming out in the 2010s. Between Castlevania: Lords of Shadows, Dante’s Inferno, the Devil May Cry series, Ninja Gaiden games, and Darksiders, it was inevitable that this arty action game with deliberately minimalistic mechanics would fall by the wayside. Those who did play it would never forget its timeless and stylish visuals and the sheer variety it had.

Today, a game like El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron makes more sense to gamers than it did in the 2010s on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. Gamers are more open to experimental action games with unique art styles and unconventional narratives. How does this surreal interpretation of the apocryphal Book of Enoch hold up today? Does the Nintendo Switch conversion hold up? Find out in our El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron HD Remaster review!

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron HD Remaster
Developer: Crim Co., Ignition Tokyo
Publisher: Crim
Co., Gamera Games, UTV Ignition Games
Platforms: Windows PC, PlayStation 3 (as El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron), Xbox 360 (as El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron),  Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: April 28, 2024
Price: $29.99 USD

It’s the Old Testament and God’s creations; angels who were tasked to oversee humanity are restless with human evolution. These entities decide to take it upon themselves to give humans a little push by giving them God’s wisdom. The humans become Nephilim, angel-human hybrids and this upsets God so badly that he must reset the world by flooding it… but before he can do that, he tasks Enoch to bring back the wayward council of angels that betrayed him.

Enoch was originally just a scribe but the Lord knows he is the one to teach these angels a lesson the hard. Going along for the ride is Lucifel, a Grigori who is best known as the fallen angel Lucifer. In El Shaddai, he is not the devil yet and is generally a nice dude who acts as Enoch’s handler and makes calls to his boss informing him of Enoch’s progress.

The story centers on Enoch’s quest through the world and his battles with the wayward angels and the Nephilim. During the journey, you learn about the backstories of the Grigori and how much they love humanity. The situation feels like you’re doing God’s dirty work because these creatures became their own and now before God presses the reset button, the player has to bring the button to him.

There aren’t that many cutscenes in El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. This is surprising for a game from the seventh generation since this was around the time when games were trying to rival movies in their presentation. When there are, the scenes are very striking, but for the most part, the story is done with voiceovers during action or Enoch reads some scrolls.

The only real weakness of the story is that Enoch isn’t a character. He never expresses himself and he only has one line in the entire game and you only hear it when his health is critical. This was a strange deliberate choice from the designers since there is potential for genuine conflict between the character and what he’s tasked to do. All he does is what he is told to do.

Lucifel ends up becoming one of the most enjoyable characters in the game and, strangely, his personality isn’t the one used for Enoch. Lucifel is an affable guy with a cool and smooth voice. His banter with God is amusing while you never hear God’s voice, you can imagine what the conversation is like on the other side. Enoch should have been written in a way where he is given some personality instead of nothing at all.

The Grigori boss battles Enoch will go toe-to-toe with are given surprisingly fleshed-out personalities. This is one of the aspects of El Shaddai that stands out and one of them even becomes playable in an extensive sequence. One of these characters ends up becoming more than just a boss fight because the game ends on a question mark that centers on one of the Grigori.

At the heart of this fascinating interpretation of what’s become a noncanonical sequence of the Old Testament, is a surreal journey through a world that’s been overrun with unchecked angelic power. The Grigori architecture, technology, and how they’ve meddled with nature is a version of Earth that is unlike anything else in games. A lot of El Shaddai’s emotional highs lie in its jaw-dropping vistas and beautiful use of colors.

The graphical style is a mix of cel-shading, gradients, and impressionistic painterly shaders and filters. The character designs are also unique and do a thing that Japanese games used to do where artists would model the cast after Hollywood celebrities. Enoch has an uncanny resemblance to 2000s-era Brad Pitt and even Armaros is like a lawyer-friendly version of early-80s Michael Jackson – complete with insanely awesome dance moves.

The presentation is undeniably cool and immense care was poured into making El Shaddai look as beautiful as possible. The camera control is taken away from players and is firmly in the grip of the game’s director. You only see what the designers intend you to see. The HUD is turned off by default to free the game from clutter. This ensures that the picture always looks as intended.

For some gamers, the lack of camera control may be troubling, especially during the platforming sequences. There are a few tricky leaps that are relegated to optional areas. Jumps and platforming can vary depending on which weapon Enoch has since they not only change his moveset but also alter his mobility.

Enoch has one attack button and different moves are achieved by charging attacks or delayed inputs like in Bayonetta. There is a soft lock-on and launching foes into the air for juggling is satisfying and brutal when you follow it up with a charged attack. The three weapons are acquired by ripping them away from foes and purifying them. Purification is something that players will need to be mindful of since weapons degrade with use and restoring them during a scrap will leave Enoch open.

If a weapon gets corrupted, it breaks and Enoch will have to start throwing haymakers and Chun-li-style kicks. As fun as the unarmed combat is, the drawback is that it has no aerial second jump. All of the weapons will either let Enoch get a second jump, hover, or do a Mega Man X-like air dash.

El Shaddai’s combat is simple, but there is enough depth to it that will keep gamers on edge. Enoch is not going to be able to achieve combos or have the flexibility as the likes of Dante or Bayonetta, but the challenge factor remains high and well-balanced. The rock-paper-scissors approach to the weapons will keep players on their toes and push them to mix things up and not rely on their favorites.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron was always a 60 frames per second game, and while it didn’t really hit its targets on PlayStation 3 or the Xbox 360. On Nintendo Switch, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron HD Remaster frame rate is a lot more consistent than it ever was. When playing on portable mode, the drops were less noticeable. There are still drops, usually during certain boss fights where the effects push the hardware to its limit.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron HD Remaster is not a dramatic leap forward for the core game. It is almost the same as it ever was save for some improved load times, smoother action, and a post-game unlockable novel that explains how Lucifel becomes Lucifer. It is a shame that this reading material was not adapted into a gameplay scenario as it is effectively the true end to the story.

The soundtrack to this game lives up to the divine themes it explores. It combines rousing chants with frenetic piano and even some African-inspired music. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron looks the way it sounds; it’s rich with layers of elements that feel otherworldly.

Back when it came out, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron at full price might have been a bit much to ask for considering it was a seven-hour game with low replay value and was stacked against some intense competition. For $29.99, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron HD Remaster feels more appropriate and is a smoother experience.

Playing El Shaddai portably feels right. The combat system is easy to get into and not having to deal with any camera system makes this game feel very accessible for action game newcomers. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron HD Remaster is an audio and visual tour de force that you never forget. It makes sense why it was brought back after all these years.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron HD Remaster was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code provided by Crim. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron HD Remaster is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), and Nintendo Switch.

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The Verdict: 8

The Good

  • Deceptively simple hack and slash combat that's easy to pick-up-and-play
  • Varied gameplay setpieces that range from relaxing walking-sim sequences, to 2D platformer courses, melee battles, and even vehicular combat racing
  • Flawless visual style and art that holds up and will always look beautiful
  • A truly surreal, yet thoughtful interpretation of the apocryphal Book of Enoch with tokusatsu flair
  • Otherworldly and divine soundtrack

The Bad

  • El Shaddai: Lucifer's Fall should have been additional game content instead of a novel
  • The 60fps is not a stable lock
  • Enoch isn't much of a character and has no personality


A youth destined for damnation.

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