Sunday, August 21, 2011

El Shaddai Review

Gameplay (6/10): El Shaddai's gameplay is a mix of good ideas on a by-the-books foundation. The gameplay is split up between combat and platforming. The platforming is the standard platforming gameplay one would find in the classic SNES/Genesis platformers that weren't Mario or Sonic; by which I mean: the platforming provides no surprises or innovation. Combat, on other hand, provides something slightly innovative: timing-based combos. Sure, Bayonetta and other 3D action games have implemented timing-based combos before, but El Shaddai's battle system completely revolves around this gameplay system. At first, the timing-based combos feel innovative and satisfying, but once you've discovered all of the combos the games three weapons can do, combat begins to feel repetitive. The repetitiveness of combat becomes even more noticeable once you've fought against all of the games enemy types, of which there are only four. Boss battles mix up the gameplay slightly, but not enough that one's tactics need to change too much from normal battles. El Shaddai's combat and platforming never truly ask any more out of the player aside from the basic bread-and-butter tactics it teaches you in the beginning tutorials, and that's where the disappointment lies: El Shaddai never asks more than a skill level slightly higher than button-mashing, so even though you could perform high count combos and air combos, no score system (until post game at least), hidden goodies, or new paths provide you any incentive to try harder.

Graphics (7/10): El Shaddai's most head-turning trait is its graphics. However, what needs to be noticed is that the graphics in this game that are amazing are those within the backgrounds of the stages, and nothing else. The character models, enemies, bosses, platforms, and usable/destructable objects are all either standard fair or disappointing in graphic design. However, while the backgrounds are simply set pieces we cannot interact with, there is no denying their impact within the game. They are beautiful, and the developers should definitely be credited for putting such imagination on display. However, it's disappointing how the player doesn't interact with the backgrounds much, and they become something simply to look at rather than interact with. Also, unfortunately, the impact of the settings are either too brief or overstay their welcome; for example, the stage set in a futuristic environment is perhaps the game's most impressive, however, the player's stay in this area is very brief, which is disappointing. The graphical techniques used within El Shaddai definitely deserve credit for their beauty, but their execution is rather disappointing.

Music (8/10): El Shaddai's soundtrack is very impressive in it's execution, and is very enjoyable as a result. Angelic and beautiful at one moment, while haunting and intense in another moment; it all works very well, and some tracks deserve a listen outside of the game itself. The only problem with the soundtrack comes from the fact that because the story provides little impact, so too does the soundtrack in specific parts of the game. In the best soundtracks, people can listen to a piece and know exactly when in the game the particular piece played and what the piece symbolizes; this is not the case with El Shaddai.

Story (5/10): El Shaddai has a story, but it's nothing special other than being a story based in Christian mythology, something not seen much in stories in videogames. The story's execution is very disappointing, as the game never develops a personality for Enoch, nor does it create an atmosphere that makes you care for the characters. As the story plays out, it's hard to sympathize with the characters or really care about where the story is going. The foundation of the story was good, but because the developers really tried to develop a serious story, it's really noticeable how hard the story falls on its face. If the developers had opted to go a route similar to Metroid or Outland where the story elements were very minimal and the player can fill in the blanks themselves, the story may have actually been more interesting.

Replay Value (5/10): Other than two more difficulty levels, a score system (with online rankings), and a few side items to find in the game's stages, there really isn't much incentive to play El Shaddai more than once, mainly because the extras involve the gameplay, which is quite repetitive.

Satisfaction (5/10): El Shaddai is an action game that gets a par for the course. It's background graphics are impressive, but don't provide much impact. When all is said and done, El Shaddai is a very forgettable game. Enoch is a very forgettable protagonist, the story is boring and forgettable, and there are no impactful moments of gameplay within the game either. It's a game worth playing if you're interested in beautiful art, and seeing how well such art can be integrated into a videogame, but that's about it.

Overall Score - (6.5/10): El Shaddai isn't a bad game in any way, nor is it a game that excels in any way. It's true that El Shaddai's backgrounds are very impressive, but it is simply the art style that gives the graphics their impact, not the graphics execution itself. Gameplay-wise, El Shaddai had some decent ideas, but didn't expand upon them with content. In the past, one may have been able to get away with some critical acclaim for the amount of content El Shaddai provides, but not now. Hopefully, the team behind El Shaddai will take their experience from El Shaddai and put it towards a more complex and content-rich package, because it would be a shame for a team as talented as this to fall into obscurity.

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