Review – El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron (PC)

I would be lying if I told I had heard of 2011’s El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron prior to its recent re-release on Steam. This was as niche as niche could get: a lower-budget Japanese hack n’ slash centered around the Hebrew Book of Enoch, released in the same month as bonafide classics such as Limbo, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Bastion. There was no way I would have been able to pay attention to it back in the day. Thankfully, its PC port gave me the chance I needed to revisit what a lot of people “in the know” call a cult hit, a misunderstood classic. Let’s see if this statement holds up.

El Shaddai Enoch

Meet Enoch. He is part Fabio, part Highlander, part Biblical Figure.

I am not going to try to explain a lot of Abrahamic religious lore, but El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is heavily based on the aforementioned Book of Enoch, with you controlling the titular Enoch, father of Methuselah. Long story short, there are seven fallen angels you need to hunt down and kill in order to prevent a catastrophic flood (I don’t need to remind you which flood we’re talking about). You are not alone in your journey, as you’re guided by the four big Archangels (Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel and Michael). You’re also guided by another fella, another important guardian angel… Lucifer.

It’s pretty straightforward. It’s almost as if the game was directly influenced by No More Heroes‘ gameplay loop of hunting down specific targets by beating a linear level followed by a boss fight, but without the annoying meandering in between these sections. Kill enemies, witness incomprehensible cutscenes featuring a plot so confusing you cannot help but actually appreciate, kill a boss, go to the next level. It’s shallow, with its combat system being beyond basic and simplistic, not to mention repetitive, but it’s got spectacle. Think of it as Devil May Cry lite in nature.


You will want to play El Shaddai for its presentation first and foremost. For a game released in 2011, I am very impressed with its striking art style and impactful usage of colors, not to mention some mind-bending enemy designs. The developers went all in with the weirdness. Enemies look ethereal in nature, which contrast beautifully with the Shadow of Colossus-esque environments and No More Heroes-esque human characters. The soundtrack is exactly what you would expect from a game like this, being full of choir chants. The only thing I didn’t like at all about the presentation is the fact that, for some reason, you cannot tinker with the graphical settings in-game; you gotta quit the app, reload it, then tinker with whichever setting you want before booting the game up.

El Shaddai Graphics

I really like how El Shaddai ditches having a UI altogether.

Here comes the final verdict, answering what I have wanted to know from the very beginning: does El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron deserve to be considered a cult classic? Sadly, no. I’m not saying it doesn’t have a ton of redeeming qualities, though. Its setting and story are basically unheard of in gaming, given how devs are not exactly comfortable tackling Abrahamic religions in this kind of medium. As a concept, it’s fantastic. As an action game, it’s quite shallow. It’s fun in smaller doses, meaning a Switch port would be its ideal version. As it stands, grab it only if you need an extra hack n’ slash fix before Bayonetta 3 comes out next year.

Graphics: 8.0

El Shaddai‘s art style is striking. For a game centered around an apocalyptic plot, it’s quite colorful and impactful. Sure, its facial animations have aged, but the game looks quite nice for 2021 standards.

Gameplay: 6.5

It’s your standard Devil May Cry-esque fare, which is fun and cathartic when fighting hordes of enemies, but it’s also really shallow, and occasionally clunky.

Sound: 8.5

The voice acting is surprisingly competent (and dubbed in both English and Japanese!), and the soundtrack is basically comprised of what you would expect from a game centered around religion: tons and tons of epic chants. It works.

Fun Factor: 6.5

El Shaddai‘s really interesting setting and story are way more interesting than its serviceable but shallow combat.

Final Verdict: 7.0

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is available now on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron was provided by the publisher.