El Shaddai is weird. You play as a priest - a priest wearing Japanese designer jeans, no less - who's chasing down a group of rogue fallen angels trying to destroy Earth.
It sounds like the kind of oddball game that gets buried in the depths of the previews sections and is never mentioned again, but it's not. Far from it.
In Japan, it's one of the most anticipated games ever. It has its own merchandising empire of toys, comics and soundtrack CDs, and it's not even out yet. To add further perspective, it currently has more pre-orders than any Call Of Duty game has ever had in the West.
The team behind it is led by several respected Japanese developers, including Takeyasu Sawaki, the man responsible for the art and character design in both Devil May Cry and Okami, and Yuko Komiyama, music composer for the Monster Hunter series.
But what the hell is it? Viewed from a third-person perspective, hero Enoch battles through a variety of gorgeous hand-painted environments based on the different personalities of each fallen angel.
Some are dark and oppressive, while others appear as lush forests. Structurally, it's fairly straightforward: move through a linear environment, kill enemies, fight bosses. But the combat, visuals and story make it compelling.
You use weapons stolen from enemies to counter their attacks. There are just three - a pair of gauntlets like steel boxing gloves, a magical ranged weapon and a vast curved blade - and you must determine which works best against who.
Enemies have their own patterns and behaviour to learn, and you have a timing-based counter system. Similar to Okami then, but with a bit of DMC, and even Arkham Asylum, thrown in. It's elegant and satisfying to play.
But it's not all about the battles. Sawaki is a massive fan of Mario and pays homage to the plumber in El Shaddai. Levels are broken up by side-scrolling platforming sections that feature classic gameplay like the platformers of old, but with twisted, insanely imaginative and colourful visuals. It's one of the most beautiful games we've seen.
Okay, it looks weird, but it's not one of those 'arty' Japanese games people only pretend to like - beneath the gorgeous, oddball visual style lies a unique third-person action game from some of the greatest creative brains in the industry. Keep an eye on it.
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