El Shaddai (PS3) Review + Tips
el shaddai PS3 Review Trophy guide
The melee combat is in the vein of God of War or Devil May Cry. There are 3 weapons, arch, which is staff type weapon of medium damage, gale which is a long range attack that gives you control over 6 drones which you fling with your mind like missiles for weak damage, and veil which is your bruiser heavy weapon which is half a shield on each hand that is slow, does slightly more damage than arch, but offers superior protection when guarding. Each weapon is weak to another weapon via a rock-paper-scissors-esque system, but you can only have one weapon equipped at a time so if you are at a disadvantage you can stun the enemy by hitting them enough times in a short spawn of time and then steal their weapon to replace your own in order to turn the battle in your favor. If your weapon is broken (usually by a boss) you will be forced to use your fists which have a surprisingly robust moveset (though the strikes are about as weak as gale) until you can grab another weapon.
Unlike other melee games which throw lots of weaker enemies at you, in El Shaddai you usually don't face more than 2-3 enemies at a time, but they are smart, tough, and will work together (particularly on higher difficulties). As you move through the level you will enter an arena and then when you kill an enemy they are swapped out for another until they are all dead. There are several different enemy types, each with a unique skill, but they all use 1 of the same 3 weapons you do. For instance the human sized martyrs when wielding the shield weapon veil can sprint at you with the shield up and knock you down. When a golem uses veil it can slam the shield into the ground and damage you if your feet are touching the ground. Some of the enemies types are relatively helpless once you steal their weapons (they then attack with their fists), but some like the corrupted become more dangerous once you steal their weapon as now they can create an explosion of dark energy around themselves when they jump into the air and slam their fist down into the ground.
The guard button is R1. When guard is held down you can withstand damage from weapons that are equal to or weak to your weapon. If you are weak to the weapon it will eventually break your guard and leave you stunned. Gale offers very little block protection, Arch offers ok block protection, and Veil (the shield) can even take many boss hits without its guard breaking. If you time your press of the guard button to RIGHT when the enemy strikes, you will parry the blow (and the attacker may be momentarily stunned) for no damage. All but the strongest boss blows can be parried. Each weapon also has access to a dodge move via pressing guard + X or O. Gale will do a quick dash, Arch will do a sideways hop into the air, and veil allows you to move without dropping your guard
Combat is controlled by how you press the attack button, you can rapid fire the attack button to do a simple combo, if you delay a 1/2 a second and then press the attack button mid-combo it will do a different attack (usually an attack from above) which breaks the enemy's guard, or you can hold down the attack button and release (this can also be done mid-combo) to do a charged attack. Once you do a charged attack if you continue to rapidly press attack, the follow up attacks will be different and more powerful than if you just strung together normal attacks. For instance the charged attack of gale fires all 6 drones at once. If you are in the air when you use the same button presses, it will result in different attacks.
Then each weapon has its own special attack which you can do by pressing Guard and attack. Arch is an uppercut which lets you do an air combo. Gale fires you and all your drones straight up in the air which knocks back all enemies in a radius around you. Veil has a dual-fisted overhead strike which is quite good at stunning enemies and allows for a follow-up of a devastating rapid punch combo. The same button sequence can be used in the air for a different attack. Each weapon also has other special abilities such as a unique dodge move, the ability to glide after a double jump, block more damaging attacks, etc.
Once you get access to the 3rd weapon early in the game nothing really changes in your arsenal other than a Rage of the Gods-esque hyper mode called Overboost which you can periodically activate, so the rest of the game is about mastering the combo system and the guard and dodge mechanic. The enemies develop a few new tricks during the course of play, but nothing really substantial, mainly things are only changed up during the boss fights. Though by near the end of the game they start to run out of ideas, the last 2 bosses before the final boss only have 1 or 2 attacks so its all about alternating between dodging that one attack and getting a few strikes in over and over. The first of those two, the reprise of the pig boss, particularly feels like pretty blatant boss padding.
One thing I feel I should highlight is in a refreshing departure there are ZERO quick-time events in this game. The closest it comes to a QTE is when your HP hits zero, you have a limited amount of time to mash any face button in order to execute a recover like Punch-Out (this also greatly reduces your score in ranked play), which brings you back to life mid-fight at full HP. Each time you come back it takes more and more rapid presses to do so until eventually it is not possible and you will get a game over screen and have to play from a previous save.
There are two types of platforming sections in El Shaddai, 2D and 3D. Occasionally (usually during hallucinations that the Fallen Angels cause) the platforming will switch to a 2D view and there will be mild to moderate difficulty platforming. In 2d sections the only combat you will face is against weak trash mobs which can easily be dispatched. The rest of the time you will be platforming in 3D which is usually either a behind the shoulder or isometric view. If you fail a jump, you will usually respawn one or two ledge back from where you fell (though do note failing a jump hurts your score pretty badly in ranked mode). You have access to a double jump, arch allows you to slow your descent via a hover (by holding the jump button after a jump) and gale's dash lets you get greater distance on your jump.
There is only one level in which I would call the 3d platforming "bullshit," and that is because of an artistic choice by the dev. In one level you have entered The Darkness (which is actually quite bright and colorful). Have you ever been in a parking lot and seen when relatively fresh motor oil has leaked from a car and into a puddle of water? It kind of looks like a bubble of a kaleidoscope of color on top of the water. Now imagine that effect smeared over your screen as a layer of film grain and that's what you have to platform through. It makes keeping track of your shadow (which is how you can tell where you will land on the platforms) more difficult than it needs to be.
The art style is crazy good. The level design is varied and quite beautiful and the character and enemy designs are interesting.
Framerate is a steady 60ish in the 3D combat segments and it only occasionally stutters during a few 2D platforming sections. All characters are fully voice acted and you have the option to listen to English speaking voice actors (which range from adequate to great, no bad actors in the bunch) or the original Japanese. The music is also quite good.
The basic story of Enoch capturing the angels is easy to understand, but there are random asides in the story sometimes that are tough to follow. The story is fleshed out a bit by locating the 20 or so hidden freemen (former human followers who have rebelled against the angels) who each give you a note fleshing out details about the world and the characters in the game.
The story is also told a bit by the leather-jacket wearing angel Lucifel who talks on his cell phone to the Almighty (and sometimes Belial) and serves as a manual save point during the level. Periodically he will snap his fingers to stop time mid-battle and give you battle tips or teach you a new combat mechanic. A neat detail is when you press start to pause the game, Lucifel snaps his fingers as if he were stopping time for you.
An interesting design choice by the devs is in your first playthrough there is no HUD. You can gauge your health based on your character's appearance. When enough damage is done to you a piece of your armor will break off. As you get down to a couple of pieces of armor a red aura will appear along the edge of your screen and darkens as you get closer to death. the lack of a HUD was never an issue during the first playthrough as I could plainly see how close to death I was based on those visual indicators. It did make the boss fights more intense as you can't see their HP either, but they also lose armor pieces as they get closer to death. In later playthroughs a health bar, a running score tally, and the health bar of bosses are added to the HUD. Your performance is scored for each chapter in your subsequent playthroughs and can be uploaded to an online leaderboard where you can compare your score to all players or just your friends.
It's fun. Given the limited amount of weapons and only two combat buttons (attack button and the guard+attack buttons) you might think it would be repetitive and it is a bit until you begin to get a handle on the timing of the combat system of mixing charged strikes and delayed strikes in with normal strikes in order to lengthen your combo.
Easy difficulty is REALLY easy. Normal difficulty will put up a pretty stiff challenge until you can get a handle on the combat system. Hard difficulty is probably the best representation of the core gameplay as the enemy strikes are quite devastating and you have to strike at just the right time (just after they attack) in order to make them flinch. Unfortunately they also up the enemies HP by a somewhat absurd amount that it DOES become repetitive in later levels how many times you have to strike them in order to knock them out so you can take their weapon. Hard difficulty would be a fair bit more fun if all the enemies lost about a 1/3rd of their max HP. Extra Hard is quite difficult, enemies have hard mode HP but your HP bar will be completely depleted in 2 or 3 hits. Weak enemies like the headless swan which don't damage you, even in hard mode (just cause you to momentarily flinch), become deadly threats in extra hard.
Incidentally, "headless swan" is probably the most unique depiction of demons I've ever seen in a game. On Earth the majority of angels appear in the visage of a swan. So the headless swan you meet in "the Darkness" must be the angels which left heaven and became demons.
First time through it will probably take you 10-12 hours, then on subsequent playthroughs it won't take as long since you can skip the cutscenes. Chapter select is also unlocked at the completion of your first playthrough and there are a generous 50 save slots.
If I had to give it a score I would peg it at a mid 8. Framerate is steady, there are no bugs or glitches, the controls are responsive and the music and art style are top notch. The 3 weapons are all very unique, but its still only 3 weapons (including some fist-based martial arts if a boss breaks your weapon) and the story is at times nonsensical, like the game assumes you should know something but they forgot to tell you about it. I really cannot fathom how IGN could give this a 5. All I can figure based on the review text is it REALLY stuck in the reviewer's craw that there was no HUD on the first playthrough as they docked 6 points off presentation.
*Follow a guide enough to get the six bones of Ishtar from the six underworld sections in your first playthrough. That unlocks a costume that makes you invulnerable for all but 2.5 chapters which will be invaluable for completing extra hard mode as well as several misc. trophies that involve killing bosses without executing a recover.
*If you don't get the Freemen notes in your first playthrough, get any you missed in your second playthrough. On subsequent playthroughs the freemen you have already found will give you 3 hearts (replenishes 1/2 your max HP) instead which may save your life in your ranked hard mode playthrough (if you are going for the plat).
*Hidden in pots and out of the way locations are fruits of wisdom (look like orange question marks) in most chapters. They respawn everytime you enter a level so there is no direct trophy for collecting all of them. When collected it levels up Uriel's boost level quite a bit (see "Uriel Mode" below) and adds a LARGE amount to your score in ranked mode. So you will have to collect all of them in one runthrough in order to attain God rank on each particular level. The God rank videos near the bottom of the page list the amount of fruits of wisdom in each level as well as show where each of them is located.
*There is a shadow right below you which shows where you will land.
*Arch Hover - instead of just pressing the jump button hold it and at the peak of your jump you will begin to hover (fall and continue to move forward at about 1/3 normal speed). The slowmo hover is great for sticking the landing on smaller platforms, undershoot your jump a little bit and then hover in for the last bit of distance. You will continue to hover until you release the jump button so once your shadow is visible on the platform release the button to drop straight down.
*Gale Dash - Offers greater jump distance than the arch hover. You will need it to reach a few fruits of wisdom. This is great for when the platforms are large and far apart. When the 3D platforming is at an isometric view (The camera is shooting you at a 45 degree angle so you are moving diagonally toward the upper corner of your TV) it is best to use the arch hover as it is difficult to angle the gale dash diagonally.
*Veil Smash - Veil offers no special platforming ability, but there are a few platforming sections where fruits of wisdom are locked behind walls which can only be broken by veil's punches.
Uriel Mode (Overboost):
*Available after chapter 4. Once you do enough damage, enough time has past, enough damage has been done to you, or you collect enough orange orbs from fallen enemies/pots; the Angel Uriel will say he is available.
*The game tells you to press L1 (which purifies weapons) and guard (R1) at the same time to activate Overboost. I recommend holding guard and THEN pressing L1 instead, more then a few times when I tried to press both weapons at the same time to activate overboost I instead purified my weapon which is a 2 second animation in which you are vulnerable to attack.
*The fiery upper torso of Uriel will attack when you do and his strikes are powerful enough to stagger any enemy, even bosses. Uriel will also regenerate your HP to full. There is no gauge for Uriel mode, when you are about to run out 3 tones will sound and then Uriel will vanish.
*Picking up orange orbs from pots and defeated enemies and the fruits of the wisdom (they look like fiery question marks) hidden in the levels will level up Uriel to a max of 10 (progress is persistent across all playthroughs). Orange orbs will level up Uriel a little and fruits of wisdom will level up Uriel quite a bit. The higher the boost level, the longer Uriel will be available per activation.
*If you press Guard and then L1 while in overboost, you will execute a flashy, high damage finishing move called Uriel Smash specific to the weapon you are holding. Using Uriel smash will immediately end Uriel mode so it is best to wait until the ending tones begin to sound and THEN execute the finisher.
*When the angels are in Nether mode, don't initiate overboost if one of their hearts is almost depleted. Whenever one is depleted a cutscene plays and they get new moves which gets them out of stun and burns up Uriel time.
*The Angel bosses come in two forms, watcher form and nether form.
*In Watcher form, they are a normal-sized enemy which you will fight in an arena. Sporadically during the playthrough you will repeatedly fight the watcher form of 3 different angels. In these early encounters you don't have to win, if you knock off one or two hearts of HP OR if they do too much damage to you the battle will end in a draw and the level will continue. In hard mode, some fights will not end when they do too much damage so you must deplete their hearts until the boss withdraws. The final time you meet each angel in watcher form is the real fight and you must deplete all their hearts to progress.
*In Nether form, the boss will grow much larger, you will enter a larger arena, and it will develop a completely different set of attacks. Typically in nether form they have 3 hearts and each time a heart is depleted, a cutscene will play. Once the cutscene ends, the boss usually begins to move faster and/or its existing attacks will become more powered up (IE. instead of shooting 1 fireball they will shoot 3 fireballs).
*Collecting all six Ishtar pieces in your first playthrough give you access to a special all denim super suit that makes you immune to damage and constant, partial access to Uriel mode for subsequent playthroughs.
*Use it to help clear Extra hard mode for the trophy, do note in chapter 6, chapter 8, and the first 3/4ths of chapter 9 for story reasons you will not have access to the super suit and you will have to complete those sections "legit."
*Though you may be invincible for most of the second playthrough, this is a good opportunity to practice the timing on your guard parries (blocking just before the enemy strikes) and develop strategies for dodging the attacks of bosses for your hard, God-rank run.
*While wearing the super suit you do not accumulate a score for combat so it is impossible to get God Rank on levels while wearing it.
A Reliable Friend Trophy (Raise your boost level to 10):
*Collecting orange orbs from fallen enemies and pots and the orange fruits of wisdom hidden in the level will raise the boost level of the angel Uriel.
*When in a level, press select to see what your current boost level is as well as the progress toward the next level.
*Leveling progress is persistent, it does not reset to zero on subsequent playthroughs.
*When wearing the special suit which makes you invulnerable to damage, you get no orange orbs for defeating enemies.
*Platting the game requires an easy or normal playthrough, an extra hard playthrough, and a God Ranked hard playthrough. By the time I finished my 3rd playthrough, my boost level was lvl 9 and 3/4ths of the way to level 10. I hit level 10 while doing a few level specific trophies on easy so as long as you are going for the plat you shouldn't have to do any grinding to get this trophy.
Living Miracle Trophy (complete the game without a game over screen):
*That is the screen that asks if you want to continue from the last checkpoint or go to the main menu. Note, you do NOT have to do it in story order, you can skip around to the various chapters.
*If you do run out of recovers and get that screen, do NOT select continue, select to go to the main menu and load up a previous save and it won't count against you.
*On your extra hard, second playthrough, chapter 8 and 9 (and to a lesser extend 6) are exceedingly difficult because you temporarily lose access to the super suit. Don't worry about avoiding continuing from a checkpoint via the game over screen on those levels (continuing will reset your HP to full whereas loading a save does not), just worry about finishing. Just make note of the chapters you did continue and you can replay them again on a lower difficulty.
Show No Mercy Trophy (complete 100 guard breaks):
*A guard break involves pressing attack, delaying about a half a second, and then pressing attack again to execute a guard break on an enemy that is blocking. I did a LOT of these in the course of 3 playthroughs and the trophy didn't pop so I think it may be bugged.
*If it never pops for you by the time you finish God Rank in all chapters, go to ch. 2 on normal difficulty. In the second arena fight is the tutorial for guard breaking so the enemies will block a LOT. Execute guard breaks while they are blocking until they are near death, then let one of them kill you and do not execute a recover. Select "continue" from the game over screen and you will be back at the start of ch. 2 (it takes about a minute to get back to the guard break tutorial), but your guard break total will be saved. Keep doing that until the trophy pops.
God Rank in Hard mode Trophy:
*You don't have to do an unbroken perfect run, there are sporadic manual save points and a generous amount of auto-save points that will save your current score up to that point in the level. If you fail a jump or have to execute a recover, press select, go to the main menu and reload your most recent save.
*On tougher levels rather than over-writing each manual save, tier your saves (you have 50 saves slots so there is plenty of room) so that if you find yourself stuck starting with low armor caught in a death loop after a save you can reload to the previous manual save.
*You don't have to finish the level fast and you don't have to rack up huge combos. What you do need to do is never fall during a platforming section (reload a save or auto-save if you do), get all the fruits of wisdom (the fiery question marks) in the level, steal as many weapons as possible, destroy breakables that are along your path, and try never to execute a recover.
*You don't have to win all the early watcher mode boss fights, though stay in them as long as possible to rack up combat points. Some of them however (such as the first Azaziel fight) will NOT end when he does too much damage to you so you must deplete 1 or 2 hearts of HP from the boss to end the fight.
*If you come up short and get Saintly, try reloading your last tiered save and focusing more on combos. If that doesn't work, try again but this time spend as much time with low armor. The less armor you have, the higher your combat score. If that doesn't work you are probably going to have to jump back 1 or 2 saves.
*Save up your Uriel mode in order to take down bosses more quickly or as a fail safe to activate if you are near death (it refills your health to full).
*Always try to do the Uriel finishing move with Gale as it's multi hit attack will rack up the highest combo and thus the highest combat score.
*Chapter 10 is one of the hardest levels to God Rank as there are sections which throw large batches of enemies at you. Late in the level there are two jumping section, a series of columns which sway side to side. To the left just before each jumping section are optional arenas that if you complete them (6 enemies in the first and 8 enemies in the second) you can press a button which makes the jumps easier. If you focus on getting high combos, get all the fruits of wisdom, and steal all but 2 or 3 weapons you can skip the second optional arena of 8 enemies and still make God Rank. What makes that fight so insidious is it is the toughest in the game, but you can't save until you make it past the second jumping section which is quite difficult.
*This series of youtube videos is exceedingly helpful in obtaining Godlike rank in each chapter.
*There is one quasi-online trophy. Once completing your first playthrough, you will unlock the HUD, chapter select, and levels will now be scored. The trophy is to register a score so all you have to do is complete any chapter while logged into the PSN and it will be uploaded to the leaderboard which will pop the trophy. If for some reason they ever shut down the servers for the leaderboards, obtaining the plat would become impossible.