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El Shaddai director explains the inexplicable game


After playing the TGS demo for Ignition Entertainment's starkly unique action game, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, we were intensely curious about ... well, how it came to be. It's such an unlikely combination of action, platforming, art and Biblical themes, that we honestly couldn't figure out how someone could come up with it.

According to director Sawaki Takeyasu (who started at Capcom doing art for Devil May Cry, and moved to Clover Studio and then Platinum Games before starting his own company, Crim) it was an equally unlikely combination of corporate edict and personal idiosyncracy. Find out about its origins, as well as the game itself, in our interview.

Joystiq: The first thing I wanted to ask about is the style: it's very abstract. How did that style come about?

Sawaki Takeyasu: The art style in the game is based on three major points: the intention is to, before that, it's not that I tried to make it eccentric and make it stand out. We wanted to make it simple, a simple visual. The second point is that it's a constantly changing screen, so that even if you leave the controller for a few minutes then it's still moving, it's always moving. Another thing is variety in levels. There is so much variety and different styles of levels, so that you can be constantly entertained and so that we can bring refreshment and change throughout our gameplay.

So what is the world in the game supposed to be? Is it a weird interpretation of our world or is it a fantasy realm?

It is completely a fantasy world, completely original. It came out from the developers. It's not really an interpretation of the real world.

Does it have a name?

There is no name. We don't have a specific name for the game world.

It's set in sort of a fantasy landscape, but the story is based on Biblical themes. What inspired the use of these Biblical elements?

That's because the project started when the UK headquarters asked me to make something based on the Book of Enoch, which is Old Testament apocrypha. That's how it started.

What about the Book of Enoch led into an action game?

It's not that I thought that a game based on the Book of Enoch would be good for an action game, per se, but it's because I have a lot of experience with action games. Also, when the UK headquarters based on the Book of Enoch, there was another guy from the UK headquarters who said he wanted to make something beyond God of War. We decided to combine them and make it into one game.

When the guy at the UK office who requested the Book of Enoch game -- when you showed him this, what did he think?

He was very pleased.

The major gameplay hook involves stealing weapons from enemies. How much variety will there be in terms of weapons?

There are three or four weapons, each of which has distinct characteristics.

Are the platforming segments all in 2D?

There is 3D platforming in the game, but we didn't include it in the TGS demo because it's very difficult.

Are there ever enemies in the 2D portions?

There are parts, yes.

About the religious elements. Do you think Japanese players and Western players will feel different about the religious aspects?

I guess that probably people will feel differently in Japan. I think so.

In what way?

As for Japanese people, the Old Testament, we're not familiar with these kinds of things at all. They don't feel familiar. It's a complete fantasy for Japanese people.

Anything you'd like to say to our readers?

I believe that El Shaddai will be a very innovative title of 3D action that nobody has ever seen, so please look forward to it. El Shaddai won't be something that's like the other Japanese games that sort of follow the Western style. I believe that it's going to be something that's really Japanese, originally Japanese.

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