Developer: Clover Studio
Played on: Playstation 2
Yes, this game is called God Hand and not God’s Hand or Godly Hands. What can I say? The Japanese can be creative like this sometimes, heh. Also, while the links are the end of this review are to the US and UK versions of this game, I actually played the Japanese import. The Japanese import is an oddity: the voices are in English but the display texts are in Japanese. Go figure. What can I say? The Japanese can be so creative sometimes.
The best way to describe this game is that it is a less sophisticated version of Devil May Cry except that instead of guns and swords and electric guitars, the main character uses his fists and legs. Yup, it’s now kung-fu time instead of showtime with Ebony and Ivory.
The story – and I use the word “story” loosely here – is that our hero, Gene, wakes up one day after getting involved in a fight over a woman (nothing new for him, really) with a new hand and a new companion, the young woman in question, Olivia. Unfortunately for him, she’s a bullying nag rather than a new girlfriend. She claims that his new hand is the God Hand, a powerful, er, weapon that can destroy the Devil’s latest plan to take over the world. Geese finds himself reluctantly going on missions in this game at Olivia’s orders. Like it or not, our aimless drifter has found himself signed up to be a hero without knowing how he ended up in that role!
In this game, I play as Gene. He’s has a cowboy hat but wears a long trench coat, kinda like a futuristic sheriff, really. He’s up against the four Devas led by Belze. Other Devas include Elvis the tubby guy who eats humans and attacks by charging like a bull with his cigar firmly between his lips and Shannon the witch who has a magic staff that will turn Geese into a puppy. Which she then kicks brutally, ouch. The game mid-bosses all dress up and fight like wrestlers. Also in this game is Gene’s human nemesis, Azel, who has the Devil Hand that can counter Gene’s God Hand. Hey, I don’t make these names up so don’t look at me like that.
This game is not even close to being politically correct because the villains are depicted as gay effeminate types. I don’t know whether to laugh or cringe when Mr Gold and Mr Silver show up as early in-game bosses: they look like African-American versions of Hulk Hogan dressed up in Vegas showgirl outfits while speaking like Barbra Streisand in a bad mood. Then there are the gay version of the Power Rangers, the Mighty V, who make me go “Oh my god!” when I first see them. I know it is not nice to giggle at these caricatures, but I find them too funny in a low-brow non-PC way.
Gameplay wise, Gene can pick up items like crowbars and crates to throw at his opponents but on the whole, he’s all about the punches and kicks. Gameplay is pretty simple. The X button is the basic attack button and you’ll vary things up in a combo by pressing the square and triangle buttons once you get more attack moves to form all kinds of chain combos. Moves can be learned once Gene levels up as well as be bought from the shop. The key feature in this game is combo customization. Once I have purchased or learned moves, I can assign these moves in any order in a combo. These moves are not all flexible, of course, since some moves are clearly combo-enders and should be ordered accordingly. Punches are generally fast although the drunken master punches are noticeably slow but powerful, while kicks have better range and damage but not necessarily fast attack speed. It’s up to a player to focus on punches, kicks, or a hybrid style of both.
Gene also has special moves called God Reels that he learns as he levels up and the number of times God Reels can be used per stage. These moves can be really cool – especially that home run move where he hits his opponent like he’s a baseball player and the opponent is the baseball. There is also a power gauge. When it’s full, Gene can go into a powered-up mode where his attack becomes much faster and he will not experience knock-back effects. This God Hand mode, if you ask me, makes Gene really overpowered. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you like your games to be difficulty-wise, the bosses in this game are tough enough even on normal difficulty that God Hand ends up more often being the emergency escape ticket rather than a brainless automatic win enabler. Also, Gene cannot block attacks. Instead, quickly moving the analogue control in one direction will allow Gene to evade attacks by ducking in that direction.
The gameplay is intuitive – for example, rapidly mashing the direction controller southwards allows Gene to make a few quick ducks downwards to avoid his opponent’s blow. Playing God Hand feels in a way like I’m actually being with Gene as he kicks and punches his opponents silly. It’s fun, although I can’t really move my hands fast enough to play this game as well as I’d have liked. I’ve seen other people really pull off some crazy combos by experimenting with Gene’s moves while skillfully evading attacks and counterattacking.
Unlike Devil May Cry, the stages are even more straightforward. There are arrows to tell me where to go if I’m lost and there are no side-missions, just a few “save people from demons!” events here and there if I encounter a demon attacking some poor git who happens to leave his or her house the day the demons invade this world. Once a stage is completed, Gene is transported automatically to a mini-map where I can save the game and do other things like training (fighting opponents from the game in a ring to get money or to level Gene up), shopping (for moves – more will be available when playing on higher difficulty, and on higher difficulty, new outfits), and even gambling.
Compared to Devil May Cry, the graphics and animation in God Hand is quite lacking although animation is still fluid. The voice acting is pretty good for Gene, who’s cocky, and for the higher level bosses like Elvis and Shannon, while the mid-game bosses with their exaggerated and potentially insulting effeminate voices make me cringe. Still, this game is fun to play in a don’t think, just bash away manner. The only thing I find lacking is that this game bores me easily. On higher difficulty, there are more moves to buy or learn but the moves aren’t varied enough to prevent a feeling of sameness from setting in. Likewise, the option to buy outfits is nice but the outfits on sale are the outfits of other characters in this game. Exaggerated gay caricature characters. Do you want Gene to dress up in Mr Silver and Mr Gold’s lame white panties and Vegas WWE showgirl top? You do? Then knock yourself out. I am not that strong a person to play a game with the main character looking like a botched home-grown sex-change disaster.