European box art
|Release date(s)||PlayStation 2
|Genre(s)||Action, Beat 'em up|
God Hand (Japanese: ゴッドハンド) is an action beat 'em up video game developed by Clover Studio and published by Capcom for the PlayStation 2 video game console. God Hand was directed by Resident Evil designer Shinji Mikami. The game was released in 2006 in Japan and North America with 2007 PAL territories and on October 4, 2011 it was re-released for the PlayStation 3 as a downloadable title on the PlayStation Network. Mikami's desire was to create an action game aimed at "hardcore gamers" intermixed with a large amount of comic relief. The game received an overall lightly positive response from critics and sold only modestly upon its release in Japan. Capcom announced just days after the game's North American release that it would dissolve Clover Studio, making God Hand the developer's final game released.
The player takes control of Gene, a martial artist who wields one of the legendary "God Hands", a pair of divine arms that were once used to save the world from a demon, Angra. Gene and his companion Olivia are eventually caught up in an attempt by a group of demons known as the Four Devas to resurrect Angra for purposes of world domination. The game mixes western and Japanese-themed comedy, containing over-the-top characters and storyline events. The gameplay combines traditional elements of the beat 'em up genre with new features. These include being able to map and string together a large repertoire of fighting techniques to the gamepad's face buttons in order to create unique combo attacks.
God Hand is a 3D action game in which the player moves in all directions, attacking with the face buttons and using special moves. The player must manually turn around using a button, and all actions outside of basic attacks are performed via a context sensitive button. Using this button allows the player, as Gene, to jump up ladders, pick up items, and use special attacks that can only be used when the enemy is in a dazed or in a tired state. Four dodge moves are mapped to the directions on the right analog stick. The player can manually assign any attack (punch, kick, etc.) they wish to Triangle, Square, and X buttons. Square allows the player to chain multiple attacks at once. There are over one hundred moves in the game for the player to choose from including basic jabs and punches to drunken-style and capoeira martial arts.
More powerful abilities in God Hand can be utilized in the player's "God Reel" (or "God Roulette"), a roulette wheel that contains moves that the player chooses. These moves are limited to a number of "Roulette Orbs" that the player can increase by collecting "Skull Cards" found throughout each stage. God Reel techniques require between one and three Roulette Orbs to execute. Some moves send the opponents flying into the stratosphere while others are simple punches or kicks to specific bodyparts. Another gameplay mechanic in the player's arsenal is the God Hand itself. As the player strikes and defeats enemies, his "Tension Gauge" goes up. The player can also evade attacks, taunt, use tension boosting attacks, or find cards within a stage to increase this bar. When it reaches a set amount, the player can remove the bracelet from Gene's arm to temporarily unleash the God Hand. In this state he is completely invincible and all of his attacks increase in both power and speed. By using various stat boosting items, the player can increase the size of his Tension Gauge to hold more power. While in combat, the player can monitor a "Difficulty Level" bar that dynamically adjusts to how much damage the player is dealing or receiving. If the player gets caught up in a flurry of punches and combos, the level will drop. If the player deals a large number of unanswered attacks to their enemies, then the level will increase. The bar consists of numerical levels one through three with a fourth level designated "Die" being the highest overall. During levels one and two, the enemies will not attack the player unless they are in his line of sight or he is attacking them. On levels three and Die, the enemies will attack regardless of the camera position. Also, enemy attack strength increases as the levels increase; at level Die a fully maxed out player character can be killed in a few hits. Defeating enemies at higher Difficulty Levels earns the player more bonus points at the end of a stage. Additional techniques can be found in stages in the form of technique scrolls. Techniques and roulette moves also can be purchased or sold at the game's shop, Barely Regal, which is found on the map screen. Also accessible from the map is a casino, which contains a number of minigames including slots, blackjack, poker, chihuahua racing, and a fighting arena.
The game's backstory reveals that long ago, a fallen angel became the Demon King Angra and tried to destroy the world of humans using an army of demons and spectres. A man holding the power of God within his arms defeated Angra, sending him into exile once again. The man was then given the title of "God Hand" by the people he saved. A clan of humans was established to protect the God Hands that said that anyone who possesses them will be "capable of becoming either god or demon." The game's protagonist is Gene, a 23-year old fighter who has one of the God Hands, that sought after by a group of demons. Although he often appears outspoken and macho, he has a keen sense of justice  and is accompanied by 19-year old Olivia, a descendant of a clan who protects one of the God Hand and fled. With most of her family killed by the demons, Olivia meets and joins Gene. The game's primary antagonists are the Four Devas (consists of the proud leader demon Belze; the large and fat demon Elvis; the extroverted and hedonistic female demon Shannon; and Azel, also known as "Devil Hand", a human who uses one of the God Hand and earlier joined the Devas to achieve his own goals), a society attempting to resurrect Angra and take over the world. God Hand also features a number of recurring minor enemies that Gene encounters on his journey, including a pair of twin, extremely flamboyant homosexuals; the trio responsible for cutting off Gene's original arm; a gorilla wearing a lucha libre wrestling mask and outfit (with a suspicious zipper on his back); an android; an aspiring rock trio; and a group of midgets wearing Super Sentai-style clothing. Nearly all of the battles are bookended by comical gags and dialogue.
God Hand was first announced in April 2006 along with the use of a small teaser page on the Clover Studio website. The game was developed by the team responsible for Resident Evil 4. Development was supervised by Shinji Mikami, best known for the Resident Evil series of games, and was produced by Atsushi Inaba. The original idea for God Hand came about during a conversation between the two about the current state of action games; they found that many games in the genre at the time focused on the use of weapons and had gotten away from hand to hand combat. Mikami later approached Inaba with a poster depicting two stylized fists, meant to exemplify the kind of original game he wanted the two to create. Originally, God Hand was to focus solely on "hardcore action" without much humor. However, after showing a trailer for the game at the 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) which contained some comic relief, the team decided to integrate a large amount of comedy into the game based on the viewers' reactions. Inaba stated that God Hand is "aimed at hardcore gamers," which is shown in its hard difficulty. Unlike with their previous games Viewtiful Joe and Ōkami, the design team had no particular goal when designing the graphical style of God Hand other than that they wanted it to look more realistic. Although God Hand appears to share many elements with manga and anime such as Fist of the North Star and MD Geist, none were actually used as inspiration for the game.
There are a few differences between the North American and Japanese versions of the game. Among minor alterations, such a few signs being changed, the "Chihuahua Curry" power-up was renamed to "Puppy Pizza" in the English localization. A free Roulette called "Pan Drop", which gives the user short-lived invincibility in return for taking some damage, was removed from the American version. However, another technique called "Head Slicer," which allows the player to bloodlessly decapitate an enemy, was featured in the North American localization but not the Japanese version, most likely due to CERO censorship policies in Japan. Masafumi Takada and Jun Fukuda from Grasshopper Manufacture composed the game's soundtrack. The score contains many throwbacks to older video game music, and is heavily influenced by 1960s and 1970s theme songs and other genres, including techno, rave, rock and funk. Takada was told by Mikami that due to the game's hardcore nature, the soundtrack should be composed to "relax things a little bit." Takada's score utilizes motifs in the game's boss battle songs because many of them are fought more than once; Takada hoped that using different arrangements and orchestrations would remind players of older encounters with each boss. The soundtrack itself, God Tracks, is composed of 23 tracks and was packaged with the Japanese version of the game. A 128-page player's guide titled God Hand Official Guide Book was published by Capcom in Japan on October 7, 2006.
Reception and legacy
In Japan, God Hand was listed on Famitsu's "Top 10 Reader's Most Wanted" for a few weeks. The game was the fifth best-selling game during the week of its release in the country, selling 48,280 units. Capcom managed to both ship and sell nearly 60,000 copies of the game in the country by the end of 2006. God Hand was later re-released under the CapKore line of budget titles and the PlayStation The Best range. Critical scores for God Hand were somewhat mixed yet generally positive from many magazines and websites. The game currently has a 73 out of 100 on Metacritic and a 75% on Game Rankings. God Hand received almost universal praise for its combat system and an attempt at adhering to an "old-school brawler" formula, attributes which the same critics found to overshadow glaring flaws in its graphics, play control, level design, and camera. Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine opened its review by commenting, "God Hand is a terrible, terrible game, yet I can't stop playing it. There's just something horrifically appealing about how bad it is in almost every conceivable way."
Despite IGN scoring God Hand 3.0 out of 10 during its original release, the website ranked the game at #100 for their "Top 100 PlayStation 2 Games" list in 2010. Independent PlayStation Magazine listed God Hand among the "11 PS2 Games You Need to Play (But Haven't)." God Hand was a nominee for "Best Fighting Game" at the 2006 Spike Video Game Awards. Rab Florence of the Scottish television series VideoGaiden claimed God Hand to be one of the best games ever made. The presenter summarized his review by stating, "What an epitaph for Clover Studio: We made one of the best games of all time and it was just a game about punching people." God Hand is the final release of developer Clover Studio, which announced its dissolution mere days after the game's release in North America. The Capcom staff thought about including Gene as a playable character in their fighting game Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds but was replaced by Amaterasu from Okami. In 2010, the game was included as one of the titles in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.
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