It’s like Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star) as told by Clover Studios, creators of Viewtiful Joe and Okami, except wackier. It’s hilarious, over the top, fun as hell, and goddamn challenging after a while. True, this game may not be for everyone, but those it DOES appeal to will keep with the lols for some time.
Available For: PS2
Developer(s): Clover Studio
Release Date: 2006
Archetype: Action, Adventure, Brawler
When I was still in elementary school, way way back in the late 80s/early 90s, I remember popping in an endless array of quarters into various arcade brawler and fighter titles like Final Fight, Sengoku, Street Fighter 2, Fatal Fury, World Heroes 2, and much much more. Unfortunately, shortly after the PS2 came around, these games mostly lost their charm on me. The sad reality of it is that fighting games have been so overdone that nothing truly feels “original” anymore.
As far as brawlers go, very rarely does a company actually make a GOOD 3D brawler. It seemed like a good start…Fighting Force, Die Hard Arcade…but along with the few good ones, there were SO MANY bad ones. It almost looked like the brawler genre was over…then it happened. Capcom, Namco, Rockstar, and probably a few other companies I’m neglecting in mentioning seemingly simultaneously became interested in reviving the brawler genre.
Among the titles that came out were Urban Reign, Final Fight Streetwise, Beatdown: Fists of Vengeance, The Warriors, and, well, God Hand. Unfortunately, only The Warriors and God Hand are titles truly worth playing, but in any case, I feel much better about the possible future of the brawler. Without further ado…
God Hand is the epitome of everything a new age brawler should be. It has lots of crude humor, intense fighting, relatively high difficulty level, good music, minigames, great graphics, funny story, and even a little bit of customization. There’s very little that’s “bad” that I can actually speak for in the game. In any case, I will try…
– Sometimes the difficulty stems from not really being able to hit the enemies because they surround you and block way too much.
– Though the levels follow different themes, they’re still pretty generic.
– The fact that there’s any customization at all leaves me frustrated that there isn’t MORE customization (more on this later).
– Camera angle can get annoying (always behind you).
– Boss battles are ridiculous to the point that you need to be more lucky than skillful to win.
– THE CASINO IS WAY TOO FREAKIN’ ADDICTIVE.
That’s about it. Now to get into this customization that I keep putting off. Okay, when you first start the game, you can repeatedly wail on the square button to pull off a combo, or you can hit the triangle button to perform a maneuver, or the X button, or back and triangle, or back and X, or back and square. Now here’s the thing…the defaults set by these give you a basic idea of how stuff works. The combo needs to be quick and flow well so that you can get off multiple hits while pretty much everything else can be set strategically…or not. Again, it’s up to you because as you find or buy new moves, you can set them up as you see fit.
This includes even setting up the weirdest of combos that simply don’t flow or work well. For example, what’s the point of using a “blow away” move in the middle of the combo? Further, most “blow away” moves are slower, so really, they should be used more strategically. What I did was take the original combo and add in as many moves that balanced speed and strength well. For the other presets, I have a sweep, a blow away, a guard break, a heat up (automatically enhances your rage level), and another intense blow away.
The point is, why not two combo options? Why not add the ability to swap between points in a combo? Why not have it where an enemy can only guard upper or lower, therefore, one combo concentrates on upper body whereas the other concentrates on lower body? Why not have left or right plus a button? Yes, I’m knitpicking, but I feel this deserves addressing because they opened the floodgates of possibility, but only answered with a slow trickle of innovation.
There are a few things I’ve yet to mention…namely, storyline, minigames, gameplay, etc. As far as the storyline, well…don’t worry about it. It makes less sense than Viewtiful Joe, but plays a lot like a 3D brawler version of VJ, if that makes sense. The power moves in the game are awesome. See, alongside your standard attacks, you also have power moves that use up one or more, uh, “power orbs.” They vary in damage and usefulness, but all are pretty awesome (you want funny, check out “ball buster”).
As far as the minigames, well…
– Chihuahua racing. I kid you not. It’s basically like betting on horse racing, but with chihuahuas.
– Video poker.
– Pirate ship shootout.
– Battle arena.
– Car beatdown. Yes, it’s exactly what you’re thinking…it’s the bonus stage from Final Fight redux. And yes, Final Fight Streetwise has something similar, but still.
And plenty more. I’d also like to point out that there is currency in the game. Obviously currency can be used in gambling, but primarily you’ll be using it to buy new moves, powerups, etc. One more thing worth mentioning…triggering the god hand. Along with AAAAAALLL this stuff, you can use your rage meter to fly into a hyperactive frenzy, allowing you to be virtually invincible, insanely fast, and a bit more powerful for a short time. Yes, THAT’S what the rage meter’s for. Look ma, no plot holes…or something.
God Hand won’t be the key to reviving the brawler genre, but at the very least, it’s a great stepping stone. If you like other Clover titles (Okami, Viewtiful Joe, etc.), you already know this should be in your inventory. And if you like brawlers, give it a shot!