God Hand (ゴッドハンド Goddo Hando ) is a 3D beat 'em up game developed by Clover Studio and published by Capcom for the PlayStation 2. It was directed by Shinji Mikami, and was released in Japan and North America in 2006, and in 2007 for PAL territories. It was re-released for the PlayStation 3 as a "PS2 Classics" downloadable game on the PlayStation Network on October 4, 2011.
God Hand's plot follows Gene, a martial artist protecting his companion and wielding a legendary pair of divine arms called "God Hands", in order to save the world from demons. 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 received an overall mixed response from critics and sold only modestly upon its release in Japan. God Hand was also the last game developed by Clover Studio.
The 3D action game has the player moving in all directions, attacking with the face buttons and using special moves. The player can turn around using a button, and all actions outside of basic attacks are performed via a context sensitive button. Using the button allows the player, as Gene, to jump up ladders, pick up items, and use special attacks on abnormal enemies. Four dodge moves are mapped to the directions on the right analog stick. The player can assign any attacks, including the Circle, 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 the game can be utilized in the player's "God Reel" (or "God Roulette"), a roulette wheel containing 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 cost between one and three Roulette Orbs. Some moves send each opponents flying from 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 each stages to increase the 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 can also be purchased or sold at the shop, located 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 features a unique Level Bar, that increases or decreases depending on the player's performance (damage dealt or received). If the player gets caught up in a flurry of punches and combos, his level will drop. If the player deals a large number of attacks to their enemies, taunt and dodge, then their level will go up. The lowest level is Level 1 with the highest numerical level being 3, and the highest overall being Level DIE. During Level 2 and below, the enemies will not attack Gene unless they are in his line of sight or he is attacking them. On level 3 and above, the enemies will attack regardless of the camera position (leading to many offscreen blows or hits unless the player monitors the radar in the top screen). Also, enemy attack strength and AI increases as the levels increase; at Level DIE a fully maxed out Gene can be killed in about 6 hits or less, depending on the opponent. Gene possesses a God Reel called Grovel, in which he falls to his knees and begs. This has the effect of instantly resetting the level bar to 1, regardless of its previous state. The uniqueness of this system works in a way that the more skilled the player is, harder the game becomes. Also, the more enemies defeated in a higher Level, higher is the cash obtained at the end of each stage. This forces the players to master the enemies' AI in order to gain a higher score and purchase more moves.
The in-game Level Meter ties in with the difficulty options that the player has when they first start the game. Easy mode keeps the Level Meter capped at Level 2. Normal starts the player at Level 1 and lets them go as high as Level DIE. Hard difficulty, unlocked by beating Normal, increases enemy health slightly and keeps the Level on DIE regardless of Gene receiving damage. While Normal keeps the Level meter open for all levels of difficulty, most high-level players will want to play the game on Hard to avoid maintaining the Level Meter and keeping it at the highest level possible. Grovel has no effect on Hard Mode.
There is a small chance that after killing an opponent, he/she may become a Demon; which is a disfigured humanoid creature. These Demons are unique and have their own track that plays once they transform, with the screen getting darker. They're are very deadly and can teleport around the screen to dodge Gene's attacks. There are 4 types of Demons: Red Demons (the most common type, whose hands can transform into a long blade), Purple Demons (that can release Dark Flames projectiles at distance), Yellow Demons (which can release long spikes from their bodies that can attack Gene in all directions, if he's too close) and Blue Demons (the rarest type, who are big muscled centaur-like creatures wielding a gigantic trident to attack Gene - its weapon can be picked up after defeating it). The chances of an enemy transforming varies from the Game Difficulty and current Level Meter.
In the game's backstory, a fallen angel became the Demon King Angra, whose demonic army invaded the world. However, 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 as it is said that anyone who possesses it will be "capable of becoming either god or demon". The main protagonist is Gene, a 23-year-old fighter who has one of the God Hands, which is sought after by a group of demons. Though he is outspoken and macho, he has a keen sense of justice. Gene is accompanied by Olivia, a 19-year-old descendant of the clan who once protected the God Hands. After the demons kill her family, she fled with one of the God Hands, grafting it onto Gene upon meeting him when he saves her from bandits attempting to take the God Hand from her and gets his right arm hacked off in the process.
The main villains are the Four Devas, a demonic society attempting to resurrect Angra for world domination. The members include the leader Belze, the cigar addicted officer Elvis, the circus ringmaster Shannon and Azel, also called the "Devil Hand", a human that also possesses one of the God Hands and earlier joined the Devas to achieve his own goals. The game features a number of recurring minor enemies whom Gene meets, including a pair of extremely flamboyant twins; the trio responsible for removing Gene's original arm; a gorilla wearing a lucha libre wrestling mask and outfit; an android warrior sent by Belze twice to stop Gene; an aspiring rock duo who were originally aspiring musicians that sold their souls to the demons in exchange for power; and a group of midgets dressed in Super Sentai-style clothing with playing card emblems on their costumes. Nearly all battles are revealed by comical gags and dialogue. Once Gene defeats Azel at the Tower of Angra, Angra awakens from inside Azel's body; Azel then rips off his God Hand and entrusts it to Gene, not wanting to be controlled. Now with both God Hands, Gene defeats Angra and rescues Olivia.
- Bruce, Conchita and Felix - Three bounty hunters who are under Belze's command. They were responsible for Gene losing his human arm before the beginning of the game, with Bruce cutting it off with his sharp boomerang. When fighting Gene, they attack one at a time (but the player has a limited time to defeat them, otherwise the others show up), starting with Felix, a bulky man with spiked balls for hands wearing a helmet with sharp horns. When angered, Felix charge like a bull and toss Gene up in the air with them. Next comes the much faster and skinny Bruce, who can blow green smoke to blind Gene (like Elvis) and wields a razor-sharp boomerang. Lastly is Conchita, who seems to be some kind of lion-tamer and doesn't mind inflicting the cruel pain of her deadly lashes, which have a great range. They're killed by Azel later in the game while searching for Gene. Voiced by Sam Riegel (Bruce), Melissa Fahn (Conchita) and Fred Tatasciore (Felix).
- Dr. Ion - Belze, frustrated with Elvis's and Shannon's failures to kill Gene, instead turns to the robot scientist, Dr. Ion. The efforts Dr. Ion puts into capturing or slowing down Gene are clear by the massive multi-legged robot he crosses the desert with, as well as the horde of robots all over it. Gene is alerted to this huge vehicle by Olivia, and promptly storms it, fighting his way to its heart to find Dr. Ion himself, attached to an electric chair with a large metal apparatus running electricity through him. A boss battle ensues.
- Gorilla Mask
- Mad Midget Five
- Chihuahua - One of the places Gene can go for extracurricular activities is the casino, which contains a number of minigames including slots, blackjack, poker, a fighting arena and chihuahua racing.
The game 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 survival horror games, and was produced by Atsushi Inaba. Hiroki Kato served as writer, Masaki Yamanaka served as the artist and Kiyohiko Sakata was one of the programmers.
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 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 decapitate an enemy, was featured in the North American localization, instead of the Japanese one due to CERO censorship policy in Japan.
Masafumi Takada from Grasshopper Manufacture composed the game's soundtrack, with one track contributed by Jun Fukuda. 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.
In Japan, God Hand was listed on Famitsu's "Top 10 Reader's Most Wanted" for a few weeks. Famitsu also gave the game one six, two sevens, and one six, for a total of 26 out of 40. 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.
The game received "average" reviews according to video game review aggregator Metacritic. 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."
Sean McCabe of 411Mania gave the game a score of 9.6 out of 10, stating: "I have to say ordinarily I’d try to balance out my opinion on a game. But with all the negativity this game has garnered from others, I’ll just say what I feel. This is the best game of its kind in 15 years and one of the best games of the 128-bit generation, a genuine masterpiece. It is not for everybody, probably far from that, but I really enjoyed this game and want to make that crystal clear." However, "D.W." of the same site gave it 5.5 out of 10, stating, "It’s a shame that this had to be Clover’s last title, but if God Hand was the best they could do, I can certainly see why they’re not around anymore." The Sydney Morning Herald gave the game three-and-a-half stars out of five, exclaiming, "Like a bizarre mixture of WWE Smackdown and Benny Hill, God Hand is one of the quirkiest, silliest and funniest games to come along in some time." However, Maxim gave it three stars out of five, saying that it "may lack polish and production values, but like a trailer-park hooker, it still manages to be lovable trash." The A.V. Club gave the game a C+ and stated, "Playing this flawed, oddball offering is like flushing your neurotransmitters with Red Bull—painful, mind-expanding, and occasionally laughter-inducing."
Despite IGN giving God Hand a score of 3 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 game of Clover Studio, which was closed 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.
Following Asura's Wrath's release, developer CyberConnect2 revealed that they felt the game would serve to satisfy fans wanting a sequel to God Hand. They were later pleased that people had seen the deliberate similarities between the two games.
- Included in the press kit when God Hand was released was a digitally altered photo depicting an opponent getting punched through the mouth, instead of to the side of the face like in the image featured on the covers of the North America and European versions. Even though there is no blood, the exact reason this more disturbing image was not used is unknown.
- Despite the game being intended for a mature audience, there are no signs of actual blood or sexual content. However, there is brief profanity and some suggestive content.
- One of the Chihuahuas in chihuahua racing is named after Amaterasu from Ōkami. Another one is called "Viewtiful Pup" after the main character from Viewtiful Joe. Atsushi Inaba and Clover Studio developed all three games for Capcom. Another one is named Lucky Clover, obviously after the studio itself (which has the highest odds for winning, usually).
- One of Gene's unlockable moves is the Dragon Punch, otherwise known as the Shoryuken from Street Fighter. He also has a unlockable costume that looks like Ryu's gi, one worn by his arch rival, Devil Hand, and one worn by the twins Mr. Gold and Mr. Silver.
- year=2006|editor=Capcom staff|title=God Hand instruction manual|page=13|publisher=Capcom Co. Ltd.
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- title=God Hand | magazine=Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine | publisher=Ziff Davis | date=November 2006 | page=118
- author1=Dun, Teresa | author2=Hololen, Tom | date=November 2007 | title=11 PS2 Games You Need to Play (But Haven't) | magazine=Independent PlayStation Magazine | issue=129 | page=37
- title=God Hand review | series=VideoGaiden | serieslink=VideoGaiden | network=BBC | airdate=December 10, 2006 | seriesno=2 | number=6
- author=Mott, Tony | title=1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die | year=2010 | publisher=Quintessence Editions Ltd. | location=London | isbn=978-1-74173-076-0 |page=675
- Kung Pao Fu - a God Hand fansite.