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God Hand (PlayStation 2) artwork

God Hand (PlayStation 2) review

"The first thing that will strike you about God Hand is that the story is god damned insane. The initial cinema alone has the main character telling a his really hot female companion that some rough looking Road Warrior type male thugs are “sexier” than she is, which is followed up a little later with a scene where he tells two blatantly homosexual boss characters in gold & silver bikini armor that he “isn’t that kind of guy”. Those two scenes are pretty tame though compared to some of the most..."

The first thing that will strike you about God Hand is that the story is !@#$!ed insane. The initial cinema alone has the main character telling a his really hot female companion that some rough looking Road Warrior type male thugs are “sexier” than she is, which is followed up a little later with a scene where he tells two blatantly homosexual boss characters in gold & silver bikini armor that he “isn’t that kind of guy”. Those two scenes are pretty tame though compared to some of the most bizarre stuff you will witness- later in the game you’ll watch guys being kicked into the stratosphere, demon’s getting spanked, huge bosses getting kicked in the nuts, and the before-mentioned hot chick pulling an axe out of nowhere and threatening to cut your arms off. Hell the ending song is 3 minutes of Japanese rock with a guy singing about all the moves in the game, which despite being batshit insane was actually a great reward for beating the super hard final boss.

But insanity isn’t all that God Hand has to offer, in between the crazy story bits you’ll be brawling your way through 8 levels of awesome brutality. At its core this game is basically a throwback to the beat-em-ups of the 16bit generation, only ramped up about 1000 times. Imagine Double Dragon in a wild west/mad max setting, only with the camera directly behind the character, 111 moves, super fast combat, some ultra powerful “God Hand” attacks, and you have a decent idea of what to expect from this game. You can totally customize all your moves too- from the option screen you can assign any move in the game to your 6 hit combo string, or to any of the other face buttons. All said you can have 11 different moves mapped at once, and you can set them up any way you like. You can mix in attacks that juggle enemies, trip them to the ground, break their guard, launch them across the level like a cannon, and even hit multiple times in one attack. There are also weapons you can pummel out of enemy hands and use against them, or just throw a crate or a barrel at an enemy and then snatch the gold out of it while they stand there stunned.

This game is tough as shit though, it becomes extremely necessary early in the game to pick a good combo and constantly update your moves list by purchasing or finding new attacks or you will get utterly destroyed by the enemies. They are nasty as hell and attack in groups, forcing you to play with skill. This game is the antithesis to all the pussy, hand-holding crap that comes out these days, hell it doesn’t even have a tutorial! And to make things even tougher, the game actually gets harder the better you do. By killing enemies you fill up a meter which has 4 levels, on the highest level enemies can literally kill you in 1 or 2 hits. You get more money at the end of the stage for killing enemies at a higher level, but it’s extremely hard to maintain the higher levels because getting hit deplinishes your meter.

The only drawback to the fighting system is that there are no real throws in the sense that Streets of Rage had throws, in God Hand they are context sensitive and require you to stun an enemy before executing, and there is a unique throw for each enemy type (big fat guys get a DDT with a slap on the ass afterwards, tall guys get suplexed, bosses get pummeled, etc). This is balanced out though by the nice variety of God Hand attacks- special moves that require “orbs” to use, and are basically super attacks that cannot be countered and take huge amounts of health off on enemy. You can assign up to 10 of these to the R1 button, which brings up a randomized list of them when pressed, and you need to quickly scroll through them to find the one you want before your slow motion timer is up. This adds a little panic to any desperate situation at first because you will inevitably pick the wrong move in haste, but after the first couple of levels you get used to it and can quickly find the move you need with ease. After that the only reason you select a weak move is to see what it does when you unlock a new one.

In between action stages there’s a small town (consisting of a shop, a casino, and an arena) for you to dick around in and earn the cash you’ll need to buy health upgrades and new moves. Here you can relax and bet on Chihuahua races, play some blackjack, poker, slots, or even take on the challenges in the fighting arena. This is great relaxer, because after some particularly tough stages where I had to continue quite a bit (which by the way is totally forgiving, you get to keep all the gold and special moves you found when you continue, and you can continue as many times as you want from the well placed checkpoints), it was nice to play some slots and try to earn one of the hidden special moves to blow off some steam. You can even attack the bouncer in the casino if you choose- he’ll kick your ass unless you’re SUPER good (I could never beat him), but it’s a fun diversion and a great way to say “fuck you!” to the rigged casino games.

Variety is another place where God Hand rocks. The stages are all completely different and offer not just new scenery, but even some puzzles here and there that are rarely if ever repeated (one stage even has you leading a dog along a ledge by throwing bones to where he can startle a guard and cause him to bump his head on a switch you needed to flip). Some stages have enemies that spawn really tough demons that give up special move scrolls when defeated, some have hidden challenges that reward with you tons of money if successful, and some just have hidden money/power ups all over the place. There are even a couple minigames thrown in just for the hell of it, for example the stage set in a beach side town has you shooting cannon balls at pirate ships for a couple minutes just so you can earn a little extra gold. Saving villagers and townspeople also yields rewards that are well worth the trouble; some even give up special move scrolls for solving puzzles to save them (like putting out fuses on dynamite strapped to them or saving them from drowning). By the time you get to the last stage you’ll have climbed through a mountain, fought through a seaside villa, brawled aboard a huge mechanical spider, and beat the living shit out of fat clowns in a theme park.

God Hand is easily one of the most overlooked and best PS2 games I’ve ever played. It’s extremely challenging (but never cheap), hilarious, and insane enough to be so unique it will leave a lasting impression. You would think that punching and kicking guys for the 12 or so hours it takes to beat the game would get old after a while, but even on the last chapter there are enough new attacks and challenges that you’ll probably be wishing the game would last a little longer. Plus, just to top an already awesome game off, the last boss is classic old school. He’s huge, tough as nails, and seems impossible at first, but like those old 16bit games, once you figure out his pattern you’ll get an incredible sense of satisfaction by finally kicking his ass. What more could you ask from a game?

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Community review by guts (May 28, 2007)

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