Flashback: God Hand (PS2)

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If you haven’t heard of God Hand, it’s because this game pretty much defines the phrase ‘hidden gem’. The game was panned when it came out, as this frankly offensive IGN review proves. However, many people, myself included, think this game is an underrated masterpiece. The game does have it’s faults but it is so unique, so different, so good that going a lifetime without playing it would be a life not worth living.

In God Hand you play as Gene, a young man who recently had his right arm cut off by some troublesome demons. Luckily Olivia, a young lady, finds you and entrusts you with the God Hand, an arm that carries the power of a God which her family has been guarding for centuries. She then manipulates Gene into helping locals, stopping the demons and, eventually, saving the world. In case you couldn’t tell, this game is Japanese and also has a sense of humour. By a sense of humour, I mean that everything in this game is a joke. Everything. You can bet on Chihuahua races, you fight a Gorilla in a Luchador costume and a team of tiny Power Ranger-like imps which are probably the sillier points of the game. I found it funny and this style is a point in the games favour in my eyes, but this may not be for everyone, as the jokes take the place of any real emotions the game might be trying to convey.

The negative things encompass many aspects of the game really. The graphics are pretty unremarkable, the stages in particular aren’t impressive. For instance sometimes if you go close to walls and look at them at an angle you can see through them. The enemy design is pretty lackluster and repetitive. The camera is also fixed directly behind you, which is probably the worst thing about the game. You can end up walking into walls or taking hits from enemies behind you fairly easily, you have to be paying attention otherwise you can find yourself dying unexpectedly. This can lead to frustration sometimes, but it can be got around by making sure you’re aware of where you enemies are. This is not necessarily an easy thing to do but I feel that these down sides are countered by the games major plus point.

godhandThis plus point is the main point, the focus of every game, the main selling point. The gameplay. This is a game after all, why play a game if not to be challenged? Games can have a good story, great graphics and involving dialogue but if the gameplay is bad you may as well be watching a film. God Hand‘s gameplay is unique and scintillatingly good. There is a build your own combo system in the game, you unlock and buy various moves that can break guards, launch and juggle enemies. You also get to choose which order your main combo moves go in for maximum efficiency, or alternatively, to look the coolest. You can down enemies or collect pick-ups to build your tension meter which you can use to unleash the God Hand. You become invincible and hit faster until the meter drains. This can be used for devastating effect on bosses and the occasional big demon that pops up unexpectedly. There are cool looking special moves you can deploy in a pinch  and some of the standard combo moves might bring a smile to your face (my personal favourites are two moves, one called Pay Up and another called No Really Pay Up). But the thing that makes this game so good, at least in my eyes, is that you can dodge anything. In most games, you have a dodge button, sometimes the button is contextual so you can dodge when the game lets you. In God Hand the right analogue stick is all dodging. Left stick moves and rotates Gene and right stick dodges in four directions. This means you can dodge everything. Every time you get hit, you could have dodged it. Dodging can also cancel your animations so there’s no reason to be getting damaged unless you make a mistake. This is what makes God Hand special, the skill potential is enormous. Sure the game is tricky when you first start out, the controls feel a little clunky but in no time you are dodging hits and laying the smack down and it feels amazing. The game truly comes alive when you are fighting bosses, dodging their attacks expertly, then delivering a heart stopping combo of moves directly to their face. This is all somewhat undermined by the camera problem I mentioned earlier, where sometimes you can get hit by something you didn’t see, but if you’re careful enough this doesn’t have to be a problem.

Overall then, God Hand is a weird, silly, ugly game. But its gameplay is like no other. If you play games for a good story or for pretty set pieces you probably won’t enjoy God Hand. But if you play games to play them, God Hand might be the perfect game for you. Truly unique, challenging and skill based gameplay make God Hand, for me, a game very much worth playing.

8/10

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I was born in Leeds in 1993 and moved to Southampton to study History at the University of Southampton in 2011. I've always enjoyed writing and critiquing but always seem to draw a blank when filling in biographical information.

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