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God Hand
  opened by paleface at 05:07:31 03/08/07  
  last modified by paleface at 00:59:34 03/11/07  
  paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Beat_em_up; loc=NA]
Truly wacky 3d beat-em-up set in a contemporary far west of ghost towns and rocky vistas, inhabited by thugs and demons. Your hero, toting the "God Hand" that lets him unleash powerful hand-to-hand attacks, and his sassy girlfriend (?), saunter through, proceeding to beat stuff up. In between areas you can train in an arena, gamble in a casino to make more money (slots, video poker, blackjack), and buy powerups in a shop.
The control and fighting system is pretty unique. It's confusing at first because the left and right on the left stick just pivot you in place... That sounds kind of normal but with the camera angle fixed low and directly behind the character, it seems a little weird. You can't duck or jump. Sidestepping, backflipping, and dashing is done with the right stick. In practice, this works pretty well--once you've got used to it. The camera, though, takes more work, and I still find myself wishing that I could pan up or down to check out more of these dusty areas in which I find myself. One thing it does pretty well is sort of auto-lock on the enemy in front of you, so your attacks are pretty much always directed right where you want them to go.
Not being able to jump is strange enough, but you also can't block, so you've got to get good at dodging with that right stick. The enemies will often come at you three at a time, and they love to blindside you. Each one also tends to take a good long beating before they quit, and they also know how to start blocking if you're just repeating a single attack over and over.
That's where techniques come in. You start off with a dozen or so fighting moves that you know. You can set these up in a chain combo for one button, then as fixed attacks for the two other buttons, and three more fixed attacks with Down+button. That leaves one face button, Circle, free, and this is used for opportune actions during fights, such as stomping a guy who's down, or suplexing a guy who's just getting up.
Now, when you really want to start whupping people, it's time to graduate up to the right shoulder buttons. R1 activates your special technique "roulette" wheel, where you go into a semi-pause mode in which you pick a power attack to use, then unleash it against your current enemy in an impressive display of godliness. You get a fixed stock of these, but you can restock via items you find by busting open crates, taking out bad guys, etc.
For the ultimate in pwnorship, you press R2 to activate the Godhand. This makes your right arm glow, the screen tints darker around you, and you suddenly move really fast, and strike powerfully--at least until your energy drains away. It builds back up as you fight, so yay.
You'll also find lots of things you can pick up and smash people with, like crates, pipes, barrels... And you'll need 'em, 'cause these guys are pretty darn tough! The combat feels pretty "smart," since you're usually outnumbered, and the AI starts blocking pretty quickly unless you're careful to keep mixing up your attacks. You've also got to time things right, because the more powerful attacks have long windup and recovery times, so you usually have to get in a quick combo to stun your opponent, maybe throwing in a guard-breaker move once they start to block, then pop them into the air for a juggle, or nail them with a powreful drop-kick or something. It keeps you on your toes and constantly thinking about strategy, and it's pretty darn fun.
The real kicker here, though, is the pervasive, completely oddball humor. The opening cutscene will have you scratching your head immediately, and it doesn't let up from there. The two main characters are constantly teasing each other in really odd ways, and the bad guys are totally out of this world. The character design is quite unique, and the cinematics very creative.
The characters look good, and the environments an extent. There's a distinctly low-poly quality to them, which keeps the game moving along pretty quick, but can leave areas looking blurry, drab, and plain. This fits in with the wide west theme somewhat, but could definitely stand to have a few less flat, open, poorly lit areas. The sound effects, on the other hand, are very distinct, from the shouts and catcalls of your enemies, to the whirling power siphon of the Godhand, to the bell that dings when you use the power move that back-heels the target in the goodies.
I've seen some pretty bizarre footage of later cutscenes and enemies, and I can't wait to get to them. I'm only at the beginning, and things are already severely weird--and my fighting reflexes have already been severely challenged. This game takes no prisoners. I'm sure it was way too bizarre to have sold worth a damn in the States (and developer Clover, a Capcom studio, went defunct soon after it came out), but damn, I'm liking it a whole lot. We could sure use a heck of a lot more games that are both this hardcore and this original.

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