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[ Writer ] = BAD
[ 06/06/07 ] = GodNeck

When I first saw the GodHand promo video, I wasn't impressed. My initial impression was that the game was trying too hard to be funny (because the preview videos only showed the funny parts). While this impression proved to be accurate and lasting (it really does try too hard), I came to like the game. It grew on me. Not really because of the humor, but because of the depth that lies underneath all the unnecessary humor that has shaped the game's reputation. Once I got into it, GH proved to be more of a crazy ass-kicker than just a kooky knee-slapper. Some love GH for its humor (and there's nothing wrong with that if that's what you like), but I like it for all the little things. They say that "it's the little things that count," and with GH that rings true.







Until GodHand, some experimentation had been done in bringing the side-scrolling fighting genre to the next-generation (after a long hiatus). New things were introduced, but most efforts only scratched the surface of customization. There were hardly any titles in the genre that allowed for complete fighting style customization, and with the technology available, the void needed to be filled. Enter GodHand. Behind all the quirky enemies and jokes lies a fully-customizable fighting system. That is, Gene's normal attacks, Special Moves, and combos are customizable. In past titles, the player was limited to doing a preprogrammed combo (which there's nothing wrong with); GH is different from every other title in the genre because the player can configure that combo. This is what really separates the game from the rest of the pack. And as you may have already read somewhere else, Gene can perform Super Moves (in the form of Roulette Moves) and those can be customized, too. Well, sort-of. New Roulette Moves are learned and bought, so the player is allowed to configure the set of usable Roulette Moves they want during battle. The humor is negotiable (we can just say that Viewtiful Joe had humor, too), but I think it's safe to say that the GodHand succeeds in a level of customization that hasn't been done in the genre before. While other side-scrolling fighters offer combo variations and various move sets (that aren't at all bad in some cases), there really is nothing like the actual customization that GH offers. Customization may seem like a trivial feature, but it really does make the game unique. It feels great being able to create your own combos and unleash them on the game's absolutely despicable collection of enemies.



The box for the American version of GH reads, "Unmatched Punching Power," which is a phrase that cannot possibly be understood unless the game is played. You can really beat the shit out of the enemies in this game. You're talking straight beatings. In Capcom's other brawlers there are strong attacks, but in this game the hit as hard as a semi-truck. Special attention was paid to the impact, collision, and connection of moves, so they hit as hard as they look (and sometimes even harder). You can literally lay the smack down with moves like the "Pimp Smack" and "Pay Up." I'm not into the whole "pilmps & playaz" thing, but I knew some of you out there would get a kick out of this. Then you got individual Special Moves that send enemies sailing (far into the horizon) or flying (across the screen into walls at warp-speed). For weapons, you have the staple beat-em-up fare (2X4s, metal bars, swords, sledgehammers, and barrels), but then you got some unorthodox weapons, too (like torches, vases, and giant teddy bears). Weapon strikes are typically slow with good damage, but in GH they're quick and they do sick damage. You can throw weapons, too, and we're not just talking about your average throw; we're talking about the destructive force of a semi-truck behind a fully-charged, full-fledged "Fuck you, too!" from across the screen.

In the old 2-D Final Fight games, you could punch a few times and cancel the combo with a throw, and the technique was essential to mastering them. There's a similarly essential technique in GH where combos are canceled by several different situational moves that are mapped to the Action button. The moves are situational, so combos can be canceled by anything from grabs like the Suplex and Cobra Twist to full-on attacks like the Stinger (a flurry of knees to the face) and Spanking (yes, you heard right). Pummel attacks (a blur of rapid punches or kicks) can also be performed with the Action button, echoing scenes from classic Japanese cartoons like Dragon Ball and Fist of the North Star. And last but not least, you can do destructive, slow-motion counterattacks and throw reversals with the Action button in situations when enemies do surprise attacks.

It's said that Gene "controls like a truck," and it's true (for the most part). Side and back movement is a little slow, but there is a Quick-Turn button and an Evasion Stick that make him more agile. With the Evasion Stick you can duck, dodge, sway, or backflip out of harm's way. All the bobbing and weaving is crazy, just like the choreographed fight scenes from movies like Blade and The Matrix. The Evasion Stick is a great concept, and it's easily one of the main things that makes GH such an innovative game, but the regular control mechanics need tuning. Gene turns around when you press Left or Right, holding Down makes him slowly walk backwards, and he runs (or strolls) forward when you press Up. Fine. I don't care about the fact that Left and Right only turn him around. The difficult part here is that the arc he runs in is too wide, so when you go past the small turn radius, he suddenly stops. It's not as bad as the control in Tekken 4 Force (where every direction is the wrong direction), but it makes you wonder how such an anomaly made it to the final version of the game. One other annoying thing is how the lifebars are above the (regular) enemy's heads; it looks kind-of tacky, and they should have been fixed to the top of the screen (like in FFSW and BD).

It all really seems like a big joke until you start kicking the game's ass. Then, it starts to kick your ass. Some enemies just die and fade away after you beat them, no problem; but others come back as pissed-off demons, and when they do the game's playful, funny theme fades and darkens to dead-serious. The AI adjusts according to your performance, so if you're really good at the game enemies will be smarter and you'll face more demons. Likewise, if you're not that good enemies will stay dumb and you won't fight as many demons. Demons are a lot stronger than their human counterparts, and are able to shave off chunks of life at a time with each attack. There are different types of demons, and most of them look pretty cool; some have blades from their arms, others have spikes that protrude from their body, and there's even one that slithers and wields a trident. The demons are real bastards to fight against, and if human enemies are still around when they appear, they make an already hard fight even harder. At least the deafening, violent explosion that follows their submission looks cool, though. Bosses have demon forms, too, and they look even more gruesome and intimidating; Elvis's overflowing gullet and fat hands turn into salivating mouths of razor-sharp teeth, Shannon turns into something like a huge, demonic minotaur, and the demon leader Belze turns into a giant, hideous fly. And believe me when I say Belze looks fucking sick. The demon god Anzra is the biggest boss fight in the game (easily dwarfing Gene), and with its sheer size it pea-knuckles Gene across the screen with the greatest of ease. Despite the slapstick theme of the rest of the game, the final boss battle is epic.

A girl is the pivotal part of the story for a lot of games in the side-scrolling fighter genre, and GH carries the tradition into the next-generation nicely. You play as the playful, good-spirited badass Gene (note the spelling) and Olivia is the girl you have to save from the clutches of evil. And let me tell you that nothing has ever been more worth the fight; from head to toe Olivia's character model looks and animates incredibly well. Anyone who knows anything about real Japanese fashion (not cosplay) can see its influence in her distinct design. She's right up there with the bombshell from Namco's Urban Reign. You can even get a costume (after you beat the game) that turns Olivia into a sweet bunny-girl! The remaining cast of GH is classic. Its motley cast of enemies (ranging from clowns and chicks with whips to knife-weilding assassins and other assorted goons) will take veterans back to the good 'ol days of brawlers like The Combatribes, Rival Turf!, and Streets Of Rage. None of the enemies in GH are as bad as Gigante in Rival Turf!, but some get pretty damn close. The regular enemies are a despicable collection of assorted assholes and jerks, but the bosses are a nice mix and there's something for everyone; a few goofy ones (the wanna-be Power Rangers and the Gorilla wrestler), your token hot chick (she-devil Shannon), robotic hassles (a giant robotic claw machine, the Frankenstein spoof "Sparky"), the grotesque (Fat Elvis, and Belze in demon form), and the typical bad-asses (The Great Master and Devil Hand). There are even ninjas and a mid-boss (named Tiger Joe) who fights like Sagat from Street Fighter! A closer look also reveals that the design types of enemies like Blade, Slice, Hammer Terhune, Ferris, and Butcher from past Capcom side-scrolling fighter Cadillacs & Dinosaurs faintly show through in GodHand, as well.

The demon part of this game also brings to light something about Capcom's other recent side-scrolling fighter, Final Fight - Streetwise. Critics have cited tons of half-assed "reasons" why it's such a "bad game," one of them having to do with the monster bosses and enemies. They said that it wasn't a "true" Final Fight game because the monsters clashed with the human enemies in the game, and because it was developed at Capcom USA. Well, there are humans and monsters in GodHand, too, so I have a question for the critics to answer. Clover Studio made the game in Japan, and Clover Studio was part of Capcom, so what does that make GodHand? Fucking idiots. Anyway...

The assortment of stages in GH are interesting (to say the least). Most of them are rustic with a few modern parts thrown-in for good measure; battles take place across barren deserts, carnivals, and mines, an Italian village (my favorite), a floating pyramid, an ancient stone tower, and even in the bowels of giant moving machinery. It is said that the stages are too "square," but to their credit they are pretty big and there are a lot of secret areas to be discovered. The stages really aren't bad, and the game's convenient save system lets you save between each area (the stages are actually divided in sections). As a side-note, Gamespot says that there are no "bottomless pits to jump over, and barely any other obstacles to watch out for besides all the bad guys." This is completely untrue, and it shows that the writer(s) didn't play through the game. There are parts where you have to press the Action button to Jump across "bottomless pits," and there are several other "obstacles" to watch out for all throughout the game (our own GH master Sol Sadguy has confirmed this). This is not a comprehensive list, but there are falling boulders, locked doors that hit you back (yes, you heard right), catapults that rain fire, and and other contraptions (that involve spinning sharp objects in tight corridors) to watch out for. These environmental hazards (or "obstacles") make GH unique.

Like most side-scrolling fighters, barrels and crates containing items and food (like giant playing cards and giant fruit) are strewn about each stage, and enemies even drop them on occasion. Of course, no side-scrolling fighter would be complete without bonus stages, and in GH they come in two forms (normal and hidden). The normal ones consist mostly of gambling stuff like slots (pretty fun), video-poker (if you're into cards), dog races (with wacky little Chihuahuas), a battle ring (fights for money), and a cannon game (where you shoot pirate ships and UFOs). Yeah, I don't know why the fuck UFOs are in the game, either (but at least you get to blow them up). Then you got hidden bonus stages offered by a little demon fairy (if you can find her). Most of the bonus stages this little bitch offers you are pretty jacked-up, and the odds are stacked high against you, but they're pretty fun overall. The car bonus stage from Final Fight makes a cameo, too!

I've heard that the story was shallow, but when I played through the game I was surprised because it was the complete opposite. In the beginning you don't know much (because the story is told backwards), but as the game progresses everything comes together nicely. More than the story, though, the emphasis of GH is obviously (and unfortunately) on jokes. If anything, the humor in the American version speaks volumes about the localization of the game, which is absolutely fantastic. Whoever did the localization for this game should be given a hefty promotion. Why? Because they made the transition from Japanese to English a smooth one. Looking at the Japanese version, very little (if anything at all) was lost in the transition; the American version feels just like Japanese version. There are very few awkward scenes and some of the jokes are impressively witty and sarcastic. Even the text sounds natural...the localization as a whole is fantastic, and shows that the translator is just as familiar with English and American pop-culture as he/she is with Japan and Japanese pop-culture (as seen with the "Pay-up" and "Pimp Smack" moves). It's not easy to translate jokes in pop-culture (because they varies from culture to culture), but somehow GH's translator(s) did it, and they did it fitting and naturally.

The humor in GH is, in a word, raunchy. Jokes involve (but are not limited to) gay dudes bumping asses and strutting, dudes doing perverted dances, an overabundance of tight pants and nut-guards, and a ton of other shit (basically the whole nine yards). That is not to say that GH doesn't have its moments; the boss Shannon does a spell that turns Gene into a defenseless little Chihuahua (but that's not the funny part), and in Chihuahua form the skull logo from Gene's coat is in his fur! One of the funniest things in the game, and a must-see. There's another funny part where Shannon spouts-off to Gene and he comes back with, "the only bitch here that needs training is you." And taunts like, "You're not Alex The Great!" are worth a mention just because they sound so ridiculous. The odd, yet catchy and funny music also shapes the game's playful theme (even though there are serious tracks peppered throughout the game), and most of it's so horribly funny and bad that it's good. Actual sound effects are a lot different, though. The crushing impact of every bone-breaking attack is conveyed in such brutal clarity that you can almost taste the blood of uprooted teeth.

It's called a typical action game, but it's not. Why? Because it's a side-scrolling fighter like BeatDown and Final Fight - Streetwise. And it serves the genre right with its brutal, white-knuckle fighting and throwbacks to past side-scrolling fighters like Final Fight and Streets Of Rage. You will enjoy GH if you liked playing those games back then, but if you don't like games that take reflexes and skill then you should play (or watch) something else. Side-scrolling fighters take reflexes and skill to master, and GH is no exception. If not with its sense of humor, then GodHand will please fans of the genre with its extreme approach. It is a definite purchase for brawler fans, and it compliments Final Fight - Streetwise and BeatDown well. I'm not saying that it's the best Capcom-branded side-scrolling fighter, ever. I don't even know if I can call it one of the best! But I can say that the game is innovative, and that it has succeeded in separating itself from the rest of the genre in more ways than one. Overall, GH's control scheme is innovative (because no other game in the genre really controls like it), but it's still a mixed bag; truly innovative on one hand, but not quite polished on the other. There are some obvious control flaws with basic movement, but the advanced techniques are innovative and responsive. Raunchy humor aside, it's a serious brawler with tons of Special Moves and Super Moves, smart AI, and customization features. GH is the perfect example of how innovation doesn't always equal perfection.

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