When a 3rd person action video game featuring a cool guy with an ever grinning fresh face, naughty attitude, spiky hairdo and flexible muscles as the main protagonist hits the shelves, often the usual suspect is Shinji Mikami of Devil May Cry fame. And when we talk about old-school side-scrolling beat 'em ups, usually the first company that pops up in our sensitive mind is Capcom. That's exactly the case with God Hand - the last hurrah of the untimely shut Clover Studio. A frantic classical beat 'em up reminiscent of the good old days when the likes of Final Fight and Streets of Rage ruled the world of videogaming, God Hand didn't receive a warm welcome from the critics (a particular review in a popular web-site with a score of 3/10 being the most unforgiving and questionable one). Just like oh-so many other cases, the absence of eye-candy graphics and the presence of a challenging level of difficulty turned away the casual gamers.
God Hand relies mostly on its furious, acrobatic and comical gameplay. You are put in the shoes of Gene, who looks like a typical relative of Dante and Virgil - an impolite young fella, who moves and fights with the sheer grace and elegance of a ballet dancer and whose verbal remarks hit as hard as his lightning quick punches and kicks. Starting his quest for ultimate justice from a dilapidated town soaked up with the spirit of the Wild West, Gene is not convinced whether or not he should save Olivia - a very curvy damsel in distress - from the legions of apish punks abusing peaceful civilians in the streets. It turns out that it's up to this beauty to find some ways to overcome the innate laziness of the man with the power of God sealed in his right arm and make him save the day. Always the MC he is, Gene entertains you (and the invisible audience) with hundreds of different combat techniques applied on hordes of some of the most amusing thugs you've ever seen in a video game. Thrown in the game almost without measure are many hilarious bosses and sub-bosses who multiply the fun.
Being homage paid to the beat 'em ups of the past, God Hand features a simple but effective and efficient battle system. In fact the art of fighting is difficult for anyone to master and later in the game the odds are that your killing machine will be beaten black and blue not for once or twice. Your arsenal consists of basic techniques and manoeuvres, special actions, special skills and the infamous God Hand. A basic technique can be learned by obtaining a Technique Scroll from a defeated enemy or by buying it at the shop between the sub-stages. There are many different techniques and the funniest thing about them is that they can be changed and assigned to any button according to your preferences at any time in the game. The special action is a quick time event sequence usually used for inflicting additional damage by quickly pressing a button shown on the screen. The special skills are the skills that can be used by activating the God Reel, in most instances they are fanciful attacks for massive damage. They can be bought from shops as well or they can be received from grateful civilians saved by Gene. Finally, we have the God Hand. When the special Tension Bar is filled, by pressing R2 you can release your ultimate weapon. This action leads to a great boost in the speed and the attack power of Gene for a short time, thus giving him the chance to perform some mega cool combo-heavy attacks. One should see it in order to believe it.
As mentioned before, graphically God Hand is far from impressive. However, one can easily forgive Clover Studio the dull backgrounds and the lack of detail throughout the stages when the fast-paced action squeeze his mind to set it free only for several brief, well-made and cheesy cut-scenes at the end of the level. Simply put, God Hand doesn't need any graphical brilliance just like its forefathers didn't need it more than 10 years ago. The responsive and timely gameplay controls is all that matters in games such as this one. Bring in large amounts of refreshing humour, a level of difficulty that really challenges your skills and likeable, pseudo-heroic music and what you finally get will be a great game not for everyone. That's exactly the case with God Hand. Most people will ignore it, some will play it and a few will praise it. As the turn of the European gamers to show some well-deserved respect for the last game of Clover Studio draws near, don't hesitate to do so. For old times' sake.
8 / 10