There are two companies responsible for making the beat 'em-up genre a success: Capcom and Konami. With their combined line-up, you have a string of nothing but classics in the most repetitive genre the industry has ever seen.
God Hand is the latest from Capcom, and takes the genre back to its roots with little regard for modern features.
A tribute more or less, God Hand's beat 'em-up game play brings with it every cliché any gamer over 20 remembers. Red barrels with health giving power ups? Check. Beating the same guy 15 times in one stage? Check. Weapons that disappear when moving into a new section? Check.
While all of those features are fun, it's the mechanics that sell God Hand. Combos are fully customizable, down to each hit. As new moves are earned, the simple interface becomes the addictive aspect as you refine your set of attacks until you have the strings that suit your style.
In execution, the punches and kicks carry weight, and the animation does a perfect job in selling each connected blow. Slightly irritating is the way CPU opponents can suddenly start blocking, killing the momentum and satisfaction of delivering the chosen shots. Specific moves can be used to break through, but this completely defeats the purpose of a combo in the first place.
Frustration grows with God Hand's camera, seemingly culled from a failed project back in 1996. The right analog stick is used for rapid defensive slides, necessary to maneuver out of the enemy’s path. As such, character movement and the camera are given to the left analog only. It swings slowly, and an enemy at your back is enough to lose a decent segment of your health meter.
Coming from Clover, the same studio responsible for developing Viewtiful Joe, God Hand sticks with their style and delivers comedy along with a solid dose of parody. Without an ounce of blood (though the game's initial loading screen indicates there will be plenty in a goofy nod to other Capcom releases), the M rating is earned elsewhere. Double entendre dialogue is everywhere, and rarely used better. Be sure to walk over each boss and search or you'll be missing some of the game's best moments.
Distractions include a full casino mode with three different games, a fighting arena, and a shop filled with items that can be earned by playing in either of those. When the story fighting becomes repetitive, and it will, these are fun ways to break the monotony while still affecting the quest. Extra cash earned in the extra play modes makes up for the lack of funds in the main story.
While its audience is specific, those who come across this gem and spend some time with it will be satisfied. Knowing what to expect, even in a game that contains things you could never actually imagine (or would you want to), makes all the difference. God Hand is a retro title, and doesn't pretend to be anything else. That focus makes it the sleeper of the year.
God Hand is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence