Somewhere between the 20 episodes and almost 5 months of Retro Saturdays, I realized that we have always ever done, PC games. A lot of it is down to what kind of gamers we were when we were growing up. Indian middle class families looked at gaming consoles as luxuries, while computers were supposed to fulfill multiple roles (of which playing games was the least important but ended being the most used). Having said that, I have always had access to a game console ever since I can remember (I proudly tell everyone I meet how I have owned a Samurai, a Terminator, a PS2, a Xbox 360, a PSP, a PS4 and most recently a Nintendo Switch). So here to shake things up a bit here is the first ever PlayStation exclusive Retro Saturday, God Hand.
Where is God Hand?
System Shock 2, Mirror’s Edge, Catherine, Spec Ops: The Line. What do all these games have in common with God Hand? All of them didn’t really do well when they first came out, but have gathered a cult following since then. But what does all these games have in contrast with God Hand? It’s the fact that unlike any of them, God Hand cannot be remade or rebooted in today’s climate.
God Hand was originally released in 2006 for the PS2. Today God Hand has a place on the PSN store, and can be bought, downloaded and played by anyone who owns a PS3 system. There is no reboot or remaster available and the closest you can get to a spiritual successor is Asura’s Wrath, but even that game is restricted to the PS3. In a time of timed releases, God Hand is a true blue console exclusive.
What is God Hand?
The last game by Clover Studios (Okami), supervised by Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil & Vanquish) and produced by Atsushi Inaba (Metal gear Revengeance & Nier Automata), God Hand is a button masher, 3D beat-em-up which mixes brash (read ‘NOT POLITICALLY CORRECT’ today) humour with themes from Anime (Fist Of The North Star & MD Geist), all underlined by the ‘Rule Of Cool’ maxim.
When the game came out, IGN gave the game a score of 3/10 (a review which is a part of video game folklore now), and the site was immediately bombarded by comments from people who loved the game. Strangely IGN also went onto to include God Hand in their “Top 100 PlayStation 2 Games” list in 2010. Reading the review today, I personally could not disagree with most of what is written in the review, and yet I could not understand why the reviewer didn’t like the game.
A recurring theme, where the game itself was objectively bad and flawed, but extremely enjoyable and fun to play. Its like watching The Room, or Dawn Of The Dead, or even Andaaz Apna Apna. In hindsight, God Hand is a melting point of all the influences mentioned above, and maybe today we can understand why the game was the way it was. But back in 2006 when the game released for the PS2, it was definitely an acquired taste.
What is God Hand?
When I played God Hand on my PS2 for the first time, I was pretty sure I was playing a game released at least 2-3 years earlier. Turns out I had played the game in the same year it was released. Might have influenced my joy factor today, but it didn’t bother the 20 year old, ignorant, away from the internet, enjoying his vacation by finishing a PS2 game everyday version of me. I was happy bashing away at enemies after enemies, some dressed as carnival loving gay twins, others as Rock Stars at concerts, while others were pot bellied desk workers. Oh and did I mention there are demons, and skimpy clad but well endowed women. Lots of Them…I mean the demons.
The only mechanic, I really knew of was the tension gauge meter which used to fill up as I pummeled enemies, and then could later be used to inflict even more damage on your enemies (including Bosses). I didn’t even know that you could map entire combos to an entire button, and I didn’t care as I was too busy smirking and laughing through the snarky insult, one liner and the crass humor on which the game relied so heavily on. The boss battle where I have to fight the aforementioned gay twins, is one of the most vivid memories I have of a video game. PERIOD. I mean how can a teenage boy forget fighting 2 really lean dudes who shove their asses up your face as an attack?
It must be said here that I also played Shadow Of the Colossus around the same time, and found it to be incredibly boring. So I guess it must say something about the kind of person I am.
Having said that, even the naive gamer in me could understand that God Hand was not perfect. Enemies could attack you from behind, which was a complete blind spot to you. More over enemies had combos too, and if you were caught they could take away a chunk of your life even so when at higher levels. The bosses were cheap (really creatively dressed but cheap), with just layers of health bars stacked on top of each other without much variation. Something that my teenage self felt irritated by and my grown up self calls a lazy design decision. And the graphics weren’t great too, lets just say it belonged to the games of a period which haven’t age quite well.
Why God Hand?
What makes God Hands really interesting to me is the fact that such a game cannot be remade today. Fan project- maybe, Early Access- doubtful, Kickstarter- outrageous, but as a AAA release, no way. And even if it did make it to the market, it will be in news for all the wrong reasons. People would not be talking about the wonky camera, the outdated graphics, and cheap bosses. Instead the conversation will be around how the characters are dressed, why a certain joke was used, and what is the sexual orientation of a certain character, and a more over-arching debate about stereotyping. I find it amusing that such factors are a big part of games and consequently game reviews today (Case in point IGN never mentions how distasteful the jokes were).
That’s it for this week folks. Hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing about God Hand. Maybe even given you some food for thought. Normal service from Jay should return next week, so til then, enjoy the weekend and happy gaming!