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Within the first few seconds of booting up God Hand, you know there is something different about it. There are no pre-game cutscenes to fill you in on the story. There is no fancy opening with Japanese-style choreography. There are some company logos, and a silly warning telling you about the non-existent blood and gore you'll see in the game. You're taken straight to the main menu, surf rock blasting through your stereo, with only three options and nothing more. Seems rather sloppy and poor, doesn't it? But it's at that moment, when you first see the menu, that the whole genius of God Hand hits you.
Did any of the older beat'em ups fill you in on the plot before the action? Nope. You were always taken straight to the main menu, where the only thing you could do was press the start button. Back in the day, that was all the introduction you needed. Stories didn't matter too much in beat'em ups. You were always given one generic guy after the next, and given a couple of buttons to beat the shit out of him. After beating up the same guy for 5 minutes, a recolored-and-much-larger version of him would come out. Which is exactly what God Hand does. Even after you get past the title screen and start the actual game, the opening cinema forgoes exposition. The plot, it seems, is that there are some guys over there that look kinda bad, so go beat them up.
God Hand is the brain child of Shinji Mikami. After finishing off Resident Evil 4, Mikami moved to Clover Studios. Some people believe his move was due to the Resident Evil 4 Playstation 2 port. Mikami made it no secret that he wasn't fond of Resident Evil 4 being ported from the GameCube to another system, even going as far as stating he would chop off his own head (fire himself) if it were to happen. After leaving Capcom Production Studio 4, Mikami had a meeting with Atsushi Inaba (Viewtiful Joe, Okami). Mikami brought up the issue to Sushi that action games today were all about weapons and not about fist fighting anymore. Gone were the days where you only had one button, two fists, and five different bad guys to beat down. That was the feeling Mikami wanted to capture.
And thus, God Hand is born. You play the role of Gene, a young man who is damn poor (as he would put it). Gene has a big mouth, but an even bigger heart. That is, until he got the God Hand. Now his heart is a little smaller and his mouth is much bigger. According to a radio tucked away in the game, there are two God Hands. These hands come from a warrior who defeated a demonic race ages ago for the better of mankind. Both of his arms were protected by an ancient tribe for generations, until a man seeking their power married the highest member's daughter and took off with one of them. The daughter (named Olivia) ran as far away as possible, only to be ambushed by the same demons that were sealed away long ago. Gene attempts to save Olivia, only to be defeated by the demons who slice off one of Gene's arms. Gene runs as far away as possible, and wakes up in a hotel room with a new arm in place of his stub. The new arm is none other then the second God Hand. Gene must now take down a group of demons called The Four Devas, and prevent them from summoning the demon lord who enslaved mankind centuries ago. Following classic 16-bit story telling style, you would barely know any of this unless you read the manual.
Gene is a 23 year old nomad. He comes across Olivia being harassed by some punk ass demons and comes to her rescue. Unfortunately, he finds himself missing one arm after the battle and ends up hiding inside a motel. It is there he acquires the God Hand and takes on the role of our hero. One would think Gene would take this power with responsibility, but he seems to have more fun beating the hell out of people as opposed to saving the day or doing any real good.
The 19 year Olivia runs away from trouble and comes across some more trouble. Gene comes to her rescue and bestows upon him the power of God through a new arm. As you progress through the game, you unlock special pictures which can be viewed from the status screen. These are really pointless pictures of Olivia doing various things. Reading books, getting drunk, and bathing.
The man with the second God Hand. What are his plans? Why did he change to the demon side? The newest (and human) member of the Four Devas, Azel doesn't seem too trustworthy. Follows your very typical Shinji Mikami cool-villan template he stylized starting with Resident Evil's Wesker.
The head master of the Four Devas, Belze has a habit of wearing bad suits and calling too many meetings amongst him and the Four Devas. He speaks with a hyper-menacing tone and thinks all humans are inferior to demons. In short, he is a real dick.
Elvis is a demon who's basically the comic relief of the Four Devas. He resembles Akuma, if he had stopped practicing karate and just sat around eating junk food all day. He is the first boss of the first level, and (if you understand Spanish) comes off as a crude, obese mexican fellow who has a rather larger potty mouth. He obviously has a thing for Shannon, regardless of her not taking a liking to his jokes or actions. And his favorite food? Humans.
Whoa, who let the bitches out? Shannon is scantily clad in pink/purple leather and has a thing for making mortal men her slave. She is the only female in the Four Devas. During her boss fight, she shouts out rather suggestive lines of dialog whenever Gene pisses her off or taunts her. After the boss fight, she speaks to Gene like he just finished ramming her up the ass. According to the Japanese translation, you get to see her "naked" later on in the game, which is partially true.
Dr. Ion is a toy robot who sits around all day with a charger going through his back. Fighting against Dr. Ion makes you feel like you're beating the shit out of Mega Man, as every couple of seconds he switches weapons and powers. His voice (transferred through a toy crow) is really gyrating, so both he and Mega Man would get along fine.
Mr. Silver and Mr. Gold
Gold and Silver are the "fabulous" duo who take part in what might just be the funniest boss fight this console generation. When they first meet Gene, they waste no time in admitting to finding him sexy. After a short cutscene and a quiz ("Whats the name of our boss? ELVIS!"), they send their dancing cronies to beat him down. When you take care of their minions, they leap down from a stage and take you on. While Elvis has his signature cigar cannon, and Shannon uses her cane to transform you into a puppy, Gold and Silver prefer to slap and thrust their asses into your face. If they manage to grab you, one will toss you into the air while the other beams down right onto Gene with his elbow.
Ravel and Debussy
Ravel and Debussy are the musical group from Hell. Originally aspiring (and awful) musicians, they sold their souls to the demons in exchange for musical prowess. Using his guitar, Ravel will shoot at you with purple shockwaves and laserbeams, with Debussy smacking against his drum to send out a yellow musical beam that distorts time and space. There also exists an unnamed third to their group, but he is really just a color swap of Ravel.
Evil Trio (Bruce, Conchita and Felix)
While Gene was traveling the world, he came across Bruce and Felix terrorizing Olivia. Gene, being as cocky as he is, tried to take on the demonic duo but found himself missing one arm. With the God Hand now filling in the stub, Gene has found himself being chased once more by Bruce, Felix, and their leader Conchita. You'll come across these fools two times during your adventure during God Hand, and with the proper skill you'll find them added to your beatdown count.
These assholes have been watching too many henshin TV shows. They are all named after cards found in a normal deck, and use some of the stupidest puns known to man ("You can find me at the - CLUB!"). What makes them slightly difficult is how they continuously gang up on you. They seem more like a joke enemy than anything, with most of their cutscenes being saddled with ridiculous moments (their signature formation is them, shoving their asses into each other's crotch area). A little bit of trivia: Killer7 (another Mikami title) featured similar henshin characters.
God Hand's dialog is also absolutely amazing. It seems a little strange that a Japanese game like this could have so much American-style humor, but recently we have seen an increase in awesome localizations of foreign games. It should come as a surprise that a lot of the dialog seems ripped from a Saturday night anime that you would catch on Cartoon Network. God Hand features a very natural English script with only a couple of key lines coming off akwardly, and the lines go really well with all the wacky cutscenes. The voice acting is delivered professionally, and features some notable names here and there. You might recognize one voice in the bunch, which is Daran Norris (Team America: World Police, The Fairly OddParents) who plays the role of Belze. Beng Spies (Baten Kaitos, Shin Onimusha) does a great job of making Gene come off as a cocky jerk.
Whenever you pick up any of the power-ups, which include such video game standbys as huge floating fruit, as well as pictures of chicks in bikinis, Gene proclaims "AWESOME!" or "I LOVE IT!" There's this one fat enemy guy who taunts "What a pain in the bee-hind!", in a polite manner befitting an English lord. There's even a Mike Tyson reference as enemies scream "You're not Alexander!", alluding to the infamous rant where Tyson taunted Lennox Lewis for not being as strong as Alexander the Great (and threatening to eat his children to boot.) The only downfall to the voice acting is the sparse number of enemy voices. It seems Clover had one guy read off a script of dialog, and merely modified the tone to make his/her voice sound deeper/lighter. This leads to many occasions where you'll hear the same taunt repeated over and over. At least it has some of the most hilarious death screams ever heard in a video game.
God Hand is also another case where the Japanese version features English voice acting with Japanese subtitles. Right off the bat, you can tell that the Japanese subs are vastly different from the English dialog. One cutscene features a guitar-wielding maniac screaming "Long live the guitar!" with the subtitles stating in english "I LOVE GUITAR!"
There are plenty of other touches that are just subtly absurd. Like the running animation. It's the same light, silly jog as your walking animation but sped up triple time. Or the weapon whacking animation. Or the kung fu little dance Gene does when he's standing still. Or the brash "look how awesome I am" pose, complete with taunting laughter, after executing certain powerful moves.
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