Making the case for God Hand 2

March 28, 2011

Editor’s note: In a recent interview, Okamiden producer Motohide Eshiro hinted that Capcom would consider a sequel to controversial PS2 title God Hand if fans expressed enough interest. Unsurprisingly, that’s mobilized quite a few to express support for the idea. Richard Watts, creator of GodHandFan.com, makes the case for the sequel.

Do you remember God Hand? The game in which you could kick people so hard that they were launched into outer space? In which you could kick a demon in the testicles? Spank a girl to death with your bare hand?  Punch as quick as the Fist of the North Star? The game that was so difficult that you cried and cried, and your parents didn’t understand what had happened to you? If you don’t know this game, it’s time for you to learn about one of the finest games ever to have been made.  

Die-hard fans of God Hand should be very excited. Up until now, they were right to assume that there would never be a sequel to their favorite game. Released by Capcom in 2006, it would be the final game designed by Clover Studios. Clover then went on to become Platinum Games, and the rights to God Hand remained with Capcom. Five years later, we’ve barely heard a thing about the game. Up until now.

The original

God Hand, designed by Shinji Mikami, had a singular vision – to be a game for hardcore players. It took many elements from the old beat-’em-ups like Final Fight and Streets of Rage, taking standard enemy designs from the time (mohawk thugs, dominatrix women, skinny knife-wielders, fat bald men, etc.) and placing them into a modern game with a more complex fighting system. The game is as challenging as the old beat-’em-ups too, with enemies taking a serious beating before going down, and boss health bars seeming to go on forever. Comedy elements and fun references run throughout the game, including the moves that the main character, Gene, uses. From the Dragon Punch to the German Suplex, Gene represents a typical martial artist from anime and video game culture, yet remains unique because of his design and unusual combination of styles.

God Hand really stands out because of the combat system. Unlike Devil May Cry and its contemporaries, God Hand is about getting up-close and personal with the enemy, and using your bare hands to crack skulls. Rather than jumping clear of all danger, waiting for it to be safe then going back in, God Hand forces you to stay with the enemy at all times, and dodge their individual attacks. Unable to block, you have to react to everything the enemy does to avoid getting hit. This requires more skill, but is also more rewarding. By using Gene’s dodge moves, you really feel like you are in a fight, dodging each punch as it comes, rather than treating all moves the same.

When it comes to the beat-down, you have a customizable set of techniques which you can add to as you buy more moves during the game. At any time, you can have five custom moves and a combo loop made up of any moves you have bought. Choosing a different combination of moves greatly affects your strategy in the fight. There are guard breakers which cause a stun on an enemy should they block it, quick moves to intercept enemy attacks, moves that juggle, unblockables, moves with evasion properties and moves which knock enemies flying across the level. It’s up to you what you focus on.

Using your tools, once you smack enemies around enough times you can knock them senseless, so that they are dizzy. Once they are like this, you can activate a stun move – a set animation which causes Gene to pulverize them in a hilariously awesome way, such as knee them in the face a hundred times then DDT them into the ground, or get them in a submission hold and crank their neck over and over until it snaps. These are wonderfully satisfying payoffs to work toward, some of which call for the player to repeatedly press buttons – the quicker you pound, the faster Gene pounds their skull.

On top of these techniques, Gene also has the God Hand itself. This can either be activated to make you invincible and super quick for a few moments at a time, or you can use the Roulette moves, which are unblockable super moves which are powered by orbs that you pick around the levels.

To keep you on your toes, there is also a dynamic difficulty. There are four difficulties that the game can function at – 1, 2, 3 and “Die”.  Enemy AI is different on each difficulty, gradually getting quicker, blocking more intelligently, using more complex moves, attacking in formation rather than one at a time, and of course doing more damage to you. The game determines what difficulty it should be at.  To start with you begin on Level 1. If you get smacked around, it doesn’t rise from there, but if you avoid getting hit and start to defeat enemies with ease, it goes up. And it continues to go up and up until you reach a point where you do get beaten, at which point it will start to go down, and not progress further until you start to do better. This works fantastically, because if you’re having trouble getting used to the game, or come to a particularly challenging section, then you are given a break as the difficulty goes down. And on the other hand, if you’re finding it too easy, it gets harder to cater to your skills. Everybody wins! Not only this, but at the end of each mission, you’re given a set amount of money for each enemy defeated at each difficulty, so it’s an incentive to keep the game as hard as you can make it by successfully dodging attacks.

The need for a sequel

So, why do we need a sequel to God Hand?  First of all, look at the competition. There still are no other games like this. In particular, the unique dodging system, the fully-customizable fighting style and the dynamic difficulty are just some of the things that other designers seem to have overlooked. Also, other modern fighting games worth talking about are high-flying action like Bayonetta. God Hand is a totally different genre, a much more hands-on experience, and there are no modern games of any quality in this genre.

Also, too many games are becoming simple, aimed at casual gamers, with nothing to really learn, nothing to work at. God Hand is a game in which you come away feeling like you have learned a martial art, a system by which you can overcome the odds. You can also play it again and again, trying different combinations, and trying to do better on each stage, learn new ways to deal with situations, push your reflexes to their absolute limit. Other games guide you so much, force you into a particular way to deal with the enemies, instead of giving you more tools than necessary and letting you decide what to do. A sequel to God Hand would address this, if the core elements of the game were preserved or built upon, we’d have something really special, something which hopefully would be noticed this time, and influence games to come.

What could Capcom do with God Hand 2?  First of all, they could expand on all the obvious elements:

  • Put in more moves to buy
  • Add new properties for moves, for instance, eye-poking, more taunt moves like slaps and comedy karate moves, and grab moves which could activate off normal strikes (such as a kick to the belly which turns into a Stone Cold Stunner on counter hit or on a stunned opponent)
  • Put in more options to use on a grounded enemy (as it is you can only stomp or use an axe kick, they could put in elbow drops, leg drops and so on)
  • Add some unique God Hand moves to be used once God Hand is activated
  • Make the stun moves customizable just like the other moves (so that you don’t have to see the same stun moves again and again) as well as allowing Gene to use unique stun moves on downed or juggled opponents allowing for more variety
  • Add in the possibility for double stun moves, (if there are two enemies stunned next to each other) for instance, banging their heads together, or doing a jumping splits kick
  • Add in some kind of counter system, where you would have the option to deflect individual attacks to follow up with your own special counter move, as well as the standard dodge system
  • Put in more species of demon, perhaps they could be related to the type of enemy that they spawned from, so you could have a fat demon, female demon, skinny demon and so on
  • Have more combo options, such as a modifier allowing you to have two combo lists which you could overlap and go between, rather than just having one combo set at a time
  • Add some kind of rating system to keep track of what you’ve achieved in each mission (this would also mean adding a new game type to allow you go back to each section to try to get maximum achievement)
  • Put in even more direct links to other Capcom games, have cameos by other characters, and use more moves and weapons from other games, get the most out of these kinds of references
  • Put in some more things to unlock, costumes, upgrades, and perhaps another character (Azel, or perhaps guests from other games) and other standard things such as unlockables for your PS3 or Xbox 360 (Avatar costumes and so on)

Secondly, they could expand on enemy interaction, have more attack patterns and mix-up combos from them to make it more of a challenge to choose the right dodge. Have enemies react differently depending on what’s going on—perhaps have enemies chicken out if their friends all just got wiped out, or have enemies become fatigued when their energy is low.  Enemies could react more strongly to being taunted, and their tactics could become different as a result. The enemies could have their own stun moves that they use on Gene when he gets stunned (as it is in the original, Gene gets stunned, but then they just punch him some more).  There could be more distinctive attacks from enemies which lead to Gene’s reaction to them.  These showed up from time to time in the original, like when a Demon tries to grab Gene from behind, you can press O to counter to have Gene perform an axe kick over his shoulder.  This could be expanded upon. For instance, some enemies could counter Gene’s attacks, so you’d have to react in time to stop them being successful, and return fire.

There could also be new classes of enemies, for variety in their attack patterns, and also as another way to reference games. There are so many characters in Capcom games that could either be used quite plainly, or referenced heavily due to their attacks and dialogue. 

The very nature of God Hand, its lack of seriousness and obvious nods to gaming, anime and wrestling, allows the designers to put in whoever they want, and also to send Gene wherever they want.  He could venture into worlds which belong to other characters, or have obvious references to other games. Imagine walking past the statue from Sagat’s stage in Street Fighter II. Or walking into the mansion from Resident Evil and beating down some zombie characters.  To expand on that particular idea, they could have some of the STARS members zombified, spouting their legendarily poor voice acting such as “Barry… where’s Barry?” and “I hope it isn’t Chris’s blood!” before getting their face kicked in by Gene. There’s an absolute gold mine waiting to be tapped and used in a game like this.

There were some mistakes made in the first game that also need to be addressed. The biggest error, I feel, was the lack of a tutorial or explanation of the system. Although there were tutorial icons around the first mission, they were not clearly labeled as such, and you didn’t actually have a practice area to begin with. I think that, before the game begins, you should be put through a tutorial to explain how everything works: dodges, guard stuns, full stuns, stun moves, default moves and setting techniques. Since the system is deep and unique, I feel that the developers should take the time to explain what’s on offer, and how to get by without getting your head kicked in.

Capcom has the ability to do something really special. God Hand might not have been a great success, but that wasn’t due to the game. It was a masterpiece which has not been rivaled.  Perhaps it was not marketed so well, and maybe the infamous IGN review hurt the sales too.  But that can be used to their advantage now. Capcom can seize that negative publicity, and launch God Hand 2 as the game which was misunderstood, which was too godly, even for reviewers – a game that was ahead of its time. I think there are many gamers out there who know about God Hand because of the IGN review and because of fans’ reactions to it. Yet they are hardly likely to go back to their PS2 to check out a game from five years ago. If God Hand were available on the current generation of consoles, either as a sequel or as a revamped version of the original, it would allow new players an easy way to access the brilliance of the game, and realize what they missed out on.

Agree with Richard? Join his Facebook group, share this YouTube video, fill out this survey or email feedback@capcom.com and let Capcom know. Disagree? Comment and let us know that too.