God Hand Is One of the Most Innovative Action Games Ever

Today's video game landscape requires groundbreaking ideas to truly stand out and deliver a unique gameplay experience. However, one game managed to do precisely this and do so over 15 years ago. That game is the Clover Studio developed and Capcom published third-person action-adventure beat 'em up God Hand.

God Hand was the final release from the Clover and the brainchild of Shinji Mikami, the man most closely associated with the creation of Resident Evil. Mikami set out to create an action game with a singular vision, featuring a suite of innovative gameplay mechanics that had yet to be seen in the genre. The result was one of the most innovative and unique action games of the era that has become one of the most beloved beat 'em ups of all time.

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God Hand puts players in the role of Gene, a young boastful fighter with a heart of gold who just so happens to possess the God Hand, a legendary power that imbues godlike power into his right arm. Gene wanders the dusty wastes until he is drawn into a battle against evil that desperately wants his incredible powers for nefarious means. It is through this setup that the beat 'em up action begins. Through its gameplay, God Hand immediately illustrates to players that this action romp is different from almost any other ever made.

One of God Hand's most immediate innovations is its locking of the camera controls to place the action firmly in the center of the screen. At first, this decision may seem like a disaster in an action game; however, this choice, like almost all others, is made to benefit the game's incredible combat systems. Locking the camera in place frees up the right stick for players to use as a multi-directional dodge that can be used to great effect, allowing players to bob and weave through furious enemy attacks. God Hand demands players to stay within the action at all times, and rewards aggression with success, very much like the deadly ballet in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice would do so many years later.

This mechanic alone is incredibly powerful, and in a lesser game, could become an overpowered strategy, but God Hand solves this problem with its second huge innovation, adaptive difficulty. As players brawl with enemies, successfully dodging attacks and not getting hit, the game will eventually recognize this and, in real-time, level up opponents making them more resilient and more difficult to knock out. If players start to get walloped by these more powerful enemies, the game recognizes and will take the opponent's level back down. This dynamic difficulty plays out beautifully during the game's furious combat and is a mechanic that is still very rare to find in an action game.

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However, this is not where God Hand's innovation ends, as the game also allows players to fully customize the entire attack scheme of Gene with each combo and moveset fully interchangeable to the player. Rather than employ a standard string of three punches or three kick combos, God Hand allows players to interchange each attack in the combo string. Don't like the left jab, right jab, uppercut combo? Change it to a chop followed by a slap and end with an elbow strike. The game features over 100 techniques, all of which can be combined for an almost infinite amount of options, keeping the combat fresh throughout every playthrough.

Furthermore, God Hand features yet another unique customization mechanic, the God Roulette. This is a roulette wheel mechanic that players can customize with a series of special moves. Throughout each area, players can find Skull Cards scattered through the level. These cards act as a currency to increase the number of Roulette Orbs available to players, allowing the player to equip more moves to the roulette wheel. Much like the customizable combos, the roulette wheel encourages players to constantly be unlocking new moves, slotting them in to try out new combinations and special attacks on the unsuspecting enemies.

By combining brilliant gameplay mechanics that have yet to be replicated and emphasizing player choice, God Hand was able to create a truly innovative beat 'em up that still is one of the best made. In the years since its release, it has become a certified cult classic. Hopefully, one day it will at least get the remaster it deserves or perhaps even a spiritual sequel that capitalizes on its woefully underutilized fighting systems.

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About The Author
Lucas Blaine (176 Articles Published)

Lucas has been playing video games his whole life. He is a lifelong writer and lover of all things nerd. When he's not in front of a screen playing games, you can find him in front of a different screen watching movies. Originally from Cincinnati, he has made his way to England so he can use the rain as an excuse to stay indoors. For hot takes and video game love, you can follow him on Twitter @LucasBlaine and let him know what you think about your favorite games.

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