Friday, January 15, 2010

GOD HAND is the Best Action Game of All Times.

You have to capitalize it. GOD HAND. It deserves respect. It deserves caps.

I've been thinking about GOD HAND a lot, because I've been playing Bayonetta. I'm going big on it. Going for all those achievements. Getting all those stupid unlockables. Wringing every last bit out of it that I can. It's been very enjoyable and rewarding, and the more I play it the more I appreciate it. Though without all that meta-gaming bullshit I doubt I would have returned to the game after my first playthrough. If this was, say, a PS2 game my final verdict would have been that it was a nearly great game bogged down by overlong cutscenes, overlong boss fights, overlong rail shooting levels, too many quick-time-events, too many non-combat "puzzle" bits -- there are multiple escort sequences! -- and poorly telegraphed fail states.

But it's not PS2! It's HD Era. It's on a console that's jacked into the net, spying on me, and I kinda like it. I like seeing the achievement counter inch closer to 1000/1000. I like clawing my way past all my friends on the scoreboards. And most of all I like how open the game is post-completion, which I don't think was a common thing until the advent of achievements. I can play any stage on any difficulty at any time, all on the same save file, and this is wonderful because it means I can put off playing through those disappointing Yu Suzuki tribute stages in favor of all the good action bits. And on repeat playthroughs it's almost all good action bits, as the sections that irritated me previously aren't such a big deal now that I know how to pass them quickly. And because I skip all the cutscenes now. God, there are a lot of cutscenes, and not enough of them focus on Bayonetta's butt.

So yeah, Bayonetta's pretty excellent once you get over that hump. But it's not GOD HAND. GOD HAND don't have no hump. Why would I want to play one level of GOD HAND over another? Every single stage in it is awesome, because every single stage is essentially the same. It is almost always about punching dudes in the head, kicking them in the nuts, and suplexing them into the ground. And when it isn't about violence against humans, or demons, or gorillas, you are still punching something -- there are no real key hunts or puzzles in GOD HAND, just inanimate objects that need to be punched so you can move on to the next group of thugs, who you will also punch. This is good, because the punching is more entertaining than anything else they could have included in the game. This lack of fat is what really puts Mikami's recent titles -- and man, has anyone released two unrelated games as good as GOD HAND and Resident Evil 4 back to back since Super Mario Bros. and Zelda 20 years earlier? -- far ahead of Kamiya's. Hell, it's what puts him far ahead of most every other developer out there, I say. If only more guys had his focus and confidence.

I'll take those kind words back if his next game doesn't feature tank controls, though.

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