This game is so hard it makes me want to cry. It took me two years of off-and-on playing to get
through this on Normal. Halfway through, I added a self-imposed challenge where I prevented
myself from using continues, and due to the sheer damage output of this game this effectively
locked me on Level DIE - if I was hit enough to get knocked down a level, I was fucked anyways
and I'd be reloading soon enough.
This is not a good idea unless you’re inhumanly stubborn and willing to brute-force your system
mastery of a game that requires an intense amount of system mastery to play just regularly, let
alone on what amounts to Hard Mode Lite. However, this same insane and foolish idea forced
me to contend with the game on a level that I never saw myself being able to contend with
**any** game, and gave higher peaks and valleys of enjoyment and satisfaction than any other
singleplayer game I’ve experienced.
Despite me being tossed into the deep end and forced to learn, I’m still pretty fucking bad at
analyzing, or regurgitating mechanical info, so my thoughts on the gameplay wind up being a bit
more general and towards its philosophy: it’s an absolutely incredible translation of 2D
beat-em-up concepts, fundamentals, and designs into a three-dimensional, extremely shonen
space. Undoubtedly a full-on cuhrayzee character action game with an absurd amount of
customization that allow every single player to find their own moveset and express themselves, it
also exemplifies the extremely strict positioning, borderline-unfairly high difficulty, and aesthetics
of beat-em-ups. Committing to your attacks is always something to be considered, and enemies
provide a fairly stiff amount of space control themselves, which is a sharp readjustment from
other character action games, where positioning yourself feels more important for continuing
your combo; combos which are disincentivized a lot of the time in God Hand, which will kick your
ass if you stick too much to one enemy and juggle them into oblivion.
Your resource management centers around a DMC-esque Devil Trigger, sure, but the roulette
wheel adds a variety of screen-filling giant hits that use resources much like Streets of Rage’s
stars, and the presentation itself much more matches beat-em-ups: enemies are generally
gigantic Fist of the North Star Villains, in gaudy and probably-offensive outfits, or are both. Going
linearly through stages where enemies pop in from behind doors, out of walls, or sometimes
from the sky, grants it a much sillier and more overtly gamey impression than even DMC’s red
walls that block doors.
However, it’s not content to simply be an incredibly satisfying rendition of the positioning,
spacing, and commitment-based combat of its two-dimensional forebears: it uses the
three-dimensional spaces to add a dodging system that uses the right stick, preventing the
player from using the camera like other third-person action games. Instead, the player is given
an intuitive and incredibly nuanced reply to every attack in the game, sidestepping, headfaking,
and backflipping in concert. It definitely takes some getting used to, but the generous auto-lockon
is more than serviceable and once you translate it to highs, lows, and sides dodging becomes
both second nature and endlessly cathartic.
This is pretty much the M.O. of the entire game. Its endless series of systems and incredibly
poor tutorialization working in concert to make an already-intimidating game rendered even less
approachable. The shoryuken and axe kick feel borderline-required on higher intensity levels, and
there’s pretty much no way in hell you’ll learn about them on accident. The game’s aesthetic,
while not lacking in charm, is also fuck ugly and environments are shockingly lifeless. Despite
being infinitely more consistent than pretty much any of its compatriots, it’s unable to resist a few
terrible bosses (that psychic midget on the rock can go fuck himself with a cactus), and even
when it’s all strictly fair, getting your shit kicked in ad nauseam can be incredibly frustrating even
if you love the hell out of this game.
I truly do think that anybody can beat this game if they put their mind to it, but getting to that point
requires looking past a prickly exterior, a non-standard set of controls, and a growth mindset that
is able to self-assess what made you get your ass kicked, try a new tactic or better understand
the properties of your enemies, and get your ass kicked again.
It’s definitely not for everybody, if nothing else just for the mindset required, but I think even at its
worst it’s definitely better than a 3/10.