God Hand is a video game developed by Clover Studio and published by Capcom in 2006 for the Sony PlayStation 2. The game is conceptually modeled after classic beat 'em ups like Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, and Capcom's own Final Fight: The protagonist, a carefree drifter named Gene, faces wave after wave of generic thugs in hand-to-hand combat. Unlike its side-scrolling predecessors, however, God Hand features fully three dimensional movement and environments.
God Hand was conceived when Clover Studio's head, Atsushi Inaba, and game designer Shinji Mikami were brainstorming ideas for the company's next title. They discussed how contemporary action games were typically based around mêlée weapons, such as swords and knives; Mikami was interested in returning the genre to hand-to-hand combat, and Inaba approved Mikami's concept image.
True to its retro game design sensibilities, God Hand opens with no exposition or tutorial. A short cut scene sets the irreverent tone of the game and Gene is thrust into a fight with a group of thugs, forcing the player to quickly learn the game's unconventional "tank controls": The camera is locked directly behind Gene; to quickly turn, players must press a button rather than push a joystick. The left joystick is used for moving; the right joystick for dodging attacks; one face button for context-sensitive actions; and the remaining three face buttons for all manners of punches and kicks—114 to be exact—all of which may be assigned to those three buttons according the player's preference. The game's steep learning curve, coupled with its unforgiving difficulty level, has drawn occasional praise and frequent criticism. Eurogamer's Quintin Smith remarked that "defeating a foe will randomly turn the sky black, stop the music and spawn a leather-tough demon who will unquestionably wipe the floor with you on your first encounter."
To accommodate beginners and experts alike, God Hand features a dynamic difficulty that fluctuates between levels 1, 2, 3, and DIE: Perform well and the difficulty level rises; do poorly and it drops. Checkpoints reduce the frustration of numerous repeated attempts of the same area, and after each area is completed, the player can save the game file to a memory card. At these junctions, players can buy new fighting techniques, gamble at a casino, bet money on Chihuahua races, and train in a fighting arena.