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GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 10: God Hand, River City Ransom, Streets of Rage 2

Tim Spaeth's picture

When we asked you to pick any game for us to discuss, we certainly didn't expect you to pick God Hand. But you did, so we did. Plus, what makes a critic a critic, Streets of Rage 2 (no, that's not a typo), and at long last, Chi Kong Lui on River City Ransom. Warning: This episode contains a revelation that will BLOW YOUR MIND. Featuring Chi Kong Lui, Brad Gallaway, Mike Bracken, and Tim Spaeth.

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Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360   Wii   PS2  
Developer(s): Clover Studios   Technos  
Series: Streets of Rage  
Genre(s): Fighting   Weird   Arcade  
Articles: Podcasts  

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Stick to the Nolan Ryan story.

Excellent podcast guys. I really enjoyed this one. Hope there is a Double Dragon/Final Fight/Battle Toads-themed podcast in near future. :)

Godhand Podcast

I listened, sadly, to a rather unfortunate podcast and decided to post some of my thoughts here. It seems the criticisms were in certain key areas: the game was too hard, the game made no sense, and it was broken. I hope to address them all with only a little bit of self promotion within.

- Was the game too difficult? Are we not critics who are versed in the trials of gaming? This is not Final Fight, after all, and the game simply demands you to put constant effort into it for victory. The GC staff, rather than examine the game through a more rigorous prism, did not notice that the game might be an attack on their own sensibilities concerning games. Rather than unnaturally focus the game on a "tutorial"--something which is hardly necessary--it puts you into the action immediately. Rather than take the game at face, the critics attacked the game for being "hard", "cheesy" or "unfair". Have games moved--"progressed"--in such a way that if something strays from the flock, willingly with an overall (artistic, far be it from me to say) motivation, that it must be attacked for being out of step?

It seems clear that Godhand is a hearkening to games such as Final Fight--it presents an absurd game context for the player and expects them to fully interact with it. You can have fun with the game, but it is not a necessarily "casual" experience. The game is an attack on what passes as "hardcore" these days. It's a swift kick to the balls for people who have forgotten the roots of gaming, the roots of beat 'em ups and other genre tropes. Rather than given into the demands of a casual, and somewhat self serving gaming public, the game asks you to put considerable effort into beating its considerable, and fair, difficulties(more on this later). GC's philosophy towards games, it would seem, is different than Godhand's, yet GC offered no reason to prefer their version over the latter.

Think of it as this: the podcast could have talked about how games have changed over time and that Godhand is (vigorously) arguing for a return, or at least appreciation, to games which continually challenge the player. Godhand accepts absurdities, lays them on in spades, and recognizes its own context in the artistic history of the genre and medium. In this sense, it is highly reflective on the role games such as this provide and the role the player gets to play(you get to spank quasi-dominatrix's, which is awesome). There is, potentially, more to the game(as I have written about), but we can leave it at that. Criticizing the game for challenge forgets the potential context and function said difficulty might have--this was not even considered for a moment.

- The tone of the podcast was that Godhand, along with being too hard, made "no sense". I recall one quote which was something along the lines of, "It seems like the designers got together in a room, started drinking, and then put it together. F**k yeah, that would be awesome to have a Gorilla fight!" (This comment didn't seem to realize the irony of the podcast's own unique flavor, but so it goes).

In any case, I'd like to say that Godhand certainly has an element of that--I'd be hard pressed to argue certain segments weren't put into the game for their "awesomeness". However, there did not seem to be even an attempted critical understanding/evaluation of what the game could "mean" or "suggest". The game accepts, perhaps even vaunts, the tangential absurdities of gaming tropes--bosses have to be fought twice and they have to show up where you need them, so why not have a bus escort them?--and places them within the fictional text itself. Rather than allow all bosses to be just bosses(that is, it's understood you have to fight bosses in a game like this, but the game calls attention to their artificiality with things such as "Afro Fist" having a previous boss, who was killed, in the room with him), the game is perhaps considering the role these encounters have in the context of the game. The absurdity, then, is inexplicably tied to games in which you fight, and trying to ignore/cover up/circumvent this absurdity is disingenuous at best(and potentially leads to "serious" games such as Gears of War or Halo given weight which their rules and fiction surely do not warrant).

The game's sense of "sense", then, is for the faux seriousness that other games strut in to be disregarded. This game asks to be a game, argues to be a game and calls attention to its status as a game throughout--it functioning as an argumentative piece seems implicit in its absurdities.

- Worse than all other criticisms was that the game was somehow "broken". The game barely worked, in fact. These comments, too, seemed oddly placed next to the podcast discussing what it meant to be a critic: isn't some level of diction asked for which does not lend towards overt hyperbole? If Godhand is the standard by which camera's are deemed unworthy, than GC has managed to create a curious standard(it's the same camera which Resident Evil 4 uses...and that's hardly bad). That is grasping at straws.

Implicitly, I suppose, the "broken" comment also includes the graphics and presentation of the game--that is, it's somewhat ugly and has a marred look to it in places. I'd wager, with the game being released around the time of the majestic Okami (which still doesn't have a review, which is sad) that Clover studios might have had some purpose for the overall aesthetic of Godhand. It seems reasonable to suppose that the "ugly" nature of games such as this are within other texts--fighters, shooters, etc--but that they are cleaned up and presented with a straight face. The absurdity of giving outlandish games a serious treatment, actually giving weight to stories within other games, is not worth it. Godhand accepts its ugly nature; it places value on the history it represents and forcefully argues against other games (consider God of War, for instance). That you can see it here is one thing, this game asks you to see it elsewhere.

This is very long, my typing finger hurts a bit, and the link I provided is long enough too. I'd like to think I'd get a measured response(one which goes beyond the game isn't "fun"--which, really, simply isn't a good argument considering I do find the game enjoyable. Its continuous set pieces and commitment towards player innovation and involvement is far more interesting than most things I've played). The podcast seemed a vaunted self-promotion of the site and its critics rather than an attempt, even a small attempt, at looking at the game for what it might be (that said, I did appreciate Chi linking the game to a broader context. This is a postmodern game, if you will allow the language, and should be evaluated as such). I'd have hoped for more evaluation and less grand standing.

Well I finally got around to

Well I finally got around to listening to a podcast and then you go and post another. So maybe my comments will be mute to a point, but I thought I would write a few quick thoughts. Also, sorry I couldn't get my thoughts in on River City Ransom for the podcast, so I'll throw in my two cents below.

Overall, the podcast was enjoyable. I enjoyed listening to the games you discussed and really enjoyed the segment on River City Ransom and Streets of Rage. When it comes down to it, I think you hit the nail on the head with the comment about how these games really aren't the same without a person playing along with you, especially in today's gaming world. I have not (and probably won't) played RCR with a friend but I'm sure that would be more entertaining that it was trying to play through as a single player. I think even 20 years ago these games were really only fun with a friend.

Now I understand what you're saying about River City Ransom being unique and appealing to gamers, especially at the time and looking back with nostalgia. I think the concept is great and really enjoy the premise behind the game. My main beef with RCR is the "toughness" of the enemies (or AI if you will). Playing through parts of the game I found that I could storm through a horde of enemies with ease, but then would come to parts where I would die numerous times. Then the next section would again be a breeze. This pattern kept repeating itself, but I could not find an true reason for such a thing to happen, like beating a boss, etc. I have no problem with a game getting progressively harder, but when it goes back and forth, that becomes frustrating.

All that being said, I did enjoy the game when I first started playing it. I was just turned off by the quirky back-and-forth toughness of the enemies. This was my first time playing River City Ransom and so maybe it just doesn't hold up to today's standards, but if I was younger and had experienced the same thing playing the game I'm not sure I would look back so fondly on it. However, I do appreciate it for the concept, if nothing else.

As for the actual podcast itself, I thought it was well put together. My only real complaint is I find some of the segment intros to be a little lame. The announcement of "what do you think" (sorry if that isn't the exact name, it's currently slipping my mind) reminds me of the first episode of Futurama where Fry wakes up and the cryogenic worker says "Welcome to the Worrrrld of Tomorrrrow" in a very '50s futuristic-cliche style. There I find it funny because of the context, here I find it more along the lines of G4's sophomoric production values. Just personal taste though.

Hopefully I will get around to listening to the most recent podcast. Keep up the good work.

We didn't say the game was

We didn't say the game was too hard. We said the game is hard to get into and that the "cheesy" challenge made the elaborate combo system irrelavant. When design decisions undermine its own gameplay, is that winking at itself? So if a bad game knows its a bad game, that makes it a good game?

Also, as I said on the podcast, this is game that is clearly rooted in pro-wrestling and kung fu performance-based gameplay. Why not make the game easy, which would be more consistent with its own inspirations?

One of the key influences of God Hand is Fist of the North Star, and the game sends up its 80s style, but I'm not sure why you think this game references all things retro in games as an excuse for the ugly graphics. How is the game a tribute to shmups? I'd be more inclined to believe that the repetition of the bosses was simply padding the length and the ugly graphics a sympton of a low-budget.

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