It's also a tad hard. I play a lot of videogames, and I spent longer with at least one boss fight than I did on all of Portal. And while you can turn down the difficulty in theory, in practice you can't. Easy mode simply isn't that easy.

But I didn't care, because, speaking in terms of pure play, God Hand is balanced expertly on the precipice between hard and unfair. You can't just mash buttons and expect to do well; the game forces you into playing it the way it was designed. The pay off is an amazing high for the relative few able to take it, or, perhaps, the few who need it. And, at least occasionally, I need something like God Hand.

The question becomes, where are you going to get it from? The hard and simple financial math is all over God Hand - in the same way Bioshock had to open up its mechanics to pay for its AAA aesthetics, Clover seemed to have realized that God Hand's singular, devoted approach would need to satisfy itself with a smaller audience and a B-movie budget. Its campy visuals are mostly a virtue - but virtue doesn't sell boxes. Clover's out of business, after all.


Which means we'll end up looking further to the edges. We're used to thinking of niche games falling into genres that don't thrive in the mainstream. But what we're beginning to see in the underground is not a matter of genre, but approach. There will be arcade games in the mainstream, certainly, but the enormous budgets they'll spend will lead to an approach that will leave the almost-masochistic hardcore unsatisfied. They'll swap aesthetics for aggression, like heroin for methadone. This leaves difficult games in a position equivalent to genuine '80s metal: ignored by the mainstream and scorned even by the more centralist specialist press, but beloved by those who understand it. Already, it's probably a self-fulfilling cycle. A review in the lifestyle press of a punishing game will lead to a punishing review. As they skimp on graphics to save costs, realizing they can't sell enough, the reviews in the mainstream game press will also get nastier, due to our endemic technophillic lust. Those who care about the God Hands of the world are going to have to learn to roll their eyes, like lo-fi music aficionados, and concentrate on their own world devoted to ever-louder games.

To those who are ready to rock: I salute you.

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