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Viewtiful Joe (PlayStation 2) artwork

Viewtiful Joe (PlayStation 2) review


"No problems dude! Old Captain Blue is on the scene and he's more than willing to train "young, dumb, dysfunctional" Joe in the Viewtiful arts of combat. With the action blasting across a series of side scrolling, 2D multi level stages, players will need to punch, kick and sweep their way towards certain victory. Simple it is, but hold onto your helmets people, Viewtiful Joe is one tough hombre!"



Believe it or not, a bum recession and a down turned economy needn't be all doom and gloom. Sure you may have just lost your job and perhaps the bank's looking to foreclose, but you know what? Who cares?! In fact it may even be a good thing! For if you didn't know by now, legendary Japanese developer Capcom have also been feeling the pinch of late too. Games are costing more to make while people are buying less. And try as they might, the Japanese economy just isn't shifting as many panties as it used to. It's in an effort to keep their bottom line suitably healthy then that Capcom have ported one of their most popular Gamecube exclusives to the Playstation2. But why should any of this concern you? To some it may be fair and legitimate question, but those in the know will already be thrumming their capes in excitement as the faint far off crys of "Henshin-a-go-go" begin to grow. That's right guys, Viewtiful Joe is about to take us all to school. A retro school of hard knocks that is...

As the good things in life have a habit of doing, our story begins in the back seat of the local cinemaplex. For it's here we meet Joe. A young, dumb, dysfunctional Joe who has taken his sorely neglected girlfriend Sylvia to see the latest "Captain Blue" flick. A date mind you, that she's currently expressing her dissatisfaction with... *moan* you don't look at me anymore *groan* why aren't you like the other boys? *pout and whine some more*. You see, Joe's one of those strange unhealthy guys that others tend to feel real uncomfortable with. That is, he's rabid to the extreme where fandom is concerned. So much so that the important things in life, queue girlfriend, hardly ever get a mention any more. It's with a lover's spat hanging heavily in the air that things suddenly take a turn for the inexplicable as Sylvia finds herself dragged off into the cinema screen by a particularly nefarious looking monster. Wha?! Weh?! Uuumm... whooaaa dude! And now you've got to get her back! Hold on, strike that for a moment... how's an overweight midget fanboy supposed to deal with a celluloid army of darkness?

No problems dude! Old Captain Blue is on the scene and he's more than willing to train "young, dumb, dysfunctional" Joe in the Viewtiful arts of combat. With the action blasting across a series of side scrolling, 2D multi level stages, players will need to punch, kick and sweep their way towards certain victory. Simple it may sound, but hold onto your helmets people, Viewtiful Joe is one tough hombre! Monsters, robots, and the occasional winged freak all attack with an admirable single minded intensity. So fast, so furious, so insane are they, that their onslaught is sure to leave you singing the praises of Joe's wonderfully responsive controls. And with such ease of play now working for you, busting some balls while still looking stylishly cool shouldn't be too much of a problem. Punch, punch, sweep attack, KICK! Then send your opponent skywards with a quick uppercut to the chin before taking to the air and knocking them back down again for the finishing blow. Man, if only Sylvia could see me now... *sighs* Thankfully, the many different combo attacks are easy to learn, and in their own little way have kept the action light and accessible for all to enjoy. Nice, but where's the meat?

While the core action is admittedly simple, those looking for something a little deeper need not panic. There's more than enough going on here to satisfy even the most ardent of fighting enthusiasts. After all, this is Capcom we're talking about and they know a good gimmick when they see one. Borrowing a line of binary code from the Matrix, Capcom have wisely endowed Joe with a range of fully upgradable slow motion/hyper speed-style attacks that literally kick a truck load of arse. Furthermore, each special ability goes a long way in adding the all important fireworks to the ye olde fisticuffs action. Got too much happening on the screen at once? No problems Joe! Just slip into bullet time and you'll find yourself capable of reacting to every single attack long before it becomes an issue to your health. Or perhaps you may want to speed things up a bit and thusly limit the amount of time your opponents have to counter. Either way, you're the man. Slam! Bang! Kapow! and a hundred other comic book inspired impact noises. All unleashed in the space of just a few seconds, perhaps capped off with an all mighty "Yeah Haw" if you're really feeling it. Taste my wrath villains! Viewtiful Joe is here and he's looking for Justice!

Coincidently enough, these abilities not only come in handy when fending off the hordes, but are also integral to solving many of the game's light puzzle elements as well. For it's here between combo attacks that players are asked to tickle the old gray matter if they're to make their self-redeeming rendezvous with Sylvia on time. Dead ends, ominous acid filled pools, giant spiked balls of rolling death. It's nasty stuff to be sure, but with a little help from your Blue given powers, even such perilous obstacles won't seem nearly as intimidating. For instance, slowing down time affects the spinning blades of a helicopter platform, thereby lowering its altitude and allowing Joe to hitch a ride once things have returned to normal. Uh huh, and from a purely scientific point of view it's all complete and utter bullocks! Though many of the puzzles may break virtually every law of physics, their inclusion provides players with an interesting side dish that compliments the action packed main course quite nicely. And even if such puzzles do occasionally break from reality, you can't deny that Viewtiful Joe is far better off with than without them. That is, so long as you're man enough to face up to the otherwise severe challenge!

Which when you come to think of it, could be the game's major sticking point. Further hammering home the already steep difficulty is the incredibly careless game design that revises the dictionary definition of unforgiving to include the term, intolerably hard. Fighting your way across an entire stage without encountering a single check point can be maddening enough, but forcing players through a number of major boss encounters before giving them a chance to save is simply inexcusable. Die towards the end of a stage and it's "Cut, Cut, Cut!" welcome back to the bottom of the hill, do you want to continue? Argh !@#$! it, someone pass me a Valium before I strangle another kitten! Of course, when all is said and done, Capcom could be forgiven for this single solitary indiscretion... providing you're the type of gamer who thrives on a challenge. After all, encountering a game that's prepared to hand you your arse on a platter makes for a refreshing change of pace. And given the choice where games are concerned, I'll opt to have mine bloody and raw thank you very much! Make no mistake about it, Viewtiful Joe is difficult and frustrating a million times over, but once you've risen up to the challenge, the sense of accomplishment is suitably impressive. Remember people, pain is a good thing. It can actually make us grow as gamers.

Serving as an interesting juxtaposition to all those welcome growing pains are some of the most stylish candy coated cel shaded graphics Capcom have ever produced. Retro flair mixed and bred with even amounts of Power Rangers-esque cool are the concepts of the day as players find themselves taken aback by Viewtiful Joe's all embracing visual charms. From the kooky enemy designs to the way each stage has been rendered with a range of soft, slightly washed out pastel shaded colors, Viewtiful Joe is a game that looks and feels quite unlike any other. And the fact that everything is also smoothly animated with nary a flicker of slowdown only serves to further amplify the otherwise intoxicating experience. Woohoo for the good things in life! Capping off this wondrous display of Viewtiful love is a soundtrack that's repetitive yet catchy in a way that only a true classic can be. Bright and fruity with just the right amount of pop, it lends the game a great sense of nostalgia with just enough modern cool to keep players kicking on long into the night. 2 minutes of looped greatness VS 20 minutes of mediocre crap... I know where my preferences will fall...

Finally as if to compensate for previous Gamecube related indiscretions, Capcom have dropped Dante (Devil May Cry) right smack bang in the middle of the Viewtiful people. Whereby Joe uses his kicks and punches to subdue the nasties, the demon loving private detective will simply bust a cap in the arse of anything and everything within range of his dual revolvers. And if you think that sounds more than a little cool then wait until you've seen his ultra smooth moves in action. Slow motion or hyper speed, if ever there was an unlikely pairing of ill-matched heroes then it would be here, Joe and Dante together forever. Holding the line and spreading the love, one bad guy at a time. More than anything else, it's this single feature that's going to bring Viewtiful Joe fans back to the fold for one more go around the celluloid block. The problems inherent with the Gamecube original are still present and accounted for, but then again this is a budget priced port so what the Hell did you expect? Even on the Gamecube however such minor issues weren't enough to spoil the unbridled greatness that is Joe, and with Dante now along for the ride they don't stand any more of a chance. Sure it may be hard and illogical to boot, but it's also old school 2d gaming done right! And I'd wager my cape that there's many a gamer out there who would surely appreciate the challenge... even if they can't afford anything to eat afterwards...

Pros
----

* Thick and fast 2d action
* The controls are wonderfully responsive and intuitive
* Combat is varied and always thrilling
* Slow motion/Hyper speed powers mix things up nicely
* Light puzzle elements provide the all important IQ factor
* The cel shaded graphics make Viewtiful Joe one of the most cinematic cartoon-like experiences around
* The catchy sound track is reminiscent of the classics of old
* The traditional Viewtiful Joe action is a perfect fit for Devil May Cry's Dante
* With three difficulty levels on offer, even the most unskilled of players may stand a chance

Cons
----

* Joe needs more check points
* The puzzles can get quite illogical
* Could be too hard for some

Rating: 8/10

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Staff review by Michael Scott (September 26, 2004)

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