"Capcom certainly seems to have a thing for producing cel-shaded games lately; Auto Modellista, Killer 7, and Viewtiful Joe. Being a loyal Capcom fan, I bought them all. The first two are best compared to a cheap thrill ride at a church sponsored carnival. Viewtiful Joe on the other hand, is one of the best action-based platformers I have played in quite some time. Now, before you pro-Joes and anti-Joes start throwing praises or bricks, read that last sentence a little more closely. There are two..."
Capcom certainly seems to have a thing for producing cel-shaded games lately; Auto Modellista, Killer 7, and Viewtiful Joe. Being a loyal Capcom fan, I bought them all. The first two are best compared to a cheap thrill ride at a church sponsored carnival. Viewtiful Joe on the other hand, is one of the best action-based platformers I have played in quite some time. Now, before you pro-Joes and anti-Joes start throwing praises or bricks, read that last sentence a little more closely. There are two things to clarify here. 1. I haven’t played a current-generation platformer since the original Ratchet & Clank. 2. I had a great time with Viewtiful Joe, but was burdened with a rather healthy set of problems.
Our friend Joe has a serious passion for action movies, especially those starring his aging idol, Captain Blue. The story begins during a movie-date with his girlfriend, Silvia. Just as she starts trying to get a little adult-oriented action going in the seats, poor Silvia gets hoisted into the screen by a movie monster come to life. Acting as the hero wannabe he is, Joe wastes no time jumping through the screen and into Movieland to save the damsel in distress. After throwing aside a few henchmen, Joe meets Captain Blue, who imbues Joe with the power of VFX. Now able to control time and space, Joe has the abilities need to rescue his girl and defeat the villains with stylish flair, and a really tight spandex suit.
Viewtiful Joe is a 2-D plat former, but more than that, it is an action game. For every ledge to jump, button to push, and puzzle to solve, you’ll be surrounded by dozens of enemies. Like a true hero, Joe doesn’t need guns. He relies almost solely upon his own fists and feet. To accommodate this, CloverStudio implemented a decently complex battle system. Joe’s VFX power lets you slow time, speed it up, and zoom the camera in. Each power has a distinct effect on the strength, speed, and type of attacks unleashed. Your self-replenishing VFX Gauge is a resource pool for these powers. Collect 50 V-Film tokens in a level and the pool gets larger. In addition, you can spend V-points, collected from fallen enemies, to purchase more attacks, health, and extra lives.
Now that the basics have been established, I’m going to go on a negativity-rant here. Bear with me though, as there are some saving graces to be had.
I hate Joe. He’s cocky, looks like a keg-standing frat boy, and no one, with the possible exception of Bruce Campbell, sounds cool while spouting one-liners that include the word “baby.” Either CloverStudio has a skewed versions of the demographic playing their game (hint: probably not the people who bought a system to play sports games), or they have some serious “I wish I were one of the cool kids in high school” issues. I honestly just want to give Joe a hard kick in his conspicuous junk.
A basic rule of thumb for me is this; if you give me an ability early in the game, do not take it away later unless it’s part of a story arch. As stated previously, the VFX Gauge builds as you gather V-Films, but then every time you begin a new level it resets. This doesn’t make any sense given that the basic enemies get harder and more numerous with every level, requiring greater reliance on your abilities. Combine this with the upper-level, energy-sucking VFX powers, and you got a problem. This is a good time to bring up the caveat emptor of Viewtiful Joe’s V-Point system. Some of the abilities you can buy are downright useless. The boomerangs and bombs are the best examples. Both take too long to throw, especially considering the pitiful amount of damage they do. Some of the others are either too costly for what they do, or are ineffective. Granted, you don’t have to buy these things, the fact that they are there means they should be of more use.
The boss battles are quite intense, but the boss rooms are just too big. They are multi-leveled rooms that take up 2-4 screens. The extra space means there is plenty of room to maneuver, but after getting hit two or twelve times from off screen I was really craving some more confinement. Speaking of bosses, the biggest disappointment by far is the gauntlet leading up to the finale. Translation: Fight improved, regenerating versions of every previous boss, back to back, with no save option. I went through all my extra lives fighting some of these guys the first time around. Now I have to get through all of them in one go, with my VFX Gauge reset to boot? What, did CloverStudio hand over game design to the interns for a day?
On to the good stuff.
Viewtiful Joe is a platformer at heart, but plays the way brawlers should have for years. This is the antithesis of a button-masher. In one fight you might switch to slow-motion, jab to the face, sweep, uppercut your opponent into the air, jump up to catch him with a hurricane kick, and then stomp him into the ground with your feet. The best part is that you control every one of these actions. I haven’t been this awed by hand-to-hand combat since Tekken first came out. Not only does Viewtiful Joe control indescribably well, but it is simply gorgeous to watch. The cel-shaded graphics, highly animated characters, fluid movements, and detailed backgrounds are absolutely beautiful. It’s like an orgasm for the eyes.
As much as I enjoyed Viewtiful Joe, I can’t recommend it to everyone. The aforementioned cons can be overwhelmingly frustrating at times. I imagine more than one person has thrown down the controller and never picked it up again. If you can get past them, there is something very good to be had here. Your best bet is to find a cheap copy or rent it. If you like, you just got a deal. If you don’t, at least you aren’t out by much.
Community review by pup (October 07, 2005)
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