Viewtiful Joe (GameCube) review
"Ever heard the word "viewtiful" before? Yes, it's not really a word, unless somebody decides to add it to the dictionary. When looking at a few screenshots or videos the first time, it was hard not to think something along these lines: "
Ever heard the word "viewtiful" before? Yes, it's not really a word, unless somebody decides to add it to the dictionary. When looking at a few screenshots or videos the first time, it was hard not to think something along these lines:
"Viewtiful? What is this crap?! Has Capcom gone absolutely nuts?"
Let me assure you that anyone who thinks this is very, very misinformed. Viewtiful Joe is a game that any fan of beat-'em-ups, even if the only one you played is that Simpsons arcade game by Konami (that game was awesome, OK?) should at the very least rent. Even the skeptics who scoffed at the comic-book-style cel-shading, seemingly shallow game mechanics and the fact that Joe wears tights were eventually awed by Viewtiful Joe. Capcom's insanity aside, Viewtiful Joe is that kind of game.
As you place the game into your Gamecube and start a new game, you're presented with a short FMV. Joe, an average Joe, is taking his girlfriend Sylvia out to a date and the two are watching a Captain Blue movie. Uninterested in the old film, Sylvia decides to, uh; make better use of her time with Joe. Frustratingly, Joe pulls himself away from Sylvia and continues to watch the movie with awe. However, a gigantic monster vanquishes Blue and stretches his hand out of the silver screen and takes Sylvia into the movie. Thus, Joe must find his heroness and don his red tights to save his girlfriend.
Saving Sylvia will mostly mean going from point A to point B, clearing a few obstacles, solving a few puzzles and killing a lot of bad guys along the way. Joe's basic moves are his punches and kicks, but he can also uppercut or do a low sweeping kick. That's not all, though: by pressing up or down on the control pad Joe can do a small jump or duck to dodge enemy attacks. Pressing up will dodge any low attacks, and pressing down will dodge any high attacks. If you successfully dodge an attack, the attacker will actually get dizzy (how robots get dizzy is beyond me) and leave themselves open for a few seconds. That's when you can unleash a flurry of ground and air attacks.
All this sounds pretty standard, right? It is, but what's a superhero without his special powers? Here, Joe has his VFX powers to back him up: Slow, Mach Speed and Zoom. The first VFX power you earn, Slow, is the most important power in the game. While in Slow, Joe's attack power is greatly increased and it is much easier to telegraph enemy attacks and dodge them. Also, dodging an enemy attack and then using Slow will enable Joe to knock the enemy away and then knock away all other enemies for a combo. Mach Speed is the opposite of Slow, and enables Joe to move and attack at blinding speeds. Not only that, but attacking any object in Mach Speed for a long period of time will actually cause Joe to catch fire-this is very useful for lighting candles or giving enemies some extra damage. Joe's final VFX power, Zoom, causes the "camera" to zoom in on Joe and freezes most basic enemies in their tracks. In addition, being in Zoom allows Joe to do some viewtiful new attacks such as a spinning kick, a ground pound (complete with shockwave) and a multi-punch, the strongest attack in the game.
However, Joe's powers aren't exclusively meant for beating those little robots: they also are necessary to solve some puzzles. Viewtiful Joe is packed with airborne platforms powered by a large fan. Using Slow will slow the blades down to the point where they can't keep the platform up, and it will fall. On the other hand, using Mach Speed will cause the fan to spin at a high speed, which will cause any floating platforms to rise. Even Zoom can come in handy: you might need it to use your spin kick and hit two switches at the same time, or use your spinning jump to hit a switch directly above you. While there are a plethora of puzzles, most of them are very easy and sometimes even give you hints to solve them (such as SLOW appearing in big, bold letters). Still, the game is pretty fun regardless of the puzzles included.
All these powers drain Joe's VFX, which is shown by a small bar at the top of the screen (right under your health, that is) and automatically refills itself when you're not using any VFX powers. At the start of each episode (level) your VFX meter is pretty short, but if you collect 50 film canisters found throughout the episode, the meter will increase. If your meter drains completely, Joe will lose his tights and become the average Joe he normally is. That means he can't double-jump or use any special attacks, and he takes double damage as well. So, you must jump around dodging enemy attacks until your VFX meter fills up to where it would normally be full (if you didn't collect any film canisters), where you will become Viewtiful again.
Viewtiful Joe also features plenty of upgrades to make your adventure easier. There are the basics such as more health and lives, but you can also purchase a variety of attacks. For example, the Red Hot Kick is a flaming dropkick that will set any enemy on fire and does pretty good damage. Finally, you can buy certain projectile attacks like a V-shaped boomerang (fittingly called the "Voomerang") and pink bombs called Shocking Pink that create a bigger explosion in Slow.
Joe controls perfectly, I might add. Pressing the L or R trigger will activate Slow or Mach Speed, while pressing the B button will activate Zoom. Jumping and attacking is easy here, and Joe can dodge an attack with no difficulty. There are absolutely no gripes about the control here, aside from the Gamecube D-pad. Anyone who has played a fighting game on the Gamecube knows that the control pad is a bit small for the task, but Viewtiful Joe solves this problem by allowing you to use the control stick as well. Naysayers might say it's not as precise, but the fact is that if you ever face difficulty playing Viewtiful Joe (and you will); it won't be because of the controls.
But what exactly makes Viewtiful Joe such a fun game? Most of it lies in the challenge. While picking off a single enemy is pretty easy, Capcom spices up the action by sending dozens of enemies to fight you at the same time. Once you're done with that, you might have to fight the Cromarties, who can attack four times in a row and are often armed with rocket launchers. Before you can even take a breather, you'll find a hulking beast with gigantic punches that can take off three hearts in a single hit. And here, the game is just toying with you: you haven't even fought the tank or plane mini-boss yet. Boss fights are even harder; as they have many attacks and rarely leave themselves open. This is not an easy game, unless you play Kids mode. (Then, it's pretty easy.) However, Adults mode, the standard difficulty, is very difficult. You begin the game with only five hearts, and your VFX meter drains pretty quickly. In fact, many of the strategies in Kids mode won't work at all in Adults because of your VFX meter. Once you beat Adults, you can unlock an even harder difficulty that makes Adults look like Kids, and Kids look like Kirby 64. (Okay, maybe I'm stretching it a little here...)
Even with all the difficulty, Viewtiful Joe never feels "cheap". You'll never see that boss that can wipe you out with one attack, or the enemy that magically becomes harder to kill. If you're dying, it's not because the game is cheap. It's mostly just because you suck. There, I said it. Anyway, the game is all about skill. At first, you'll play the game and be frustrated by the rapid increase in difficulty. However, you'll probably like the game so much you'll play again, getting better each time. Once you finally beat the game and enjoy your ending, you'll be so happy you'll dance around your house shouting "I'm Viewtiful!" No, I'm not kidding.
But that's not all! This game is not a one-time offer. In addition to even harder difficulties (there's four in all), Viewtiful Joe rewards the skillful gamer with extra characters. If you're tired of playing as Joe, you can try to master one of the other characters Capcom has thrown in. This is one of the games you'll want to play over again, just to master it and find all the secrets it has to offer. Even if you only play it once, you can still get a good 10-15 hours out of it. There are seven episodes in all, and each one has its own unique challenges.
Another reason Viewtiful Joe is great is the way it rewards you for style. Yes, you could play through the whole game by simply plowing through enemies, but you wouldn't get many viewtifuls. Without viewtifuls, you can't buy upgrades. Without upgrades, the game gets a lot harder later on. In order to get the most viewtifuls possible, you'll need to do some, uh, viewtiful techniques. For example, simply punching a baddie to death would only reward with a few viewtifuls. However, if you dodge the enemy's attack to make it dizzy, counter with an uppercut in Slow, and then use a spinning kick to dispatch two other robots, you can earn hundreds of viewtifuls. If you're really good, you can earn thousands! How good does it feel when you pull off an 8700-point combo? Verrrrrrrry good.
In addition, you'll get a grade at the end of each "mission" of a level. Missions usually consist of defeating a set number of enemies of reaching a goal, and the game grades you on how many viewtifuls you've earned, how much damage you've taken and how long it took you to beat the mission. Then, the three scores are averaged out to produce the final score. The highest score is V (for Viewtiful, of course), but if you do so poorly as to get a C, you'll see "You are Craaaaaapy!" in big, bold letters. Not exactly the most positive reinforcement... Anyway, the grades certainly aren't meaningless, as you'll get viewtifuls depending on what grade you actually got for that "mission".
With all the good in Joe, is there any bad? Yes, there is, but not much. Remember the multi-punch you can use in Zoom? That attack is about the only attack you will use on a boss, since most other attacks are barely effective. In addition, the third episode features a horizontal shooter level which is fun--for about two minutes. After that, it just feels unnecessarily long and tedious to complete. The game has some pretty exciting boss fights, but there isn't enough variety in them. Often, you'll see a familiar plane, helicopter or tank miniboss, and one episode is dedicated only to re-fighting the first four bosses in a row. And there's no multiplayer mode. Wait for the sequel to get that. Still, there's a lot to like and not much to hate.
In addition to the excellent gameplay and replay value, Joe is a great game to look at. Cel-shading has been used and abused for the past few years, and not all cel-shaded games looked great (see XIII for details). However, Viewtiful Joe looks so damn good you'll forget all of that. The game is presented like a comic book, so the backgrounds will look flat and the characters will look very colorful. It's kind of like Paper Mario, but five times better. For your enjoyment, I'll list all the words I can to describe the game's graphics: Stunning. Awesome. Fantastic. Viewtiful. Backgrounds are full of detail, and the characters (especially Joe) look very stylish. Bosses are big and intimidating, if a bit comical. The special effects shown with all the VFX powers look amazing. When you're in Slow, the scenery will actually appear darker, and Mach Speed boasts some horizontal lines that look like wind rushing through the screen. If you become an average Joe, you'll see some scratches and lines that make the game really look like an old movie. Sure, it's not exactly amazing from a technological point of view, but the little tidbits really help the game feel like an old cartoon movie.
Capcom certainly didn't slouch when designing the sound and music either. Most of the tunes are the typical video game techno and rock mix, but they all have some catchy tunes. The tune of the first level is especially memorable, as is the guitar remix that's played when you beat the game. Unfortunately, some of the tunes are stale, such as those that are played in a dark cave or just before you fight a boss. Still, the game has a reasonably good soundtrack. Sound effects are great as well, from the drips of water to the sound of a firing machine gun. Even the voice acting is pretty sharp, as many characters intentionally sound funny. Still, the voices of the main characters (Joe and Sylvia) are a bit too whiny and can get annoying.
The point is (and you’ve probably guessed it already) that Viewtiful Joe is one of the Gamecube games you have to own. It’s incredibly fun, the sound and graphics are sharp, and it’ll last you quite a long time. Oh yeah, and you get to run around in red tights and a pink cape. What other game lets you do that?
Community review by eoib (August 19, 2004)
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