Viewtiful Joe

Review by Greg "gf_ripper" Frank
November 2003

Joe—the man, the legend, the hero? Joe—just your average young man who loves the fictional Captain Blue and his girlfriend Silvia—almost equally! One day, while on a most unusual date for a Captain Blue movie, Joe witnesses not only the apparent death of his hero, but also the kidnapping of his girlfriend. Unbelievably, the onscreen villain reaches out and nabs Silvia! And, just as incredibly, Joe is able to follow her into movieland in order rescue the damsel. Captain Blue even returns from the afterlife to help Joe learn how to be a hero.

"You Must Take My Place as the New Action Hero!" —Captain Blue

Now the game really begins. Joe gains his very own V watch—the power of which transforms ordinary Joe into Viewtiful Joe! Being a superhero gives Joe powers beyond his belief. He becomes stronger, faster and better able to control his actions through his VFX abilities. With these skills, Joe is able to slow down the action (in a Matrix-like effect), speed up time (making multiple versions of himself appear), or strike a pose that will freeze his enemies in place. With his newfound powers, Joe is prepared to find his girlfriend Silvia and the reasons for her dreadful kidnapping.

This is where the player comes in. Viewtiful Joe resembles old beat-'em-up classics like Double Dragon or Final Fight. The main objective is to punch and kick your way through seven episodes in order to find and save your girlfriend. However, this game stands out from the rest of them because of Joe's ability to use VFX powers. When these powers are used appropriately, they give the player a huge advantage over his enemies. The only catch is, Joe has to go through a few hurdles in order to receive these abilities—the first of which is VFX Slow. This allows Joe to slow down the action, which can cause multiple effects in the game environment. First, it prevents propellers from spinning, leading flying objects and enemies to fall to the ground, then bullets and bombs are made to slow down as they head toward Joe. This is the most critical VFX skill of all three, and it can make the difference in battle as well as solving puzzles. Joe's second ability is VFX Match Speed. This allows him to move super fast and speed up time. Here he can hit enemies from multiple angles by making himself appear multiple times, speed up propellers, thereby making flying objects go higher in the air, and use other effects. The third, and last, ability that Joe receives is VFX Zoom-In. This forces all enemies on screen freeze in their place, allowing Joe to do spin kicks that hurt bad guys on both sides of him.

"Cut! Cut! Cut! ... Ready? ... Action!" —Director

Of course, there's always the "fine print." All three of these abilities drain Joe's VFX gauge, and if it runs out, he loses all of his abilities until it recharges. Once the meter has been drained, Joe will return to his regular self, able to do much less damage, as well as not being able to jump as high and generally being more vulnerable. Each effect can be interchanged back and forth very fluidly. They can also be used in combination. However, this does lead your VFX gauge to drain much more quickly.

The controls in Viewtiful Joe are amazingly responsive and fluid. They give the player precise control over Joe even when using his VFX abilities. The player, while selecting buttons for particular abilities, should have no problem in fighting. Options are available for three different control schemes, allowing game personalization.

"It's a Viewtiful Day in the Neighborhood"

The graphics for the game are very original and like nothing I've seen before. They are cel-shaded and look hand-drawn. It seems very much like playing a comic book, as opposed to a movie cartoon. The depictions are very colorful and sharp. However, when Joe returns to his human form, the screen becomes grainy looking, like an old film; but when he transforms into Viewtiful Joe, the image is again sharp and clear. The game also has progressive scan support, which gives a much sharper and clearer picture if you have the right TV and cables to use that option. The bosses and all the action never slow down (unless you use VFX Slow), no matter how many bad guys are on the screen.

The sound effects are also really fine; with the music fitting nicely with the action, the voices able to be heard clearly, and all in-game effects realistic. The voice acting is very well done and fits with the overall cartoony and over-the-top feel of the game. The impression is of action heroes and villains from various superhero cartoons. The game even comes across well on mono speakers, and you can tell were the enemies are coming from. Unfortunately, the sound is only ordinary stereo without any true surround sound support, but it is still very clear and sharp.

The game is quite long, depending on your personal ability level. With three secret characters to unlock, four levels of difficulty, and upgrades for your characters, you'll be playing for a long time. The difficulty of the game is high, even on the easiest level, and the bosses are extremely hard. However, Viewtiful Joe is, by far, one of the most addictive games on the market today.

The only real negative side of the game relates to save points, accompanied by the difficulty. If you lose all of your lives, you have to start at the very beginning of the level. This can become very frustrating, especially with the high difficulty and long levels. There is nothing more annoying than getting to the boss of the level with zero additional lives and then having to start over again when you fail to beat him. Also, you can only save after you've beaten an episode, which is frustrating as well, since there are three levels per episode and they are all very long. However, if you do lose all of your lives, you get the option to save your game if you choose not to continue.

"Just Go for It!" —Silvia

Overall, Viewtiful Joe comes highly recommended. If you can overlook the annoying aspect of having to start over and only being able to save at the beginning of a new episode or when you quit the game, you will experience an amazingly hard but also wonderfully fun game. I highly recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of fighting games or who just wants to have an unusual and very good time for a few hours. Just be forewarned, though: given the addictiveness of Viewtiful Joe, do not play it if you have any plans for the evening, because you'll cancel them and will most likely still be playing until you pass out from exhaustion in the middle of the night! It's that good. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: October 7, 2003

Available for: Game Cube

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