Review by Greg "gf_ripper" Frank
Joethe man, the legend, the hero? Joejust your average
young man who loves the fictional Captain Blue and his girlfriend
Silviaalmost 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
Now the game really begins. Joe gains his very own V watchthe
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 abilitiesthe
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.
Release Date: October 7, 2003
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