Review by ShadowGuardian9

"I still don't know what Viewtiful means! (100th Review)"

Capcom has a long history with quality games. Yes, mention the name Resident Evil or Devil May Cry and you'll no doubt hear about the great legacy Capcom has shown. Yes, they are fun, scary, action-packed. But are they Viewtiful? What is viewtiful, you ask? It's red hot, fast, slow, and it likes cheeseburgers. Joe is Viewtiful, and so is his game.

Meet Joe. He has everything a guy could want: an awesome HMD shirt, a beautiful and loving girlfriend, and an unstoppable desire to be a hero. Joe wants to be a hero, saving the day, rescuing the world, and all that jazz. Little does Joe know that everything's gonna change. While watching a classic hero film named Captain Blue, Joe finds his beautiful girlfriend, Silvia, abducted by a dark and unknown villain. Joe and Silvia are taken into the movie itself, and it's up to Joe to save Silvia and become a true hero. Joe learns the ways of film from Captain Blue himself, and it's after practice that Joe's inner hero is unleashed. With obscure as a battle cry as “Henshin-a-go-go, baby,” Joe transforms into the celluloid hero Viewtiful Joe. It's up to Joe to rescue Silvia and stop the evil that defeated his mentor, Captain Blue. Only from Japan will you find a story so completely out of control as Viewtiful Joe, but that is easily its most defining feature. The game parodies modern film and Japanese cinema at every opportunity, and it's glaringly obvious with the constant giant robot references. Whatever. Don't let its weird parody tendency scare you; you don't need to be a fan of film to like Viewtiful Joe.

If the gameplay of Viewtiful Joe is too rich for you, you'll no doubt be won over by the beautiful presentation. One of the first noticeable observations is the cel-shaded graphics. Viewtiful Joe uses cel-shading to produce some of the most incredible combat seen on the Gamecube. Joe's cape dances in the air and folds in the wind as he stands still. It looks exactly like a piece of Japanese manga. But forget standing still; the combat is where it's at. Joe's ability to slow down time makes beating the tar out of enemies incredibly visceral. You can see the pieces of the enemies' costumes shatter with a strong punch, until the lesser skeleton is the only thing left. Try Mach Speed and Joe dashes with motion effects in full technique. Zoom In brings those dramatic poses into beautiful effect. The game prides itself on showing moves and looking good doing it, and in the end, there isn't a game that looks as good as Viewtiful Joe does. Well, maybe Viewtiful Joe 2.

To cooperate with the dramatic graphics, the game manages to back it up with some downright awesome sound design. Joe's role is performed by Dee Bradley Baker, a long-time actor in classic American cartoons. He nails Joe's role flat, showing the same slacker attitude and brilliant heroicness that Joe is known for. Try some incredibly funny voice acting from the bosses and you got some great cutscenes. Not convinced? The first boss alone will leave you on the ground laughing. The music is pretty generic, though. You won't hear much drama in the music, mostly because the smashes and explosions will block it out. Regardless, Viewtiful Joe has a presentation unlike any other and is just as fun to watch as it is to play. But if the presentation doesn't catch you, the visceral and relentless gameplay will.

Viewtiful Joe, at its core, is a side-scroller. The main goal is to run to the right of the screen, clearing out enemies, solving simple puzzles and such. But Viewtiful Joe likes to mix it up. A lot. The major draw is Joe's power of VFX, which enable the hero to change the movie world. Firstly is the Slow power. Joe can slow down time and make his techniques super powerful. He can also narrowly dodge bullets, a la Matrix, and can even punch them back. You'll be using Slow a lot to take out gun-toting enemies and solving simple puzzles. Second is the Mach Speed, which lets Joe rapidly attack enemies and even light them on fire. Lastly is Zoom In, which lets Joe execute super strong attacks for super damage along with freezing enemies in their tracks. These three powers are the only powers Joe can use, but combined with the stellar battle system, the powers are extremely versatile. Different situations can call for multiple VFX powers, but be careful; if Joe runs out of VFX power, he returns to regular, average Joe. The powers are smooth and getting into a battle is incredibly fun.

Many of the challenges in Viewtiful Joe involve getting to a specific point, taking out enemies, or solving simple puzzles. But the VFX powers are so versatile and clever that even the simplest challenges can be fun. The enemies are really different and can involve many different techniques to defeat. The fact that Viewtiful Joe manages to take such simple equations and makes them groundbreaking is incredible. But these groundbreaking concepts manage to conceal some incredible challenge. Even on the lowest difficulty level, Viewtiful Joe is a healthy challenge. The later difficulty levels will no doubt challenge you, plain and simple, and it's great to see games so serious about challenge still wandering the market.

The player can earn Viewtifuls, a currency earned in-game, to buy more techniques and skills for the long haul. The moves could be the powerful Redhot Kick or increased Mach Speed, or something as simple as an extra life or health quantity. This offers up a great deal of versatility and constantly emphasizes experimentation. The reason Viewtiful Joe is good is in its design. The game encourages experimentation in combat, practically implying you to defeat enemies stylishly. The game accesses each challenge on how much time, how little damage, and how mixed up your combat styles are. And getting all Viewtiful is far from easy, as originally stated. Anyone looking for a challenging game should look no further than Viewtiful Joe, because it's quite simply one of the toughest games released in the last few years.

Viewtiful Joe's only glaring flaw is its short length. A weekend rental is usually enough to complete the rather short story mode. There are unlockables and some cool modes, but it's a serious shame that the game's story is so short. The characters are hilarious and the story mode alone is worth playing again, though. Try some ridiculous difficulty levels and the game has its moments even after the story mode is over.

Pros
+ Combat system is fluid and fun
+ Beautiful cel-shaded graphics
+ Great sound design
+ Plenty of challenge

Cons
- Pretty short
- Unlockables aren't earth-shattering
- Puzzles are particularly complex

Viewtiful Joe doesn't capitalize itself on innovation. Practically everything that the game does has been done before, but that doesn't matter. Viewtiful Joe makes so many unique strides towards making the game better, while still making it generally familiar. We've seen the Matrix. We've seen cel-shading. We've seen all these factors, but Viewtiful Joe has a bottomless reserve of unforgettable style and rock-solid gameplay. With so many games released during its year, Viewtiful Joe was pretty far forgotten and it's a serious shame, because it's brilliantly inventive and a rockin' good game. The Viewtiful Joe franchise has had its run in America; I guess poor sales hurt it. But don't forget Joe's face, because his game is a wild ride worth searching for. If you can find it, consider it a must-play and a definite purchase.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/15/07

Game Release: Viewtiful Joe (US, 10/07/03)


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