"Beautiful Moves and Techniques, will Flourish from Your Heroic Gut Instincts..."

When Capcom announced their ''Big 5,'' people were in awe at the visuals presented in Killer7 and Resident Evil 4. Not many people seemed to notice the other 3 games, and now Dead Phoenix has been cancelled, P.N. 03 released, and finally arrives Viewtiful Joe, a 2-D beat-em-up which received minimal hype until a month of so before its release.

Graphics: 10/10
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Viewtiful Joe's graphics are an amazing example of how good cel-shading can look. As you walk through the environment smashing your foes, you'll be wowed by the graphics. The game looks like a moving comic book, with a look closer to hand-drawn than cartoony. The bosses look fantastic, each with a kooky look to them. (Alastor and Davidson in particular look fantastic!) Also, the special effects are amazing. When you zoom-in, white lines focus on Joe, providing a thrilling comic-book effect. When enter slo-mo, the screen darkens except for Joe and his enemies, looking as though you're fighting in space. And finally, when you go to mach-speed, the screen is covered with horizontal white lines, which really makes you feel like you're going incredibly fast. Also, when Viewtiful Joe reverts to normal Joe, the screen flickers and becomes blurry, as though you're watching an old movie.

Music & Sound: 7/10
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This is where Joe takes a blow. The music will not stick in your head, and doesn't sound that great while you're playing either. As for sound effects, they get annoying very quickly. (Things like hearing a camera click and shudder while you shift between speeds.) The game is salvaged by some excellent voice acting though. The characters all sound excellent, from the corny voice of Captain Blue, to the psychotic ramblings of Gran Blue, to Joe's shouts of ''HENSHIN-A-GO-GO BABY!'' The voice acting sounds perfect, and really helps the games otherwise weak soundtrack.

Story
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Viewtiful Joe's story will only appeal to those who either weren't expecting a story, or those who expected a corny, sporadic tale. The premise is that your girlfriend, Silvia, is sucked into an old Captain Blue movie on a date, and you have to go in and rescue her. It really doesn't get that much deeper than that, but is pulled off in a corny fashion that you have to love.

Gameplay: 10/10
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Viewtiful Joe has a gameplay hybrid the likes of which I have never seen before. The game basically follows a simple pattern of killing enemies, getting into the next room, kill a sub-boss, rinse and repeat. Fortunately, it works. Instead of being a typical button-mashing beat-em-up, Joe has movie powers to spice things up. In exchange for your quickly refilling VFX energy, you can go into Slo-Mo, slowing the action down, powering up Joe, and allowing you to auto-dodge. You can also go into Mach-Speed, where you move at lighting speed. Finally, you can zoom the camera in to make Joe far more powerful than normal.

These movie powers also allow you to solve tricky little puzzles. Some are as simple as zoom-jumping into a weak ceiling, while others are trickier, like slowing down to make a water drop large enough to trigger a switch. These puzzles really spice up the gameplay. Also there to give you an occasional break is the shooting sequence, which has you flying a plane in a 2-D shooter style. Finally there are the bosses. Each boss initially seems impossible, but with careful planning, it's possible to keep to bosses from performing more than a couple of moves, allowing you to easily defeat them. The key is finding this pattern and then using it perfectly.

Overall, the gameplay is excellent. It takes an old, simplistic beat-em-up and gives it a medley of interesting concepts that cause huge changes in the genre, and make it more varied than one may expect.

Controls: 9/10
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The controls are god overall, but a couple of minor problems make it needlessly hard. Effectively, Y punches, X kicks, A jumps, B Zooms, R activates Mach Speed, and L activates Slo-Mo. The problem is in the zoom in. Since zoom-in is a toggle function, it's very easy to forget you have it on for a moment, and consequently run out of VFX. This problem really bothered me, which is why I dinged the score. Other than this, it's good overall.

Difficulty: Hard
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Viewtiful Joe is not for the gamer who isn't willing to either spend a lot of time, or is naturally gifted at beat-em-ups, because Joe is a hard game. Fighting helicopters is very difficult if you mess up, and if you can't find out how to beat a boss or get past a section, you may be stuck for a very long time.

Overall
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Graphics: 10/10
Music & Sound: 7/10
Game Play: 10/10
Control: 9/10
Difficulty: Hard

Overall Score: 9/10


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/09/03


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