Review by Genjuro Kibagami
Viewtiful Joe is often considered to be one of the best and critically acclaimed GameCube action games. I was really excited about playing it and whipping out some justice on the villainous scum of Movie Land. Too bad the game sucked big time. The problem here is that Capcom starts out with a great 2D fast-paced action game, but then they bog down the action with terrible puzzles and repetition. Before you know it, you're ready to have Joe start packing and play a GameCube game that doesn't suck as much ass.
It began like any other day. Joe and his girlfriend Sylvia were at the movies seeing Joe's favorite superhero Captain Blue in action. Sylvia, being the wily female, makes an attempt to make-out with young Joe. However, our dashing hero pushes the sexual advances of Sylvia away claiming, They don't show these movies too often. Sylvia, now frustrated that her feminine needs would go unfulfilled, complains to Joe about their relationship. But to Joe, this is all unheard. He is caught up in the chivalry and iron-clad justice of superhero-dom. But just then a creature from the movie comes out of the screen and kidnaps Sylvia. Joe jumps into the movie to rescue her and become the stylish Viewtiful Joe.
The game is divided into seven episodes, so when you see episode, think stage. Anyway, Viewtiful Joe has a fairly excellent beginning. In episode one, we see how the young man goes from not getting any loser to not getting any hero. You'll be pitted against tons of enemies that can be beaten with a flurry of punches and kicks, and it's really cool. It's so fast, so stylish, so not sucky like the rest of the game. In fact, the first two episodes give you tutorials about the basics of combat.
The most basic yet integral maneuver in Viewtiful Joe is the dodge command. When an enemy is about to strike a blow on Joe, a big skull appears near the upper or lower half of Joe. This skull represents where the enemy plans on attacking. During this time, you can either push the analog stick down to have Joe duck under an attack or push it up for a quick leap under a sweeping kick or such. So basically, if the skull is low, hit up, if the skull is high, hit down. Easy as pie. The dodge becomes quite essential when combined with Joe's stunning VFX moves.
The VFX moves are Joe's central superpowers that you'll need to employ throughout the entire game. First there's Slow. This can be used to make your punches and kicks stronger, cause objects in a speeding blur like bullets to become easy to see and dodge, or shoot dizzy enemies off the screen with a mere blow. Next there's Mach Speed, which causes Joe to move super fast and split into separate images of himself to cause even greater damage on a whole battalion of foes. Lastly there's Zoom. This power causes the camera to move really close in on Joe, the enemies to begin shivering in fear, and makes Joe's punches and kicks incredibly strong. Zoom also gives Joe a variety of new and different moves such as a 360 degree kick, a whirlwind jump, or a powerful shockwave that comes from Joe falling to the ground. You can even mix and match each VFX power at the same time. For example using Slow and Mach Speed causes everything to slow down, but Joe will walk at normal speed rather than a slow crawl as usual. Or quite possibly the most overused combination you'll find will be Slow and Zoom, which causes each of Joe's attacks to become ridiculously powerful.
All these combat abilities Joe had at his disposal were a blast to use. For two levels I was kicking ass with pure joy. I'd see a gun slinging robot. As he fired off a few rounds of his revolver, I'd slow down and watch the bullet come to me. I'd punch his metal present causing it to flip into the gunner's direction. The bullet would pierce the villainous scum. That's when I'd disengage Slow and activate Mach Speed. With my hedgehog-like dizzying swiftness, I'd create a tornado of manly punches to bring the bastard down. Now doesn't that sound cool? I mean, you can even unlock new moves and power-ups with the points you accumulate through fighting! I thought so too, but then there were a couple of weird puzzles here and there. Seriously, the solutions make absolutely no sense. There's this one part where there's a leaky pipe under a switch. To get by you have to use Slow to cause the droplet to become huge and push the switch. Or then there's this part where you have to jump onto the top of a bus in order to make your way across a pit. Thinking with too much common sense, I used Mach Speed so the bus would also drive away at super-speed. Instead the bus crashed and I was stuck in a pit of acid. The real solution was to use Slow, make the bus' engines rev, and then allow the bus to blast off over the pit. What the Hell? Does that really make any sense? Then there's another part where there's a switch on a chandelier, but the only way to active it is by using Zoom on it. Of course, there's no hint at all about this, and you can barely even see the switch to begin with. But still, the fights were so fun that I could put up with a few crappy puzzles.
After finishing off episode two, I was still having some fun. If the rest of the game where like those two episodes, I would have been fairly content. But then episode three starts out with quite possibly one of the lamest horizontal shooters sections I've ever seen. Oh man, it was just so boring. There's only like three to five enemies on the screen at once, and all the toughest most fearsome foes would just sit there asking to be smacked down by Joe's laser cannon. After praying that there wouldn't be any more of those sections in the game, we find Joe in a water level. This is the basic idea of the water level in Viewtiful Joe: make a straight line of enemies and puzzles but make Joe move like he's stuck in 100% pure taffy. This has to be truly one of the most boring water levels ever.
Soon after that horrid water level, Joe finds himself in episode four, which is when the game truly makes the biggest mistake ever. Rather than putting more and more enemies for Joe to bash upon, the developers decided from here on to throw in more puzzles and make fewer and fewer enemy encounters. The puzzles, of course, are just as bad as they've always been with things such as using Mach Speed to make a fan-platform move up or using Mach Speed make the water level rise. But probably even worse is that even with the now few fights, Capcom made the encounters become extremely repetitive. Each battle became excuses for re-using the same difficult enemies over and over again. In one area, all you do is fight the same tanks and jets. You start out by fighting a tank, then a jet, then another tank, then another jet, and finally you end it with another fight with a jet. Hell, there's even an entire episode that's sole purpose is to re-used old boss encounters from the first four episodes.
Now it's bad enough to rehash old bosses, but it's even worse when fighting them isn't fun to begin with. Viewtiful Joe's boss encounters are just plain terrible, and it's all thanks to Capcom's ineptitude. You see, the bosses are both frustrating and easy at the same time. On one hand, you can barely ever see the damn boss. The developers made the areas for the boss fight so gigantic that 75% of the time you'll probably not be able to see the boss and can only hear it utter stupid phrases that are supposed to clue you in on their next attack. However, each boss can be beaten with the same old strategy. Basically you just have to do something to make the boss vulnerable then just use Slow and Zoom while holding down the punch button. For example, you just have to wait for Hulk Davidson to run into a wall before using this move or Gran Bruce to start panting for air. It would have been nice if some of your other combat maneuvers had actually been worth using.
During your entire ordeal your treated to some pleasant cel-shaded visuals. The colors are vivid and imaginative and the animation is solid, but this isn't exactly an amazing achievement in the visual department. The comic book-esque presentation is by all means charming, delightful, and stylish, but there are better, sexier looking games on the console. The backgrounds on the other hand have a flat feeling to them, while every single character and enemy suffer from an acute case of shortness. I'm sorry, but I'd rather play as a tall, muscle-bound stud of a superhero rather than some pint-sized movie nerd with a welcome mat on his chin. Furthermore, many of the character and enemy designs just plain blow. I don't care if they're all supposed to look like cheesy movie villains and crap. The point is they all insult my aesthetic sense. Oh yes, get ready to face such evil as the robot wearing a ten-gallon hat, pink girl robots, giant bat wearing a puffy shirt, or even dinosaur with a big axe!
Capcom music has generally been in an all time slump lately. Viewtiful Joe is another victim to their crappy music phase. While the pieces aren't complete horrid filth, they're forgettable and leave a lot to be desired for. Hey, kind of like this game! The sound effects, however, are pretty cool. The punches, kicks, smacks, and bashing around is fleshed out nicely with an array of perfect sound effects to go with each. There's also neat sounds for the VFX moves such as the swishing and echoing of Slow or the loud turbo charged engine noise of Mach Speed. Unfortunately the constant terrible voice-overs will drive you crazy. Joe is a constant annoyance with his catch-phrase Henshin a go-go, baby, and Sylvia's shrieking voice is quite omnipresent throughout the entire game. You can't even begin a stage without hearing her yell JUST GO FOR IT or LET'S GET IT ON!. Or try talking to the dinosaur Hulk Davidson and hear him speak his lines like a rapper. YO YO YO, SUP BOY!? THIS BE MY TURF!. And you haven't truly heard the worst until you pause and hear a different voice-over for each episode. They start out innocent enough with lines like Let's take a break, but then they become bathroom jokes such as Is it number one or number two? or Don't forget to flush the toilet. Believe me, it gets annoying the first damn time.
Viewtiful Joe is simply what could have been good a game gone bad. It sets you up for a pleasant drive with a few bumps but turns out to have a road littered with potholes. The game just bombs after episode two and never gets any better. There were even extra characters and harder difficulties you can unlock, but who wants to replay a crappy game with new stuff? Had Capcom stuck with more awesome fights against hordes of monstrous scum, then Viewtiful Joe could have been a hit. Instead, we're left with a crumby action-puzzler with not enough combat to fill your hunger for justice. The awesome combat system was really wasted here. But since the developers have the combat system right, hopefully they will make the sequel about more fast-paced and varied fights. Until then, don't believe the hype
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 07/22/04
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