Review by tanuki suit

Reviewed: 08/11/03

Difficult. Weird. Brilliant.

When you were little did you want to be a superhero? After you saw Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan films did you want to be a Kung Fu master? After you watched The Matrix did you want to move in slow motion, dodge bullets, and add extreme style to your Kung Fu mastery? Well, I know I did, and to please us all, Capcom have made Viewtiful Joe, a game that combines everything mentioned above with a little bit of Japanese craziness added in to spice things up.

The first thing people will notice about ANY game is the look of the game. The graphics in VJ are great, there are no annoying jaggy edges, everything's well animated and everything has a thick black border around it. These outlines help to add to the comicy superhero feel of the game. One of my favourite effects is the filter that's put on the screen when you're just normal Joe, which fuzzes everything out and makes it look like you're watching an old, low-quality movie.

The sounds are clear and sharp, and...noticeable. The music is good, fitting the game nicely, but can get a bit repetitive (if you actually notice it all of the time). The voice acting in VJ is outstanding compared the every other game I've played. For once in a game the speech is actually good, and doesn't sound cheesy or wooden. Apparently proper English voice actors were employed to do the job.

Sure, the graphics and sound are fantastic, but does it fare as well as game rather than something to look at? Quite simply, YES. The controls are simple and easy to grasp, making combos as easy as hitting punch or kick over and over. Of course if you do just hit buttons repeatedly for the whole game you'll get nowhere. One of the things you'll do a lot in VJ is dodge. If you get attacked while you're in slow-motion you'll automatically dodge, but your VFX (I'll explain in a minute) metre will drop by quite a lot. Dodging manually is the first thing you learn in the game, and is one of the simplest maneuvers in the game. Juts press up on the control stick to dodge low attacks, and down to dodge high attacks. Simple. Dodging attack leaves enemies stunned, and if you hit enemies while they're stunned you do more damage and get more points (or 'viewtifuls). At certain points in the game you can use these points to buy things, from bombs and boomerangs, to new moves and extra health. The new moves aren't too hard to pull off, and at the bottom of the shop screen there is a box explaining what everything does. Even in Japanese I could work out everything, except for Ukemi (check one of the FAQs and to find out what it does).

The main feature of VJ, (and it's genre, according to the Japanese packaging) is the 'VFX action'. VFX is the power Joe calls upon to become Viewtiful Joe, and the power he uses to pull off all the special effects (slow, zoom, and Mach speed). If Joe runs out of VFX he returns to normal Joe. But never fear, the VFX recharges and of course you become Viewtiful again. Throughout the game you'll find LOADS of VFX canisters (or at least that's what I call them), which look like films reels with a V in front of them. Collecting 50 of these makes your VFX gauge grow longer longer, therefore allowing you to use VFX for longer. There are 250 VFX canisters in each level, so you can get you VFX meter to quite a length. While you're using these special effects (especially zoom and slow) you do a lot more damage to enemies and, in slow mo, send them flying.

So you know how the game plays, but ''what the hell is going on?'' I hear you say. Well, the intro sequence shows Joe and his girlfriend Silvia on a date in a cinema, watching a Captain blue Movie. Captain Blue is Joe's favourite superhero, and he's more interested in the movie in the film than Silvia. Silvia eventually gets her way, but as they kiss Joe misses an important part of the film. Then, all of a sudden, a giant hand bursts through the screen and grabs Silvia, pulling her into the picture. Six Majin, Captain Blue's giant robot lays next to Joe on the floor, after they were both knocked over by the mystery figure. Then, the robot grabs Joe and takes him into the movie, and so his adventure begins.

There are a wide variety of bad guys in VJ, from Power Rangers style grunts to Helicopters. Most of the enemies are easily dispatched once you know how to beat them, but some, like the helicopters, can take a while to defeat. Some of the enemies can get very difficult later on though. Fighting the enemies is fun and can be extremely satisfying when you kick their behinds with über-style. The bosses are slightly more difficult, and more...interesting. The first boss you fight is a were-bat (well, that's the only I can describe it). He isn't too hard, not even for a beginner, but the second boss can be very difficult (it took me roughly 15 tries to beat him for the first time!) and it all gets harder and harder from there.

Talking about difficulty levels, VJ can get very, very hard. At the beginning of the game there are 2 difficulty levels, Kids and Adult (essentially Easy and hard). On kids the game is far too easy, and good for...well, kids. On Adult though, the difficulty level is handled a lot better. The game starts off easy enough, nothing too stressful, then slowly gets harder and harder. Sometimes you'll think VJ is impossible to beat, but with a bit of effort you'll get through. Once you complete Adults, you unlock another difficulty level, which is The Hardest Thing I Have Ever Played©. I still haven't got past the first stage (probably because I haven't played it for a while).

Overall Viewtiful Joe is an excellent game that'll keep you hooked for hours. And hours. And hours. Until you do finally get past that bit you're stuck on. Be warned now, VJ really does get difficult in the later stages, but never give up. NEVAR! VJ sets out to be just like an over-the-top superhero film, and succeeds greatly. There's even a few movie rip offs in there. In fact the whole final stage is a complete rip off of- No, I won't spoil it for you, you'll have to find out for yourself.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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