Review by ZFS

Reviewed: 01/02/04 | Updated: 04/26/06

Capcom takes an old school concept and gives it a ton of style -- viewtiful, baby!

Viewtiful Joe. The name sounds strange enough and the first thing that came to my mind was a dancing simulation; however this game is far, far from that. Viewtiful Joe (henceforth VJ) is a game about a guy named Joe who is going to the movies with his girlfriend named Slyvia, to watch Joe's favorite super hero Captain Blue! This is the start of this outstanding title from Capcom.

The story is basically Joe finding himself inside of a movie to go save his girlfriend from a bunch of villains inside of the movie. As you go along you'll see the humor involved in the game as well as many clichés to other things. VJ has its plot twists, clichés, everything you could want from it, it has the humor in the right spots and the seriousness when needed and that all makes for a great experience as far as stories go. It definitely isn't the deepest you'll hear but it definitely works well with the game and is one of the best for the genre it is in. Again, don't expect it to be deep but of course the story is definitely not the main focus here.

The way VJ was executed in the gameplay department is what really makes this title stand out. It goes back to the old gaming days of 2-D side scrolling with the usage of cel-shaded graphics to give it that cartoony feel. Just like in any typical action / platforming game you can run, jump, and attack your way through the level trying to get from one point to another. That brings me to the point of saying this game is very linear, you have one set path from beginning to end. You’re always trying to get from Point A to Point B so that you can fight the boss and move onto the next level.

The fighting system in VJ is one of the best I've seen in an action game, as Joe you are able use three unique abilities that he will gain throughout the game. Slow Down, Mache Speed, and Zoom, each does something different and is what really makes this game stand out from the norm. With Slow Down you can slow down time immensely making it so that you can dodge bullets, make a certain object like water drag on longer, or increase the power of your attacks. Mache Speed lets you kick up the action with high speed fight and Zoom zooms in on the action. The whole concept of this game is that you are in a movie playing a super hero so these abilities that Joe gains only make sense and they implemented nicely. The fighting is very basic though this is not a bad thing, you can basically punch and kick as your only two moves available for attacking.

There are two big things that I think make this game stand out from the rest of the crowd. What might that be? Graphics and difficulty. This game has some of the most insane challenging bosses and gameplay that you will every see in a game. Capcom has brought back all the challenges from the old days with this one. Everything about this game is a challenge fighting enemies to getting past obstacles that get in your way. To make it even better Capcom has added multiple difficulty levels ranging from easy to insanely hard. This makes it so that as you get better with the game you can always step up the difficulty to test your skills.

When it comes to testing your skills there is nothing harder than facing the bosses in this game. All of them are insane and take at least a couple of tries to beat as the difficulty gets higher. They are smart but have usually have a set pattern of attacks that you can get used to and eventually beat but doing that is no easy task as most of their attacks will do damage that gets you on the brink of dieing in no time. As far as their ' character ' goes they are developed pretty well and have their own unique personality and yet all seem to fit together as a team. Very nicely done.

Yet another great feature to this game is the ability to buy power ups after each Episode. During the game you earn points constantly by fighting enemies using special techniques or just earning items you’re usually earning points. Now you have the ability to spend these points how you please in a show to increase the abilities of Joe to make him have longer health, a new move, an extra life, etc. Some of the stuff you buy is permanent while others give you a limited stock of each. It makes you think about what you need at the time to give you more of an edge in the game. You do not have to spend your points and can choose to make the game harder by not buying anything but the option to do is there and actually makes you strive to get a higher point total so that you can go in an get better stuff.

Now, I said there were two things that make this game stand out and the second is graphics. The graphics in this game are simply amazing, using the cel-shading method to depict this cartoony type game. The use of bright colors and the bold, black outlines really make this title stand out. Although I can say that the cel-shading can seem a bit overdone in certain areas sporting too many bold black lines in the environments but not too bad. I love the way that the graphics seem to help the story along in a movie type manner for the loading times and the cut-scenes containing the comic book type of areas at times. The other thing I loved about the graphics were that they seemed to be filled with detail, nothing seemed to not contain some type of detail. The muscles in Joe to the poster boards across walls all seemed to be filled with vibrant detail and it this is what makes it one of the best usage of cel-shading graphics to this day. Overall I'd say the graphics make this game a much more enjoyable experience than most other graphical styles out there.

The controls are also very well executed, like most of the game; they are very responsive and easy to learn. All of the buttons seem as if they are in the perfect position and don't need to be change but Capcom has added the ability to change any of the controls to whatever you might desire. The basic controls you have are jumping, VFX powers, punching and kicking, along with moving. Every button on the GCN controller is used and has a big use so nothing is neglected here and it's nice to see Capcom making use of the buttons on the controller and not just repeating them. Sticking to the default controls, everything is in easy access of your hands and doesn't get to the point where you’re trying to move and reach across the controller to another button so that works out nicely. Basically, you have very easy to learn responsive controls and that is what you need in this kind of game.

Now, a lesser part is the audio department for Viewtiful Joe. The big part of the audio section is the sound and the voices both of which are done greatly. The voice actors for VJ fit their roles and sound like the character should sound, the voice fits the body in other words. There are some problems though with some voices being really hard to understand at times during the cut-scenes. There isn't a lot of this but certain characters will leave you wandering what in the world they say because it sounds mumbled together. As far as the sound goes it sounds very good with the VFX powers such as Slow Down or the helicopters propellers most of the game is in a high quality state in the sound department. Overall a very nicely done area in audio but could've benefited just slightly better with the voices.

The one thing that I love just absolutely love about this game though is the replay value. For a single player game the replay value is immensely high 4 different difficulty levels to play and many unlockables this game will keep you coming back for more for a while. There are different characters to go through the story with and Rainbow V's to collect as well to further extend the life of VJ. I would say to beat the story mode would take around 5 - 10 hours but doing all the difficulty levels and unlockables could make this title easily reach over 20+ hours of gameplay, which for a game like this is great. Just running through some of the levels again is a nice experience because it's the time of game that can give you that quick fix of gaming, much like the old SNES Mario games. If you’re looking for a long game and loved playing the old ones this one should keep you busy for a while.

Overall, Viewtiful Joe is the kind of game that reeks of fun. That's all this game pretty much is, an enjoyable title with a cartoony type comic theme to it while retaining the game of games like Mario and Mega Man. Capcom has really redefined the genre with Viewtiful Joe, I would recommend that anyone pick this up and add this to their collection. You will not be disappointed with Viewtiful Joe!

Final Score: 9.0

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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