Review: Viewtiful Joe
Posted 03 Nov 2003 at 04:05 by Franklin
S-l-o-w, Zoom In, Mach Speed and of course Henshin a Go Go Baby! Get used to these phrases cause once you get into this game you can expect to shouting them at the TV whenever you use Joe's beautiful… no sorry my mistake, Joe's Viewtiful powers.
Ok so for those of you who have no idea what this game is about here's a quick run down. Joe and his girlfriend Silvia are at the movies watching a film called "Captain Blue". Blue is then defeated in the movie and suddenly the bad guy reaches out of the movie and kidnaps Silvia. Joe is then bestowed with the powers of Captain Blue and becomes Viewtiful Joe and sets out to get Silvia back and out of Movie Land.
Ok, so yeah a very strange story indeed but this is a game that is about fun, hard gameplay not realism as many of today's games seem to be preoccupied with. And it does allow for some amazing looking levels and wacky (but sometimes hard as nails) bad guys to take down. And if you think VJ is a game you can get through by bashing one button all the time, you're dead wrong. But we'll get more into that later, lets get on with the show shall we?
Cell shading… now what was the first thing you thought of when you read that? Zelda: The Wind Waker? Or Jet Set Radio maybe? Well while those both use cell shading they do look different and so does Viewtiful Joe. Using the technique Capcom have created a unique graphical style that makes the game look just like a moving comic or manga book. You could look at screens of this game and will probably think it's a 2D game, but the still screens do not do this game justice at all. You really must see it in motion to truly appreciate them.
The game does play as a 2D side scroller but the backgrounds and characters are 3D and look amazing. The animations are smooth, fast and fluid. And the backgrounds are filled with detail and colour to set the mood and tone for the level brilliantly.
These graphics then become more impressive when using Joe's VFX powers. Slow down time and the background becomes darker and blurry and the colours bleed into each other nicely. Joe and the enemies also leave a slight blur as they move and Joe's kicks and punches just look all the more Viewtiful in slow motion and you can see the enemy robots fall apart as pieces get smashed off by Joe's powerful hits. Use Mach Speed and speed line wiz across screen and the background blurs again but in a different way to slow motion. This power makes Joe move super fast and as such you can see multiple Joes on screen at once attacking different enemies. Then if he goes through a long enough combo of this he becomes red hot and his hits set enemies on fire and it looks amazing to say the least. Zoom In does just that, the camera zooms in on Joe and he takes up about half the screen, doing this allows him to do some even more impressive moves and some great poses that'll bring a smile to your face.
To sum it up Viewtiful Joe is a uniquely, original and amazing looking game.
It's just there to entertain your ears as you play, the sound plays an important in the combat of the game. Each enemy will make a certain sound just before performing a certain attack. This means that when things are getting somewhat hectic and you might not see the attack coming if you know the sounds you get an aural warning. This works best in boss battles as the rooms for the boss fights can be quite big you might find the boss is off screen a lot so learning to associate sounds with attacks is an essential skill to learn.
Probably one of the most satisfying sounds however has to be when you slow down time and your punches and kicks make a nice echo effect as well a nice smashing, crashing sound as the robots break apart. Or how about when you successfully dodge an attack and you hear Joe tell them their "Too Slow". Which brings me to the voices. All the characters and bosses have voices that fit them like a glove. The only problem with the voices is the bosses; while they are cool some can be somewhat hard to understand first time round. It wouldn't have been so bad had there been subtitles but alas there is not. But chances are you'll get the chance to hear them again as you will likely never beat a boss first time (if you start on Adults mode like you should). One of the best voices is the narrator which appears during cut scenes, it's not annoying in anyway and can funny sometimes. He even speaks when you pause the game saying different things on different levels, and the defiantly the best one is when you pause and he says "Nothing personal but is it number one or number two".
The background music is nothing special though, you probably won't even take notice of it. I was expecting the music to be faster and harder of some kind of rock form which I feel would have gone so well with the action. Luckily though, even if you don't like the music or don't take notice of it, it won't have any effect on you as you will be too caught up in the action and other sound effects to care.
You got two difficulty settings to choose from when you start – Kids and Adults. Kids being easy and Adults being hard. Now while many will be inclined to start with easy beat that then play hard, I suggest you go straight for Adults mode to really get a good hard challenge. While Kids might give you some challenge first time Adults will guarantee it, lets face it a lot of recent games have been far too easy so it feels great to finally play a hard game once more. And while it is hard and you will likely die a number of times it never feels so hard that you get so frustrated and feel like you'll never get through. Speaking of dying, when you die and have lives left you do not re-spawn you start the section of the level over, lose all your lives and start the whole level again (unless you saved at the halfway point in which case you of course restart from there).
Many of you will probably think that Viewtiful Joe is just another button basher game that can be beat by continually hitting an attack button and pushing forward, well you won't get far in VJ like that. The VFX moves are not there as some sort of gimmick to make you think it's a cool game. You'll have to learn how to use them in combat properly, some enemies can only be hurt by a certain VFX move. For example some enemies may have guns in which case you'll have to slow time just as they shoot so you can see the bullet and punch it back at them. Also some enemies can only hurt from behind and getting there is not as easy as it sounds. The VFX moves can also be used to solve some of the games puzzles in order for you progress. Early in the game when you come near one of these puzzles Joes "V-Watch" will glow and make a shimmering sound indicating you need your powers to affect something nearby, but want could it be and which power needs to used?
The down part to the gameplay however is there is only seven levels which seems very short. But chances are you will be stuck a number of times in each level and not just on the bosses but many sections during the level also. The levels are also of a decent length too so it's not as short as you think first time round. The levels are divided up in a number of sections and completing each one requires you to fulfil a certain task which can be to defeat a set number of enemies, reach a goal, find a key or solve a puzzle. After each section and level you get graded on your performance based on the number of "Viewtifuls" (points) you earned, your defence (dodging) skills and of course how fast you are. So those of you who love trying earn high grades and set high scores will have a field day with VJ. The highest grade is "V"eiwtiful which then goes down to "A"wesome, "B"aaad, "C"rappy and "D"'oh.
While the combat can be somewhat complex and get very hectic the controls are very easy to get to grips with so you should have no trouble guiding Joe on his quest to save his lass, how well you use them though is where the question lies. You can use either the control stick or the D-pad to move Joe and because it plays in 2D Joe can only run left and right on screen. Pushing up and down allows Joe to dodge in the respective direction. Use the A button to make Joe jump and if you are in the "Viewtiful" form press it again to do a second jump while in the air. The attack buttons are the Y and X buttons which are Punch and Kick respectively, alternate between them to pull off a combo of varied punches and kicks. Next the VFX buttons. L is used to Slow time and you'll likely be using this the most. Hold down R to send Joe into Mach Speed and for Zoom In you have a choice. You can either press B to turn on the Zoom In power and press it again to turn it off, or you can push the C-stick up to turn it on and push it down to turn it off. Personally I use the C-stick, not quite sure why my thumb just instinctively goes for it. You can also combine the VFX powers, for example if you slow time and take out one enemy and find the next is just out reach so you have to run to him, but don't want to leave the slow state press down R and Joe can run that little bit faster. Or if you want more power in your hits, slow down time and Zoom In and punches and kicks become super powerful, this is best for dealing with bosses.
B: Zoom In
R: Mach Speed
Z: Skip Movie
C-Stick: Up = Zoom In, Down =Zoom Out
Control Stick: Movement
Like I said earlier there are only seven levels (episodes) in the game. But first time through should take some time as the game is quite hard and gets progressively harder as you go on. This will take anywhere between 10 to 15 hours gameplay I'd say. Then after that there are even harder difficulty levels to unlock (yes hard to believe but it does get even harder), extra playable characters with their own characteristics which can make things slightly easier or even harder still. And lets not forget the urge to try and earn as many (or all) "V"eiwtiful grades as possible. So VJ could take up a fair bit of your time, and in my opinion it's well worth it.
Ten years from now when people think of classic retro games of the past chances are Viewtiful Joe will come up. In an age where many companies seem afraid to stray from the "mainstream" and take a risk on something new, original and different to breath some life into the industry Capcom stood up and delivered all that with a hell of a lot of fun and enjoyable gameplay thrown in. Unfortunately because it is different it might not sell as well as some (awful) movie licensed game but I believe if you are a bit apprehensive about how it looks once you play it and to grips with it you will enjoy it. Everyone should play this game!
N-Europe Final Verdict
An amazing experience, an original breath of fresh air.
A nice, hard challenge
Not enough levels!