Viewtiful Joe

February 4, 2005

[floatleft][/floatleft]I was idly standing by the GameCube section when I noticed an interesting game on the screen. I didn’t know what it was called, but I saw a side-scrolling game with comic-style graphics. Some kid was intensely pounding away at the controls, and the dude in the red bodysuit with the pink cape was performing all sorts of animated antics that made stuff fly all over the place. After watching the action in awe for a few moments, I continued with my shopping. By the time I arrived at home, that game never entered my mind again. Months later, the game resurfaced on the PS2, and again I was mildly intrigued by this [i]Viewtiful Joe[/i].

I finally had the chance to check this game out, having read the great reviews for it both online and in magazines. I turned it on and set my difficulty to “Adults” (the other choices are “Sweet”, the easiest setting, and “Kids”, the default setting) and anticipated creating carnage as that little kid did in the store those months ago. Once I got started, I was hugely let down. My character wasn’t doing any of the actions that I knew he was capable of performing. On top of that, I kept dying, and it took me hours just to get to Level 2. I was fed up. How did that kid have it so easy, and I couldn’t do a thing? I sadly established that I wasn’t good enough to play on the “Adults” setting-perhaps I wasn’t good enough to play the game at all.

[floatright][/floatright]I decided to lessen the difficulty to “Kids” and see if I couldn’t learn how to play that way. I wasn’t looking forward to trying this, being low in spirit for finally finding a game I wasn’t good at. With a larger life bar and therefore more confidence, I began the game the right way. And let me tell you, I finally learned how to play [i]Viewtiful Joe[/i]. If you approach the game by just punching and kicking, you will not succeed on many levels. [i]Viewtiful Joe[/i] is virtually impossible to play without using Joe’s three major powers. His powers not only aid in helping you through the game, but if you use them correctly, you will gain a ton of Viewtiful Points, which act as Joe’s currency to purchase power-ups and abilities at save spots (which are few and far between). You are rated based on how well you played a certain section, and the higher the rating, the more Viewtiful Points you are awarded at the end of the level.

Just what might those powers be? Well, your first power is VFX (Viewtiful Effects) Slow, which slows down everything on the screen. This is the power that will be used most often, as you can perform a huge combo with tons of hits for loads of Viewtiful Points as well as dizzy up opponents so that you can completely obliterate them with an attack in Slow-Motion. You can also deflect bullets this way. The second power is VFX Mach Speed, which, as you guessed, is basically [i]Viewtiful Joe[/i] in fast-forward. If used properly, Joe will start to glow on Fire, which you can then use to light bombs or candles. Finally, you gain access to VFX Zoom In, which is useful for performing special attacks that aren’t available otherwise. The neatest part about VFX is the ability to combine them to create powerful attacks. Ultimately, my favorite one is the “Slow Zoom Red Hot One Hundred”, which combines the use of VFX Slow, Zoom, and holding down the punch button. Bosses don’t stand a chance against this.

The graphics are very unique. It looks and feels like a comic book, and Joe is believable as a superhero. Photographs of this game give it no justice, as the game moves a lot smoother than anyone would expect a 2-D side-scrolling game to do. The sound effects are cool, too, giving this game an arcade feel. Sounds of cracking and smacking never get old, and this game brings them to you in full throttle here. My only complaint on the sounds is that the voiceovers for some of the bosses you fight are completely horrible, as their voices are gross and their English is incomprehensible (the shark boss is just awful). You can easily bypass the scenes if you don’t care about what is going on and just want to pound some noses.

[floatleft][/floatleft]The story kind of threw me off-guard, and because of this I don’t rate the game any higher than maybe a 7.5 out of 10. I won’t say it’s horrible, but it’s definitely not the type of fantasy that appeals to me. Joe is a normal guy watching his favorite action star, Captain Blue, with his girlfriend Sylvia. Suddenly, Sylvia gets kidnapped and taken into the movie, and Joe gets sucked into the movie to rescue her (sound like a familiar Schwarzenegger movie to anyone?). He obtains superhero powers from Captain Blue, and then it’s off to the rescue. Meanwhile there’s a plot going on where the baddies in Movieland are planning to take over the real world, so in addition to saving Sylvia, Joe must stop the hostile takeover.

What is a game nowadays without lots of secret content? Not [i]Viewtiful Joe[/i], that’s for sure. There are tons of unlockable characters and difficulties that can either be done legitimately or by entering in a cheat code on the start menu (which I won’t tell you-you must find it yourself). I won’t spoil any of the secret content, either, because then it wouldn’t be much of a secret, now, would it? But if cheat codes are your thing, look them up-they won’t be hard to find. I don’t think the secret items, however, add much to the replay value. Essentially, you’re just playing the same game over and over.

[i]Viewtiful Joe[/i] is not the greatest game I have ever played, but it is an enjoyable one. I don’t have much experience with 2-D side-scrollers, but this was a nice change of pace from the hugely-involved questing RPGs. I am looking forward to starting the sequel, so keep checking for the review on that as well. The only thing I can say about [i]Viewtiful Joe[/i] is that it is cheesy, but who ever said that cheesy can’t be fun?

Oh, and on a final note, when you’re playing [i]Viewtiful Joe[/i] and your VFX meter has completely drained, making you a normal human being and more vulnerable, just remember the words that will restore all of your hope…

[b][i]”Henshin A-Go-Go, Baby!”[/i][/b]

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.