And now he gives us Joe, Viewtiful Joe. I’ve been following this game since its unveiling. And really, it has been hell trying to convince people that this game would be any good. I’d tell my friends “You should try out the demo for this game, Viewtiful Joe.” And they’d just say, “Are you kidding me? Viewtiful? What the f*ck is that? Look at that lettering, and the cherry blossoms? The upcoming Spongebob Squarepants game looks more masculine than this crap.” But once I put them down in front of the TV with a Wavebird in their hands and the CD in the Gamecube, it became clear;
Joe is here to stay.
The story begins rather basically: It sounds like a combination of Mario Bros and Last Action Hero (ugh). A movie-obsessed teenager (Joe) is at the movies with his girlfriend, watching a movie starring his favorite superhero, Captain Blue. Partway through the movie, a monster leaps through the screen and captures Joe’s girlfriend and leaps back into the movie with her. Joe is pulled into the movie to save her, where he is shortly taught how to unlock the ‘heroness’ within him and transforms into the silver screen Superhero “Viewtiful Joe”. While the game’s story never becomes very deep or engaging, it serves as a transition from area to area and an impetus to reach the goal.
The game play is surprisingly deep, and lets you wade into the game’s controls one step at a time. At the beginning, you are given access to normal Joe, and taught how to dodge attacks, punch, kick and jump. Dodging attacks is essential, as it stuns enemies and allows you to start chaining attacks together to take out a large number of enemies and rack up points. Shortly thereafter, you are turned into Viewtiful Joe, and gain access to Slow, which allows you to slow down time and dodge attacks easier. Slow also increases the impact of punches and explosions, and is also used in certain instances to solve puzzles. Later on you learn Mach Speed, which lets you attack in a flurry of punches and kicks so fast that you can appear onscreen in several locations at once, and sets Joe on fire, which is important for solving puzzles and resisting fire-based attacks. Finally you learn Zoom, which brings the camera close up to Joe and modifies all of his moves into dramatic special attacks. A simple jump while zoomed in causes you to slam into the ground with an amazing amount of force, damaging all enemies near you. All moves while zoomed in do more damage, so when combined with slow, you are basically clearing scores of enemies left and right.
You have a certain amount of VFX power, which is used to perform these dazzling cinematic stunts, you start off with a meager amount at first, but as you collect film canisters, the amount of VFX you have increases. Memorizing patterns is very important to successfully defeating enemies and bosses, as you progress, you’ll find that enemies aren’t as susceptible to tactics you would have used earlier.
In fact, no getting around it, this game is hard. There are moments when I’m somewhat amazed at just how durable Nintendo’s controllers actually ARE, even upon numerous brief meeting with the wall. Many people will have to start on the Kids rating and work their way up to the normal difficulty, then up to V-Rated, and god-willing, Super V-Rated.
As for the graphics, the game uses cel-shading to create a comic-book style effect. The combination of 2D graphics and 3D models creates a very cool atmosphere; it feels like you’re playing a comic book or a cartoon. The character designs are imaginative and sometimes very silly, ranging from Joe himself in his Megaman/Power Ranger-inspired outfit, to the white ninjas, who sometimes attack in sailor suits or ballerina outfits. The movies and cut scenes are great: Whenever Joe begins a boss battle, there’s a quick animation of his facemask closing up. It’s a very cool effect and I love watching it. The dialogue between Joe and the villains is very sharp, as Joe often points out flaws or clichés in the motives of his enemies. The best part is that even with numerous enemies onscreen or in large areas, the game never gets choppy or slows down (Not unless you want it to, of course. Heh.) The graphic effects are amazing: Speed-lines stream across the screen in mach speed, lines and colors become clearer when you are slowed down, and when you revert back to regular Joe by exerting too much VFX, the screen becomes dark and scratchy, like bad film. It’s an amazing effect that enhances the game play greatly.
Joe isn’t a very long game, but it’s not short. It will take you some solid playtime to finish it the first time around, and you’ll have to beat it multiple times on all the difficulty levels to unlock everything. The game has 3 hidden characters, each putting a unique spin on the play style of the game. One of the characters is even inspired by Shinji Mikami’s last great game: Devil May Cry. While the extras are cool and all, the two characters I’ve unlocked so far aren’t that great. In fact, they’re rather annoying to play as and I always felt that hidden features should be rewarding.
I believe this is one of the best platformers to come around in a while; the game play is deep and fun to master. You never get bored of pulling off moves on rooms full of enemies, and creating your own action movie, which is essentially what Joe is: An action movie where you are in control of the stunts. The story, while generic, is supported by very witty and funny dialogue due to the fact that everyone in the cast realizes they are in a clichéd action movie and then proceed to joke about it. I haven’t mentioned the music because it’s really non-existent. It’s there, but it’s hard to notice most of the time.
Honestly, if you’ve been craving some classic 2D action for a while and don’t already own a GBA, pick up this game.