Just what the heck is Viewtiful Joe? The title alone doesn't really explain, but one look at the cover and you get a pretty good idea. Viewtiful Joe is an action/platformer with a wild comic book art style. It's unlike anything you've ever seen on the Gamecube, taking the best of both 2D gameplay and 3D graphics and making one sweet game.
The story begins as Joe and his girlfriend Silvia are watching an old movie starring Joe's favorite super hero, Captain Blue. But while watching the movie, Silvia is pulled into the theater screen by the bad guys. Then Captain Blue's giant Mecha is thrown out of the screen in defeat. Picking up Joe in its hand, the Mecha returns to the movie world, taking Joe with it. Once inside the movie, Captain Blue informs Joe that he can no longer fight, and needs Joe to carry on for him. Giving him his mighty V-Watch, average Joe is turned into Viewtiful Joe! Using his new powers, Joe must fight evil to save Silvia and the world.
The story may sound a little cheesy, but let me assure you, this is one bad ass game. One thing that makes this game so unique is that although the graphics are 3D, it plays like an old side scrolling game from the 16-bit era. Another aspect that harkens back to the 2D games is the cel-shaded hand drawn look of the game. You can tell Capcom was trying to make this game feel old school.
The gameplay is simple, yet deep. Initially, you just have to walk from the left side of the screen to the right side of the screen, defeating enemies to progress. Fighting in this game is easy. You have two main attack buttons; a punch and a kick. By rapidly pressing the buttons, you will throw punches and kicks and create cool combos, kicking evil's ass like a pro. As you progress in the game, Captain Blue will challenge Joe to a duel, giving you VFX powers if you win. With the new powers, Joe can slow down time, move super fast, or perform crushing attacks. Each of the new powers Joe obtains will be required to continue in the game. This is where it gets deep. Although button mashing will defeat the basic enemies, youâ€™ll need to use your head against tougher enemies and bosses. Simply attacking them head-on won't do any good. You'll have to use Slow to find the right moment to land a good punch to the face, or even dodge bullets. You may need to use Mach-Speed to outrun a gigantic barrel that's threatening to flatten you. You'll even have to use these powers to solve puzzles and open doors. These VFX moves use up a meter you have at the top of the screen. If you use up all of your VFX powers, you'll revert back to average Joe for a short time, leaving you vulnerable. Timing and wits are the key to making it through this brawler.
The gameplay is outstanding, because the fighting looks so cool, and it combines all the right elements of strategy, fighting, puzzle, and platforming to create a well balanced game that doesn't get dull. Capcom made sure that just when the gameplay started to get old, they tossed a new element into the mix to keep it interesting. At one point you even get to fly a jet and shoot down enemies! Plus you earn V-points in the game which you can use to buy new moves and power-ups. Since you get to choose how you spend your V-points, you customize Joe however you want, which makes the game even more fun.
The graphics in Viewtiful Joe are unlike anything I've seen in a game before. Although cel-shading has been done before, like in Jet Set Radio or Zelda the Wind Waker, it's never been done in a style this wild. Usually cel-shaded games look simple and cartoony. Viewtiful Joe is more detailed and rich, appearing more like a comic book than a cartoon. The 3D character models look so close to Capcom's hand drawn artwork, it's very hard to tell the two apart. The character designs and artwork are amazing. They're very wild and imaginative. Capcom took a technique like cel-shading and brought it to the next level. On top of the cool visual style, modern effects are added to complete the package. When you slow down time, you'll see a blurry haze emanating from the objects around you. When you speed up time, speed lines and motion blur give the illusion that you're moving 1000 kph. Even when Joe is transformed back into average Joe, the screen is filtered with an old film reel look. The effects are extremely well done and compliment the game's overall look. And it's even progressive scan compatible.
Viewtiful Joe does an okay job in the sound department. The voices are well done, and the acting is a little cheesy, which I think is done intentionally to give it the feel of a "B movie". One problem is that certain audio effects added to make some of the bosses sound inhuman also make the dialogue virtually impossible to understand. Subtitles would have fixed this problem, but there is no option to turn any on. The music is cool; kind of a techno/rock soundtrack that feels like a modernized version of the old Capcom action games. It's not especially catchy, but it does its job. The sound effects are really well done. The punches and kicks sound like they would in an action cartoon, and the sound effects used with the VFX moves sound exactly like you'd imagine them. No sound effect sounds out of place. The audio is only in stereo, but then again, what would you expect from a side-scrolling game? The music, sound effects, and voiceovers won't blow you away, but it all works well in the game, and none of it sounds digitized or low quality. All the sound is crisp and clear and of high quality.
If you're a fan of Capcom games or brawlers, you'll like Viewtiful Joe's addictive gameplay and stylized graphics. The only people I wouldn't recommend this game to would be diehard RPG gamers. But if you've seen screen shots or even just the cover and thought, "gee, this looks like it might be fun", let me assure you, you will not be disappointed.