Viewtiful Obi fights the evil "Jadow" in our full import review.
Viewtiful Joe has found itself in the tough position that a lot of games end up in. It has received a large amount of hype, and now that it’s available, it has to live up to the high expectations. The Japanese version, courtesy of Video Game Depot, is extremely import friendly. The dialogue is all in English, and the majority of the text is too.
Our story begins with Joe and his girlfriend Sylvia enjoying a late-night showing of a classic superhero movie, starring Captain Blue, Joe’s favorite hero. When the film comes to life and Sylvia is kidnapped and taken into Movie Land, Joe finds himself on a quest to rescue his damsel in distress. With the aid of Captain Blue, Joe is granted super powers which turn him into Viewtiful Joe, the most stylish superhero to ever grace the silver screen.
Throughout the game, Joe is granted powers that mimic special effects found in the movies. He is able to slow down and speed up the action, as well as zoom in on it. These powers are good for more than just trashing the game’s horde of baddies. The game is full of puzzles that will require clever use of Joe’s powers to change the environment around him. For example, by slowing down time, Joe is able to increase the power and impact of an explosion, which can be useful for blowing up barriers that withstand more force than a bomb normally has.
At its core, Viewtiful Joe is a 2D beat-em-up -- a genre that has all but disappeared on modern consoles. Joe works his way through the various episodes, beating up bad guys. What makes Joe different from all those classic brawlers is his ability to dodge attacks and counter-attack. When an attack is about to hit Joe, a small skull icon appears, indicating whether the attack is high or low. Joe can dodge the attack to put his enemy in a state of confusion and then use his powers to deliver the hurt to his foes. Hitting the enemy starts a combo chain, and earns Viewtifuls. All subsequent hits rack up Joe’s Viewtiful multiplier, further increasing the number of Viewtifuls earned. Between stages, you can spend these Viewtifuls on various upgrades such as new moves, combos, hearts, and other power-ups.
Throughout the game, Joe will continue to encounter more challenging enemies. Baddies that start off as mini-boss type characters become more and more common as the game progresses, and often show up in numbers. The game’s overall difficulty scales nicely, but near the end it makes a sharp jump that will frustrate many gamers. The game’s bosses are quite difficult, requiring a great deal of pattern recognition and multiple attempts to beat. Overall, the gameplay is very reminiscent of the old school games it is inspired by, especially the difficulty.
Part of what caused all the attention Viewtiful Joe is receiving is the game’s graphic style. The game is cel-shaded, but saying that is not enough. The entire game looks like a comic book come to life. The animations are extremely detailed, and characters move with great fluidity. The style of the graphics does a wonderful job of complementing the game’s wacky style.
While the graphics fit the game very well, the sound does an even better job. The character voices are wonderful. Each voice is completely unique and matches the character’s personality. While beating up bad guys, Joe spits out a variety of clever catch-phrases and one-liners, which really bring his character to life. The music is, in a word, fantastic. Each tune fits its environment to a tee. Many of the songs have a unique combination of funk and techno styles and are quite aurally pleasing.
Moving Joe through the world and attacking is very easy, and it comes naturally once you learn the controls. The analog stick moves Joe left and right, and also allows him to dodge up and down. The A button jumps and double jumps. Y and X are used for punch and kick, respectively. Slow is mapped to the L button, and Mach Speed to R. Zooming in and out can be done by tapping the C-stick up and down or by pressing the B button. Moving between Joe’s various attacks and combos is very fluid. With a little practice, anybody can make Joe move like the true action hero he is.
Another difference between Viewtiful Joe and many beat-em-ups is the game’s lastability. Going through the game the first time can take between 20 to 30 hours, not including numerous retries. Whether you play on the Kids (easy) or Adults (hard) difficulty, when you beat the game you’ll unlock a nifty music video starring Joe and other characters from the game. There are also three bonus characters to unlock, some of which play very differently than Joe. On top of all of that, there are two more difficulty levels to unlock. Beating the game on the hardest difficulty will be an extreme challenge even for the most hardcore of players.
Unlike many games that get put in the hype spotlight, Viewtiful Joe has proven itself worthy. With its unique style and old-school gameplay, Joe rises above the piles of cliché games that line the shelves of game stores. The game’s hardcore, retro style gameplay will appeal to anybody in need of a real challenge. The quirky story will draw in those who want to laugh out loud at their game. The classic beat-em-up action will captivate players who want to take a trip to yesteryear as well as those who have never tried the genre before. Viewtiful Joe is truly a great game and deserves all the hype and praise it gets.