Rick gets treated to the movies by Joe and Sylvia. Henshin-A-Go-Go, Baby!
When Capcom announced the "Capcom 5", Viewtiful Joe was probably the least anticipated of the group. That's largely because Joe is a hard game to understand when looking at static screenshots, or even brief movies. Thus, games like the newly delayed Dark Phoenix, P.N. 03, and Killer 7 were taking center stage. But things have changed, and it turns out that Viewtiful Joe is one of the best and most original titles released from Capcom in a long time.
Fans of old-school "beat-em-ups" like Final Fight are going to be right at home in the Joe universe. After being pulled into his favorite movie to save his girlfriend Sylvia, Joe has to learn at the distended belly of his master, Captain Blue, and become the new action hero. At first, Joe can simply punch and kick, but once his metamorphosis into Viewtiful Joe is complete, he can tap into VFX powers that instantly turn the game into something more special. All of a sudden, Joe can slow down the action and dispatch multiple enemies at once, earning special combo points called "Viewtifuls". Those points can be spent in the shop to buy new moves and items, so learning to chain together as many combos as possible becomes not just fun, but important. After each section, your progress is graded, which will prompt the hardcore to find the most efficient and cool way through each section. Practice makes perfect, but unlike other games, it's never boring because of the sense of satisfaction you'll feel when you earn the rainbow Viewtiful rating. Just when you think the game might be getting a little too easy, Capcom ramps up the difficulty pretty sharply, so there is a lasting amount of gameplay.
Aside from the addictive gameplay, the graphic style gives the game a fresh feel that doesn't look like every other cel-shaded game. Thick, heavy black lines and an overwhelming amount of pink seem to be the exact opposite of what you find in most hit titles, but it works for Joe because "Team Viewtiful" took time to make it work. Cartoony it is, but "kiddy" it's not, as any fan of Japanese animation will tell you that hand-drawn art can be just as grown up and engrossing as anything realistic. In Joe's case, the graphics are a way of slapping a giant exclamation point on the style of gameplay. The graphics often serve as subtle visual clues as well, like the artificial film grain that's added when Joe loses his powers, becoming crystal-clear again when he transforms. Progressive scan support is the icing on the cake.
The game could easily degenerate into mindless punch-kick gameplay in less skilled hands, but Team Viewtiful has paid careful attention to keep the game from becoming the "same-old, same-old". Unfortunately, this isn't going to be immediately apparent to the casual gamer, because even though Capcom explains how each power works when you acquire them, only prolonged gameplay and practice will make the strengths of each apparent. Each level is unique and will test your perception and abilities in a new way, and once the initial game is completed, there are even more difficulty settings and playable characters to unlock. It feels like there is always a little something new around the corner to keep you playing, and that's the hallmark of a great game.
The sound isn't "kick you in the teeth" fantastic, but there's a whole frickin' lot of it. Every time you do something, you're assaulted with sounds, especially in the midst of a huge combo, where stuff is breaking and exploding all around you.
On Nintendo systems, there are very few third-party titles that will drive hardware sales, or become "killer apps" for a platform. Capcom should be given credit for bringing Nintendo a potentially huge title (and possible even a future franchise) to their console, as Joe looks to be the hit that Nintendo needs to show that third-party exclusives can be just as compelling as Nintendo's original titles. Joe is getting a lot of hype, and every bit of it is well-deserved. There's little more one can say that hasn't been covered in the vast coverage and praise already given the game except a simple "Buy It".