rare gem that seamlessly blends new-age technologies with gameplay of yesteryear, Viewtiful Joe is a stylish brawler that innovates in every field and emerges as one of the most captivating and addictive GameCube titles to date.
The premise is simple, yet original: Doing what every male does best (and every female fears), Joe takes his girlfriend Sylvia to the debut of a new action film starring his childhood hero, Captain Blue. Amid the high-flying stunts unfolding on the silver screen, Captain Blue is defeated for the first time at the hands of a mysterious new foe. As if this wasn’t shocking enough, the villain turns to the audience and peers right into Joe’s very soul. Then, through an action that transcends reality, extends his arm out of the screen, wraps his hand around Sylvia and pulls her into the frame of the film. Miffed, but more so confused, Joe follows and jumps into the picture…only to find that he’s too late. There are no signs of Sylvia or her abductor. In a desperate plea for help, Joe turns to the bruised and beaten Captain Blue and asks for his guidance and training needed to become a hero powerful enough to stop this formidable adversary who has snatched away the love of his life. Herein lies the origin and driving force of Viewtiful Joe.
With a decidedly retro feel that taps into such effects as dirty lens cinematography, backgrounds modeled as flat cardboard sets, character designs inspired by golden age comic books and classic Japanese anime; the graphical detailing is nothing short of awe-inspiring, and is the perfect marriage of Western and Eastern styles. It really looks like a comic book came to life and someone just happened to capture this extraordinary event on an archaic film and reel camera. From here on in, if you hear people talking about how video games are not a viable art form, point them in the direction of this title. It’s a feast for the eyes that clearly illustrates that video games could, in fact, sit alongside Andy Warhol and Claude Monet in an art gallery.
The same level of creativity and expert craftsmanship runs rampant throughout every inch of gameplay. While it does fall under the classification of a brawler, I can guarantee that you’ve never seen anything quite like this before. Along with a fairly complex combat system that allows players to construct lengthy combo strings, Joe can tap into three superpowers. He can slow the fabric of time, which allows him to easily read what an enemy’s next action will be. More impressively, it can be used to stop the blades on a helicopter, dodge bullets, or super-charge the engines on a missile. Conversely, Joe can speed things up to the point that only the Flash could fully comprehend. Along with bolting beneath falling debris, if Joe throws a flurry of punches, he’ll move so fast that he’ll catch fire. Joe’s final power is the ability to zoom in on his immediate surroundings. This technique leaves him somewhat blinded to the action at hand, but his combat prowess is enhanced and can lead to some impressive moves – like a flying tornado assault or a spinning roundhouse kick.
With each passing stage, new obstacles are thrown into your path and you’ll be pushed to use your powers repeatedly and in a wide variety of ways. Capcom really did a great job of mixing things up and keeping it fresh for players. It may sound like a complex gameplay system, but it’s actually fairly easy to get into. The controls are incredibly responsive, and much like in the Tony Hawk titles, your progression is more or less based solely on skill. You may end up dying more than you care to admit; but by the end of the game, there’s a chance that you could be racking up 9,999-point combos.
There are very few titles that have gameplay as tight and balanced as Viewtiful Joe’s. On that same note, there really is nothing else like it. It’s a completely original and highly entertaining work of art. You really have to see it to believe it.