Viewtiful Joe

  • by Pong Sifu
  • October 06, 2003 00:00 AM PST

Frantic, exhilarating, and addictive, Viewtiful Joe is a classic and everything a game should be.

Post-pubescent film geek becomes Kamen Rider�esque superhero and enters science-fiction movie to rescue shanghaied lady from fire-breathing lion god in Capcom's ambitious roller-coaster ride helmed by the same team behind Devil May Cry and Steel Battalion. At its heart, Viewtiful Joe is a retro-flavored remix of the beat-em-up and platformer, and each genre's trappings are present and accounted for: imaginative levels to traverse, waves of mean mutants and powerful bosses to fight, coins to collect, and hidden power-ups to be discovered. However, Capcom has taken these tried and true formulas and catapulted them head first into the 21 Century by infusing its creation with spell-bindingly gorgeous art direction, relentlessly manic energy, and unique gameplay mechanics, effectively redefining the 2D side-scroller and sculpting it into a lean, mean, beautiful machine.

Henshin a Go-Go
What distinguishes Viewtiful Joe's gameplay from that of just about any game before it are the super powers you acquire when entering the movie world�abilities that let you slow down and accelerate time. Slow down time, and you can dodge attacks, do more damage to enemies, and deflect bullets and rockets; speed it up, and you can let loose rapid-fire assaults of punches and kicks. You can also zoom in on the action to execute spinning attacks and strike heroic poses that damage multiple enemies at once. Foes require different methods of attack, and when faced with a half dozen of them, you'll need to develop hairline-precise reflexes and achieve a Zen-like mastery of balancing the constant acceleration and deceleration of time.

Viewtiful Dreamer
The developers have also brilliantly applied these time-warping effects to the surroundings so that slowing down or accelerating time affects the physics of the environment; this feature becomes instrumental when solving puzzles. Bending time enables you to access previously unreachable platforms by slowing down the propellers that keep them aloft; it also allows drops of water to accumulate enough mass to extinguish flames and ignites bombs by speeding up the air around you until it literally combusts. The challenges are presented in such a way that you'll have to continually invent new ways to use your powers to progress.

May Heroness Be with You
A powerful effort, Viewtiful Joe's only flaws are its typically threadbare adolescent fantasy plot and short duration. These minor gripes are ground to dust by its strengths, and Viewtiful Joe's visionary extrapolation of old-school gameplay proves that it's not about what you do, but how you do it.