Hello and once again welcome to my weekly article, LusipurrCom junkies! It is time to continue watching my increasingly potent action game binge destroy just a little more of my free time.
Who here remembers what they were doing back in 2003? For young Emmori, it was a strange year: gone were the frivolities of grade school, with the new pressures and expectations (both academically and socially) of High School in full swing. I fondly remember that year of changes, especially with regards to my collection of video games. Earlier that year, my parents had been kind enough to purchase me a Nintendo GameCube for my birthday, and I had been having trouble finding suitable games to play on it. That was until a friend informed me of this game.
Viewtiful Joe is a side-scrolling Beat ‘Em Up produced by Capcom and released in the United States in October of 2003. It tells the story of Joe, a geeky slacker and vintage action movie lover. When he takes his girlfriend Silvia to a showing for a classic film starring his favorite hero of all time–Captain Blue–things take an unexpected turn as the Big Bad Evil Guy of the movie reaches through the screen and kidnaps Silvia. Joe himself pursues her/is kidnapped himself when Captain Blue’s token giant robot Machine Six picks up Joe and brings him through the silver screen as well. While inside, Joe is given the power to transform into a hero by Captain Blue. This begins his journey to find Silvia and beat up whomever is responsible for her kidnapping. The story and narrative of Viewtiful Joe is very well done: while possessing a clear goal and well-laid structure, the game’s story is very much tongue-in-cheek, featuring Joe fighting evil in a heroic and manly way typical to his superhero status all while lampooning and mocking his enemies and their world. The game’s narrative does have some cheesy moments and twists, but none of them seem unintentional and are almost always played for laughs. Most of all, Joe just seems to be having a lot of fun while exploring the world of Movieland, something not often seen in the more serious, brooding action games of today.
In terms of gameplay, Viewtiful Joe is solid, and flows incredibly well. Controls are simple to learn, the action is fast-paced, and combat is fun to both look at and be a part of. In addition to his normal jumping, punches, and kicks, Joe gains access to several time-warping superpowers as the game progresses, including the ability to slow time, speed it up, or have the in-game camera “zoom-in” on him to confuse and overpower his enemies. By themselves these powers are fun to use and experiment with, but real challenges come from having the player combine different powers in order to overcome different challenges and defeat certain enemies.
In addition, the player can earn V-Points from defeating enemies that allows Joe to pull off other combos and special moves, as well as buy health upgrades, extra lives, and other useful items. The player will need to think wisely about what they buy as well: the game is fairly difficult and requires that players use their powers, combos and upgrades wisely if they wish to make it to the end of the game. Boss battles are, rightly, the most difficult fights in the game, with each boss character having a great deal of health and only a few times at which they are vulnerable to attacks. Despite this, the game’s difficulty never feels unfair or cheap, mainly due to the difficulty curve of the game following the player’s progress in the game very precisely.
The visuals for this game, while somewhat simplistic, are incredibly stylish and fun. The cel-shaded, cartoony appearance of Movieland is reminicent of old Saturday morning cartoons, given a big helping of tokusatu and sentei sensibilities, as well as bucketloads of snark and fanboyish glee. Separated into sections called “Episodes”, the game takes the player across different levels that act as tributes or parodies of certains films or genres of films, each featuring different gimmicks, challenges, and puzzles to suit the mechanics or limits that may be present in the stage. Levels rarely contain any repetition (save the waves of enemies you face), and when they do they always have some kind of twist, such as when Joe has to navigate the interior of a submarine, and then find his way back after flipping the craft upside-down. Another strong point in the game’s design is its sound. The sound effects are well-done and compliment the zany visuals of gameplay, with the music being very catchy and effective at conveying the atmosphere of the level. At times, players may wish to prolong fights and challenges just to listen to the music playing in the background.
In summary, is Viewtiful Joe worth playing? Most definitely. Viewtiful Joe is a semi-obscure classic that everyone who is a fan of gaming and/or movies should play, or even buy if they can find it. It is stylish, fun, and a charming light-hearted roast of action movie cliches and tropes packed into a fluid action game that will most definitely warrant additional play-throughs time and time again.