Friday, 12 February 2010

REVIEW: Viewtiful Joe

Viewtiful Joe
[GC] [12+] [Beat ‘em up]
It’s very rare that I find a game that gets me obsessed. Not just with the title itself, but with the artwork and style, the music and merchandise and most importantly, the originality. While Disgaea (the first game I reviewed) wasn’t exactly original, I got addicted to the anime and toys after just a few weeks of owning the game. Seriously, my bedroom walls are infested with posters of Laharl, Etna and Flonne (not true). Ape escape, another game I fell in love with was one of my favourite titles as a young gamer and The Legend of Dragoon was the first RPG I ever played and is still one of my favourites to this day. Today I’ll be reviewing a game that I’ve just made one of my favourite Gamecube titles and it’ll be packed with plenty of henshin! Welcome to the awesome world of Viewtiful Joe! Viewtiful Joe was the fourth title in the Capcom five project, a series of 5 Gamecube exclusives published by the almighty Capcom. P.N.03, Dead phoenix, Killer7, Viewtiful Joe and Resident evil 4 were the games Capcom released but unfortunately, while they were all great they only reached average sales (minus Resi of course) and Dead phoenix was never actually released. Capcom had realised that their experiment didn’t exactly go to plan but what they also discovered was that Viewtiful Joe had developed quite a cult. Because of this they decided to get Clover studio (the team behind the game) to make a sequel, which they were very happy to do. Hopefully I’ll be able to pick that up sometime. Enough history for now though, let’s get on with the game itself!

Viewtiful Joe is a really awesome game, as you should already know. It’s a very stylish title with lush effects and awesome manga-like visuals, great character design and best of all, a hilarious script.
The story starts off with a dude named Joe and his (very annoying) girlfriend Silvia in a ‘movie theatre’, or cinema as we call it here in Yorkshire. They are watching a film called ‘Captain Blue’ about a superhero in a blue suit. Joe is obsessed with this guy; he has all the merchandise and he drags his girlfriend into watching the film with him. Silvia is more interested in making out with Joe while making weird and disturbing noises. She keeps begging when suddenly a giant figure comes out of the silver screen and grabs her. Joe’s response to this is a funny gag about special effects. When the young lad realises his girlfriend has been pulled into the screen he panics, but suddenly captain blue’s trademark robotic chum Six Majin pulls Joe into the screen as well! After arriving in the movie world Joe gets some superhero training from Captain Blue himself! It really is him! The old guy gives Joe a V-watch (standard superhero transformation accessory) and tells him to say the word HENSHIN! If you’re curious about that word it’s Japanese for transform. Joe shouts “Henshin a go-go baby!” and turns into the hero Viewtiful Joe! Well, he only really calls himself that in the last few chapters of the game, but still. VIEWTIFUL JOE!

Quite possibly the greatest thing about this game is it’s cell shaded
Graphical style. All the characters, enemies and even objects use the thick outline approach that is very likeable. The background of each level looks like a cardboard cut out and every cut scene uses the in-game graphics. While there are some dodgy moments in these scenes (where one part of a character will sort of morph with another part) they are still very entertaining to watch and even more importantly, they’re absolutely hilarious! One example of this when Joe meets Hulk Davidson, the big boss of the game’s second level; this beast of a green rhino makes some pretty funny Megaman references and talks like a gangster in the process. Speaking of bosses, the game is packed full of them and each has their own unique personality! And the music too, awesome! Seek out Viewtiful World (which is so amazingly awesome I put it on my ipod) and Standing Ovation, the game’s ending theme.

Being a side scrolling beat ‘em up, the level design is pretty important. Luckily for Viewtiful Joe it’s almost perfect, but unfortunately a bit repetitive at times. Each ‘episode’ essentially has one level, but they’re all split into parts. Every level is awesome (bar two; the underwater levels were extremely annoying) from cities to submarines, forests to space stations and even one level where you ride six machine, Joe’s tiny spaceship (don’t get that mixed up with Six Majin, that’s Blue’s giant robot buddy). In each interval you can save the game and more importantly visit the shop where you can buy health, extra lives, more special moves (which I’ll mention later) and a variety of other trinkets. Of course, you’ll need money (V-points) to pay for these things that can be obtained by making your combos as interesting as possible, which is where the game’s interesting VFX system comes in. When it comes to controls, the game is top notch. The V-watch grants Joe his super powers as well as the ability to transform while the X and Y buttons control his attacks. Joe’s super powers are based on special effects used in films: Slow makes everything move much slower than usual (except Joe himself), mach speed makes the game fast forward which allows Joe to move much faster and pummel enemies quicker and zoom in is used in a variety of puzzles. The system is very fluid and clever, offering several different combinations for the hero’s moves. You can learn some new skills as you get through the game (via the shop I mentioned); some of these moves involve Joe’s VFX powers and others are just alternative combos. One for example requires you to zoom in after being knocked to the floor. If you do it right Joe will use UKEMI, which stuns all of the enemies on screen and makes him invincible for a few seconds. It’s not overly complicated and you won’t struggle with remembering the special moves you learn.

There’s a lot of extra content you can unlock in the game, Including new playable characters and the music video for Viewtiful World. But that’s where the first minus comes in; you can only unlock the aforementioned video in the US version. And unfortunately, that’s not the only complaint I have with Viewtiful Joe; it’s pretty short. I’m not talking Ninjabread Man short, but The Force Unleashed short. The first time I played through it, the game took me around 7 hours to complete on the normal difficulty. Sure, that’s quite a long time but it’s nothing compared to most titles. In the end though, it’s all so lovely and vibrant that you can essentially just ignore these flaws and still enjoy the game. It would still help if I could watch Viewtiful World on my TV screen though. Sigh…

Viewtiful Joe is arguably my favourite Capcom five game. I love it so much because of its hilarious sense of humour, awesome manga like art style and amazing music. Sure, the story isn’t as epic as Zelda, the graphics aren’t as polished as Smash Bros and the presentation isn’t the best you’ll ever see, but it’s just so brilliantly enjoyable! There are a few flaws but don’t worry, they certainly aren’t game breakers!

The Verdict: 92%
+Sleek, stylish and fun, just about everything you’d want in a game!
+Awesome and unique story
+Absolutely hilarious
+Great music
+Tear inducing ending
-Viewtiful World video taken out >_<
-A bit on the short side

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