Wednesday, October 8, 2003
Capcom rebounds from the tedious P.N.03 with a side-scrolling beat-'em-up infused with amazing action, originality and style. Viewtiful Joe is a rare gem that no Gamecube owner should be without.
The normal Joe is at the theater with his squeeze Sylvia. She wants to make out and he wants to stay glued to his "Captain Blue" movie. After she makes him miss the big ending of the movie where Captain Blue dies, Sylvia gets kidnapped by the on-screen villain, getting sucked into the movie. Joe takes on the likeness of Captain Blue's red alter-ego and also gets sucked into the movie to go rescue Sylvia.
The whole presentation style is that of a B-movie action film packed with over-the-top style and cheesy humor that always endears. Joe learns certain VFX (visual effects) such as slow-motion, mach speed and zoom. These modes use his "viewtiful" energy that recharges when not in use. It is in these modes where the gameplay elements explode, building your own cool-looking combos, racking up points to buy more abilities at the end of the level. Sometimes there is so much action on screen that onlookers may wonder how you know what you're doing. It is in this instance when you feel in total control and ultimately satisfied with the seemingly endless amount of gameplay afforded by Capcom's brilliant mechanics. If that wasn't enough, sometimes you pilot a ship, reminiscent of a cel-shaded R-Type.
Viewtiful Joe marks the return of the side-scroller in a major way. It avoids the common pitfalls of the few modern side-scrollers not only with the wide variety of action options, but also in the strategic ways you use your abilities to solve minor puzzles. For instance, there is a huge barrel in your way. You can uppercut it, but it won't move that much. But use your slow motion to uppercut it, and the barrel soars upward much higher, giving you time to then use your mach speed to speed under the barrel.
The bosses are amazingly varied. Fight helicopters to rapping reptiles. This game is awesome in its random glory. Some bosses reappear throughout the game. It would've been nice to see more types of enemies, but it's not any real distraction.
The game lasts long for a side-scroller. Especially because it's incredibly challenging in a "need to learn the level" way, not a cheap way. When you're finished with the game the first time, the unlockables make replaying a pure joy. Even if there wasn't extra, the gameplay alone deems it worthy to replay over and over.
The cel-shaded art style is fully self-aware, not limited at all by the hardware. This is the look they wanted. Capcom didn't have to exclude anything from the graphics and wow, what an accomplishment! Overdrawn characters come off the screen as if it were a live pop-up book. It runs in progressive scan but not in widescreen.
The soundtrack is a caffeine-infused techno/rock romp through this action packed extravaganza. No surround mode is supported but the stereo signals are clean and crisp, representing the awesome sound effects with pride.
Gamecubes are now $99.99 and Viewtiful Joe is only $39.99 new. I will say that it is totally worth the cash to pick up the underrated system to play this great achievement alone. And then of course you can pick up cheap copies of Zelda, Metroid and Eternal Darkness while you're at it.
Overall 95% A