Viewtiful Joe, Capcom’s highly innovative, cell-shaded 2D-platformer turned into a rock-solid hit on the GameCube console. After a year of waiting in patience, PS2-gamers FINALLY got this straight-A title. Well, better late than never they say! Nobody should miss this ubercool videogame. Why am I so enthousiastic, you say? Read on and you’ll find out.
If you’ve never even heard about Viewtiful Joe (shame on you!), here’s a small introduction. The game is a 2D-platformer with cell-shaded 3D-characters. You play as Joe, a regular pimpled teenager who takes his girlfriend Silvia out to see the movie, featuring your favourite superhero Captain Blue. So far this sounds like a new expansion set for The Sims 2 (The Sims 2 go to the movies, hmmm, doesn’t sound that bad, now does it?), but rest assured: it’s far more than that. Suddenly, in the middle of the movie, the virtual bad guys come to life and kidnap your girlfriend. Without considering the consequences, you jump through an interdimensional portal to save Silvia from the hands of the villains.
You now find yourself in the movie and you notice that you’re wearing some flashy superhero-costume. After just a few minutes you meet Captain Blue, who gives you your first VFX-power, called Slow (later on you’ll recieve Mach Speed and Zoom). These VFX-powers allow you to control time. Tapping L1 activates Slow; time slows down which lets you whack your opponents in slow-motion, before they even get the chance to fight back. Slow is very useful in combat, especially during bossfights. Mach Speed (R1-button) gives you an extreme speed boost taht even sets you on fire. Flame on, oh wait, wrong superhero. Mach Speed lets you run under closing doors and detonates bombs. Zoom (right analog stick) has multiple purposes. Activating Zoom and pressing X turns Joe into a pink whirlwind that causes massive damage to all who were stupid enough to stand to close. If you jump first and then use Zoom you get a similar move, but downward this time. Last but certainly not least, Zoom + triangle lets Joe perform an ultra-cool looking spin-kick. The downside of using these awesome powers is that they deplete your VFX-gauge. If it turns to zero, you return to being average Joe (mind the pun), who is a lot more vulnerable than Viewtiful Joe. Luckily the VFX-meter charges up pretty quick if you put your powers to rest for a while.
Playing the game will make you realize that Viewtiful Joe isn’t exactly your everyday platformer. First of all it’s a 2D-platformer, something we haven’t seen in a while. It’s also pretty challenging from time to time. I won’t say it’s difficult (I used Normal difficulty setting) but the bossfights are spicy to say the least. Some puzzles are a little far-fetched, but a bit of trial & error will eventually pay off.
Another thing that separates this game from the pack is its beatiful cell-shaded look. All environments seem to be copy-pasted from your average American comic book. Joe and the other characters on the other hand are modelled in 3D, albeit with the same over-the-top look. Furthermore the special effects and VFX-powers were given an awe-inspiring visual presentation. You really think you’re in a real superhero-flick. Way to go, Capcom! The sound also enhances the atmosphere. Just like Joe’s well-known yell “Henshin à gogo, baby!” the sound just fits the picture perfectly. If you pause the game, you hear the director say “Allright, take 5” and when you die he angrily screams “Cut, cut, cut!” (no not “Cunt, cunt, cunt”, my dear Fragland-pervs 😉 ). The game will also put a smile on your face from time to time. Take the wonderful voice-acting of the bosses you’ll fight for example. You’ll meet a man-like white shark who clearly has problems speaking and a biker-rhino with the brain contents of a peanutbutter-jar, five weeks past expiry date.
Another nice gimmick about Viewtiful Joe is the upgrade-system. To acquire new moves (e.g. a sliding tackle) or useful upgrades (e.g. VFX Turbo Charger) you’ll need to shell out a lot of “Viewtifuls”. You can earn these by beating your enemies to pulp in style. The more spectacular your moves, the more points you’ll get. This is where I found a minor balancing issue. There is one move that’s gravely overpowered. Use Zoom, Slow and triangle to make a slo-mo spin kick. This will greatly damage all nearby foes and earn you hundreds of Viewtifuls. After a while you’ll use it more than half the time. You can’t use him all the time, because it depletes the VFX-gauge pretty quickly and the other moves are just too cool to be denied.
Viewtiful Joe is one of the best PS2-games currently available. It’s selling for just 30€/30$/20£ (depending on your country of origin), a great bargain for an AAA-game like that. It’s one of the most innovative games ever, it offers a really cool over-the-top atmosphere and the gameplay is very addictive. Buy it ASAP!