Written By Shaun McCracken

Just when I was beginning to think that the current video game climate was wallowing in rehashed game play and the lack of innovation, Capcom comes busting through my wall like the Kool-Aid man to bitch slap me different in the form of Viewtiful Joe. Finally, a company who has the balls to bring back classic game play design with the power of today's consoles. It's amazing how one game can be so easy to get into, have such a great visual style, and have a surprising level of difficulty. Am I gushing way too soon? It's hard not to. I have yet to see one bad thing said about this game from critics, which means this has to be one of the best games to come around in some time.

Funny how it seems like every time someone tries to write Nintendo off, a game like this shows up. Last year, we had Metroid Prime, which like VJ, had classic game play mechanics with a new twist on design. This year, Capcom gives us the classic with a twist in VJ. Just by looking at screenshots, you would think this is a basic platform game. At first play, you may think it's a platform game with a lot of visual style, but a rather simplified battle design. But once you get into all the techniques used in the game, you start to do more with what you have, and you realize that the design is ever so expanding, and that with each new trick you learn has a use some point in the game. A long winded sentence, I know, but really that's what the game is all about. Well that, and saving your lady.

VJ's premise is fairly simple, and pretty much done before in the simplest aspect. You must save your girlfriend from a monster who has taken her away. Of course, this happens ala "Last Action Hero", where not only she is taken through a movie screen, but you go inside the movie to go after her. This movie they are in just happens to be about Joe's favorite superhero, Captain Blue, who looks like an over-the-hill Power Ranger with his gut hanging out of the costume (no doubt played for satire). When Joe encounters Captain Blue early in the film (aka Stage 1-1), and defeats him in a challenge, Joe acquires the powers his hero has and becomes a superhero himself.

Each stage of the game takes place in a different location, be it the city street, a sewer or even underwater. It's nice that Capcom gave us a unique and different setting for each stage, so it never feels all that repetitious. Within the stages, Joe (you) will encounter hordes of enemies, puzzles and mini-bosses. Getting through the enemies may seem a bit simple at first, but they get so much tougher and aggressive later on, that you will need to know your VFX powers well enough to defeat them. Your VFX powers consist of Slow Motions, Mach Speed and Zoom-In, and are acquired one by one as you move along in the beginning (I think you acquire all three in the first chapter). Each power has effects of their own. When you use Slow Motion, everything obviously slows down. But the power of your punches become more powerful, bullets slow down, propellers slow down and bring platforms to the ground, and that's to name a few things slow-mo can do. Mach Speed speeds everything up, allowing you to raise platforms, let liquids rise (if they are pouring), and with rapid punching and kicking, light on fire to set the fuses off on bombs. Zoom-in allows for close-up attacks and extra evasive maneuvers. All three have multiple purposes, and the more you know about what each effect can do, the more help it is to you to solve puzzles.

While some things in the game seem guided, there are some points where I got stuck not knowing what to do next. Some puzzles are not as obvious as others, and some objectives are never that clear (like the submarine). But it's never to the point of impossible, it just takes a watchful eye. The other thing about VJ is that you will die, a lot. I did not think this game would have a high level of difficulty. It's not a bad thing, hell, more games need it. We need games such as VJ and Ikaruga that tells even the most dedicated gamer that they suck. Puts us in our place. But it never really seems difficult. I lose most of the time because of careless mistakes or not using VFX powers to their full potential. So far, I'm on Chapter 5, and have continued at least 25 times. But to help you out, you can collect Viewtifuls (V-Marks) to buy extra abilities, life, mid-game continue and special weapons. Collecting V-Marks is easy. Punching the crap out of enemies is one sure way of earning the points. But using the VFX to form combos gets you more points, and the best way to do this is by doing a dodge correctly, and then using the slow-mo effect to deal the damage (when you see an enemy targeted, you know you're on your way to combos and multipliers). Also, collecting coins left by enemies raise your point level. In VJ, it's all about strategy. Bet you thought you wouldn't need it in a platformed, did you?

The visual style of Viewtiful Joe is the best since Jet Grind Radio. The difference here is that rather than making a 3-D world seem like a cartoon, Capcom wanted this game to look like it took place on paper, like in a comic book. And it works very well. The visuals are clean, crisp and done well enough to provide a convincing world of a comic book come to life. You really need to see this game in motion to appreciate what Capcom has done. The VFX powers are also presented well, and does not detract from the overall look of the game. The frame rate is constant almost always. I only noticed a tad bit of slowdown during the Chapter 4 boss, but there was so much going on, the framerate had to give in a little. The character animation is also top notch. You will not find a game with this much visual impact on any other system.

The sound is good most of the time. The music is good and never really gets to the point of irritating, but it's not highly memorable or dressed to impress. Really, the focus should be on the sound effects. A lot of crunching, punching, exploding and everything in between. Plus, the effects react to the VFX powers. If you slow things down, you hear things slowing down. The voices are pretty much intended to be comical, so from that standpoint, you can't really criticize it for being poor like Resident Evil. Some of the dialouge is kind of funny, and even makes a few jaunts into satire country.

Final Thought

Let's face it, games such as this do not come around as often any more. It's hard to find a game that stands out from a crowd of games that try to emulate a popular series that has come before it, or just do not toss out many original concepts. VJ brings us back to the 2-D era and reminds us that gaming was at one time, fun and entertaining. Full of quirkiness only a Japanese game can deliver, VJ is one of the best games I have played this year, and it's visual impact will be one to top for many a time to come. Don't be hesitant about this game. It's challenging, yet intuitive. It's design is simple yet complex. Everything balances out almost perfectly, and it's well enough reason to add this to your collection.






Published By :

Developed By:

Year Published :

Players :

ESRB Rating:



Viewtiful Joe presents a great mix of old and new styles of game play in a great looking package.

Viewtiful Joe 2

Honestly, there are not many 2-D style games on the market right now that go against this one.

2003-2006 SPM

All writings and created images are property of SPM, unless otherwise stated or declared. Original content may not be distributed or copied without permission of the author of this site, unless otherwise stated. Game boxes, consoles and names are trademarks of their respective companies, and do not indicate any affiliation of this website.