From the man that brought the world Steel Battalion, comes one of the best GameCube titles to date. Here's our full review of Viewtiful Joe.
By Kikizo Staff
A veritable stalwart of the old-school, Capcom has for years brandished its most cherished franchises with a Paladin-esque fervor, and has as a result amassed a legion of followers devoted to the likes of Street Fighter, Mega Man and Resident Evil. While some may balk at the seemingly endless supply of sequels released by the company, it is a business practice that has afforded the company ample opportunity to 'dabble', as it were. For every Street Fighter II, Capcom has given us Powerstone; for every Mega Man there has been a Strider, Snow Bros. or Ghosts 'n Goblins; and Resident Evil, lest we forget, all but invented the survival-horror genre (Alone in the Dark notwithstanding).
While on the surface a company fueled by sequels, Capcom has over the years produced more than its fair share of original software. It should come as no surprise then that the House that Street Fighter Built, the very same company that brought us the ostentatious Steel Battalion, are the people responsible for Viewtiful Joe, a stylized side-scrolling beat-em-up that is also one of the most compelling titles yet to grace the GameCube.
At the heart of Viewtiful Joe lies the much vaunted 'VFX', a game mechanic that allows the player to engage three varying visual effects for limited periods of time. While their primary application is combat-oriented, the rules that govern Joe's powers extend to the entire gameworld, and it is around this concept that Itsushi Inaba and his team have crafted some truly entertaining puzzles and scenarios. Of the three powers, Slow is the first Joe obtains, and the one that will ultimately be utilized most throughout the game. Using this ability, Joe can reduce the passage of time to a crawl, unlike similarly themed titles however, time does not exist in the subjective sense -- it affects everything equally. Joe's movement, along with that of anyone (or anything) currently on-screen, is hampered. Bullets that would have otherwise hit their mark in a mere instant now become visible, tangible objects that can be dodged or deflected; attacks can be seen coming and summarily avoided or automatically evaded; and multiple enemies can be engaged with relative ease.
When in this state, Joe's attacks also yield far greater damage, so much so that enemies are actually propelled across the screen when assaulted. Additionally, it is possible to rack up a far greater number of Viewtiful Points when in this mode. Of course, such power comes with a caveat. Namely, using it draws from a reserve (indicated by an on-screen gauge) that, once empty, will see Joe revert back to his weaker form, leaving him vulnerable and significantly less effective for the seconds it takes the bar to regenerate.
Players are dissuaded from having Joe automatically evade attacks (any attack that would otherwise result in harm to Joe will be avoided when in Slow mode) as doing so removes a large chunk of the VFX gauge as recompense, an undesirable situation at best. The skill therefore comes in knowing when to engage this power and how long to remain in this state, and like the best arcade titles of years gone by, challenges players to continually improve upon their performance.
Further into the title, players acquire the Mach Speed and Zoom abilities, each of which adds its own unique wrinkle to proceedings. Zoom can in fact be used in conjunction with either of the two other powers, though doing so will cause the VFX gauge to empty even faster. Incidental abilities can be purchased with Viewtiful Points at the end of each stage, imbuing Joe with extra health, lives or new moves. Lack of save points and artificially enhanced difficulty sour the experience somewhat, but these are gripes worth noting only for the sake of completeness. The enjoyment to be gleaned from Viewtiful Joe far outweighs any shortcomings.
As trite a convention as cel-shading has become, it's a technique that seems to yield vastly different results depending on the developers that implement it. With Viewtiful Joe, Capcom have created a stark, comic-book inspired world: Characters have a rough, stylized look to them, akin to that of an artist's rough sketch, while backgrounds appear at times almost flat, lending credence to the fact that the action takes place on a movie screen. The various VFX powers Joe employs come replete with visual effects such as blur lines and ghost images -- though its simple presentation belies it, Viewtiful Joe is in fact a treat for the eyes.
The sound too, is imbued with as unique a flourish as the visuals, if not perhaps more so. The voice-acting is over-the-top, though not to the point where it annoys, while the soundtrack is a schizophrenic concoction of various pieces. Taking place in the city, one of the early stages has a track made up almost entirely of the vehicles' cacophonous horns, hoots and honks; a tune that is, believe it or not, rather catchy. With such an ensemble of musical styles, there's bound to be pieces that miss the mark and the robotic voice that repeatedly barks "Warning! Warning! A bomb has been armed." until you complete a particular stage is most certainly one of them. On the whole though, the aural accompaniment suits the title to a tee.
Whether it remains a GameCube exclusive title or not, there is no doubt that, in its current form, Viewtiful Joe is one of the most enthralling titles to have been produced in a very long time. It's a title destined to be elevated to the sort of cult status enjoyed by Capcom's other big-name franchises.
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Capcom's highly distinctive action title is definitely worth checking out in this direct feed gameplay vid.
|0.50 min||5.63 MB||MPG|