This week we’ll look at the 2D beat-em up side-scroller Viewtiful Joe. Released originally for Gamecube, and later PS2, VJ combined clever use of old school fighting mechanics with stylish 2/3D cel-shaded graphics.
Despite sounding simple, its puzzles were deceptively tricky at first and the hectic fighting meant one wrong move and a couple of angry ninjas would be only too happy to rip you to pieces.
The story so far
Joe, an avid movie-goer, gets sucked into Movie Land after his hero, Captain Blue, is defeated. Joe makes it his mission to rescue his girlfriend and show off a couple of his new moves along the way. The cheesy plotline takes a backseat for much of the story, with most of the emphasis on pummelling any robotic looking creature to a pulp, especially so after acquiring a V-Watch.
Transforming Joe into a tokusatsu-style superhero, you can begin to use all sorts of crazy effects to get an upper hand on your enemies. The three abilities you use are fundamental to the game mechanics and they are the VFX powers: Slow Motion, Mach Speed and Zoom-In.
Slow Motion Supremacy
The first ability obtained is self explanatory but is the core of your fighting style. By slowing down time, you can dodge your opponents attacks, daze them and leave them open for a chin-bruising upper cut or jab. With slow-mo, Joe’s attacks become extra powerful and smashing a few extra bolts out of your robotic fiends becomes a lot easier.
Inevitably you’ll face a barrage of bombs heading your way; a scary prospect for any normal human being. With slow-mo, you can hit that bomb straight back at your enemies, creating explosions that pierce the air and rip your enemies to shreds.
Next thing you know, a tank is in your face, spewing enemies and ready to put a bullet through your head. Get your slow-mo on and you can turn the tables, shoving that bullet straight back where it came from.
The slow-mo is the bread and butter of the adventure and is heavily used in battle; so you better make sure you’re switched on with slowing things down!
Searing Mach Speed
This ability allows Joe to move at lightning speed. The speed causes up to six versions of himself to simultaneously appear, causing enemies to be fighting a barrage of Joes as attacks pile up. Great if you need to dispatch enemies in a blink of an eye and beat those timers.
Keep your attack momentum up and Joe bursts into fire. Lighting candles, fuses and bombs usually solves any puzzles you’re stuck on. Using in conjuction with slow-mo and you can slow your enemies whilst remaining normal speed. Advantage Joe!
It has its problems however, as enemies attack more quickly and you’re prone to an unexpected swipe to halt your momentum. Use it sparingly!
The Zoom-In Show
For those looking for flashy moves, Zoom-In comes into its own. Enemies soil themselves and stand frozen, whilst Joe boasts an arsenal of new moves. From 360 kicks to spinning jump attacks, they look visually great and often needed when multiple objects need attacking (or enemies in most cases!)
Use this VFX power to stop your enemies and deliver those high scoring combos. Use in conjunction with the other two powers and huge killing sprees are on the cards.
A Slight Predicament
Unfortunately, to stop you from clamping the buttons down and causing mayhem to your enemies, the abilities cause the VFX to drain. If that runs out, Joe loses superhero form and becomes vulnerable to an onslaught of attacks.
A fun balancing act ensues so you don’t run out of VFX but maximizing your attacks power. Run out of VFX and you will become a sitting duck. Keep that VFX charged!
A game based on utterly annihilating your enemies may seem dead-numbingly repetitive but the game keeps you on your toes with its variety of enemies, puzzles and high level of difficulty. You will be sure to be repeating some levels over and over, especially with perfect scores to be achieved, collectables to be collected and character upgrades to turn into a stylish killer, some of which are nicely explain here at Bitmap.
Add in some tough bosses that often require a few takes, purchasable goods to boost your character and a great catalogue of over-the-top comic book effects and you have an extremely fun throwback to 2D fighters of old.
The Trouble with VJ
It’s not without its flaws however. Even though the difficulty of some parts keeps you on levels much longer than expected, seven levels really isn’t enough to keep you glued for more than 10 hours. Die-hards will find great value in achieving perfect scores at the end of each section, but for the casual gamer, it’ll be over in a flurry of kicks and punches.
The lacklustre story line, although never really prominent, could use some work and the occasional repetition of some voice overs and sound effects, such as the classic ‘A bomb has been armed’, can start to grate after a while.
The Nostalgic Round Up
Despite its downsides, VJ is a great achievement and I really enjoyed a game that fully embraced the 2D aspect, making a change from the standard 3D models most games adopt. Slick gameplay that requires expert precision will have you playing the game over and over, attempting to better your scores. VJ has become something of a cult classic and I definitely recommend you go check it out, you won’t be disappointed!
Henshin a go-go baby!
Nostalgia rating – 8/10