Capcom have always had a place in the industry as something of a revolutionary developer. Over the years many have looked to them for some sort of inspiration and it is consistently pushed into the gaming masses. Lately however, as has been something of a trend amongst all Capcom's standards have slipped down somewhat. With the arrival of Viewtiful Joe things have all shot off at a bit of a tangent. Titles like Metriod Prime have been such great success for one of many reasons but the key one is quality and total understanding between all the elements. This idea of being tweaked and twisted to perfection is something of a key to how this game ticks and from every spandex suit to every 'Henshin-A-Go-Go-Baby!' this is 'wow factor' at its blinding best!
Have no pre-illusions, you have never been here before, this is something of a new ground in a spoof to the old. Unshamefully nodding towards the over-zealous world of movie making and watching Viewtiful Joe is a marriage of cultures that leap about your mouth with remarkable synergy. The reason behind the nods towards the cinema of past and present is a simple one, and perhaps an unrecognised piece of gaming genius. The basic plot is quite simple, Joe's 'piece-of-stuff' hereafter known as Sylvia is kidnapped as the young sex-driven (or perhaps not) couple watch a movie at the local cinema. As we all know what we see on screen is perfectly real, and in-keeping with this foolish misconception upon the defeat of Captain Blue (Joe's favourite action hero) the victorious party snatched Sylvia and whips her into the world of the movies. Not being one to sit around and wait for something better to come to the movies Joe goes after her and becomes the star of his very own real life motion picture.
It is a novel, or perhaps cinematic, idea and one that sets the game up for some wonderfully imaginative additions, and Capcom more than happily oblige. Things are so right from the start, the menu's shout and scream at you with their aesthetic impact and your retinas will start to sting with sensory delight. Brash and bold Joe is not one to shy from the camera as you jump, spin and parade your way through some of the most breathtaking environments in videogaming visuals for generations. This is a stunning game and the visuals go some way to proving that when realistic is done you can always look to other angles for expansion. We were thinking how to best encompass this idea of expansion and all we could come up with was Power Rangers meets Schwarzenegger meets Doctor Who meets spandex all combined with stereotypical views on American and Japanese cultures, you can positively taste the flavour. In the art world Pop Art focuses on bold lines and striking colours to make an impact, and this is the main visual ploy of VJ, and a ploy that forced as to have chin straps to prevent excessive and jaw-dropping as another breathtaking scene came into view.
Atushi Inaba, the games producer, gives a good idea of what he wanted from a game so rich and glorious 'to focus on finding beauty in fighting...to make you feel like you are actually editing a movie while playing a game. VJ means visual or visual jockey- a person who can manipulate imagery' and to be perfectly frank we can't think of a better way to express it ourselves. The idea of being able to 'manipulate' is one that bring images of The Matrix racing to the forefront of our minds, and to be fair this is where the peak of VJ lies; changing the way the world works. In fighting you are given to pretty basic moves, the punch and the kick, and as normal day-to-day Joe that is it, but in your more Viewtiful form it all gets so much better: cue the VFX!
Over time of usage the meter that stores it will deplete meaning you have to recharge meaning a certain element of strategy is bought into the frantic bludgeon of the battle. 'Mach Speed', 'Slow Motion' and 'Zoom In' are all available for use in VJ and they are available to deliver some of the most devastating, stunning and complex combos you will ever have the pleasure of experiencing. They all have the respective uses. With slow activated you can dodge enemy attacks, as like certain drugs (not to be named in this text) it makes things all the more significant, and as the name rightly implies to slows things down. Full to the right, the left, hop up and down you are able to dodge most attacks is you are nimble with the thumb. Also of use if the fact that it boosts the impact of your hits, making sure you inflict far more damage, and you can also take on the more enemy more dextrous of foot. Its not all as simple as that, hitting mach speed straight into slow enables you to run in normal speed whilst your foes float, or shoot around in an extreme fashion, allowing you to look for weaknesses and suchlike. Upon their defeat many of your nemesis will drop off a handy bottle of V-Juice and if you are still using a VFX you can keep on going and build up yet more Viewtifulls and gain better ranking on that stage. Points mean prizes and in the end it all adds up meaning the more stylish and clever you are throughout the game the more you will be rewarded.
Quite a lot of games we have the 'pleasure' of playing today have two aspects sorted, and what we have mentioned so far puts Viewtiful Joe just hovering above that, and whilst not being a revolution this is certainly more than the mass of obligatory average. Perfectly complementary to the nigh-on-orgasmic (if that is your thing) visuals is the comparatively shy musical score. It happily beats along in the background playing the supporting role like any good second fiddle to a bigger name, and without it (try the game on mute) VJ seems horribly empty despite all the on-screen vibrancy. Being based on the movies (somewhat with a nod towards the tragically ludicrous side of things) the spoken deliveries are expertly judged and will bring a smile to even the most hard-faced gamer. 'Henshin-A-Go-Go-Baby' is a true classic and we found ourselves gleefully 'singing along' to the frequently used phrases.
This is by no means a button basher, to be played correctly this is a very considered title that presents you with various puzzles to solve. Whilst some require you to look at them for a good old while others are sprung at you in mid-battle meaning you have to think on your feet to save your neck, but just like what a woman says to a man 'you can't do more than one thing at once' and whilst we managed three that was the be-all and end-all of our threshold. Our only major problem with VJ is that it is quite simply too hard. Now this might seem a tad ironic when we complain when other titles are too easy, but some of the puzzles, or tasks, can be annoyingly difficult at time, leading to many teeth-gritting moments. You simply have to think about too much in this game for some of the tasks to be totally illogical and in all honesty poorly thought out. Finally there is always the time when you die (accompanied by the director shouting 'cut cut cut') you can often be taken right back to the start of the stage, meaning on the harder stages repetition creeps in.
Of course this should in all honesty be a masterpiece, but the problem is as always with expansion of ideas it doesn't fall into the categories recognised by the masses. Many will pick it up for the sheer nostalgia, many for the amazing looks, and the rest because they have heard such great things. But 'Joe Public' in stupidity and amusing coincidence of name will cast it aside not noticing what it has to offer.
The control system is simple and the way in which you can make some of the most 'viewtiful' fight combos in videogame history are true testimony to a great design.
Need we say more, they are top of the spectrum and for sheer 'wow' factor they are a forerunner of time. Everything is so bold, so unshamefully brash, and we love it.
They may play underdog to the visuals but it wouldn't work another way, one would have to be sacrificed to spare total sensory overload. Accompany the pixels on the screen perfectly and always do just enough but never too much. And the voice clips will have you smiling from ear to ear.
It may be hard as nails with over hard things coating them (read that as very hard then) but when you have smashed the controller five times over and started to rupture your blood vessels there is little left to do, it takes its time to be over, and thanks to the points system you can come on back to better yourself.
What can we say, we have been blown away and blown back again by what is a explosion of what is right about exploring in gaming. The VFX are something that will no doubt be used by the rest of gaming for years to come, and if done well they will be a great aspect to any well made title. Visuals lead the way for any lacklustre titles and if you were unsure about this title before, forget any doubts, this game cannot be ignored.