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The story in Viewtiful Joe is B-rate sci-fi through and through, but it works pretty well here. Joe is a normal guy watching one of his favorite Japanese-style superhero films starring his hero Captain Blue with his girlfriend Silvia. Suddenly, one of the bad guys from the movies jumps out of the screen and takes Silvia with him back into the movie world. Joe chases them into the screen and enters movie land, and with the help of Captain Blue, becomes a superhero that not only has to save his girlfriend, but Movie Land too.
Viewtiful Joe is a heavily updated version of the classic 2D sid- scrolling beat-em-up. I don't like to use the term old school? when referring to Viewtiful Joe because it is about a million times better than any of the slow, bland, and repetitive games that have made up the beat-em-up genre over the last fifteen years or so. Sure you are still moving left, right, up, and down and pummeling enemies with your feet and fists, but Viewtiful Joe has so much more to offer.
What makes Viewtiful Joe different are the special moves that Joe can use. These moves all allow Joe to control the movie world that he is fighting through. You earn the main moves pretty quickly, but you are then allowed to buy new moves and upgrade your techniques between levels. By allowing you to steadily upgrade your abilities throughout the game, you almost always have a new trick to try out, so the game never feels repetitive.
The first special ability you can use allows you to drop everything into slow motion. This has a lot of uses and since your attacks do a lot more damage in slow motion, this is the ability you'll find yourself relying on the most. In slow motion you can easily dodge enemy attacks and then dish out a devastating attack of your own. You can also dodge missiles and bullets and even send them flying back to where they came from. Several puzzles require you to use the slow motion function as well. While in slow motion, water droplets grow to enormous sizes and you will learn to use them to your advantage. In other areas, if an object is in your way, you can hit it in slow motion to knock it into the air and then run underneath it before it crashes back to the ground.
The second ability you open up is mach speed. As you can probably imagine, this is the opposite of slow motion. At mach speed you can dish out several quick attacks on an enemy before they even know what hit them. Joe can travel so fast he will heat up and burst into flame, which is useful for when you need to light something like a bomb fuse on fire.
The third ability you can take advantage of is zoom. This allows you to zoom in on the action and causes Joe's attacks to be even more powerful. While in zoom you can have Joe do a spinning attack through the air or pound the ground and send shockwaves at enemies. You can also perform a powerful spinning kick that does a tremendous amount of damage
You can also combine the three special moves to get different results. For example, once you buy the ability, you can dodge an enemy attack with slow and then zoom in on the action and Forever Viewtiful attack will be unleashed and destroy all of the enemies on the screen. All of these powers drain the VFX meter on the top of the screen so you have to be careful, particularly when combining moves, that you don't drain it completely. If you do run out of VFX mojo, Joe reverts back to his normal old self for a few seconds and you can't use any of the special abilities. The VFX meter recharges on its own whenever you aren't using a power, so no worries there, but there is nothing more dangerous in this game than running out of VFX in the middle of a fight.
The thing I like best about Viewtiful Joe is that it never feels repetitive. Even though there are three main attacks and several other techniques you can purchase in the game with Viewtifuls (the game's currency), you would think that the game would eventually start to get that not so fresh? feeling. Not so. Even after you think you have mastered your abilities, the game throws a new enemy at you or a new puzzle that forces you use your powers in a new way you didn't even think of before. Every boss you face will present you with a new and difficult challenge and make you innovate even more. The game is always new and fun and fresh, and that is a good thing.
As I have mentioned, you can buy items between levels with the Viewtifuls you earn. By defeating enemies in a stylish way or by killing them all in one long combo, you earn more Viewtifuls than you would have if you had just used your standard punches and kicks. Your performance is also scored in each level and assigned a letter grade. The better you do, the bigger your bonus is and the more stuff you can buy. The items you can buy include bombs and boomerangs, but these aren't really all that useful. You can also buy upgrades for your mach speed ability as well as new techniques such as the Forever Viewtiful technique I mentioned above as well as new punch and kick combos.
There are two difficulty levels when you first start the game, Kid's and Adults. Once you beat the game in Adults mode, you can unlock the ridiculously difficult V-Rated and Ultra V-Rated difficulties. Even on Kid's mode, though, the game will present a hefty challenge that, despite being the easiest difficulty, may prove to be too hard for some people. There are some sequences in the game that are pretty tricky and almost all of the boss battles will require a dozen or so attempts before you can recognize the pattern and then execute your attacks. I'm not saying the game is too difficult, the challenge makes the game even more fun in fact, but I am saying that if you get frustrated easily or aren't the brightest crayon in the box you might not have as much fun with it. It is totally worth playing through several times on the various difficulty levels because you can unlock new characters to use to play through the game with. It takes about 12-15 hours to play through the game the first time and after that it is worth playing through at least a few more times, so there is a lot of game here for those willing to rise to the challenge.
Graphically, Viewtiful Joe is amazing looking. It is probably one of the best looking cel-shaded games to date. It doesn't just try to make everything look like a Saturday morning cartoon, but instead makes the characters and the game world itself look like the pages of your favorite comic book set into motion. Special effects for slow, mach, and zoom look awesome and do a lot to add to the games comic book art style. The animation is very detailed and combined with the solid framerate make the game look very smooth and seamless.
The sound isn't quite as amazing, but it doesn't hurt the game either. Sound effects for gunfire or a helicopter and the sounds of fighting are spot on, but the voice acting and music aren't as good. I can't stand the voice acting in this game. Joe's high-pitched screams and heartless delivery during story sequences is a let down. The other characters range from obnoxious to annoying. The music is bad to the point of being annoying, but most of the time it doesn't really stand out.
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