Saturday, August 29, 2015

VGR Viewtiful Joe 1


Then one day Capcom decided to partner with Nintendo, and make FIVE good games again:
 Resident Evil 4

VGR: Viewtiful Joe also known Viewtiful Joe Revival in Japan, Viewtiful Joe: A New Hope on the PS2 and originally dubbed Red Hot Man
From Capcom Production Studio 4/Clover Studio/Capcom
Played on Nintendo GameCube 
Also available on PS2

Type 2.5D Sidescroller Beat 'em All
Year 2003

Back in 2002 Capcom made a deal with Nintendo. They would produce 5 new exclusive titles for the Nintendo GameCube, and as a throwback to the original 8 bits Capcom/Nintendo days, they would be specially aimed to hardcore gamers. A lot more difficult than most games at the time in an old school arcade-kind of way. Thus was born the Capcom Five project. 

The five games were P.N.03, a futuristic scifi third-person rythm-based shooter, Viewtiful Joe, an old school sidescrolling beat 'em all, Dead Phoenix, a Panzer Dragoon-styled on rails shoot 'em up; Killer7, an highly-stylized first person adventure game and finally Resident Evil 4, a complete reimagining of the classic survival horror series as a third person action game. Although they were not directly related to one another, they were all overseen by Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami. All had very original concepts and art direction. 

The games have are all now considered cult classics. Sadly, Dead Phoenix would be quickly scrapped once the games started being released. As good as they were, none of these sold that many copies. Of the five games only P.N.03 retained its GameCube exclusive status. I do kind of consider the 2nd Viewtiful Joe game as sort of 5th Capcom Five title in my eyes.

Viewtiful Joe was developed by "Team Viewtiful", part of Capcom Production Studio 4. The game was directed by Hideki Kamiya, and produced by Atsushi Inaba. Most of the staff would later form the independent Capcom studio Clover Studio before merging with another company to become PlatinumGames in 2007. They would find more popularity nowadays at Platinum compared to this Capcom Five era with cult hits like Ōkami (in 2006), Bayonetta (in 2010) and and its sequel Bayonetta 2 (in 2014).

The game began its life under the title"Red Hot Man", which they ended up having to change to avoid conflict with the band Red Hot Chili Peppers, apparently. Kamiya was a huge fan of Japanese tokusatsu shows (special effects-heavy cheesy live action shows, or movies, with plenty of silly costumes and giant monsters - think Godzilla or Ultraman) and American superheroes. This game was the occasion to try combining both the style of American comic books/cartoons with such a Japanese concept, inspired by the likes of Ultraman and Kamen Rider.

Hideki Kamiya also wrote the story of game as he does so in most of his games.

The story revolves around this guy, Joe, who used to be just a normal average joe - no pun intended, promise!). He was watching a movie with his girlfriend Silvia. A film of his favorite superhero, this old retired hero Captain Blue! Suddenly the villain in the film unexpectedly defeat Captain Blue, stretched its his arm outside the silver screen and grabbed Silvia into the picture!!

Joe found himself sucked inside the movie as well only to find out all these all these tokusatsu bad guys coming to life! Captain Blue gave Joe a special V-Watch to turn himself into a superhero like him!

Equipped with super-powers now, Joe is no more - enter Viewtiful Joe!! HENSHIN A GO-GO BABY! With the use of a word - HENSHIN - Joe can now turn into Viewtiful Joe and face all these movie villains to rescue Silvia fro mthe mysterious villain!

Inside this "Movieland", Joe must explore 7 stages - known as "episodes" in this game" - from the city, undergreound caves, underwater headquarters and a submarine. Traveling from place to place with Captain Blue's robot, the Six Machine. There's several bosses set out to put a stop to Joe, and even a creepy doppelgänger!

At the end of the quest Joe will have to race to space for the final confrontation before the villains break into the real world and find out who was behind all this all along! There's a few twists, in pure movie fashion! And some shocking revelations regarding Silvia and Captain Blue along the way.

Viewtiful Joe's technically a "2.5 sidescroller". A modern 3-dimensional game played from a sidescroller 2D perspective. The game uses a simplistic but gorgeous cell-shading to bring this cartoon look to life.

The gameplay is a fairly standard beat 'em up. You can only move on the 2D plan, go left and right or jump up and down. Joe can do a few usual movements like a double jump. The idea is to push forward and fight your way through incoming waves of enemies coming from all sides, including the background. You can punch, kick, dodge, dash and duck. 

You can replenish your life with hamburgers, like in old school games. The more hit points you do, the more points you get to fill your "VFX" gauge - aka your Viewtiful Effects power.

These VFX can be used to do some special moves such as slowing down time or speeding things up. Viewtiful Joe can use a slow motion technique or go to mach speed - which play with standard cinematic effects once his gauge of power is full. If you completely empty it, you go back to plain regular Joe (kind of an alternate take on what you see in the Ghouls 'n Ghosts games only linked to your health instead of power over there). Finally you will also obtain the ability to zoom in for a close-up that lets you perform a ton more new attacks.

There's a lot of puzzles to solve actually, by playing with and using all these abilities at the same time. You can combine them to log some combo chains and perform ultimate attacks.

Levels, or "episodes", are composed of interconnected missions going from one scenes to the next. There's 7 episodes in total, and as many bosses waiting for you at the end like in old school retro games.

You earn "Viewtifuls" through the game, which is the currency you use to buy and unlock new abilities, moves or items.

Viewtiful Joe is a great stylish game. Inspired by old tokusatsu shows with an heavy dose of American comics and cartoons through its visuals. The graphics are great. And the game does a great job making these 3D characters look 2D-animated. Decent clean art style. And pretty a straightforward level designs compared to Capcom classic NES games.

It's such an original game! It's a great adventure that sees some superhero fan turning into a new hero, it's fun, cheesy and over-the-top - on purpose. 

It's so fun! With clearly a lot of love for these old series that inspired this lore. Featuring so many colorful villains, robots and silly costumes!

The gameplay is pretty basic when you come down to it, but pretty effective. The game features a great mix of action and puzzle-solving.

But beware, Viewtiful Joe is a particularly difficult game. It starts off easy enough, but the difficulty quickly ramps things up by the end. It's a progressive difficulty. You do get the chance to buy some health or upgrades at the beginning of each episode, mid-episodes and just before the boss battle to trade your points for upgrades.

You can also replay the stage to clear the game in all these difficulties if you want to unlock more characters: from Silvia to Captain Blue. The PS2 port would also add Devil May Cry‍ '​s Dante!

Finally the game has a great soundtrack packed with fast beats and catchy tunes. Such a great fast paced music composed by Capcom veterans Masakazu Sugimori and Masami Ueda.

Overall, Viewtiful Joe is a fantastic game! With gorgeous graphics. It's a really difficult challenging game. And probably one of the best (and few far in-between) beat 'em all titles from that decade, easily. 

It's such a fun, entertaining and imaginative game. The only title of these so called "Capcom Five" that truly reminded me of old NES-era Capcom games. It particularly draws a lot of its structure from the Mega Man classic series, having you fight all these memorable boss fights at the end of all these stages.

But despite a great reception at the time, VJ didn't score much sales back then. That was the problem with console-exclusives back then (particularly those for the GameCube...).

That's probably why Capcom considered porting these games to the PS2 afterwards. As low as those sales were, they saw some potential in Viewtiful Joe to warrant porting it to Sony's console. The port is pretty faithful although it does feature lower resolution and a few slowdowns.

Viewtiful Joe being probably one of the more successful Capcom Five titles (alongside RE4), it would be the only one to spawn a direct sequel (ignoring the on-going Resident Evil franchise, of course). Titled Viewtiful Joe 2, the sequel would be released in 2004 for both the GameCube and PS2.

The series would also receive a couple of spinoffs, Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble for the PSP and GameCube and Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble! for the Nintendo DS, and even a pretty faithful and popular anime series, an adaptation of the story of the first game. 

Rumors of a proper third game have popped up a few times. Back around 2005 Capcom registered the domain, suggesting another Viewtiful Joe game or at least some interest in a third title. Originally meant for the Wii probably. But due to the launch of PlatinumGames around that same time, that project never went any further. Viewtiful Joe would only get a few guest appearances in a couple of Capcom fighting games. And the closest we ever got to another Viewtiful Joe game would be in 2012's The Wonderful 101, by Platinum Games. It does feature some similar overall general ideas and even reunited Kamiya and Inaba as director and producer on a title since VJ, which kind of makes it a spiritual successor of sort if anything.
I give it:
2.5 / 3 Quacks!

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