Plenty of games emulate movies, but few go so far as to put you inside them. That's Viewtiful Joe for you.
The series is an action-packed romp through everything that makes going to the movies so much fun, but it does it all while embracing what makes gaming great in the first place.
Though the original Viewtiful Joe would go on to spawn several additional games, it still feels like the adventures of Joe were cut short. Here's why the world could use a little more Viewtiful Joe.
What Is It?
Viewtiful Joe is a cel-shaded 2D beat-em-up published by Capcom, first released for the Gamecube in 2003 and ported to the PlayStation 2 the following year. The game spawned one direct sequel released in 2004, as well as two spin-off titles for Sony's PSP and the Nintendo DS. The series follows the character of Joe, an all-around average guy who's only defining characteristic is that he is a huge movie buff. While watching a superhero film with his girlfriend Silvia, the two are sucked into a strange movie world where Silvia is kidnapped by evil group known as Jadow.
It's there that Joe transforms into the Japanese-style superhero "Viewtiful Joe" and embarks on a mission to rescue Silvia in style. Using VFX, Joe can manipulate the game world with various powers meant to mimic the camera tricks and special effects seen in movies, allowing him to slow down time, move at mach speeds and zoom in for a closer look at the action.
What Makes It Great?
Side-scrolling beat-em-ups, once one of the most popular gaming genres, are rare today and just as rare back in 2003. That Viewtiful Joe managed to add so many new ideas and surprising depth to the genre's standard "move right, punch bad guy" formula is a testament to the game's all-encompassing vision. Everything, from the game's look to the gameplay to levels, is designed around the core idea of being absorbed into a film and the fun of movie magic. There is some real skill involved in using Joe's abilities to maximum effect in order to wrack up combos. The game is no cake-walk, but that's what makes it fun. Viewtiful Joe looks modern, but its gameplay is distinctly old-school.
And while Viewtiful Joe's core gameplay loop of racking up combos and solving puzzles is a blast, thanks to Joe's unique movie-themed abilities, it is the game's personality that shines brightest. From Joe's transformation catchphrase of "Henshin-a-go-go, baby!" to the game's cel-shaded graphics, Viewtiful Joe isn't afraid to be itself. It helps that Joe is a more relatable protagonist than most. He likes superheroes, his girlfriend and movies.
As mentioned earlier, he's a down-to-Earth average guy, like many of those sitting on the couch playing his game. So when he gets the chance to actually become a superhero like those he idolizes in the movies, he completely lets loose. He does everything in the most stylish way possible and it's hard not to see a little of yourself in Joe.
Why Does It Need A Reboot?
Take a look at all the latest releases from the biggest game publishers. Chances are it is a dark, military shooter of some sort. Where is the color? The fun? Gritty, "realistic" shooters have their place in the market and are obviously popular for a reason. But that's what makes games like Viewtiful Joe so refreshing. It's the perfect example of a game you didn't know you wanted, but once you've experienced it can't get enough of.
A Viewtiful Joe 3 could still happen. The original title was successful enough to spawn three entries in the series before disappearing, and the character of Joe also appeared more recently in Capcom's Marvel vs. Capcom 3. In today's increasingly digital marketplace, where smaller, more creative games can shine, a new Viewtiful Joe would be right at home. Making a new game (or resurrecting an old one) is a big risk, and Capcom knows it. But by eliminating the cost of physical production and going straight to consumers with a digital-only release, I'm sure Capcom would find there are more than a few people willing to hear "Henshin-a-go-go, baby!" one more time.
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