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Born for Wii: Viewtiful Joe

Wesley Fenlon

Don't you just hate it when a menacing antagonist reaches through the screen at your local cinema, absconds with your girlfriend, and forces you to obtain all kinds of awesome powers in your quest to rescue her? Okay, so maybe it doesn't happen that often in the real world. But if you've played one of the best games of last generation, odds are it's a familiar story.

Viewtiful Joe was released for the GameCube in 2003 as one of Capcom's exclusive titles for Nintendo, though the exclusivity deal didn't last long; just like Resident Evil 4 and Killer7, Viewtiful Joe was released on the PS2 as well. Side-scrolling beat 'em ups are few and far between in the 3D era, but Viewtiful Joe brought back the genre in a big way, with stylish action and movie-inspired powers that shame the competition. And while the gameplay is the real meat of what makes Viewtiful Joe great, the game's sharp wit, pop-culture inspiration and wonderful setting really elevate the experience. Viewtiful Joe 2 continued the tradition, but it's been over three years since the sequel's release, and the series' two spinoffs, Red Hot Rumble and Double Trouble, don't satisfy this gamer's desire for a fully-fledged Viewtiful sequel. Trilogy, anyone?


The adventure begins when an average Joe enters the magical world of Movieland and gains powers befitting the celluloid setting. With the aid of the V-Watch, Joe gains the ability to slow down and speed up time, as well as zoom in on the screen, amplifying the power of his attacks. The combat is intense, and by using the powers in tandem, Joe can pull off all kinds of crazy moves.

For instance, while using Slow, it becomes easy to dodge enemy attacks by ducking low or jumping high. Mach Speed allows for a flurry of movement and a blur of hands and fists; Joe can even set himself on fire, a state that he'll happily pass on to anyone unfortunate enough to get too close. Using the moves simultaneously allows for even more variety and ass-kicking, but the introduction of puzzles makes for an even more interesting use of Joe's abilities -- slowing down time can increase the power of an explosion that rockets Joe to a new area, or cause a gate to fall in slow motion. In the latter case, it takes a combination of both Slow and Mach Speed to squeeze through.

Of course, Joe's powers don't last forever. A VFX meter is drained whenever Slow, Mach Speed, or Zoom are activated, but it quickly refills when none of said powers are in use. Additionally, the meter can be increased with items scattered throughout each level, allowing for longer and longer exhibitions of superhuman prowess. Joe's powers can also be leveled up between stages with points accrued from beating up baddies, and his lifebar can be extended the same way.

It's a good thing, too, because Viewtiful Joe is hard. Kids Mode is no pushover, and the tougher Adult Mode is merely the gateway to the even more insane difficulty levels, V-Rated and Ultra V-Rated. Still, the difficulty is absolutely a good thing. Viewtiful Joe is still fairly accessible at the lowest difficulty setting, but it offers the challenge hardcore gamers crave -- and judging by Nintendo's E3 presence this year, something like Viewtiful Joe 3 is just what the Wii needs.

As a side-scrolling fighter, Viewtiful Joe isn't exactly a prime contender for a waggle-happy Wiimake. But just as Viewtiful Joe 2 polished and buffed up the formula of the original game, Viewtiful Joe 3 needs to be a shot of adrenaline straight to the action genre vein, not a radical change to the system. The only VFX power added in Joe 2 was Silvia's Replay ability. Joe 3 needs more, and with a series directly inspired by the movies, as well as two spin-offs with unique powers, there's a wealth of untapped potential.

Splice could alter the course of a level or erase any baddies onscreen who would cut out of the game's "film." Split could have the opposite effect, cleaving part of the level, an object, or an enemy in two. Sound Effect, a power in Red Hot Rumble, provides a powerful ranged attack. It's easy to picture Joe rocking out to destroy baddies across the screen. Rewind would be a perfect addition, adding a Prince of Persia: Sands of Time angle to the combat.

The addition of new VFX powers would also make room for new attacks, combos, and customization. Gamers could choose which abilities to equip and power up, and given the impressive pedigree the series already has for unlockable content, Viewtiful Joe 3 would absolutely deliver a more diverse experience than its predecessors. The cast of characters is already expansive, featuring Joe's girlfriend Silvia, mentor Captain Blue, Blade Master Alastor, and Dante backing up the Viewtiful hero. Each character also plays slightly differently thanks to a few unique moves, such as Silvia's Replay or Dante's wickedly powerful sword finisher.

If Viewtiful Joe 3 amped up the number of powers at Joe's disposal, the game may require a slightly modified control scheme. Thankfully, the GameCube and Classic controllers would each lend themselves perfectly well to the genre. Some people may even prefer the latter, thanks to the larger D-pad. The original game's Slow and Mach Speed powers were handled by the triggers, while the Zoom In was done with a quick flick of the C-stick. A jumped, while X and Y kicked and punched, respectively. If Viewtiful Joe 3 incorporated more powers than the controller could comfortably support at once, a quick-swap menu would be a perfect addition, perhaps allowing moves to be mapped to the triggers, B button, and/or different directions of the secondary joystick. The Z button could also handle a VFX power, since its original function of skipping movies could easily be done from the pause menu.

Viewtiful Joe is irrefutably one of the most stylish games ever created, largely thanks to the cel-shaded graphics and film motif. There's no telling how much Capcom could improve upon the original with a more powerful console and larger storage medium.

Unfortunately, Clover Studio, the development house who made Viewtiful Joe, Okami, and God Hand, are no more, though they have recently formed Platinum Games. Were a Viewtiful Joe 3 to go forward, it's likely that it would be created without input from the former Clover employees, since Capcom still owns the IP. Still, there's always the possibility that Capcom would publish a Platinum Games-developed Viewtiful Joe 3.

Okay, so it's a longshot. But with a game that's just dying to be made, it's worth hoping for a miracle. Capcom has certainly been showing the Wii quite a bit of love recently, after all.

Every week, Born for Wii digs into gaming's sordid past to unearth a new treasure fit for revival on the Nintendo Wii. Be sure to check out last week's entry in the series, Four Swords Adventures, and for more great titles that deserve your attention, take a look at Virtually Overlooked.

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