After Pressing Start: Joe's Night at the Movies
Are you a kid or are you an adult? That’s what Viewtiful Joe asks the minute you press start. Kids meaning easy, adults meaning hard – you feel inclined to say adult, since no one wants to be a kid. That said, this game will rip you to shreds if you’ve never played it before. It predates the “casual or hardcore” choices rather than the “easy, medium, or hard” of old-school games.
Joe isn’t looking for a fight: he just wants to see one of his favorite movies with his girlfriend Sylvia. The way he watches it and cheers on his hero is something nobody ever does in a theatre but with the whole place being empty, nobody seems to care. Sylvia, on the other hand, has other things on her mind.
“Is this your idea of a date movie?” she asks. She wants to do is cuddle up with Joe, but all he wants to do is watch this rare movie: Joe protests that the movie is hard to find, as it came out when they were babies. Sometimes all you want to do is watch a movie in peace without distractions.
Luckily for Joe, they must have walked into the theatre where they shot Last Action Hero since the villain of the film takes Sylvia right out of the screen. It sets the stage for the rest of the game and the challenges ahead
Joe’s sucked inside the movie he’s loved since he was a kid but he’s under-powered from coming from the real world. This is dream come true for anyone who watches action movies. Who hasn’t watched those movies and wanted to be sucked in to help the hero? Only this time, your girlfriend is kidnapped which makes this whole thing much, much worse. Now as the player, you’re sought out to become the hero.
After some fighting, a cut-scene breaks out where he meets Captain Blue, the fictional hero Joe idolizes. Before he can go on any further, Blue challenges Joe to test his strength. It’s a standard tutorial battle but you’ll see more of him later down the line.
For defeating Blue, he gives Joe a V-Watch and Joe becomes the titular Viewtiful Joe. Now Joe’s beating up people with power – Viewtiful Power. Joe’s went from regular side-scrolling brawler to super-hero style brawler with new powers to slow down time.
The power to slow time isn’t new in games, but here it’s carried out with style. Dodging enemies or even just punching feels awesome, especially when you see an enemy launch into a group or kick diagonally. The tutorials show this with valor and enemies who spin super fast are rendered useless when time is slowed.
The first sub-boss is a laughing joker who emerges from a slot machine. He’ll summon bombs by throwing in a coin to try and mess you with you even further. Once you beat him, the slot machine rolls and you have to hit the right three icons to progress. This would be hard if you couldn’t slow down time!
After dodging guillotines in the next area, you reach a library where you face off against a cowboy. You’ll learn a great new tactic, punching bullets, and can execute a ‘Matrix dodge’ if you slow down when he fires, careful though. If you use too much of these powers than it’s back to regular Joe, with the film grain effect and weak fighting.
Seeing those effects for the first time opens the combat to new directions where instead of evasion, you can take on things head-on and show how powerful you are. Instead of playing this game like a regular brawler, you’re focused on making the best of your powers to further the gameplay which can get crazier after this first level.
Lots of puzzles come after: you’ll know when Joe’s watch glows. You’ll see a platform floating above spikes – clearly, they’ll hurt you, being pointy and all, and the platform doesn’t travel in the direction you want it to. Slow time and it drops to the ground, and you’re able to hit a switch to get to the next area. Not only can your powers help in battles but with puzzles. Since the watch glows, you might not know exactly what to do but it lets your powers to the work.
The main boss of the area appears and it’s a… helicopter. Not the greatest final boss of all time, but slowing time helps get around the flurry of bullets that come your way. You can punch them back to destroy it, but it’s faster to use the enemies it launches against it- these take away a quarter of the helicopter’s health at a time. The fight could last from minutes to seconds if you know what you’re doing – it took me many tries of the original Gamecube demo to figure this out.
In later stages, Joe’s Slow Time power is complemented with Mach Speed and Zoom. For now, Joe learns the basics and continues to try and save Sylvia. All she wanted to do was just to make out with her boyfriend, not get roped inside a movie and you, the player, get roped in too.