Three Phases of Viewtiful Joe
After a few hours of play, I was kind of disappointed. I played a few levels on hard, found it a bit too tough, so I played on "kids" difficulty for a while. I will refer to this later as "phase one".
After getting to about the third episode, I figured I had seen all there was to see. How wrong I was. I have a feeling that some reviews will be way off, simply because the reviewer may not have taken the time needed to uncover the games depth. There is no way you can review this game after playing for a few hours on any difficulty. No way.
Even on "kids" difficulty, I found I was getting owned by this game. At first, I figured the developers just made the game too difficult. Despite that, I tried to start over using "adult" difficulty (I am an adult after all) and I got the Viewtiful crap beat out of me six ways till Sunday! Remember when I said I thought I had seen all Viewtiful Joe had to offer? I didn't happen to notice there was a second page of "power ups" to purchase, doh! It wasn't until then that I started to notice the serious depth in the battle system and how well VFX special abilities are integrated into the combat and puzzles.
I have never been a fan of side scrolling beat-em ups but this had its hooks firmly into me. In general, the game makes me feel like the newb I am. However, the more I play Viewtiful Joe, the more I want to kick it back a little. Yes, this is adictive "phase 2".
The level design is inventive and challenging. Like most games in this genre, memorization of the levels and patterns of your enemies is crucial to mastering Viewtiful Joe. At first, I was discouraged by the difficulty but now I see the challenges all make sense and both hand eye coordination and memorizing are required. It's the balance of the skills and experience that make this game both fun and challenging. If you're like me, your first 5-8 hours of Viewtiful Joe will be mostly a learning experience. Occasionally frustrating but always fun.
Is the often mentioned "seven episodes" too short? Not at all, due to the depth and difficulty at "adult" and unlockables, this game could easily take you 40+ to master. Hardcore gamers may scoff at this but for me I know its true. It's the only beat'em up I have ever wanted to master and that's saying a lot.
If I had rented VJ, I probably would have put it down during "phase 1". Having never reached the enjoyment of "phase 2", I would have just written it off as a fun but too difficult game. Some people will say it's too short or the gameplay is too simple. To that, I would say be sure they have finished the game on the "Adult" difficulty and acquired a few v-ratings along the way. Viewtiful Joe is a brilliantly constructed piece of gaming and it deserves all the praise that's being thrown at it.
All that leaves is the elusive "phase three". Which, as you may have guessed, is mastery of the game. I am no where near level but I hope to get there and I will be enjoying it all the way.
+ Sound is great.
+ Graphics are stunning and stylish.
+ Detail and level design is top notch.
+ Combat is deep with both coordination and memorization elements.
+ Difficulty ramps well with level progression keeping it a challenge.
+ Music is high quality and catchy.
- Difficulty for first few hours will throw players new to the genre.
- Controls can suffer when too much is on screen (though very rare).
- Camera and layered graphics can make you blind to attacks (also rare and can be avoided with skill).