Any Port in a Storm: Viewtiful Joe 1 & 2 (Gamecube/PS2)

Two Classic Capcom platforming beat-em-ups from the developer that would become Platinum Games. Why aren't they available for download?

Welcome to "Any Port in a Storm", where we discuss games in dire need of a port in order to remind the newer generations of what they're missing.

And they have been missing out on A LOT.

Viewtiful Joe was the first game developed by Clover Studio, the now defunct subsidiary of Capcom -- many of whose employees would go on to work at developer Platinum Games. 

The first two Viewtiful Joe games remain unique and wildly entertaining to this day; and in the modern video gaming landscape, games like these have become more popular in just the last few years.

Going back to Platinum Games for a moment, their particular brand of intensely stylized character-action game has been very successful as of late (Bayonetta 1 & 2, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Transformers: Devastation, etc).

Additionally, the Devil May Cry series showed the industry years ago that there is a strong market for challenging games that emphasize flashy action.

So why should we leave the Viewtiful Joe series to be forgotten?

We shouldn't. Here's why.  

The combat is unlike any other game out there.

The combat in Viewtiful Joe is a splendidly flashy and thoughtful combination of platforming, puzzles, and a massively satisfying beat-em-up.

You start the game with the ability to double-jump, punch with one button, kick with another, and that's it. You can also acquire different techniques to pull-off with combinations of buttons by purchasing upgrades at the shop in-between sections of levels.

This allows for players to try out different styles of play each time through the game, as well as experimentation with either accelerating or limiting their own progression.

But what really steals the show are the VFX powers.
Viewtiful Joe displays a masterful understanding of the idea of game design that is simple to understand yet mechanically deep.

The Viewtiful Joe games have Joe travelling through "Movieland" -- and as such, the strongest superpowers of all are those of special effects, which is what the VFX powers are, and they allow Joe to become a living, breathing action movie star.

Within one hour of play Joe has the abilities to Slow down time, Speed it up, and Zoom in the camera on himself. Using these powers (that follow a unique kind of game-logic all their own) Joe must take on waves and waves of robots and giant animal bosses all dressed up like cowboys, seductresses, and ballerinas among other things.

Viewtiful Joe displays a masterful understanding of the idea of game design that is simple to understand yet mechanically deep.

Punches and kicks will send smaller enemies flying in different directions depending on how and where you hit them with what move. This further allows for strategy as one enemy becomes a potential way to dispose of several enemies, and the player becomes aware of the importance of spacial awareness, as well as proper placement of themselves among enemies.

The combat and it's many layers allow for a flowing experience that challenges and intellectually stimulates the player while at the same time sticking to the game's core philosophy of feeling like an unstoppable action hero in a blockbuster movie.  

The combination of American and Japanese art-styles creates a truly unique aesthetic.

The art-style of the Viewtiful Joe series as a whole was inspired by a combination of American comic books and Japanese Tokusatsu (means "special filming"; relates to things like Godzilla or Power Rangers).

Viewtiful Joe uses bright cel-shaded graphics make the game's visuals really pop, and the use of 3D models on a shifting 2.5D plane with stationary sprites in both the background and foreground make the game look like no other game that's ever been released. 


While the art-style is somewhat comparable to things like The Wolf Among Us or Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, what with their bright colors and heavy shadowing, there are still no other games with a style that quite resembles the Viewtiful Joe games (in both graphics and gameplay).

This excellent art would remain constant throughout the series, and this is especially apparent in the character and boss designs from across the different games. 

Charles the Third from the first Viewtiful Joe

Charles the Third from the first Viewtiful Joe

Frost Tiger from Viewtiful Joe 2

Frost Tiger from Viewtiful Joe 2

Killer Hands from Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble

Killer Hands from Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble! 

And most importantly; The game's characters and tone.

Joe is the kind of character that is bewilderingly uncommon in video games, despite how perfectly made for the medium he is. He may not be very smart, or complexly written, and his ego gets in the way of his heroism constantly; but that's what makes Joe so special.

Joe is the rarest kind of character in video games these days -- a character who is glad to be in a video game. 

Joe is a character that loves being a hero. Not just any hero either, a superhero. He loves comic books, old cheesy movies, and respects nothing more than the old-fashioned hero who never gives in to the temptations of the dark side.

Joe shouts things like "Let's rock baby, yeah!" and "Yahoo!" when he's jumping around and beating up baddies.The one thing he has wanted all his life more than anything is to be a true hero like his idol Captain Blue, and now he has exactly that opportunity when his hero bestows his powers unto him.

It's just really nice every once in a while to have a player character whose thoughts and actions reflect those of the typical player. Those thoughts being: "Let's have some fun!" 

That pretty sums up the philosophy of the whole series, actually.

Every game has a story with an overall comedic tone, with occasional melodrama thrown in that the game actually manages to make into serious conflict with real tension, and the dialogue is straight out of the Saturday morning cartoon of your dreams.

And it's all a complete blast to play.

And then came the Sequel.

The sequel, Viewtiful Joe 2, is basically more of the same, and it's still great! It added new VFX powers, new and different vehicle sections, and a campaign built around using both Joe and Silvia together.

Having Silvia become a playable character with her own strengths and weaknesses was a great move. She was great in the first game too, even as an NPC you saw all of three times -- as she was far from the typical "damsel in distress".

She wears glasses, is a physically affectionate and romantic person, and isn't afraid to tell Joe off for being an idiot -- while at the same time being a supportive and caring person who likes to see Joe happy, in addition to being a competent fighter on the same level as him. 

A split like that takes dedicated practice. Bravo, Silvia.

So many new things came out of her inclusion -- new moves and combat styles split between the two characters, more complex and intricate puzzles that required the use of both of them, and perhaps best of all, the audience actually got to see Joe and Silvia being a couple.  

 Now THAT"S what I call a Power Couple.

The second installment did suffer very slightly from a mildly higher emphasis on puzzles, as well as less content that the original, but as a follow-up to such a great starting point, it more than succeeds as a sequel.

It is a genuine treat to see these two actually acting like romantic partners (albeit bickering ones). It leads to wonderful moments where they smack-talk bosses together, or call out each other's names when they swap out, or even say things like "Okay, your turn honey" and "Go get 'em sexy!".

It also gives way to plenty of comedic moments where Silvia is completely focused on the task at hand, and Joe's just trying to have fun and hitch a ride in an enemy U.F.O, or getting tricked by an obvious robotic duplicate of his own girlfriend.

The second installment did suffer very slightly from a mildly higher emphasis on puzzles, as well as less content that the original, but as a follow-up to such a great starting point, it more than succeeds as a sequel.

I think that IGN put it pretty well in their "Top 100 Playstation 2 Games" when they said: "All sequels should be this fun".  

At the end of the day it comes down to this:

Viewtiful Joe is a game, and a series, that does not deserve to be forgotten. It's indicative of different time in gaming, when bright and colorful was the norm, and leaving it and it's excellent quality behind would be a tragedy.

It's also clear the Capcom still cares about the IP somewhat.

Joe was included in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 as a playable character, as well as Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All Stars, and Joe and Silvia even made a cameo in the Archie Comics crossover series "Worlds Unite" just last year.

We're getting closer to getting it right... but we're not quite there yet. 

A proper Viewtiful Joe 3 (ideally with Hideki Kamiya, Atsushi Inaba and Platinum Games at the helm) is definitely something that both fans and newcomers alike would get a huge kick out of; But if nothing else, the first two games from Clover Studio deserve to be re-released.

Capcom doesn't even need to give the games an HD collection of any kind (although one would be nice).

A good place to start would be to simply re-release these games so that they're easier to find and play -- which could also help Capcom judge the popularity of the brand, and possibly help them to consider continuing the series (I know I'd buy it with money).

So please Capcom, re-release Viewtiful Joe and Viewtiful Joe 2. The world needs games like these with heroes like him.

 We'll say it for you Capcom; if you do this for us. Please.

Published Aug. 17th 2016
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