Hello all! Last week’s game was a military shooter injected with some much-needed levity.

This week brings us a much more colorful, wacky title; the first of a series that sadly didn’t really make it.

Viewtiful Joe was a (temporary) GameCube exclusive, developed by a team at Capcom that would later be known as Clover Studio (God Hand, Okami). You play as Joe, a dude who takes his girlfriend Sylvia to a Japanese superhero movie. This being a completely off-the-rails game, Sylvia is dragged into the movie, followed by Joe, who meets Captain Blue, the costumed hero of the film. Blue gives Joe a watch which turns him into Viewtiful Joe, a very old-school Japanese superhero-type character. And so you go off and fight all sorts of increasingly insane villains, in a sort of salute to Japanese tokusatsu films.

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A side-scrolling beat-em-up, Viewtiful Joe utilizes a basic combat system augmented by Joe’s movie-inspired powers: Slow, which, um, slows everything down and lets you dodge and land stronger attacks; Mach Speed, which speeds up Joe and creates copies of him in order to land huge attack chains, and Zoom In, which gives Joe more attacks and stuns enemies close to him—but Joe takes more damage, too. You can combine any two powers, and what initially seems like a simple combat system becomes pretty deep and takes a while to master. Once you do, though, it’s pretty easy to look cool in this game.

This is one of the less crazy images.

I bought Viewtiful Joe a long time ago; it was actually at a Blockbuster near my house (kids, Blockbuster was like Netflix if it were a building, and you couldn’t watch a movie if two other people already had it). Viewtiful Joe was, at the time, a game I couldn’t...I didn’t want it because it looked “dumb.” I mean, look at that cover art, and try to sell that to someone who plays online shooters exclusively. I’m not saying those gamers are close-minded, but it’s hard to imagine finding Viewtiful Joe in the collection of someone like that. I myself wasn’t much of an online gamer at the time, but I did have a nagging idea that games had to be...I guess violent and shooty and M-rated. Or something.

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In other words, “fun” for me re: games usually involved blowing up shit, stabbing dudes, what have you. As I was writing this, I took a quick look at my PS2 collection, and a good portion of the games I bought from, say, 2004-2006 or so (right out of high school) are all similar in that they’re all kind of the same: shooters, fighters, the occasional RPG...see, there’s nothing outwardly “cartoony” within that subset of games, as far as I can tell.

So, weirdly, Viewtiful Joe represents me “growing up” as a gamer, in that I was beginning to try new games that didn’t really fit with what I was into at the time—or rather, what I felt I was supposed to be into. I remember the game more and more fondly as I write this, because on a larger scale, it partly represents the beginning of when I decided to stop caring what other people thought of me and to just be me. Of course, that would be a years-long thing, but at least from a gamer standpoint, it started with things like Viewtiful Joe, a game I would’ve never bought until I did. As a gamer, I think it’s important to broaden your horizons, because if they matter as much to you as they do to me, then by extension you’ll be improving yourself.

And that’s really what Viewtiful Joe is about as well, I think. It’s about being who you want to be.

Thanks for reading! Find me on Twitter, if that’s your thing.

Next week brings us a game from the developers of a well-known strategy series. This is a hack and slash, however, and it’s quite underrated.

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