Most people in today's world are quite evolved from our old prehistoric days wherein we bashed things to death with rocks. Part of that love for destruction and general harm to other things still lives on, thanks to movies and games. Legendary action movie stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Slyvester Stallone have made quite a lot of money by fictionally KILLING EVERYTHING IN THEIR PATH. Gaming follows the same sort of sensibility; why, just take a look at all those teenagers on Xbox Live, playing FPSes and KILLING EVERYTHING IN THEIR PATH. Yeah, deep down, people like to pretend to KILL EVERYTHING IN THEIR-- I think you get the picture. In most cases, action movies and action video games have never really met well; there are a lot of "movie games" that just suck, and then the rare diamond that doesn't. (Hi there Goldeneye!) So, how about a game that does things differently? Making you feel like you're blasting through an army singlehandedly, while still remaining very tongue-in-cheek about it all and lampooning tropes and cliches? Capcom has granted your hypothetical wish with Viewtiful Joe.
Being a parody of movies and movie cliches, Viewtiful Joe actually has some semblance of a plot, with cutscenes! Our brave protagonist is Joe, a hip guy who loves nothing more than watching the serials of some old action hero named Captain Blue (which is somewhat of a Power Rangers/Super Sentai parody in itself). On a date with his very lovely ladyfriend, Silvia (whose advances he rejects in favor of watching the movie, what the fuck Joe get with it she's right there and she wants you), things start getting weird when the villain of the movie reaches THROUGH the movie screen and abducts Silvia.. causing Joe to merely remark that the special effects are cool AS HIS WOMAN IS CAPTURED. Joe is taken into "Movieland" as well, and given a superhero-transformy-thingy called a V-Watch. The magic word is "Henshin!" but Joe, in true hip style, comes up with his own catchphrase: HENSHIN A GO-GO, BABY.
Viewtiful Joe is a return to the classic beat-em-up genre, and gives you the freedom to run to the right and beat the living shit out of anything in your way. The whole game is done in a cel-shaded style, but the graphics aren't all soft and cutesy like in Wind Waker. Here, everything is vibrant, yet cool. It's one of those "2.5D" deals, kind of like New Super Mario Brothers; you can only move left or right, but the camera will move as you advance around corners and stairs and such. As for the combat? Beating things up works like a dream. Joe can punch, kick, jump, crouch.. all the usual stuff you'd expect from a game where you beat things up. There's also a counter-attack element to the combat; just before an enemy moves to attack you, a little skull icon will appear at either the top or bottom of its body. By quickly ducking or hopping over the attack, the enemy will be stunned for a moment, allowing you to counter with a swift boot to the head. You travel through each stage, accomplishing various "tasks"; get the key to unlock the door to the next area, kill a miniboss, kill X amounts of enemies, simple things like that. At the end of each objective, you get ranked on how well you do; perfect rank is something for the perfectionists to obsess over and learn the game inside and out. Once you reach the end of an "episode", you'll meet the boss of the area. The boss will usually say something ridiculous (DAAAAVIDSON IS IN THE HOOOOUSE), and then you fight his ass. Victory gets you a narration of the plot, and then it tells you to tune in "next time" for the "next episode". LIKE A MOVIE SERIAL, SEE?
We haven't even touched on the coolest aspect of the game; the "VFX". Since this is a movie, Joe can earn the power to tamper with the film world, creating interesting effects. When all is said and done, you'll have three distinct VFX powers; Slow, Mach Speed, and Zoom-In. Each power can be used to make beating your enemies a bit easier, but you are limited in how long you can use them; there is an energy bar for the powers. Luckily, when it's not in use, it regenerates. If you use up all your VFX power, you revert back to regular Joe (and not his super-transformed version) for a few seconds. The powers are also used to solve various environmental puzzles you come across; rather than simply affect you, they affect reality itself. An early-game example: You come across a pit of spikes, and a platform hovering in the air with a fan. You need to get on the platform, but it's too high to jump. The solution is turning on Slow; the fan blades spin in slow motion, thus not keeping the platform up, thus dropping it down to your level. Hop on, put things back to normal speed, and the fan will move again, lifting you and the platform up. There's even more you can do with the powers; a few more examples for each:
-Bullets and tank blasts will be visible, and you'll be able to punch them back
-Water droplets will grow to gigantic sizes, heavy enough to hit switches
-Explosions from bombs and other things will grow gigantic in size, dealing more damage to enemies and the world
-Fans will move even faster, lifting up platforms higher
-Attacking repeatedly in Mach Speed will literally light Joe's fists on fire
-Water flow will increase rapidly, filling up any large areas with water
-Kicking will make Joe do a 360-degree spin-kick
-Activating it while coming down from the air will make Joe do a drill-kick move
-Jumping with Zoom on will make Joe do a spin-jump
But it gets even better. There's a "store" you can access at certain checkpoints through each episode, or before the start of an episode. You can buy things like new attacks, extra health, and extra lives. You earn the currency (V-Points) by defeating enemies, getting a good ranking, and completing an episode. There's a way to chain your attacks using Slow; by using the dodge-and-counter trick in Slow, enemies around you will have targets on them. Hitting new enemies with targets on them does massive damage, and adds to the chain; at the end of the chain, you earn more V-Points than you would have by just beating the enemies normally. You'll need them, too; the game gets especially fiendish at about Act 5, when you face a boss rush of every end-boss you've fought so far, plus a new boss that will kick the everloving shit out of you until you learn his pattern. From there, it only gets more challenging.. and this is just on the simplest difficulty. There are HARDER modes to play on, and be challenged by.
Viewtiful Joe is a damned masterpiece. The plot is intentionally ridiculous (one boss literally reads their evil plan from the SCRIPT), and the gameplay is a near-perfect mix of "tough but fair". It taps into that primal instinct of KILLING EVERYTHING IN YOUR PATH, and is completely satisfying because of it. There's only one way to sum it all up.
HENSHIN A GO-GO, BABY.