Review: It's a Viewtiful day in the neighborhood...
Capcom's Viewtiful Joe series has almost single-handedly maintained the side-scrolling action-platforming genre over the last few years. The frantic action, stylized graphics, and unique gameplay elements struck a nerve with gamers worldwide, almost ensuring a slew of sequels and spinoffs. Just in time for this year's holiday season we have been treated to the latest GameCube installment of the series, Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble.
With Captain Blue set to retire from action films, his on the director's chair, there is a large role to fill in the game's world of action films. Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble takes many of the series' top characters, including Sylvia, Captain Blue, and Viewtiful Joe himself, and pit them in a series of screen tests to see who earns the right to take the starring role in the next big action flick. While characters abound, both familiar and new, playable and not, the story really is secondary to the gameplay itself. In fact, you can skip all of the game's between scene story elements with a single push of the start button, heading straight into the action.
Departing from the level-based action-platforming of Viewtiful Joe and Viewtiful Joe 2, Red Hot Rumble pits you in a head-to-head competition with one of the other colorful cast members that is vying for Captain Blue's starring role. With level design that is akin to that of Super Smash Bros. Melee, Red Hot Rumble dishes out the action in a constant stream of 30-45 second rounds, each with its own goal like defeating the most enemies, causing the most damage to the boss character, or collecting the most diamonds. There are plenty of distractions as you and your opponent strive to complete the round's goal as enemies, power-ups, and mini-game spawning Super VFX Orbs appear during battle. Of course, there are also VFX orbs that you can collect to unleash Slow, Mach Speed, Zoom, and Sound Effects on your opponents.
The actual combat in Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble is reminiscent of the original two VJ games. However, the execution seems more geared to those with short attention spans. The combat is so fast paced that it is hard to get the feel for a round before it is actually over, doubly so when you take the Super VFX mini-games into account. You will eventually start getting the feel for the pace of battle but you will find it difficult to get your friends to join in and stay interested. All three of the people that sat down to play with me had the same three comments: "I don't get it," "What's going on," and "Where did my character go?" This isn't to say that the multiplayer is a useless feature. Quite the contrary, actually. The unfortunate thing is that, to enjoy the experience, your friends need to actually be familiar with the game before joining your group battle.
As you progress through Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble you will find a healthy amount of content that you can unlock. Special Editions of levels you have already completed can be opened up by collecting puzzle pieces throughout the game and bonus characters are opened up by completing scenes with each cast member. Speaking of the different cast members, it is nice that each one has their own set of special moves, attacks, and jumps. It helps to add a little bit of strategy to your character selection as occasional tasks are made easier by taking advantage of certain powers.