Time control, it has been something portrayed in films and more recently video games. It seems that time control is becoming somewhat over used. The first game to really get it right was Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Ubisoft showed that it could be done well. Max Payne gave it a go a while back with bullet time but Capcom gave it a shot in the arm with Viewtiful Joe on the gamecube, the first game that really showed time control could be used in a great way. The game has hit the PS2 console and while Joe has remained his stylish best, there is much more on the market these days to compete with.
Viewtiful Joe is based around two main characters. Captain Blue and Joe himself, although along the way you will run into a variety of other people. Joe and his Girlfriend Sylvia are taking in a movie one day starring Captain Blue when he is suddenly defeated by one of the movies enemies. The movie all of a suddenly becomes a little too real for the two and when Sylvia is taken hostage, Joe is sucked into the film to replace Captain Blue. Cue B grade voice over. Will Joe save the day, Will Sylvia ever be found? Well you'll just have to play the game to find out.
Viewtiful Joe is a 2D sidescrolling platform game which on paper may sound a little dated. It's what Capcom has managed to do with the backgrounds that really make this one of the most stylish games on the market and why the game has become such a hit on the Gamecube. In esscence, Viewtiful Joe is the 2D platformer for the new century with a combination of mario style puzzle jumping and various factors in the level design which uses the time control extremely well. Every so often you will find a mechanic built around the time control aspect. For example early on you will find a slot machine, to make sure you 'win', time is slowed down to an almost standstill for you to get the right sequence.
Viewtiful Joe is a very hard game and not just because of the level design. The time controls really can create some stupendous tasks for Joe to figure out such as slowing down time to make an extremely large water drop, or speeding time up to take enemies down quicker. They may not sound difficult, but they can be frustrating as once you hit one that can't be completed easily, you can be stuck for not only hours but perhaps days. Guides are available of course and most of the time you will kick yourself for not figuring it out.
The time controls also become useful against boss characters which you run into at the end of each level. This is also where a frustrating 'feature' of the game appears. If you turn the machine off during a boss fight, the game reverts back to the beginning of the level. As you defeat enemies you also gain money to use in the shop. This shop helps you in the game by giving Joe health, more V-Power (the power used for time control) and special moves for Joe to use further into the game. Continuing the movie style theme, the game is divided into Episodes and there are a few tutorial levels.
The level design and the graphics work hand in hand to make this one stylish game. With the 2D aspect of the game, Capcom has been able to translate the style and graphics of the game almost untouched to the PS2 console. Joe has all his moves and the game still gives visuals to show that an enemy (of which there is not many, which is not a great feature) is about to punch giving time for Joe to dodge and counter-attack. The loading screens are even stylish with a film style introduction. The levels vary greatly as do the mechanics which use the time control feature. The sound effects are fairly good but most of Joe's language is limited to 'Kenshin a go go' which is his catchphrase to become Viewtiful Joe.
Viewtiful Joe was a great game on the Gamecube and is still a great game on the Playstation 2 console. It is a prime example of a Japanese game also being a great game elsewhere. The 2D side of the game paired with the 3D style graphics makes it one of the most unique games on the market and a game that should definitely be checked out.