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Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble

What is your dream, your ultimate fantasy? Do you want to travel the planet, seeking out every facet of your existence? How about finding the cure for the common cold, or ending hunger throughout the world? Or maybe you just want to become filthy rich, lavishing in your wealth and succumbing to your insatiable greed. Regardless of your lifelong goal, you have the potential to make it happen. However, success won’t come easily. Aside from acquiring some semblance of education and financial backing, you’ll have to face some stiff competition. Yes, there are plenty of others with that same unstoppable drive as yours, ready and willing to snuff you out for their own personal gain. But when push comes to shove and your dreams hang in the balance, how far will you go to get ahead? How hard will you struggle to overcome adversity, to smite your foes and declare yourself as the almighty conqueror of your life?

Better wrap up, chance of a fever today.

In case you don’t know the answer, Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble might prove to be a worthy test of your mettle. After countless years of dedication to the film industry, Captain Blue is finally retiring. His old-school heroics have won him legions of fans, all of which are eagerly anticipating the next big silver screen hero. But with so many potential stars out on the market, the aged movie star can’t decide who should be his protégé. Taking Captain Blue’s place in Hollywood is no minor affair; the replacement must be someone of unparalleled might, mad skills, and unquestionable style. Enter Viewtiful Joe, Captain Blue’s number one fan and hero extraordinaire. However, he won’t be the only one vying for the old man’s attention. Captain Blue Jr., Alastor, Joe’s girlfriend Silvia and a slew of other characters all want a piece of the glory. But when the casting call is done and the filming starts, only one actor can be left standing.

Wow! Ka-pow!

At first glance, it is a fan’s dreams come true. The thought of multiple Viewtiful Joe characters brawling for stardom is an enticing vision. However, said fans might be taken aback by Red Hot Rumble’s departure from the tried and true Viewtiful gaming formula. Unlike the usual single-player beat-em up game style, this latest installment pits up to four players against each other on massive battlegrounds. Each character comes with his signature weapons, like Silvia’s pistols or Alastor’s sword. Veterans of the series will eagerly have their fingers poised on the shoulder buttons, eagerly awaiting to speed up or slow down time, using Joe’s usual powers to their fullest extent. However, Joe has lost his inherent powers, opting for various pickups strewn throughout the level. When you nab one of these shiny trinkets, you’ll temporarily gain the ability to slow down, speed up, or zoom in on the action, thus allowing you to dish out some nasty punishment upon your hapless foes. While scrambling for power pickups isn’t quite the same as aspects of the previous games, it levels the playing field evenly.

Man, it’s just like the good old days…

However, Joe and the gang won’t exactly be fighting mano a mano. Instead of engaging in what could have been some truly epic battles, these characters will compete in a series of minigames to ensure their dominance on the silver screen. They’ll be pitted against each other in various scenarios, like killing off the most enemies, acquiring the most V-Point pickups, button mashing, and quite a few other contests of controller prowess. While these ideas may seem stale and easy to grasp, the unforgiving AI won’t mind stomping you into the ground. It’ll go straight for the points, the goal, and whatever other objectives that need to be completed. Sure, you can beat the hell out of your rival heroes, but you have to focus on completing the mission’s stipulations as well. If not, you’ll end up looking at a failure screen when everything is said and done. Not only will you have to live with the disappointment of being a failed movie star, but you’ll also have to restart the level from the very beginning. But if you manage to rise above the competition, you’ll be justly rewarded with a wide variety of levels and characters.

…what the hell is going on?

In the midst of all this change, Viewtiful Joe fans will gladly recognize the usual comic book cell-shaded graphic style from the previous games. You’ll get to duke it out in the middle of a city park, on top of massive skyscrapers and billboards, inside glass elevators, balancing on the wings of a giant plane, and plenty of other fast-paced settings. The character animations have been revamped and glossed over, making old heroes seem new again. You’ll be reacquainted with classic characters like Jet Black and Hulk Davidson, as well as new faces like the sultry Sprocket or the annoyingly cute Captain Blue Jr. from the anime. With over a dozen characters making up the cast, you’ll get plenty of chances to use the game’s multiplayer. All of this frantic, intense competition is presented in a flurry of bright colors and psychedelic blends, capturing the utter Viewtifulness that the previous installments wielded so well. When the witty dialogue, decent character voice acting and a pulse-pounding heavy metal soundtrack are factored in, it creates a refreshing presentation that makes the game so much more enjoyable.

And that’s fast.

Fans of the series might be surprised with what Red Hot Rumble brings to the gaming table. Instead of the usual Viewtiful Joe single-player action, it presents gamers with an odd blend of multiplayer aspects that have served previous games well. Super Smash Bros. Melee gamers will pick up on the item system easily, whereas the revelers of the Mario Party series will recognize the minigame setup from the start. That being said, you might want to have some friends over if you really want to get the most out of this game. Does such emphasis on multiplayer make it a bad game? Not necessarily. But solo gamers who’ve been spoiled with previous games may not appreciate the new gameplay style. Thus Viewtiful Joe’s epic saga continues, with justice and style for all.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

Gentle persuasion

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