Life is Viewtiful
Capcom has tendency to make one amazingly great game every decade, sometimes even define an entire genre, then spend the next 10 years demolishing their accomplishment by flooding the market with cheap, quick follow-ups. Mega Man was Capcom's claim to fame in the eighties. Street Fighter 2 reinvented arcades in the 90s. Both games spawned dozens of sequels, and their brilliance dimmed with each ever-diminishing, apathy-inspiring release. And from about two hours of play time, I predict there will no fewer than three thousand Viewtiful Joe games by the year 2010. At the end of the decade will the gaming public be bored with Joe's immaculate art direction and fluid kung-fu battles against robot dudes? Who knows, but it's really fun to play right now.
It is surprising to me how mature Joe is as a play experience. The game's controls are introduced in sandbox tutorials that allow the player to test out their abilities on a endless set of enemies without fear of dying or losing any progress at all. Try out the new move as long as you want - when you feel comfortable, press start to continue on with the game. It's such an elegant, yet simple idea, I'm shocked I haven't seen it in any other titles.
Viewtiful Joe challenges the most seasoned gamer, but doesn't punish. The old staples of lives and retries exist, but with every attempt you accrue money to spend on special abilities to improve your character. Those who are not talented enough to beat a level in the first few tries (like myself) will find themselves with a fortune to spend on powerups (including extra health meters and new abilities) that help comphensate for the amount of effort put in and make the next level that much easier. More talented players that breeze through the level in fewer attempts will find the game become more difficult as they progress, providing an interesting way to insure that the game is challenging for players of almost all skill levels. There are a lot of subtle touches in a game so clearly punk.
Alright, I'm going to bed.