Viewtiful Joe + Viewtiful Joe 2 Original Soundtrack
Viewtiful Joe + Viewtiful Joe 2 Original Soundtrack
December 22, 2004
Buy at CDJapan
The Viewtiful Joe series was an acclaimed line of beat ’em ups developed by the late Clover Studio with cel-shaded graphics, comic book influences, and a spunky lead character. The games were also popular for its upbeat soundtracks, which blended catchy melodies, electronic beats, and diverse other styles. The music was directed by genius composer Masami Ueda (Devil May Cry, Okami), but the first was chiefly composed by Ace Attorney‘s Masakazu Sugimori and the sequel mainly by newcomer Sayaka Morita. The soundtracks for the two main games were packaged together in a splendid double disc package (whereas the spinoffs Double Trouble and Red Hot Rumble were never released on CD). One unusual feature was the use of voice acting to introduce each track, but this wasn’t necessarily a bad decision. Let’s take a closer look at one of Capcom’s best ever album releases…
“Joe the Hero” is one of several superbly mixed techno tracks on the soundtrack. The track is principally great to listen to because of its melody — full of the cheeky charm of the main character. It’s a worthy main theme for a light-hearted game like Viewtiful Joe and its arrangements are also a joy. Captain Joe’s themes “Burn the Justice” and “Blue the True Hero” are given some more grit with overdriven bass guitar and electronic distortions, but they are still crisp, catchy, and very bubbly depictions. “Some Like It Hot” is especially remarkable for its use of expressive oriental violin melodies and car horn sound effects in combination with the camp grooves; few composers could make something so off-the-wall work, but Ueda’s mastery of game music fusions seems to have rubbed off on Sugimori. Other favourites are the jazz-based themes “Rhino Hotel” and “Let’s Ride Six Machine”; the former is rather sensualising when in the right mood while the latter makes a spectacle of Sugimori’s exuberant piano work.
One charming aspect of the soundtrack are the tributes to past Capcom soundtracks. “Underground Stage”, for instance, blends techno beats, rhythmical idiosyncracies, and ambient soundscapes in a similar but more perplexing manner to Devil May Cry‘s stage themes. “Dark Fiend” and “Inferno Lord” are reminiscent of some of Devil May Cry‘s techno battle themes except with more goofiness. “2,000,000 Leagues Under the Sea” adopts the airy synth-based approach of other aquatic dungeon themes, but this time is more developed and features electronic overlays. Even better, the chord progressions in the final boss theme “The Omnipotent” seems to be a tribute to Resident Evil 2‘s “The Third Malformation of G”. There are also a few themes like “The Viewtiful Escape”, “Midnight Thunder Boy”, and “Aquatic Terror” with support by distorted riffs. However, the aggression is restrained in even these themes in favour of light-hearted colourful approaches and it’s not until the sequel that particularly formidable themes appear.
There are relatively few event themes in the Viewtiful Joe soundtrack and those that are present are often highlights. Whether the compelling breakbeats of “Break Time”, the accomplished trance experimentation of “Farewell to a Formidable Foe”, or the orchestral drama of “Kidnapped Silvia”, all have something unique to offer the score. There are also some direct tributes to past Capcom soundtracks — Ueda’s “Climax” uses similar gothic organ work to Devil May Cry‘s “Sparda’s Theme” and Sugimori’s “Confession” beautifully resynths Ace Attorney‘s “Recollection ~ Classroom Trial”. The jingles are really fun too, especially the iconic “Henshin-A-Go-Go-Baby!” and the boss fanfare. Occasionally, the soundtrack has an incoherent quality though. The introduction of the first soundtrack is characterised by a series of false-starts and short fanfares that, while amusing, hinder the progression of an otherwise concise album. The soundtrack nevertheless always ventures beyond shallow functionality in favour of offering an unusual and enjoyable stand-alone experience.
Viewtiful Joe 2
The Viewtiful Joe 2 soundtrack largely retains the style and character of the predecessor, but individualises itself in other ways. The opening is as a thematic as before, but more dramatic and cinematic than the material on the predecessor. The boss themes “Blizzard Hazard” and “Mad Scientist”, in contrast, feature extravagant shows of electric guitar work from Morita unlike anything heard in the predecessor. “Intermediate” melds the jazz and electronic portions of Viewtiful Joe into something even more sleak and groovy, while the shop theme “Concession Shop” is an audacious blend of urban and jazz influences. There are also far more themes with grunge influences this time. “Drill Sergeant” melds the electro-rock elements with hilarious bugle solos and “Railroad Battle” takes things one step further by adding vocals above the distorted bass riffs. “Ancient Guardian” and “Underworld Emperor” are two other heavily punctuated and rhythmically compelling action themes.
Probably the most enjoyable features of the Viewtiful Joe 2 soundtrack are the themes for the diverse stages. “Ten-Million Years B.C.” arranges the ever-catchy main theme with tribal percussion and dinosaur roars to reflect the prehistoric setting of Movie Land. “Thunder Boy Lives Twice”, on the other hand, blends the silly melody of “Some Like It Hot” with the oriental instrumentation and chants later featured in Okami. “Viewtiful Heroes and the Statue of Doom” brings with it a Hollywood action movie influence and “Ice Edge” uses boundless progressions and hard bass lines, but both are still stylistic enigmas filled with thematic twiddles. And what about Movie Land in the future? “Memoirs of an Invincible Monster” revisits the series’ electronic work but adds mainstream club influences and hard electric guitar work on top. “Starship Viewties” is one of the most exciting final stage themes out there melding wild rock and techno figures with an emotionally charged melody.
A lot of the soundtrack lacks quite the same extravagant character as its predecessor, but almost everything manages to be technically accomplished. “Powerful Enemies” and “Middle Boss Battle” compensate for what they lack melodically with superb experimental electronic mixing. There is an increased number of event themes in this soundtrack and, while all work well in context and some feature interesting music, few are as individualised or developed as their Viewtiful Joe counterparts. They also give an interruptive quality to parts of the soundtrack due to their brevity, sudden transitions, or use of voice-overs. This makes the end of the soundtrack — with ten event themes almost in succession and a false end — particularly drawn-out. But the final battle themes do not disappoint — “Ultra Black Behemoth” an intense and temperamental encounter and “True Heroes” a delightful guitar-based romp. The album concludes with the emotional event themes “The Truth” and some ecstatic reprises for the end credits.
The most unique yet controversial element of the Viewtiful Joe soundtracks is the introduction of most pieces with voice acting. Though most introductions are short, they are diverse, well acted, and interesting overall. They give a good sense of the storylines of each game giving a sense of context for those unfamiliar with them and an opportunity for reminiscence for those who played them. It’s also easy to feel endeared to the youthful main character Joe while listening to this soundtrack. However, his laugh is incredibly irritating and there are a few other dialogues that will be dreaded on repeated listen. Clover Studio were tasteful enough to ensure that the voice acting is never featured simultaneously with the music. However, often people will desire a soundtrack completely free of the voice acting, given it can be disruptive when one isn’t in the mood for it, while some will object to the principle of integration of voice acting altogether. This is definitely some of the most accomplished voice use on a video game soundtrack, but it will depend on the listener whether it is a beneficial or detrimental feature overall.
The Viewtiful Joe + Viewtiful Joe 2 Original Soundtrack is a rare example of an album that manages to be simultaneously silly, different, refined, and fascinating. Both soundtracks offer something interesting to the set, the first more melodic and frivolous (with a problematic introduction), the second more dramatic and outlandish (with a long-winded conclusion). Between them, there is everything from catchy ditties to ambient and worldly fusions to striking action themes, bonded together by bubbly and accessible electronic sounds. Those nervous about the electronic features or use of voice acting might want to sample the soundtrack first, but everyone else should jump straight in and purchase it.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.