Viewtiful Joe and Sin Offerings

For whatever reason, Viewtiful Joe‘s sixth stage always stops me dead in my tracks.

Sure, the rest of the game is “NES-Hard” (as Justin Fox would put it), but nothing prepares you for the prospect of defeating all the previous bosses (excluding Alastor) in one perfect attempt. There’s no checkpoint beforehand, and you’ve got two lives or so to do it, so good luck! And most times, luck isn’t on my side due to a number of factors.

First, the game’s VFX Powers reset at the end of each level; translation: you need to collect fifty film canisters to add another segment to your VFX bar for a total of five additions to the original bar. Here’s a screenshot of the game to show you what I mean – check just below the life bar to see the several segments and the counter on the right hand side.

Viewtiful Joe Gameplay Screenshot

That’s all well and good for a normal level where said canisters appear in plain sight or hidden in some inventive puzzle. However, when the game forces you to collect them at the same time as a ravenous boss seeks your demise, that’s when I become somewhat frustrated. None of these bosses let up on you for a second and require rather precise pattern recognition and reflexes to succeed. Now, you need to multitask where you didn’t before, and that changes the whole dynamic of the fights. That’s not to mention that the post-checkpoint boss (Fire Leo, I hope that’s not a spoiler) became infamous for his difficulty, meaning you’ll need to collect all the VFX canisters you can muster in order to succeed.

Checking my GameCube save memory, it appears I got to this exact point on Adults difficulty nearly ten years ago and never finished; I’m resolved to do it, but the little issues I’ve had with Viewtiful Joe come out in full force here! I’m fine with boss gauntlets when they test your skill (as this one does), but I find myself fighting a war of attrition more than a test of skill. Namely, bosses can attack from offscreen without sound cues that respond quickly enough to the human ear. I don’t like having half my lifebar disappear when I make the simple mistake of concentrating on the thousand missiles in my path. When Hulk Davidson suddenly charges me and I lose four hearts, it feels more than a little unfair. Same goes for Charles the 3rd’s projectiles, which NEVER seem to fade at the right point and I always get hit due to the shifting camera angles – 2.5D never felt so unfair.

Furthermore, I hate Gran Bruce with a passion unbridled by time. Underwater bosses never struck me as fun – a stereotype, I know, but we’re talking about video games so who cares really – and the giant shark/humanoid thing does not prove any exceptions to the rule. From his stupid regenerating health mechanic to the “I will chase you from both on and offscreen in my giant arena and then chomp you” ability, it never ceases to frustrate. Of course, Kamiya probably intended it that way, but once he gains double the health in this particular fight, he made a frustrating encounter much worse. Add Another Joe to the mix, yet another hit-and-run with projectiles coming from a boss on the other side of a 2.5D arena, and you’ll start to understand the pain.

Gran Bruce Viewtiful Joe

Man, do I not like Gran Bruce.

You’ll notice one word gets brought up continually in the discussion above: unfair. That’s not a word I normally use, nor do I find it justify to talk that way. Yet, that’s how I feel in the moment, and it causes a lapse and decrease in my performance. I know I could do better with more concentration and less whining, yet I don’t. I’m not sure why this comes up in Viewtiful Joe specifically rather than, say, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (I just beat that on Very Hard with little frustration), but it does. Whether as a vestige of my inability to conquer something or a test of my skills that I cannot seem to overcome, Viewtiful Joe continues to win our staring contests without fail, even after a decade!

Really, if I’m being honest, it’s my fault for not being good enough. I am making mistakes, and you CANNOT make any big mistakes. I refuse to follow the game’s rules for some preconceived reasons, and it’s hampering my ability to play the game well. Instead of confessing to said mistakes, both known (listed above) and unknown, I just keep bashing my head against the wall without understanding the gravity of those mistakes. I had a controller throwing moment, let’s be honest, and that’s never fun.

Many times in life, we do the same thing; we battle against the elements, we rail against the dying light as if the world outside causes our problem when the source lies within. Rather than confront or face those issues that vex us, or those activities we’d rather not give up in deference to a higher call, we simply push it away and leave it in our pile of excuses for another day. If I ignore it long enough, it’ll go away, right? Even those flaws and issues we do not consciously know might also contribute.

I imagine this became the reason why the Israelites had what we call a “sin (maybe guilt) offering”. A sacrifice offered for unintentional sins (or intentional ones with mitigating circumstances), these offerings offered atonement for such mistakes that, when we recognize them, allowed for atonement (unlike, say, an intentional violation of the law for which no sacrifice could help you). To quote the list from Leviticus 5:

‘Now if a person sins after he hears a public adjuration to testify when he is a witness, whether he has seen orotherwise known, if he does not tell it, then he will bear his guilt. Or if a person touches any unclean thing, whether a carcass of an unclean beast or the carcass of unclean cattle or a carcass of unclean swarming things, though it is hidden from him and he is unclean, then he will be guilty. Or if he touches human uncleanness, of whatever sorthis uncleanness may be with which he becomes unclean, and it is hidden from him, and then he comes to know it, he will be guilty. Or if a person swears thoughtlessly with his lips to do evil or to do good, in whatever matter a man may speak thoughtlessly with an oath, and it is hidden from him, and then he comes to know it, he will be guilty in one of these. 

So it shall be when he becomes guilty in one of these, that he shall confess that in which he has sinned.He shall also bring his guilt offering to the Lord for his sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin.

Considering the supposed “legality” of the Law, it is interesting that God places a caveat specifically for sins comitted without our knowledge, or perhaps without knowing they were sins in advance. Furthermore, the requirements for said offerings go from a lamb to whatever flour you had on hand as a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord. Seriously, everyone had plenty of flour, if not livestock, so this appears a relatively lax sacrifice given the context.

In other words, they get a second chance, if not many more, for every mistake they make. There’s many more caveats then someone familiar with the ol’ “oppressive Old Testament” narrative would imagine, surely! God’s grace appears here as much as it appears elsewhere in the Bible. Grace gives us second chances and new birth, a renewing of the mind. Sometimes, that’s all you need; sometimes, you need a hundred more chances. But God does give them even though we don’t deserve them. He gives us time to learn from our own failings and then apply that knowledge to future circumstance. Of course, once you know it you’re responsible, but that’s part of the learning process.

I will continue to play Viewtiful Joe, but I need to keep in mind these concepts or I’ll find myself in yet another controller-related mishap!

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.