No, you're not living in 2003 again. This is an example article for this month's Coins and Sense Bitmob Writing Challenge. We have already received several articles about video-game currency, item creation, and economies, but I wanted to demonstrate how you can think outside the box with the prompt. Instead of covering an adventure or role-playing game, I’m writing about an unconventional choice: Viewtiful Joe. For the complete rules, click here. The due date is February 29, 2012.
Viewtiful Joe is a 2-D beat-em-up with platforming elements. As such, it also has collectables. While most other games in its genre only use trinkets to keep score and award 1ups, this GameCube-era adventure uses them to make the title protagonist's life easier. If you want to survive the title's tough worlds, you'll need to get as many V-Films and V-Coins as you can.
V-Films are tied to the titular protagonist's VFX powers, and you’ll find them scattered throughout the level. These abilities allow Joe to manipulate the game's camera to slow down his surroundings, speed him up, or zoom in for powerful attacks. At the beginning of every level, you only have a small amount of VFX meter, but you can increase the gauge every time you collect 50 V-Films.
You’ll revert to a powerless Joe if you spend all of your energy, so collecting V-Films is key to getting through protracted fights. As with coins in Mario games, you can find these tins in plain sight and hidden areas.
The other collectable is the V-Coin, which acts as a currency (Viewtifuls) to improve your character between levels. You earn these by using VFX powers to style on enemies. The game bases combat around dodging attacks, and once you evade and smash a baddie using his Slow ability you can multiply the amount you get by finishing off other foes before the meter runs out. Likewise, you can rack up Viewtifuls by using Mach Speed to attack so fast that you attack everyone at once. The stages also have mini-objectives that will reward you with V-Coins for completing them quickly and flawlessly.
While the store allows you to get more abilities, this pay-for-power system leaves something to be desired. You have to spend money for basic special moves like the Red Hot Kick, but there’s no reason you couldn’t have the moves already in Joe’s arsenal or learn them from his mentor, Captain Blue. I've seen mixed reviews about how practical expensive techniques like Viewtiful Forever are, so you have little incentive to save for them first.
You can also purchase hearts to increase Joe's life, cheeseburgers to regain health, extra lives, a VFX Turbo Charger that doubles the recovery rate of the VFX meter, a Mach Speed upgrade, and two perishable weapons – the Voomerang and the Shocking Pink bomb. Buying hearts is a no-brainer, so expect to pay this life tax whenever you visit the store. The Turbo Charger costs a lot and is worth it, but you can wait on it unless you're playing one of the game's super-hard difficulties and are willing to replay early stages for more cash.
The Voomerang and Shocking Pink are the kinds of weapons that make certain bosses much easier, but you find out about the exploits months after you beat the game. You can find them in levels without spending money anyway. The store feels like a provision to the conventions of the time, where buying upgrades gave players a sense of choice. Managing life and meter is a huge part of Viewtiful Joe, however, so getting more life and the Turbo Charger trumps everything else.
Still, at least V-Films and V-Coins are more than just collectables: They reward the player for exploring levels and mastering the combat system. The levels are relatively straightforward, so these items also give players the incentive to do more than race to the next boss fight. Viewtiful Joe prides itself on being hard and has multiple difficulties that take more and more away from the player. Even if you play on an easy setting, however, the V-Film and V-Coin function as a meritocracy that reminds you to give it your all if you want to save Movieland.