Review: Henshin a go-go?again!
One of the original Capcom 5 on the GameCube, Viewtiful Joe carved out its own identity when it finally released, bringing new-school production values along with its decidedly old-school gameplay mechanics. The game was a decent success on the Cube, but despite that the original was ported over to the PlayStation 2 later on, releasing towards the end of summer 2004. Which is why PS2 fans might seem?alarmed by the presence of the sequel, Viewtiful Joe 2, so quickly, though in reality the game has been around for over a year on Nintendo's hardware. This immediate sequel might seem like a rehash, and unfortunately, it is. However, if you completely loved VJ, the concept of more of the same can't be all that bad, since it's the same wickedly fun action/platform gameplay with time-altering powers. The presence of Silvia as a playable character adds a different dimension to the play, which is always a good thing. Though not much more than an expansion pack to the cynics, Viewtiful Joe 2 is still a great pickup for fans of the series.
VJ2 picks up after the first one ends. Captain Blue is kidnapped and brought into another dimension of movies, this time with different actual eras as the setting. Joe goes in to rescue Blue, but not alone this time, as his girlfriend Silvia tags along with her own brand of super-powers. After that, well, hey at least there's some sort of narrative! Like most other old-school throwbacks, VJ2's story isn't the emphasis, it's instead the gameplay that takes center stage. VJ2 is a bit lengthier than the original though, which definitely is a good thing since the first game didn't last very long despite the high-quality action. Through each level you travel to the different eras, looking to fix the world and rescue Captain Blue.
Fans of the first VJ will feel right at home with the game, since nothing has changed other than a couple new VFX powers. The game maintains the same structure of acts, with grades after each section is completed. Though the majority of the game is your usual beat ?em up gameplay, the VFX powers help break up the monotony, with fast-forward, slowdown bullet time, zoom, etc. There's not really anything new with Joe, but if you really liked the first game this isn't really an issue. The major addition is Silvia (under her alias of Sexy Silvia), who plays drastically different than Joe because she doesn't punch or kick, instead attacks with her pom-poms and a special gun. Her VFX powers are similar except for a really cool Instant Replay VFX that lets you re-enact your last set of moves for more damage. Silvia is somewhat easier to play than Joe since you don't have to get quite as up close and personal, but still not as easy as playing as Dante in the PS2 version of the original. The duo can be swapped out immediately at the press of R2, though there's no co-op which would have been damn cool.
Like the original, VJ2 has a ?kids' and ?adults' mode, though no ?sweet' difficulty like the PS2 port of the first game. And like the first game, it's a very challenging game, and not one you'll blast through unless you have some serious skills. Boss fights are very strategic, and most levels have some fairly tricky puzzles that require use of VFX to solve (even right off the bat there's a weird waterfall puzzle that might trick some people). At the same time, the game is fair in its challenge, and eventually once you figure out the right tactic, you can get past trouble spots. Without ?sweet' mode some people will be having a difficult time, but ?kids' is not overly brutal, yet not simplistic either.
Enjoyment of Viewtiful Joe 2 comes down to your enjoyment of the first game. Seeing that it's a direct sequel that uses pretty much all the same gameplay mechanics aside from Silvia's stuff, fans of the first will certainly love the sequel, but those who couldn't stand the first game should just stay away. For newcomers, definitely go back to the original, which is cheaper and in some ways is a lot better, plus it does explain a bit more of the story, even if the story is pure cheese and there merely as a tool of direction. That said, it's good to see the beat ?em up has promise, especially with the more modern tactics from VFX powers instituted.
Visually, Viewtiful Joe 2 doesn't really improve much on the original, instead opting for the same style as the first game. So expect beautiful cel-shaded characters, highly detailed 2D backdrops within a 3D world, tons of crazy special effects from the battling, and little to no slowdown unless you activate the bullet time VFX power. With cel-shading going by the wayside lately since Zelda did it the best way conceivable, VJ2 stands out as unique amongst other games out there, with a few exceptions (such as Tales of Symphonia or the upcoming Musashi Samurai Legend). It conveys the attempted comic-book style atmosphere perfectly. On the audio end, cheesy porno music returns, along with intentionally campy voice acting to emphasize the cheesy matinee style of the game. Some of the music is even lifted from the first game to give it more of a ?theme' style, but yet, it's still cheesy porno music.