Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble
Everyone's favorite wise-cracking superhero is back to set things straight in the movie world - scripts and plot twists be damned! Can this portable entry captivate like its predecessors?
Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble! (aka Viewtiful Joe: Scratch!) is the anticipated debut of Capcom's new-age action hero on a handheld gaming platform. Developed by Capcom's Clover Studio, Double Trouble is everything we would have wanted in the DS entry, and then some.
Unlike Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble which was recently released for the GameCube (and soon to be released for the Sony PSP) with new gameplay mechanics that lends the game more of a fighting game feel akin to Nintendo's Super Smash Brothers, Double Trouble continues with the award winning, side-scrolling, action-platforming formula of its predecessors while utilizing the DS' unique dual screen & touchscreen features to full effect. Some concessions were obviously made to accommodate the lower-end DS spec but at the same time a variety of cool new DS-specific gameplay features were introduced.
Viewtiful what? Henshin-a-Go-Go where?
For fans of the acclaimed series, the digital movie world of Viewtiful Joe has always been one where movie scripts called for surviving parodied plot twists, intentionally cheesy and humorous dialogue, as well as good vs. evil confrontations with some of the most charming boss characters to ever hit the digital screen, making for an experience that's simply, Viewtiful.
In Joe's latest movie-themed adventure, players are introduced to Joe's younger sister Jasmine, a wannabe starlet who happens to be starring in Captain Blue's new movie. All is going well with the movie shoot until a mysterious group of evil-doers descend upon the set and make off with the film. With that, Joe springs into action to retrieve the stolen film and save the day once again with the help of a number of innovative new VFX powers made possible only on the Nintendo DS.
In traditional Viewtiful Joe fashion, Joe starts off in his normal, non-superhero form, running around and beating up bad guys. Joe's basic move set is the same as before, consisting of a single jump and some basic punch and kick combos. In addition, you can also evade enemy attacks by pressing down or up on the D-pad to make Joe duck or hop up to avoid enemy attacks when enemy high and low attack indicators appear onscreen. Successfully evading enemy attacks usually results in most enemies comically spinning out of control, and becoming temporarily disoriented and vulnerable to counter-attacks that'll often times send them flying. Before long the action picks up as Joe shouts the all familiar phrase, "Henshin-A-Go-Go, Baby", transforming him into his red-cladded super-hero, alter ego, Viewtiful Joe, further augmenting his arsenal with additional moves and special new abilities that allow him to manipulate the onscreen action.
Double Trouble plays quite similarly to its predecessors, allowing those who have played any of the previous games to immediately feel right at home with the gameplay mechanics of the game since it features the same rich blend of side-scrolling beat-em-up action mixed with a variety of platforming elements and a plethora of puzzles to solve throughout each level. That coupled with Viewtiful Joe's much lauded VFX powers provides the game with some truly exciting and novel gameplay ideas.
While the previous games had Joe empowered with VFX powers that allowed him to manipulate the speed of the action with VFX Slow and Mach Speed, as well as Zoom-in on the action to do even more damage, Double Trouble does away with Joe's Mach Speed and traditional Zoom-In VFX powers and replaces them with a variety of nifty new touch-screen activated VFX powers made possible in the game's real world setting by the 'Joe camera'.
Scratch 'n' Win!
These new touch panel based powers are what sets Double Trouble apart from its console cousins by adding an extra element of play to both the fighting and puzzle-solving aspects of the gameplay. Instead of just tossing in a bunch of gimmicky touch-screen features just for the sake of adding touch screen functionality, the touch screen features in Double Trouble are actually well thought out and very well-implemented into the general gameplay of the game.
Both the dual screen and touch screen features of the DS are utilized to great effect throughout the game with both screens serving to display the action. While the bottom screen displays the main game screen, the top screen provides a close-up view of the action, as well as serves as the main display for a variety of transition sequences and cinematic moments throughout the game, with the bottom touch-screen used to move the story sequences along.
When Viewtiful Joe first appears on the scene he starts off equipped only with his VFX-Slow power and acquires the rest of his newfound abilities as he goes along. SCRATCH is the first of his touch-screen activated VFX powers and is performed by simply tapping the R button to activate the power and then perform a side-to-side rubbing or scratching motion on the touch panel in order to shake things up a bit. The resulting effect basically simulates a type of camera shaking effect, causing objects and debris to fall and inflict damage onto enemies. The longer you perform the move on disoriented enemies, the more debris will fall, eliminating your foes in the process. In addition to battling enemies, SCRATCH is also used on a number of puzzles elements throughout the game that will have you clearing openings as well as knocking objects such as giant boulders from their projected paths, as was the case in one level.
In addition to the aforementioned SCRATCH VFX, Joe is also equipped with a really cool SPLIT VFX power, which is sort of akin to traditional film splicing techniques and allows you to virtually split the touch screen in half and move the upper half of it in both directions horizontally in order to move objects around as well as manipulate the gaming environments. In doing so players will be able to access hard to reach areas by literally moving them closer in order to reach platforms, exits, as well as items that are well out of Joe's jumping range. With Split VFX Joe can also access hidden areas, snuff out flames by moving fire and water within range of each other, suck up piles of debris with an air vacuum, and can also be utilized in some boss battles along with various other puzzle-solving operations throughout the game. It certainly makes for an interesting gameplay mechanic that's utilized quite well with the fighting and platforming aspects of the game.
The last of Joe's new powers is his SLIDE VFX, which, like his Split VFX power, adds an interesting and cool new gameplay mechanic to the game by allowing for increased levels of interaction with enemies and the environments. Utilizing the Slide VFX power you can literally swap the top screen with the bottom screen with a simple upward stroke on the touch screen. In doing so, you're provided with a zoomed-in view of the action on the bottom screen allowing for some touch screen functionality in solving puzzles that require you to tap in or dial in numerical passwords, turn cranks, press buttons, activate switches and levers, and all that fun stuff.
In addition, you can also plop open item boxes in the backgrounds in order to obtain powers-ups. Another interesting aspect of the SLIDE VFX is the additional attack options it provides. Not only is Joe's attacks made stronger like with the Zoom-In feature in the previous games, but the SLIDE & TOUCH aspects of the VFX power allows you to literally pick certain enemies apart by tapping away at them using on the touch screen.
Outside of the Touch screen features, Double Trouble pretty much retains the same gameplay formula as its predecessors. Your VFX powers are still limited by a VFX meter that gets depleted whenever your VFX powers are in use, and automatically regenerates when not in use. You can collect power-up items along the way that have temporary effects on your VFX meter and can also build up a longer VFX meter by collecting viewtifuls scattered throughout the levels.
In addition to viewtifuls, players can also acquire V-coins from defeated enemies and item boxes throughout the game and use the coins to power-up their character by purchasing a variety of useful items from the game's shop menu. Stuff like a disc shaped boomerang-like weapon, additional fighting moves, extra life, health, VFX chargers and other special items can be purchased to better equip Viewtiful Joe with.
Double Trouble isn't all that long compared to its predecessors, in fact, on several occasions we managed to complete the game in single gameplay sessions that seemed to last a little over 3 hours. The game contains a total of 6 episodes split up into different acts with the objective of each being to clear all of the enemies in many of the areas as well as acquire keys in order to progress.
The level designs are what you'd expect from a Viewtiful Joe game with lots of platforming, lots of enemies to beat up, and a variety of hazardous contraptions and puzzles to deal with throughout the movie studio theme park. The levels are lots of fun to navigate and puzzle-solving has never been as fun in a Viewtiful Joe.
With that said, Double Trouble seems to contain a greater amount of puzzles than before, but the puzzles themselves aren't anywhere near as ambiguous and mind-numbingly difficult as some of the ones in the previous games, in fact you're always made aware of what VFX powers or combination of powers you need to use in any given situation, making the puzzles significantly easier than before. But we're not complaining.
Remaining on the subject of level designs, some of the level designs throughout game look quite cool as they not only pay homage to a number of familiar movie sets as well as previous games in the series with a historical museum containing statues of past Viewtiful Joe villains on display, but there are also parody-themed levels of other Capcom gaming properties like the Resident Evil series. Simply the highlight of Joe's Viewtiful adventure, you can't help but have a huge smile form on your face as Joe gets dropped into a side scrolling version of the creepy Resident Evil mansion complete with traps, puzzles, a nice rendition of the Resident Evil 2 musical theme, pictorial cameos, and what appears to be zombified enemies.
In addition to a few familiar sights and sounds, most of the enemies encountered throughout Double Trouble remain similar to those found in the previous games with a few new ones thrown in for good measure. There's also the usual boss and mini-boss battles which are pretty cool as you contend with various movie-themed villains such as twin bugs, a Ninja android, and even a parody of RoboCop.
As was the case in Viewtiful Joe 2, Joe isn't the sole star of the show in Double Trouble and shares some of that spotlight with his sister Jasmine who becomes playable during a disappointingly short part of the game. While she controls the same as Joe, her levels unfortunately, aren't very exciting as she has no VFX powers to flex, making those playable sections of hers utterly useless additions and nowhere near as well-integrated into the gameplay as Joe's sweetheart, Silvia, was in Viewtiful Joe 2. To Jasmine's credit she does provide aid Joe throughout the game by popping up in various spots to provide him with health replenishing meals and power-ups.
While Double Trouble can be seen as a pretty short and easy game to run through, players looking for a bigger challenge after completing the game's Adult mode can try their hand at the significantly greater challenges provided by the V-Rated mode where enemy attacks do significantly more damage, your VFX meter depletes at a faster rate, and power-ups are much more expensive.
Graphically, Viewtiful Joe's cel-shaded noir visuals are pulled off quite nicely on the DS, with smoothly animated characters and colorfully vibrant 2.5D cel-shaded graphics that, given the DS spec, look quite impressive compared to their console cousins. And while we experienced some slowdown in a few spots here and there, it never detracts from the overall experience.
Audio-wise, Double Trouble sports a number of cool synth rock and orchestrated tunes. The music is of surprisingly good quality compared to the higher spec console games. While some themes had a certain thin Megaman-ish type sound to them, a few were also nicely orchestrated, and there were some nice, catchy variations on the Viewtiful Joe theme. Sound effects are also of nice quality and are good in general, but sadly the type of comical voice-acting fans were accustomed to in the previous games weren't implemented in this edition. The few voices that made it into the game, namely that of the director, were obviously recorded at a lower quality and aren't as crisp or varied as the first two games. Unfortunately gone are also the sounds of audiences cheering and applauding Joe after successfully completing each area in good form, but I suppose a few concessions had to be made.
In case it isn't obvious by now, we really, REALLY enjoyed Viewtiful Joe on the DS. Not only does it retain much of the graphical flair and presentation style of the console games, but the DS-specific features have managed to improve an already awesome series. Despite the greatness of Double Trouble, the game isn't perfect by any means. There's some slow down in parts, there aren't as many memorable villainous characters this time around and the ones here aren't as charming.
In addition, the cut-scenes aren't as cool as those in the previous games due to the lack of voice-acting, and Jasmine's levels were disappointing as she wasn't as playable as I would have liked and was pretty much relegated to occasionally humorous squabbles with Joe as well as providing background support. But despite those minor issues, Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble remains one of the most stylish action games to come out of this generation.
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Viewtiful Joe DS
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