Viewtiful Joe 2

Is Joe's latest adventure... viewtifuller... er, viewticious, um, more viewtiful? What the hell. Is it better?

GameCube, PS2
Clover Studio

By Gavin Frankle

Clover Studio, it would seem, have fallen victim to their own genius. So suffused with charm, innovation and outstanding gameplay was the original Viewtiful Joe that unless conceived in the very fires of Creation, with the blessing of untold legions of Seraphim and then delivered to Earth by nothing short of divine prophecy, the sequel was doomed to disappoint.

Though initially rather startling, the lack of anything truly new should not be taken as an overly harsh indictment, for Viewtiful Joe 2 delivers exactly what many were left clamoring for upon completion of the first title: More. That it is more of the same is not an altogether unpleasant notion, in fact, given the esteem in which Viewtiful Joe is held, more couldn't possibly be a bad thing.

More of course, means that along with the delectable gameplay, the pervasive camp of the first title has all but infested its successor, which simply bristles with melodrama. The Ghetto Syndicate, a nefarious band of villains, comprised of a not altogether unfamiliar cast of reprobates, have invaded Movieworld and are up to all kinds of malfeasance as they search for the seven Rainbow Oscars; baubles of considerable power that hold the secret to the Happy Ending. Can our Viewtiful heroes retrieve the Rainbow Oscars in time? If Joe can't do it, no one can!

The fundamental concepts of the VFX system are exactly as they were before, in that the utilization of any VFX power will drain your VFX Gauge until such time as it empties, forcing your character to renege to their normal form. By collecting 50 V-Films you will accrue an additional unit of V-Gauge power enabling you to initiate any of the VFX powers for a greater duration of time. The style and effectiveness with which you dispatch the Ghetto Syndicate's minions accrues V-Marks and subsequently V-Points which can be used to purchase additional power-ups and abilities that will aid you in your adventure.

The eponymous Joe returns this time around with not only his collection of VFX powers in tow, but with Sylvia, who, while little more than window dressing in the first adventure, is now a playable character. Moreover, her abilities differ markedly from those of her beau's; lacking Joe's brute strength, she employs a gun (two, once the appropriate power-up is purchased) to considerable effect. While both are capable of slowing time and employing the Zoom functionality, each has a single, wholly unique manifestation of VFX power.

Joe, for his part, retains his ability to speed up time, allowing him to move at considerable speed, spawn multiple copies of himself and to extinguish flames. Sylvia, however, possesses an all-new VFX power called Replay that, when initiated, allows her to inflict triple the damage of any successful physical attack. Conversely, should Sylvia take damage while Replay is engaged, it is she who will be the recipient of a beating thrice multiplied.

Naturally, the application of these powers extends beyond the visceral, requiring players to make use of the inherent abilities of each character, sometimes in quick succession, in order to solve or successfully complete environmental puzzles that impede your progress; the solutions to which are not always immediately evident, but always satisfying. The breadth and scope of puzzles never ceases to amaze. It is noteworthy that puzzle-solving plays a more prominent role in this second title, ostensibly to ensure that one character does not become a vestigial part of the game.

To facilitate this, the developers have included what has been christened the Viewtiful Touch (or V-Touch) system. By pressing the Z-button, players can, in real-time, switch between Joe and Sylvia in order to best make use of their unique powers. So too, the V-Touch system proffers an offensive edge. Holding the Z-button instead of tapping it will allow players to, at the expense of some of their VFX Gauge, execute a tag-team attack.

Six Machine, too, makes his presence felt in this incarnation, offering unique Drill and Submarine forms depending on which character is at the helm. As before, controlling Six Machine, while no less hectic than the regular stages, offers a nice change of pace from the puzzle/action formula that pervades much of the game.

Once unlocked, players looking for an added challenge can avail themselves of The 36 Chambers. Here, players are presented with thirty-six unique challenges, each of which is locked until such time as specific requirements are met within the main game or within the challenges themselves. Though they offer a disparate set of objectives that range from beating all enemies without getting hit to breaking a collection of boxes within the allotted time, a single theme running through each of these challenges is that they are exceptionally difficult and will test the mettle of even the best players.

At first glance one might think that Viewtiful Joe 2 looks exactly like its progenitor, and that's because, well, it does. As is the case with the gameplay, VJ2 inherits much of its aesthetic from that of the first title, with only minor tweaks to the interface and a slightly more vibrant gameworld added for good measure. The amalgam of second and third-dimension, fluid animation and panoply of effects, however, make for an enticing and mesmerizing package that even now seems fresh. Character design remains a strong-point of the series, and the conglomeration of anthropomorphic boss characters such as Cameo Leon are as suitably offbeat as anything seen in the series to date.

Offbeat, while an apt description for much of the title, flounders in the face of audio presentation that is well, bizarre. From the amusing quips -- "Okay, go see what she wants" -- when you pause the game to the cheese-laden narration to the esoteric soundtrack, the audio is a succinct depiction of what it is that makes Viewtiful Joe so appealing. Unconventional, off-center but always enjoyable.

Derivative, in the case of Viewtiful Joe 2, can be construed as nothing short of a compliment, derived as it is from one of the finest, most ingenious creations of this era. Granted, it does nothing to further the franchise, but by golly, if Megaman can get away with it for fifteen years, then Joe can too. Just this once, though.

Graphics Sound Gameplay Depth Presentation OVERALL
8.5 8.5 9.0 8.5 9.0 8.8

Viewtiful Joe is more than worth its asking price, but if it behooves you to do so, then buying a copy as a show of piety with Clover is not something we'd admonish you for. I mean, hey, some of us bought Stretch Panic, right?

Video Coverage
(See Latest Videos & Video FAQ Here)
Viewtiful Joe 2
Direct feed new trailer (640x480, 1.6Mbps)
3.10m 36.0 MB WMV
Viewtiful Joe 2
Direct feed trailer (640x480, 1Mbps)
2.03m 15.65 MB WMV
Viewtiful Joe 2
Showfloor gameplay (640x480, 1Mbps)
1.25m 10.77 MB WMV

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