One of the big draws of the Viewtiful Joe franchise is its unrelenting sense of style. Though it is like many old school brawlers where the objective is to run from point A to point B and basically smash everything in your path to smithereens, Viewtiful Joe takes this formula and pumps it full of pizzazz and spunk. Your final goal isn’t only to destroy everything in sight, but it’s to do it with style and grace. Of course, as anyone who has played the original would know, the only way to achieve this goal is to use VFX Powers.
Joe retains all three of his VFX Powers from the original game, namely Slow, Mach Speed, and Zoom. You’ll have to learn how to use each one of these powers perfectly in order to survive through any area of this game. Luckily, the game controls like a dream, letting players easily dish out combo after combo with relative ease. There’s nothing quite like being surrounded by five enemies and chain together a flurry of fists, feet, and VFX Powers to take them all out in one fell swoop.
Luckily, this time Joe isn’t alone in his fight to save the Movieworld. Along with him comes his girlfriend, Sexy Sylvia. Those who have played the original VJ will recall being able to unlock Sylvia after completing the game in Adult mode. Though she was a bit quicker than Joe, she had all the same moves and powers as he did. Thankfully, Capcom ditched that version of her and decided to make her a character all her own. Sylvia now wields a gun (which you can upgrade to two), and sports her very own VFX Power to boot. The addition to Sylvia’s gun makes her approach to enemies a bit differently. The gun doesn’t have as much power as a punch, but is capable of locking on and unleashing a barrage of fire, hitting up to eight enemies. This makes Sylvia good for wearing down enemies when Joe is getting a bit overwhelmed. Though the gun is fun to use, it’s Sylvia’s new VFX Power that really makes her stand out. Her new power of Replay replaces Joe’s Mach Speed ability. It gives her the power to record any one attack and play it back three times for triple the damage. Chaining this sucker into combos can result in devastating damage and huge points. Using the Replay ability also briefly engulfs Sylvia in electricity and makes her invulnerable to electric attacks, much like Mach Speed does for Joe and fire. Capcom also implemented an interesting drawback to this power as well. If the Replay power is activated when Sylvia takes damage, that attack will play back three times and she will receive triple the damage. This means you’ll really have to be careful when using Replay, or you could end up paying with your life.
You’ll need your VFX Powers for more than kicking butt, though. Capcom has thrown in some very clever puzzles in Viewtiful Joe 2, even more so than the original. The first game’s puzzles, while fun, weren’t exactly brainteasers. The sequel brings to the table much more involved problems that may actually stump you for a while. They frequently require you to use multiple powers at once and some even involve using both Joe and Sylvia to solve.
Besides your VFX Powers, the single most important thing you’ll need in this game is life. Just like the original, Viewtiful Joe 2 delivers a mind-numbing degree of difficulty. Developers of this game have stated that many thought the first VJ was too hard, so they decided to tone down the difficulty a bit in this one. I’m telling you now: don’t believe a word of that baloney. Viewtiful Joe 2 is every bit as hard as (and in some aspects, even harder than ) the original. Because the game assumes that you have played the original already, the difficulty curve is much steeper. In the original, the first level or two let you get used to your new powers with enemies that had simpler attack patterns, easing you into the game. The sequel slams you right into the action, no holds barred. Even if you’ve played the original, unless you’ve been constantly pounding away at it until now, you’ll need a while to get your groove back on. I found myself losing lives in the first level before I finally remembered how to do everything. Viewtiful Joe newbies should beware that this game is no walk in the park. The game also relies on an almost cheap way to punch up the difficulty by adding very few checkpoints. Each level is broken up into different “acts,” and at the end of the act, you will be able to save. It sounds fair on paper, but trust me, toward the end of the game, each one of these acts will drive you to near insanity as you desperately try to get to that elusive save spot before your precious lives run out. You will sometimes have to fight multiple bosses in a row without being able to save (or restore your life) between them.
Difficulty isn’t the only thing that this sequel carries over from its roots. Viewtiful Joe 2 shares the exact same graphical style as the original. Just like the first game, the world of the movies is heavily cel-shaded and everything is covered with a thick black outline, giving the whole game a very comic-book look to it. Colors are bright and vibrant as ever, animations are fluid, and the VFX effects look great. Sylvia’s new Replay power is extremely well done and really gets in that feeling of doing some major damage. There’s no doubt that this game contains some of the most visually stimulating graphics on the GameCube and it is almost as fun to watch as it is to play. There are also a few hints of slowdown here and there when the action onscreen gets a little bit too intense, but it doesn’t interfere with the game play too much.
Similar to the visuals, the music style and sound effects are identical to the first game. You’ll hear the same catch phrases like, “Henshin a go-go, baby!” and many of the same catchy themes and melodies running throughout the game. Of course, there are new voiceovers to go along with the new story, and they are done in the same great, campy style.
Viewtiful Joe 2 is about 10 hours long, but it also includes a little feature called the 36 Chambers to lengthen itself a bit. It’s basically 36 challenges that put you in situations like clearing rooms in a certain amount of time or climbing a tower of ice. You can unlock rooms by beating certain levels and meeting specific conditions. These are fun to play, but there really isn’t any reason to go through the single player game again once you beat it in adult mode unless you are trying to master all the insane difficulty levels. The original had a bevy of unlockable characters, each with a comedic spin on the story, making multiple playthroughs interesting and fun. Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be any hidden characters to unlock in this game, which is a shame considering there were so many in the original.
The Viewtiful Joe series is a lot like another big Capcom mascot, MegaMan. Like the Blue Bomber, the Red Hero goes through differently themed action/platforming stages and eventually fights a crazy boss. And like the sequels in the MegaMan series, Viewtiful Joe 2 remains in very similar territory as its predecessor. Luckily, instead of keeping everything the same, Capcom has added a brand new playable character, Sylvia, and instead of making her a throwaway feature, they instead opted to make her a character all her own with unique strengths and weaknesses that complement Joe’s. You will have to constantly switch between the two to get through the game. It is this excellent implementation of teamwork between the two that makes Viewtiful Joe 2 more than just a cookie-cutter sequel and adds in a new layer of depth to the original formula. Fans of the first Viewtiful Joe will find everything that they loved about the first game and more. However, because the game still looks, sounds, and feels like the original, critics probably won’t be swayed by it.