Chris Sell
02 Apr, 2005

Viewtiful Joe 2 Review

GCN Review | Our favourite lycra-loving superhero returns to the PS2 and Gamecube.
The quality of last year’s Viewtiful Joe caught many gamers by surprise. It was cel-shaded, it was 2D, it was a brand new franchise from Capcom and it was originally Gamecube-only. It was a risky release, but you only had to play it for a few minutes to see why Capcom were so confident in it. Simply put, Viewtiful Joe was an outstanding game and Capcom have now followed up its success with a sequel for both Gamecube and PS2.

Movie Land is in trouble and the Black Emperor is back to his evil ways. This time around he’s attempting to rid movies of all happy endings through the attaining of seven Rainbow Oscars. Having turned Joe’s hero Captain Blue into the first of many Rainbow Oscars, it’s up to you to set things right. In keeping with the original, the story is an undeniably strange one which I could explain, but the games cheesy B-movie cinematics will do a much better job of it than I ever could.

Joe isn’t alone in his fight to save Movieland as his girlfriend, Sylvia, is along for the ride too. Those who have played the original Viewtiful Joe may recall being able to unlock Sylvia after completing the game in Adult mode. Despite her being a bit quicker than Joe, she had all the same moves and powers as he did so was little more than a cosmetic difference. Thankfully, Capcom ditched that version of her and decided to make her a character all her own. Sylvia now wields a gun and sports her very own VFX Power to boot. The addition of Sylvia’s gun makes you approach the game a bit differently. While the gun doesn’t have as much power as a punch, it offers attacking options at range and is capable of locking on up to eight enemies at once.

The Gamecube pad works surprisingly well for a game that is, at heart, a beat 'em up. X is your punch button (or gunshot with Sylvia), Y kicks, with the A button taking care of jump. You can double jump with a double tap of A. The stick (or d-pad) moves you around, with up and down directions performing your dodge moves, which provide the underlying depth that is the combo system. How it works it like this: when an enemy is about to strike, an icon of a yellow skull will appear either high or low on your body. Pushing the stick in the opposite direction to the skull will make Joe dodge the move, and will cause the enemy to become dizzy. At this time the enemy is weakened towards all of your attacks from standard punches to even his most deadly special moves.

Faster than a speeding bullet!

Faster than a speeding bullet!
The special moves in Viewtiful Joe are superb. As the game is set within a movie, your powers are based upon movie related techniques. The first move acquired is the 'Slow Viewtiful 'which is basically like 'Bullet Time'. The most obvious advantage of this is that you will have more time to react to things, so you can dodge enemy attacks easier and have more time to perform your own attacks. Also, combos and juggles are easier to execute, your attacks are stronger and on top of that, multiple attacks against multiple enemies can be chained together for larger point scores and greater rewards. Slow also allows you to dodge bullets and even strike them to return to, and damage, your attacker. Slow is no mere gimmick that's just in there to show off, it's the key to the games design and success depends on proper use of it. 'Mach Speed' is performed using the right trigger, which speeds-up Joe to super speeds. This allows Joe to obviously move and attack a great deal faster and it also allows you to deal with larger amounts of enemies at once. At its highest upgradable level, Mach Speed sends numerous copies of V-Joe around the screen during its use, which is useful for collecting items dropped by defeated enemies and attacking a larger number of enemies and background items.

Changing the speeds of the game aren't the only special moves at your disposal. By tapping the B button, the camera goes into 'Zoom' mode. This acts as an attack modifier where Joe/Sylvia's moves are changed yet again. Kick will now do a wide range spin kick move. Jumping will make a spiral upward flash of energy (damaging enemies) and holding punch will start a flurry of blows called the Red Hot One Hundred for Joe, with different results for Sylvia. The final special move new to Viewtiful Joe 2 is the 'Replay' ability which is exclusive to Sylvia. While Joe has 'Mach Speed' powers, Sylvia has a similar ability that if you successfully connect with an attack whilst holding R it will do 3 times the damage with 'Replay'. You also have to be careful because if you miss and are countered you will take 3 times the damage. This can be used in conjunction with any of her attacks and special VFX powers and it soon becomes apparent rather quickly that Sylvia is for the more advanced player. Sylvia doesn't really work well as an individual character but more like an alternate 'style' like in Devil May Cry 3, for example. Using her within combos can really reap rewards once you've learnt how to use her best, the 'replay' move being especially useful in achieving V-rated scores. If this were a 1v1 fighting game, Sylvia would be comparable to say another fighting stance that offers more moves in certain situations so those hoping for a whole new character may be disappointed.

Once you are familiar with all of the special moves and abilities of each character you can begin to experiment with combining them to create combos. For example, you may find yourself surrounded by a group of four enemies. One of them fires bullets whilst the others attack with feet and fists. Noticing the skull icon appear at your feet, you need to push up on the stick to dodge the incoming attack, and the first enemy is dizzied. You press and hold L, and the action slows down. A target appears around the foe, and you tap punch from your aerial position, sending him flying. You dodge the next attack, land, and launch a kick at the next enemy's legs, who then catapults into the air, whacking your first attacker in the process. You turn and uppercut the next enemy, just in time to see a bullet fly towards your head. Hitting punch sends the projectile back at the gunman, destroying him and carrying-on the chain. The guy you uppercuted is now descending toward the ground in a heap. You switch to Sylvia and hit a 'Replay' kick to smack the final two attackers. Finally, you let go of the L button, and time returns to normal with you left standing to appreciate the sheer carnage and destruction you just produced and your combo ends. And that's just a basic set of moves. Just wait until you start using the 'Mach Speed' properly and start using Sylvia the way she's meant to be played.

Of course, all this power is limited. Each time special attacks are used Joe must wait for his VFX bar (the source of Viewtiful Joe's power) to refill before it can be used again. Slow and Mach Speed drain this bar (as do all types of special move), so must be used with both skillfully and sparingly. This is to prevent you just speeding through a level, Mach Speed on, enemies smacked down in all directions. But, the VFX bar can be increased in size by collecting cans of film which are dotted around the levels. Collect 50 and it increases your VFX bar by another bar.

Defeated enemies drop 'Viewtiful tokens', and collecting them increases your Viewtiful total. The greater the combo employed using your special moves, the larger the number of tokens gained. The Viewtiful total is equivalent to cash, which can be redeemed in the 'shop' option at various points throughout the levels. The shop allows you to purchase many useful items, such as extra energy for your life bar, continues and health replenishing Hamburgers. More importantly, though, you can also buy further special moves and upgrade the power of existing moves. These add yet another layer of depth to the game, as each can be used with the existing specials in a multitude of ways. For example, buying the Air Joe move gifts you with mid-air combo abilities that makes opens up new doors to chaining attacks together for making bigger combos.

Welcome to Jurassic Park...

Welcome to Jurassic Park...
But don't go thinking VJ is all button mashing, because it isn't. The puzzles woven within the game are sublime. For example, early in the game your path is blocked by rivers of lava. With clever use of your different abilities and moves you can make it across. In another section, a leaky pipe drips onto a switch on the floor, but isn't large enough or heavy enough to trip it. Again, figuring out how to manipulate the physics of the game solves the puzzle and trips the switch. It's also pleasing to see that Sylvia plays a big part in the puzzle solving, especially with the use of her 'Replay' and shooting abilities. There's nothing here that's especially taxing on the brain, but they are all suitably rewarding once you figure them out and they regularly left me with a big grin on my face once solved. Such rewards in a game of this nature are a very welcome addition. When making a sequel it can sometimes be a hard task in creating new puzzles on existing themes, but with excellent use of both characters (Joe's resistance to fire during 'Mach Speed' and Sylvia to electricity during 'Replay' help create some clever ideas) the puzzles are arguably more varied than those in the original game.

It's not just the Puzzles either, the levels in VJ2 try to offer more variety this time too. Throughout the half a dozen or so levels, Joe and Sylvia will race through underground ruins on a rusty mine cart and explore the oceanic depths using two submersible renditions of the Six Machine, Joe's versatile vehicle of the first game. During these underwater stages, Six Machine changes in form and function depending on who pilots it. Using Joe gives you increased speed and firepower while using Sylvia and Six Machine gains a drill, letting you crush walls and burrow underground - both essential to make progress. There are more too, but there's no need to spoil that.

One of the most enjoyable features of Viewtiful Joe 2 are the boss encounters, which are frequent and challenging. The equivalent of 'mid-level' bosses appear, normally at the end of a section, and these require the use of many of your acquired powers. When first encountered, these enemies are often mistaken as the end of level boss, such is the difficulty. For example, early in the game, you face a fighter jet spewing bullets at you and dropping enemies at the same time - a tough proposition. Little do you know that it's actually a breeze compared to the real villains. The boss fights are really what turns this game from a good game, to a great game. For example, the boss of the first world, Big John, is a militaristic dinosaur loose in a Jurassic Park-style museum. Aside from trying to crush you to pieces and and set you on fire with his flame breath, he'll happily call for air support from time to time to drop bombs and other explosives from unseen aircraft above. Big John's attacks are based on patterns like all the great gaming bosses of our time, but just because it's easy to figure out his pattern doesn't mean it's easy to strike back against him before being flattened or burned. Each are very different, take various methods to defeat and some are even a puzzle in themselves. While a few may argue that they're not quite as unique and enjoyable the bosses found in the original game, they're still of high quality.

Much like the original, Viewtiful Joe 2 is full of colours and graphics that literally jump off of the screen. While it contains a huge amount of colour, its use of heavy black outlines is very much reminiscent of old comics. This actually helps in two areas. Firstly it creates the illusion of bringing the characters to the front of the screen, which obviously is a good thing as things get very busy in parts. Secondly, whilst using all your special moves like Mach Speed and Zoom, the colours are blurred to create the effect. The black lines help retain the shape of the characters perfectly.
Viewtiful Joe 2’s style is unmatched by any game out there. The characters themselves are wonderfully designed. Joe himself is instantly loveable and purposely dressed in a Red/Pink outfit to make sure he stands out the most. Sylvia, his girlfriend, is the typical American blonde cheerleader w/ pom poms. The Boss characters are a real laugh too. They range from screen filling T-Rex's to wild colour-changing Chameleons. Even the standard mid level enemies are nicely varied and share a good range of different attacks.

The levels themselves too are equally as stunning. Mysterious caverns, snow filled mountains and underwater depths are all wonderfully created and brimming with personality. The framerate, while solid, isn't as consistently smooth as the original game, but any slowdown you do get doesn't effect things greatly so it's not a major issue. Unfortunately there isn't a 16:9 mode but it doesn't really suffer from that as the characters are kind of stumpy anyway so it looks fine for widescreen users.

Sylvia happily demonstrates her new cheerleader routine.

Sylvia happily demonstrates her new cheerleader routine.
The Sound effects perfectly suit the games' style. Whilst using the Slow move for example, the sound matches the actions exactly as you would expect them to with a deeper, longer lasting sound with much added bass, which is an obvious cue to The Matrix. The music is the typical superhero movie electronic sounding cheese you'd expect which fits each level accordingly. The character voices are again, perfect for the game. Joe sounds like the cocky American he should do, Sylvia the average American cheerleader, while the bosses are all as cocky and mischievous as you would expect them to be, and so on. Joe's voice samples during the game are quite a nice addition as they help identify what you picked up. Pick up a Burger and he'll shout 'YUMMY!' and you know without even looking that you have just gained some health. It's such a simple thing that so many games forget, so its nice to see it in here.

The original Viewtiful Joe was made famous by it's stiff difficulty. In Viewtiful Joe 2 however, things are a little easier. Not only are the difficulty settings a little kinder this time around, save points are much more common. Having to repeat large sections of the game was one of the originals few faults, and Capcom have gone some way in fixing this by giving the player more checkpoints and save stations. The two initial difficulty settings are 'Kids' and 'Adults' (the latter of course being harder), though there are 2 harder settings to unlock beyond that. The game itself is around the 10 hour mark, so it's a decent length but some will find it a little on the short side, especially as there aren't any unlockable characters this time around.

On the plus side, Viewtiful Joe 2 includes a challenge mode, entitled 'The 36 Chambers'. Locked from the start, missions are unlocked as players progress through the game and meet certain criteria. As the name indicates, there are a total of 36 missions, each with its own objective, such as destroying a certain number of enemies within a time limit or surviving certain enemies for a set amount of time. 'The 36 Chambers' is quite similar to the 'event' matches in Super Smash Bros. Melee and as such, is an excellent source of replay value.

While the original game was a near faultless experience, Viewtiful Joe 2 does fall short in a few areas by comparison. The first problem with the game is its lack of freshness, something that Viewtiful Joe had in spades. It has only been about a year since the previous game so part of what made it so appealing has been lost in this sequel. The next problem lies with the bosses who just aren't quite up to the same standard as they were a year ago. Don't get me wrong, they're still highly enjoyable, but I feel the quality of those in the first game was slightly higher overall. Story wise I don't think Viewtiful Joe 2 is as funny as the original. Maybe it's because the 'shock' has worn off from the first game, but the villains aren't as funny as Davidson, Alastar, and Captain Blue of the original.

I also don't like how Joe plays second fiddle to Sylvia this time around. In the original, Joe did whatever he wanted to save Sylvia, he was his own boss. In VJ2 however, Joe listens to everything Sylvia says, and as soon as she says a word he runs over to her with his tail between his legs. I'd much rather Joe's character remained as it was rather than playing him off Sylvia for comedy value. Lastly I have to mention the lack of the two-player cooperative mode Capcom had promised early in the game’s development. There are no multiplayer modes in Viewtiful Joe 2 of any type, and that is a real shame considering this is one game in which a cooperative mode could have been superb with each character having different abilities. Capcom's decision in dropping this aspect of the game is such a shame and although it doesn’t hurt Viewtiful Joe 2 enough to change the score, the thought at some of the ideas they could have used had be salivating. Oh well, maybe next time.

Basically, Viewtiful Joe 2 is more of the same. That's not really a bad thing, especially when the first was met with such high praise, but there should have been more done with this to make it more of a sequel than an expansion of what was already there. For a game that oozed so much originality, it's a shame its sequel lacks any real innovation. The controls are still perfect, the levels remain packed with clever puzzles and waves of enemies and the bosses are just as swear-inducing as in the original. If you hated the first game, then don’t bother with this one. But for those that loved it then Viewtiful Joe 2 does a superb job at extending the pleasure further.
The Score
While Viewtiful Joe 2 is more of an extension of the first game than a true sequel, there's no denying that there's some top quality gaming available here. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Viewtiful Joe 2 Content

Viewtiful Joe 2 - Media update and new details
20 Oct, 2004 PALGN delivers intriguing new details and a new trailer – full details inside.
Viewtiful Joe 3 in the making?
28 Jul, 2004 Capcom stay tight-lipped after domain name is registered.
Viewtiful Joe 2 - First Trailer
19 May, 2004 New trailer showing off all new footage of the game in action.
9 years ago
heh, might have to pick this up... had a great time on the first (though it's not finished yet icon_rolleyes.gif)
9 years ago
When you get full mach speed thats when the game starts to get crazy - it takes a while to get use to the high speeds (you see four of yourself moving on the screen).

The second game looks really awesome, But I also need to finish the original - its so damn tricky..
9 years ago
Does anyone know where I can get VJ1? I really want to play that before VJ2. The only places I have seen it lately are online.
9 years ago
Best place is EB, there clearing them out for cheap (you buy it with one other item in the deal for 50 dollars)
9 years ago
yeah EB's westside have many copies as part of the 2 for $50 deal, so you'd be better off there than anywhere else...
9 years ago
tip: don't buy video games in new zealand
you can all probably guess the cause.
9 years ago
ObsoletE wrote
yeah EB's westside have many copies as part of the 2 for $50 deal, so you'd be better off there than anywhere else...
Could you please give me a link to the EB aus website, I could only find the US one.
9 years ago
There isn't an EB Australian site. You'll have to go to the shop.
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