Viewtiful Joe 2 Review

Although Viewtiful Joe 2 may seem way too similar to its predecessor, this sequel has enough new additions to make it feel as inventive as the original.

The world as we know it is in danger as somebody needs to get a set of statuettes that have the power of a happy ending. Well, who better than our favorite hero Joe? As its name indicates, Viewtiful Joe 2 is the direct sequel to Viewtiful Joe, one of Capcom’s most unique games ever. The original was a cel-shaded, 2.5D platformer that paid homage to super sentai series and B-movies. But what made that title stood out was the fact that it had an enthralling gameplay that mixed raucous action sequences with great puzzles. In addition, Viewtiful Joe encouraged players to defeat enemies in unique and stylish ways by using some of Joe’s absorbing VFX powers. The first game in the series concluded in a sudden cliffhanger that desperately hinted the existence of an upcoming second part, fortunately for us, the sequel includes every element that made the original so fresh at the same time it incorporates some unexpectedly pleasant changes.

At the end of the original Viewtiful Joe, the main protagonist was able to escape Captain Blue’s flamboyant Movieland and managed to rescue his girlfriend Sylvia. But right at the end, when Blue revealed that he is Sylvia’s father, he was captured by a new villain called Black Emperor. Now Joe has to unravel Black Emperor’s plans before this evil antagonist conquers the Movieworld. Joe’s main objective is to recover seven Oscar statuettes that contain the power of a happy ending, the problem is that these are in the hands of several bosses which you need to defeat to move on with the story and reach the aforementioned happy ending. Thankfully, Joe isn’t alone this time around as Sylvia is also available as a playable character, adding variety to both the story and gameplay.

Basically, by pressing L2 you may alternate between the two characters. Both of them control in pretty much the same way, the only difference being that Sylvia uses her gun against her enemies instead of punching them like Joe. On the other hand, Joe’s abilities and attacks have remained untouched and when controlling him you may use characteristic moves such as Slow, Mach Speed and Zoom. Other moves include punches, kicks, uppercuts and the characteristic double jump. Furthermore, each character has a unique ability associated to him or her, so for example if you want to use Mach Speed you need to select Joe, but if you want to use Replay you will need to change to Sylvia. As you may have guessed from this description, this is quite useful when you are asked to solve some of the fairly convoluted puzzles as most of them encourage you to juggle between both characters a couple of times in order to find the solution.

Please, refer to him as “Sargent Rex.”

Sylvia’s Replay is probably the biggest addition to the huge repertoire of abilities. Replay can be activated by holding down the R1 button and if you kick at the same time, Sylvia will immediately attack three times. Then, Slow and Mach Speed are also available and both of them are quite useful to solve the multiple mind-bending brainteasers that break the pace of the game. These puzzles require a perfect combination of speed and precision so you’ll probably spend more time thinking about them than actually solving them. Also, while Slow is more convenient during fights and platform sequences, triggering Mach Speed may allow you to set yourself on fire, making your attacks much more effective against certain classes of enemies. It it’s worth pointing out that these special moves consume your VFX bar and should you run out of energy you go back to being regular Joe or Sylvia for a short period of time.

Overall, I found Joe’s moves much more appealing to use. Maybe it was because I recently played the first game in the series and I was more used to his attacks than Sylvia’s, but I found his combinations of punches and kicks not only more effective, but also more fun to use. In fact, I only ended up using Sylvia when the game asked me to complete a puzzle that specifically required her. But apart from regular platforming sequences you also participate in an underwater one. Although not particularly long or deep, this part is really entertaining and rewarding so it’s a shame that there simply aren’t more of these. Basically, in this mission your little spaceship (called Six Machine/Six Drill depending on the character you use) transforms into a little submarine/driller and you fight special classes of enemies under the sea.

Another aspect that hasn’t changed at all is how at the end of each section your performance is graded. The faster you complete the level, the better you defend and the more points you get grant you extra V-points which you can spend in the power-up section. In this shop, a variety of items (like Voomerangs, bombs, lives, retrys) and abilities (an improved kick attack, a slide move and so on) are available for purchase.

But even when Viewtiful Joe 2 may seem awfully similar to its prequel, it does include some fitting changes. Apart from featuring Sylvia as a new playable character, more enemies, villains and bosses have been included and each of them has a unique weakness that you need to discover and exploit to defeat them. All of them ooze a lot of charm and charisma and fortunately, the dialogue adds to the game’s distinct humor. Moreover, Viewtiful Joe 2 doesn’t feel as punishing as the original game and even though this title isn’t that hard, it shouldn’t be confused for an easy task.

“Sylvia Time!”

Another superb addition is actually a subtle detail that some may have overlooked.  You may now save and access the power-up section just before boss fights. Before, if you lost all your lives in one of these challenging encounters you were forced to restart and replay the whole section (not only the boss fight, but also the entire portion preceding it) all over again. Now this has been managed in a more forgiving and appealing way, making it a welcome addition.

Regarding the boss fights, these are definitely one of the highlights of the game. Each encounter is unique and each boss is funny in its own kind of way. You may think that a Tyrannosaurus Rex dressed in Karate clothes while driving a small tank is the silliest idea ever… and you would be right, but little details like this result in truly funny moments. Additionally, most of the boss fights make reference to films such as Jurassic Park, Aliens and Back to the Future, making these encounters even more memorable and thrilling. But this wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the fantastic voice acting and fans of the series will be pleased to know that most of the actors who participated in the original Viewtiful Joe reprise their roles as the main protagonists. The unique sense of humor is also complemented by the gorgeous cel-shading technique which definitely adds to the game’s peculiar tongue-in-cheek tone.

Although a worthy successor to the original, this title reuses a lot of elements from the first game, including enemies, characters, the graphics engine and even the HUD is way too familiar. And there lies the main problem with this sequel: it rarely feels as innovative as its predecessor. Thankfully, these elements are balanced enough that they never become wearingly monotonous. Another complaint with this game is that the Viewtiful Joe series was originally planned as a trilogy so this second part ends in another unsatisfying cliffhanger that feels forced and woefully inadequate.

In conclusion, this sequel’s iterative elements are so well balanced that their inclusion never gets tiresome or extremely repetitive. Even when there are some minor flaws with this title, the underlying experience is as intense and engaging as always. Viewtiful Joe 2 is a superb combination of compelling ideas that complement each other and work extremely well together. Fans of the original shouldn’t miss this sequel.