US PS2 Version reviewed
Another day, another sequel: and this time, it's one we've been looking forward to for quite some time. Viewtiful Joe 2, now available in the US and Japan for both Gamecube and PS2, has landed at SPOnG. For those not familiar with Clover Studio's first outing, Viewtiful Joe is a revamped take on the traditional style of 2D scrolling action platform games, bursting with energetic gameplay and adorned with luscious cel-shaded artwork. It is a small but perfectly formed piece of classic contemporary gaming with a difficulty setting levelled at six-fingered ninjas. But despite the often frustrating level of challenge, most people who sampled these visceral delights were immediately brought under their spell.
For the most part, Viewtiful Joe 2 is as straightforward sequel as you might expect. It leaves the bulk of gameplay unchanged and carries on neatly from where the last game left off. That means, of course, that Joe's now-rescued girlfriend Silvia is free to join in the heroic activity. From victim to heroine in one fell swoop, it's certainly one up for the feminist cause. Well, actually, it's not really. Silvia, being a girl, can't fight hand-to-hand properly and so makes use of a nifty (and dual wieldable) laser pistol instead. And, like many video-game females, she's also faster than her male colleague. It's a strange one: but despite over 100 years of Olympic evidence to the contrary, the industry at large seems thoroughly convinced that women are faster than men.
But away from the politics of gender and back to the matter at hand. Straight from Viewtiful Joe 2's introduction, it's pretty obvious that Clover Studio has done little to shake up its formula. As with any sequel, that does mean that the impact of the original premise is vastly diminished: if you've played the first VJ then there's no novelty value here at all. And arguably that's a good thing, existing fans don't necessarily want novelty, they want more of the same. And newcomers want what the fans were talking about in the first place; so really, everyone's a winner (although only with a lot of practise and on the easiest difficulty setting).