In the age of 3D game - where 'photorealism' is a highly sought after 'art', games often fall down on where it matters - fun, fun, fun. The 2004 GameCube release, with its Street Fighter cum Mega Man cum Double Dragon hybrid, sought to remedy that with its side scrolling 2D (with 3D environments) style and was a critical success.
A helpful introduction sequence introduces our hero who walks into the film set of Captain Blue's newest movie where a crime syndicate rushes in and makes off with the film. Joe's sis, Jasmine sets off to retrieve it and Joe has to help her. At first Joe lacks his 'Viewtiful' power but a nifty video recorder soon fixes this and it all boils down to just fighting, fighting and fighting. Viewtiful Joe, in his skin tight red spandex suit, is similar in style to the hilarity of Power Rangers or Ultraman TV shows of yore. It isn't all beat-'em up. There are puzzles to be solved using the DS unique input system, where players must occasionally 'think' before proceeding. The DS second screen (non touch-screen) is put to good use here in its ability to switch to VFX mode and also to solve puzzles. Mix it with spoof movie scenes, campy and cheesy one-liners and you got yourself a great portable game.
Viewtiful Joe's signature moves includes the usual jumps, kicks and punches. Like most fighting games, there are combos that can be achieved. As you progress you would be introduced with new VFX moves that among others involves scratching the screens, slowing down the action, Screen Sliding and Screen Splitting (in order to solve puzzles). The slow-motion feature is quite useful and isn't as gimmicky as other games. Slow Joe down to solve tricky puzzles or simply use it in a fighting sequence to punch bullets back. As you progress through the game you are able to upgrade Joe with new moves by purchasing these new moves from the Power-Up Screen. These requires you to collect V-Points which can be obtained through various items and also downed enemies (mostly Clownies) which turns into V-Points as they go meet their maker.
There are two levels of difficulty. Being a Viewtiful virgin, I started using the 'kid' mode but after 15 minutes of frustration on how mind numbingly easy the game was; I switched to the 'adult' mode. This was still pretty easy although the puzzles were slightly more complex. The enemies required more hits to down but they didn't actually get faster or tougher to beat - just longer. You also never get more than two enemies to fight with on the screen at any one time. This is probably more due to the DS hardware limitation than anything else.
I have been told that the console versions are much harder and longer although I believe Capcom would have thought about the whole issue that Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble would be a portable title and as such it always meant to be easy - just pick up and play - like any other DS games (eg. Mario Kart DS, Sonic Rush). While on the bus you can just whip it out and kick some Clownies before closing the lid when you need to disembark. The cel-shaded toon graphic is awesome and really push the DS through its 2D limit. It never once stutters out of breath and the frame rate is consistently smooth. The lack of multiplayer meant that re-playbility is pretty low but don't let that stop you because whatever the flaws, if you are a Viewtiful virgin like me, then the single player game is a whole lot of fun.
Great 2D toon-shaded graphics
Fast and action old school action
No Wireless of Nintendo WFC capability
Viewtiful Joe is released in the UK next month.
Buy now from Play-Asia or Amazon UK