PlayStation 2 owners who've never experienced the stylized, hyperkinetic platforming slugfest that is Viewtiful Joe will soon get their chance, since the game is hurtling steadily toward its mid-August release on the PS2. We've recently tried out a build of the upcoming port to determine just how smoothly Viewtiful Joe has transitioned to the PS2 and, more importantly, just what the hell Devil May Cry's Dante is doing in the game.
The best answer we've come up with is simply because Dante is cool--and, as his introduction states, because he is the one that "makes the Devil cry." In the version of the game we have, you can select between Joe and Dante at the title screen--so we were able to charge right in and see how the game plays with this new character. However, you'll have to unlock Dante in the final version of the game, although details about how he'll be accessed haven't yet been released.
From what we've seen so far, there's no grand new storyline to propel Dante forward in the PS2 version of Viewtiful Joe. In fact, in this build, Dante's introduction is quite similar to Joe's in that he's also in a movie theater watching essentially the same movie that Joe sees during his intro. Trish, (also from Devil May Cry), takes the place of Silvia, and events play out more or less the same (although why the nearly naked Dante is clad only in a speedo, we haven't figured out yet). In any event, Dante gets pulled into the same progression of levels that you know and love from the original game.
The similarities to the GameCube version when playing as Dante don't end at the introduction, since the gameplay using the new character is almost identical. You've got the same abilities to speed up and slow down time as Joe, although of course Dante's fighting moves have been tailored somewhat to match his character. You'll be able to use his twin pistols, Ebony and Ivory, to fire at foes, and when you're up close you'll whip out the famous demon sword Alastor. An assortment of stylish kicks rounds out Dante's basic move set. Playing as Dante here doesn't really feel any different than playing as Joe--it's mostly a style thing--but, of course, since the original game played so well, that's not really a bad thing.
Like with Joe, Dante will be able to purchase new moves in between levels by spending his stock of viewtifuls, which are the points you'll rack up by dispatching foes in a stylish manner. The moves and abilities you get here aren't radically different from those you saw on the GameCube--you can extend your life meter and special meter (which controls how long you can speed up and slow down time), and you can gain some new attack moves, like a downward diving kick and a boomerang-style move where Dante throws his sword at enemies. Again, this isn't wildly different stuff from the original game, but it's neat nonetheless.
The PS2 version of Viewtiful Joe looks and sounds pretty much identical to the GameCube original. There are no apparent differences in frame rate or image quality in this port, which is great news for anyone who hasn't seen the original game before. Viewtiful Joe has a highly stylized look that's somewhere between a comic book and a cartoon, and it looks especially appealing in motion. Again, there's nothing radically different from the GameCube game here; it's nice to see that the original experience has been preserved for PS2 owners.
From what we've played so far, GameCube-owning Viewtiful Joe fans won't find much reason to investigate this PS2 port, because although the addition of Dante is a novelty, he doesn't add any new depth to the gameplay. We'd view this game more as a favor to PS2 owners who will now have the chance to experience once of the best platformers, and indeed one of the most unique games, to hit any console last year.