Although the series hasn't really taken off in the west, in Japan it's huge. Viewtiful Joe is not only a game but a cartoon and really has become one of the new anime characters for the eastern audience. However of course our focus is the west and here the game has only enjoyed moderate success despite the fact this is the third version to be released here. The developers have taken a different tact to the series for the PSP version which shows they understand the market and system well and, as it turns, out while it has its issues, it is still an extremely good VJ game that continues the traditions of the series well.
Following in the footsteps of the other games, it revolves around the fact that VJ is a movie star. This time around they are replacing Captain Blue once and for all and are looking for the new lead. Will it be Joe or Silvia? Or will a young new male and female combination take the leading role from under their nose? So a TV show is put together to find who should be the new Captain Blue. Yes reality TV shows have finally invaded the storylines of games.
However, there is a significant shift in how the game is played compared to other Viewtiful Joe games. Instead of being a side scrolling platform game, it is more now like a party game which is to be played among friends. We find it interesting yet baffling that the developers have put a game with such a heavy multiplayer focus on a platform which, while it has multiplayer capabilities, is not as easy to get going as picking up a control on the PS2 for instance.
So really the game is made up of a number of mini games which do become a little repetitive. You're pitted against another potential lead character and have to prove to Captain Blue that you are better, and then defeat a boss level. So for instance, one of the mini games tasks you with destroying the robots which have featured in the game since the first one and if you destroy more than the other character you progress. At first this seems really interesting and new but considering the game continues this as its main game mode, it becomes old very quickly. Joe and Silvia etc do have their slow down techniques amongst others continuing the tradition of the older games, but it doesn't seem implemented as well this time around.
What the developers have done though is develop a PSP game. By this we mean that it suits portability really well. It is a game you can play for hours if you want, but a quick five minute dash is also possible without losing progress. Also, the style of play suits a portable game and it is a game which gives you instant gaming action rather than something like an RPG which makes you run around for a little while. This also somewhat works to the games detriment especially when compared to other titles on the PSP.
One thing which really impresses is the cut scenes which are far better than what we have seen before. This is because the developers have included scenes from the cartoon and used the same animation techniques to display the storyline. However unfortunately in terms of the rest of the level design and visuals there isn't much to be happy about. The game flows quickly and there isn't much slowdown which occurs but because the game play is a little lackluster, the attention soon turns to how good the game looks and in many cases it doesn't stack up. The voice acting and music is typical VJ fanfare with the same voice actors coming in and it appears the same musicians as well.
While Viewtiful Joe did not turn out to be the best PSP game around we have to credit the developers for at least trying to make a portable style game out of something which really belongs more on the home consoles. Multiplayer across WiFi is how this is best played due to its focus on party style action but the single player will leave you wanting more, wondering where the rest of the Viewtiful Joe universe has gone.