The sight of a toon-shaded Dante sticking his tongue out at the audience can only mean one thing: Shinji Mikami was so incensed by Tsuyoshi Tanaka's direction of Devil May Cry 2 he has turned to art to vent his fury. Seriously, though, Dante is back, but this time he's fighting in Movie Land, home of the unexpectedly popular GameCube hero Viewtiful Joe.
But hang on, isn't Dante exclusive to PlayStation2? Let's freeze frame, zoom in, and take a look at this in more detail.
The answer is that there's double the good news. Alongside early details of the sequel, Capcom has confirmed that the first Viewtiful Joe game will be rereleased on PS2. Alongside all the viewtiful goodness from the original GameCube version, it's been confirmed is that Dante will be available as a playable character once the main mission has been completed. Trish, Dante's Ducati-obsessed sidekick, will also appear, though it's unclear if she plays a major or minor role in the game.
Viewtiful Joe 2, however, is a whole new game, destined for release on both PS2 and GameCube. The energetic plot that held the original together is unlikely to be radically overhauled for this sequel. Once again the evil Gedow Empire is launching an attack on Movie Land, and once again it's Joe's job to thwart the invasion and prevent a rift from forming between the celluloid world and Earth. This time, however, Joe is joined by Silvia. Transformed from the bespectacled damsel of the first game, she is to become a fully playable heroine complete with pom-poms and what can only be described as a 'zap' gun.
Along with Silvia's ability to bash the screws out of enemies with her cheerleader kicks and flips, her pink missiles should bring a fresh approach to combat. Both characters can be taken all the way through Story mode in either solo or co-op play, with the latter incorporating 'tag-team'-style combo attacks. Joe will be able to punch an enemy into the air so Silvia can finish it off with one of her ra-ra techniques.
As exciting as all this is, the VFX super powers were what made Viewtiful Joe so joyous first time round. Slow down, Mach speed and Zoom will all return, but there's also a new VFX power called Replay. Armed with this technique, players will be able to record a few moments of realtime action then replay it back to multiply certain bonuses. Hit Replay while Joe is scoffing a hamburger, for instance, and the health bonus he receives is multiplied by three. The same applies to damage inflicted on enemies, though a note of caution should be sounded: it's entirely possible for Joe to take three times as much punishment if the Replay button is hit at the wrong moment.
Production of the game has switched from an in-house team to Capcom's newly formed subsidiary Clover Studios. However, this doesn't imply any change of direction. Clover is formed substantially from staff drawn from the Viewtiful team - indeed, the studio is headed by Atsushi Inaba, who produced the original and stays at the helm for the sequel, and director Masaaki Yamada will also repeat his role.
Viewtiful Joe 2 was one of Capcom's headlining games at E3 and an end-of-year release is likely. Leaving plenty of time for you to dry-clean the cape and practice that 'Henshin-a-go-go' battle cry.
There's no confirmed release date for Viewtiful Joe 2