Developer: PlatinumGames | Publisher: Nintendo | Release Date: 2014 | Genre: 3rd Person / Hack & Slash | Website: n/a
Bayonetta was one of the most action-packed and over the top fighting games of its generation, so the fact that the sequel would be a Nintendo exclusive was a hard pill to swallow for many. However, after Sega shelved funding for the game, it was Nintendo who came to the rescue. The biggest fear for many stemmed from the fact that Nintendo is a very family-friendly company, and the Wii U is typically seen as a console for younger gamers. The thought of a toned-down and child-friendly version of Bayonetta just didn’t seem right. However, it looks like Platinum Games ignored all of this fuss and simply went ahead with creating an action game that is arguable even more over the top than the original.
Bayonetta 2 opens with everyone’s favorite Umbra Witch taking a break from all the angel slaying of the first game to indulge in a spot of Christmas shopping. Sporting a new shorter hairstyle and clad in a fashionable dress, nobody would ever suspect her of being an angel exterminator. Unfortunately for her, but fortunately for us, this peace doesn’t last very long and some angels soon show up to make a nuisance of themselves. Bayonetta wastes no time in getting involved and before you know it she’s on the wings of a plane dishing out punishment as it zooms about the city. It’s an incredible opening for the game and quickly quashes any doubts about the game being toned down. Bayonetta gets a new purpose when a summon goes wrong and a close friend ends up losing her soul to the depths of Inferno. This prompts Bayonetto to set out for the sacred mount of Fimbulventr where she hopes to find the Gates of Hell to mount a rescue mission. Along the way, she encounters some old faces, such as Luka and Rodin as well as a few new characters, like Loki. In typical Bayonetta fashion, the story is completely insane but hugely enjoyable.
Since the game is a direct sequel to the original Bayonetta it also retains the same playing style. The only difference now is that because the balance has been upset you’ll be beating up demons along with the usual angelic foes. The combat in the original game was already superb, but Platinum Games has managed to refine things, even more, this time around. Players can still dish out huge combos using a combination of fist, feet, guns and wicked weaves. The dodge move is also still essential for catching a break during frantic battles and dishing out punishment during the slow-motion segments it offers if performed correctly. There’s still a bit of button bashing when it comes to things like the torture attacks, but mercifully the reliance on quick-time events has been toned down considerably.
Now it is actually possible to enjoy the cut-scenes without having to worry about a random quick-time event with instant death penalty popping up unexpectedly. A new addition to the game is the Umbran Climax move, which can be used if your magic gauge is full. These are similar to the finishers used on bosses and allow you to extend your range and power for a bit while also regaining health. The overall flow of the combat also feels even smoother now and tearing through hordes of enemies is still a joy.
Most of the game takes place in and around Fimbulventr and the nearby town of Noatun. However, Bayonetta also takes a few trips to different planes and even into the past to experience the Vigrid Witch Hunts firsthand. There’s plenty of impressive set pieces and we were continually stunned by the amount of detail that Platinum was able to cram into the Wii U. The game features tons of new enemies with plenty of variety between them. The most impressive part of the first game was undoubtedly the massive bosses and Bayonetta 2 doesn’t disappoint in this regard either. In fact, it feels like there is more of an emphasis now on fighting bosses instead of having to wade through levels of weaker enemies to get to them. On the other hand, it also means that the 16 levels in the game have way less puzzle and platforming sections, which might disappoint some players.
We already mentioned the great-looking visuals, but Platinum Games actually managed to get everything running smoothly as well. Bayonetta 2 runs in 720p and can maintain 60 frames per second for the most part. Some of the bigger summons take their toll on the frame rate, but never to the point where it impacts the gameplay. There are plenty of jaw-dropping moments in the game, such as the battle between Bayonetta and her new rival, a masked Lumen with the ability to summon creatures of his own. Duking it out mid-air with your foe while your summons battles each other in the background is quite a sight to behold and there are plenty of similar scenarios. The game not only looks a lot more colorful than the original but also tends to feature more imaginative levels too.
The game is still very linear, but witch tombs are once again scattered around to be found for rewards and Muspelheim challenge arenas function the same as the Niflheim portals of the original. New weapons can also be unlocked by taking found Angelic Records to Rodin, which is also where you can spend your hard-earned halos on other goodies. One area where Platinum Games really went to town is the exclusive costumes for Bayonetta based on other Nintendo properties. We spent most of our halos on these outfits just to see what they managed to come up with. The outfits are based on everything from Link and Princess Peach to Samus and Star Fox. Even better, the changes are not just visual either, but each outfit also changes the game in some other way. For example, with the Samus outfit from Metroid, you can actually turn into a morph ball, perform screw attacks and use the Charge Beam while the Link outfit from The Legend of Zelda allows you to block damage with the Hylian Shield. It has to be said that some of the costumes, such as the Princess Peach one is extremely revealing, so if you don’t like fanservice you might want to avoid it. One look at these costumes should be proof enough that not only did Platinum Games not tone things down for the Wii U, but went and made the game even more risqué!
The audio is every bit as good as the first game and sees Hellena Taylor reprise her role as the voice of Bayonetta. The first game wasn’t exactly known for its convincing dialog and plausible storyline, so the voice actors do a decent job with what they are given. The exception is probably Loki, an amnesiac boy with an accent that seems to rub a lot of people the wrong way. Sound effects for the game are suitably raucous and there’s plenty of riotous tunes to match the action. Like the first game, which used Fly Me To The Moon as its theme, Bayonetta 2 has adopted Moon River by Andy Williams. It’s not quite as catchy as Fly Me To The Moon, but the new interpretation still sounds good.
Although Bayonetta 2 can be played with a touch-based control scheme we would strongly advise against it. The game is best enjoyed with a Pro Controller where you can feel in complete control of the action. Fans of the original game will know that you can strap weapons to the hands and feet of Bayonetta and then control her with a combination of fast and heavy attacks as well as dodges and jumps. Bayonetta retains all of her beast transformations as well, which allows her to turn into a panther for speed or crow for limited flight. There’s also a new addition, the sea serpent, which is very useful for the underwater sections. Also, some sections now allow you to pilot an awesome Umbra Witch mech and while there’s no motorbike to tear across a highway with this time, you do get to steer a demonic unicorn through hell. A couple of space harrier style levels and a surfing section round things out.
Thanks to three different difficulty settings as well as a host of unlockable characters the game isn’t lacking when it comes to replay value. Completing levels also rewards players with Verse Cards, which can be used in the brand new multiplayer mode. Each of the cards is tied to specific enemies and fights which players must complete alongside a friend or stranger. Halos can be wagered in this mode, with higher bets resulting in more challenging fights. It’s a neat addition to the series and a good way to earn some more halos for unlocking new costumes or items in the shop.
Overall, Platinum Games have defied all expectations to deliver a game that is every bit as good and in many cases better than its popular predecessor. It looks great, plays great and even cast a lot of the events from the first game in a whole new light, which is a treat for fans. The Nintendo exclusivity, unfortunately, means that some fans will miss out on the game, but anyone with the means to do so should definitely get their hands on Bayonetta 2. It’s not just the greatest action game on the Wii U, but one of the greatest action games of all time on any system.
Note: An updated version of Bayonetta 2 is now available on Nintendo Switch.