Bayonetta 2 Review
Stylish, Savvy, Sexy
Bayonetta 2 is a game that doesn’t pull any punches. From the get-go, it doesn’t shy away from the lightning paced combat, seizure-inducing visuals, and Bayonetta’s over-the-top sexuality. It sets out to do exactly what it wants to; create an insane, non-stop, action game that never lets up until the credits roll. As far as sequels go, Bayonetta 2 surpasses the original in nearly every field, but I think the core game still has a few kinks to work out.
In this action-packed follow up, Bayonetta 2 puts players back in the gun-toting heels of the Umbran Witch as she fights to save her fellow partner-in-crime Jeanne from the Inferno, while trying to piece together why the forces of light and dark are out of whack. The story itself isn’t the easiest to follow and tends to simply provide enough exposition to move the game forward; the characters themselves are much more memorable, for better or worse. The returning Rodin is still a calm, cool, collected man of the underworld whose power is as mysterious as he is. The new character, Loki, is an annoying little brat that happens to be one of the most important characters in the plot. And Bayonetta herself continues to be an outrageous, confident, and sexy witch that always seems in control of her situation. The characters make the cutscenes interesting enough to watch, but the plot takes a backseat and really just propels the game forward into more interesting and diverse locations for the characters to perform unbelievable feats of physical and magical combat.
Where plenty of games hold the player back, the Bayonetta series does a great job at making you feel like you can do anything in-game that the characters can do in a cutscene. Through the use of both basic quicktime events and incredibly detailed and vibrant animations, one combo can easily feel just as impressive as anything that was choreographed in a cutscene. Bayonetta 2 constantly makes you feel just as powerful and as confident as the witch herself feels, which goes a long way when constantly facing insurmountable odds.
The combat is fast, combo-heavy, and requires players to master dodging. For every perfect dodge, Witch Time is enabled which slows down time for a brief moment to really wail on enemies. This also helps to build up your Umbran Climax gauge that fills up as you attack, combo, and dodge effectively. Once ready, you can power up Bayonetta for a short time and give her attacks more strength and range, making it a devastating and useful addition to your arsenal.
Utilizing the dodge and Umbran Climax is a sure-fire way to get a good ranking in your fights. Like every Platinum game, each encounter is rated by how fast it takes you to complete, how much damage you take, and how good your combo was. This constant evaluation may be a little intense, but always forces players to do their best. Every time I got hit, I would cringe thinking about my score getting lower and lower.
While you begin the game with Bayonetta’s classic guns on her hands and feet, it won’t be long before you unlock more weapons like scythes, swords, and whips. Each weapon has its own strengths and weaknesses but the fun part is figuring out how to mix and match. Many weapons can be placed either on Bayonetta’s hands or her feet and this will change how her attacks behave. For some enemies I loved using a bow and arrow from a distance, but would put a short range, powerful weapon on her feet for when enemies got up close. This degree of customization and variety in weapons is a huge improvement to the original game where I mostly felt comfortable using the initial weapons I had. In Bayonetta 2, nearly every weapon is useful in its own way and combining them to figure out the best uses for each presents a level of personalization much deeper than the first game.
Bayonetta 2 also boasts a hefty upgrade system should you choose to use it. Throughout the environments and enemies you face, there are halos to collect that can be used to buy upgrades, items, and costumes. These upgrades range from improving your health or magic gauges, unlocking new attacks, or even obtaining items with very specific abilities like activating Witch Time every time you get hit. There’s so much to gather, you can’t possibly collect everything in one playthrough making subsequent plays on harder difficulties a must if you hope to see everything the game has to offer. My personal favorite touch is the addition of the Nintendo themed costumes. These costumes dress Bayonetta in garb inspired by some of our favorite Nintendo characters, from Fox McCloud, to Princess Peach, to Samus Aran. If the visuals alone weren’t goofy and awesome enough, some costumes actually have their own unique abilities, making them even more alluring to acquire.
My biggest complaint with Bayonetta’s combat is that despite all these additions and ways to customize your experience, it really is as fun as the player makes it. At its core, you’re basically punching, kicking and dodging without the game ever giving hints or ideas of what works and what doesn’t. I could see a lot of players going in and never using or understanding the pros and cons of each weapon, or unlocking new attacks to vary up their experience. No matter how exciting the visuals make the combat look, it’s a fairly basic system. Even I couldn’t help feeling the core combat is a little more shallow than other character action games like Devil May Cry. Still, experimenting and playing around with everything the game offers really is fun and keeps things from being dull.
Though I doubt anyone would ever find Bayonetta 2 dull. This game looks fantastic and really shows what the Wii U can do. The lighting is some of the best I’ve seen on the system and the shiny sheen atop it all really goes a long way to make the details stand out. The characters and enemies all move fluidly and with very deliberate actions making things manageable in combat when all hell is breaking loose. Let me put it this way, when fighting a lightning-fast boss atop an exploding volcano while both of our demonic/angelic forces were beating the crap out of each other in background, I was able to keep track of everything and stay focused on my fight. It was moments like this that Bayonetta 2’s visuals truly impressed me.
The fast-paced nature of the game yearns for smooth framerate and for the most part, Bayonetta 2 is smooth like butter, but there were a couple times throughout my playthrough that the framerate dropped for a brief moment. This only happened when a large number of enemies and explosions were on screen and while noticeable, didn’t damper my overall experience of the game.
Surprisingly, Bayonetta 2 also includes a co-op mode called Tag Climax. In this mode you can team up with another player online to do battle in an arena filled with enemies of your choice. You see, in single-player you’ll unlock Verse Cards that unlock new battles in Tag Climax. Each one is a different set of enemies with a different halo reward. While you fight cooperatively with your partner, you’re also competing for the best ranking. Whoever comes out on top will get a hefty boost in halos. This mode isn’t the deepest but it’s a nice distraction and actually can be a beneficial way of gaining more halos to buy those expensive upgrades in the store.
I feel like Bayonetta 2 is the exact vision of what the developers set out to create. It’s a non-stop, action-packed game filled to the brim with ridiculous characters and outrageous moments. In the first cutscene you’ll watch a black Santa Claus drive up the side of a building to deliver Bayonetta her guns while she fights angels on a jet. If things like this make your cringe, Bayonetta 2 may not be for you, but I love it. Couple that craziness with a combat system that begs for precision with the ability to evade as well as a vast amount of customization and it’s one of those games that continues to be fun long after the credits roll.