Bayonetta 2 is a
game that has had a lot on its shoulders since the day it was announced. A
sequel to 2009’s stylish action hit Bayonetta,
the series’ second incarnation caused an uproar online when it was announced
for Nintendo’s Wii U instead of Sony’s PS3 or Microsoft’s Xbox 360 where the
original made its home. The change of console and unexpected announcement of
the sequel meant it had a lot to prove: that the Nintendo install base would
buy a challenging, somewhat racy action title like Bayonetta, and that the series could survive when many were
unwilling to publish it.

While I can’t speak for the sales data, I can say that most
of what made the original such a great experience has transferred over to the

Bayonetta 2, like
the first game 
in the series, is an action game along the lines of Platinum’s other titles, including
The Wonderful 101, Metal Gear Rising and the recent Legend of Korra. The game’s story
focuses on the title character as she attempts to rescue her friend Jeanne’s
soul from Hell. Being a hundreds-of-years-old witch, Bayonetta has the ability to briefly summon the powers of demons
for her attacks, as well as transform into a host of different creatures. The
main setting of the story is a town at the base of a fictional European
mountain named Fimbulventr, said to host paths to both Heaven and Hell.

The game features some light platforming and puzzle-solving
elements, but the main focus of the gameplay is undeniably on the combat. Every
area has groups of enemies you’ll encounter and have to defeat before you can
leave the room and progress onward. While Bayonetta’s
default moves are executed simply by pressing the punch and kick buttons in
certain sequences, unlocking other moves in the shop gives her access to a more
varied movelist. This allows for long, complex combos for those who take the time
to learn the system. Combat is incredibly fluid, allowing almost any action to
be cancelled into almost anything else–jumping and dodging will both cancel out
of any attack animation, and can themselves be cancelled by beginning a new
attack string. While I’m usually a big fan of combat systems that force you to
choose the right time to use slow, powerful attacks (such as Monster Hunter or the original Castlevania), Bayonetta provides an interesting alternative and manages to be
very intuitive while remaining challenging at the same time.

The defensive aspect of the game heavily features the Witch
Time mechanic, which stops time around you as a reward for dodging an attack at
the last second. Unlocking certain accessories gives you other defensive
options, such as a parry for pressing the stick into an oncoming attack at the
exact moment it connects or dealing heavy damage instead of activating Witch
Time as a reward for a perfect dodge.

The game features a very large – but very smooth – learning
curve, giving you access to more complex tools as you progress and grading you
on your performance after every fight. Similar to many other Platinum games, Bayonetta 2 grades you partially on your
combo score, giving you greater rewards for longer, flashier combo attacks and
encouraging players to learn the system while still allowing them to progress
the game if they don’t. In my experience, it made me strive to learn more and
get better at the game even as I was scraping by with bronze and stone awards
in the later levels.

The game’s presentation and cutscenes are ridiculously
over-the-top in a very good way. The annoying
QTEs from the first game have disappeared, and the only thing interrupting the
crazy comings-and-goings of the game’s demons and angels is the gameplay
itself. And these supernatural beings are themselves wonderfully designed. The
demons – more or less newcomers to the series – are given a mechanical motif to
separate them from the more organic-based angels. One of my favorite things
about the angel designs is how they are presented as heavenly beings at first
but dealing damage to them breaks their masks and armor and shows strange,
alien beings behind the façade. Like the previous game, it’s chock-full of
references to both Sega titles and previous Platinum and Clover games. This
time, the game also pays respects to its new platform with some very blatant
Nintendo references in the form of costumes for Bayonetta herself, featuring
characters from Star Fox, Metroid, Zelda and Mario. Rather
than simply providing a cosmetic change, each of these costumes comes with its own
unique mechanics.

For all that I love about the game, there are definitely
some aspects I don’t care for as much. While the majority of the mechanics from
the first game have returned intact or improved, some aspects seemed to have
been dumbed down for more casual play. Your magic meter no longer depletes when
you’re hit, making torture attacks – a one-hit kill move that takes a full
magic meter at the start of the game – more of a thing that just happens
occasionally than a reward for good play. There are also no enemies present
that are immune to Witch Time, as there were in the first game. While the game
is still very challenging, even with these mechanic changes. However, fighting
those enemies and keeping myself safe long enough to get a torture attack on
higher difficulties were some of the most memorable moments of the first game,
and I was sad to see them go. I would also say that the game’s “hype” level
doesn’t quite live up to the original game or even The Wonderful 101, though
that’s a minor complaint and the game’s story is still very exciting.

All in all, Bayonetta
is a worthy sequel to the first game and a worthy addition to any adult
Wii U owner’s collection. While there are a few changes I would consider poor
choices, they do little to detract from my overall appreciation of the game. If
Nintendo continues to publish games of this level of depth and polish, they’ll
prove the Wii U can be an excellent system for core gamers regardless of hardware.

SCORE: 9/10

-Edward (Left Knee of A7)

Pictures taken through Miiverse, title card via

Andrewhabara Avatar

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