The original Bayonetta arrived a few years back, met with critical acclaim on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Despite a fan base clamoring for a sequel, no one was willing to step up to fund Bayonetta 2. Sega remaining on board as only an advisor, it looked as if a sequel to Platinum Games’ magnum opus would never happen. However, it was also a time where Nintendo was looking for third party games on their new system, which led to the controversial partnership. A match made in heaven, or in this game’s case, hell — Bayonetta featured arguably the best action gameplay in years, the franchise given new life, Platinum has taken everything a step further with Bayonetta 2.
Taking an already exceptional archetype and trying to build on it is always a tough task, but the first step is to maintain a level of familiarity. Platinum Games does just that by bringing back many of the elements that made the first Bayonetta such a critical success in the first place (which is included with every copy of Bayonetta 2 by the way).
While Hideki Kamiya only served as a supervisor this time around, his far-reaching influence can be found all throughout Bayonetta 2, specifically with the gameplay mechanics that have returned. The basic combat found in the game certainly has roots from its predecessor, with easy to learn but still incredibly deep gameplay. Just like before, there are difficulty settings for the casual and hardcore fans. The latter is the much more satisfying option, as it requires absolute precision to survive. By executing combos and activating Witch Time, Bayonetta’s slick moveset is not only familiar but better than ever.
The first Bayonetta was full of fan service, with a moveset that helped to accentuate the idea, from the slinky movement of Bayonetta to the near nudity at times throughout the game. However, it never felt overdone or offensive at any given point, which is something that the sequel managed to avoid as well. The Umbran Witch maintains her overtly sexy design and seductive personality, but it never feels out of place in the game, as the developers continue to show off her penchant to kick ass first and foremost.
While Bayonetta 2 brought back many of the aforementioned elements in the sequel, Platinum Games also overhauled existing components while introducing new ones into the game that helped to propel it to new heights. Umbran Climax serves as the standout addition to the already profound combat system, by allowing the player to use Bayonetta’s Wicked Weaves for much more powerful attacks, with a finisher that summons an Infernal Demon. She already had the consistently gory Torture Attacks, but Umbran Climax quickly becomes a worthy weapon to add to her arsenal for use throughout the game.
The boss fights are undoubtedly one of the best aspects of Bayonetta 2, with an intensity that often forces Bayonetta to the skies. Many developers struggle to successfully craft flying stages in an action setting, without suffering from clunky controls or bad camera angles. However, the sky is the limit for Platinum, with the mid-air segments adding an entirely new layer of depth without being plagued by the complications of the past.
Bayonetta has never quite had a straight forward or even normal story, but Bayonetta 2’s is even more absurd than before. In this case, absurd is far from a bad thing, as a low-key story would not be fitting for such a game where witches are squaring off against angels and demons. Starting off not long after the events of the first game, Bayonetta 2 thrusts the player right into the thick of the story and quickly surpasses the original in almost every way. Rather than being extremely predictable, the story features plenty of mystery and twists to keep the player enthralled as he or she plays through the game.
Pacing can always be a problem in the cinematic action genre, where breaks in combat often feel disjointed and unnecessary. This happened occasionally throughout the first game, with short action segments being broken up by the story itself. Luckily, Bayonetta 2 has nearly perfected this art with much better placement of cutscenes to separate the abundance of verses throughout the game. There are still a few jarring segments that interrupt the action, but it is a major improvement. The ending chapters in particular are exceptional at increasing the tension exponentially.
Bayonetta’s slick moveset is not only familiar but better than ever
What sets apart Bayonetta 2 from the vast majority of other games in the genre is the avoidance of repetition, which can often lead to boredom. Just when the player might even come close to feeling tired by a certain location or gameplay segment, the game seemed to always introduce a new mechanic or stage type. The previously discussed mid-air sections play a major role here, but there are also plenty of other shake ups in the gameplay, such as mech suits, which are best experienced first hand.
Completely new to Bayonetta 2 is a cooperative online game mode known as Tag Climax. An excellent way to earn the in-game currency of halos, two players will team up to take down enemies in an arena setting. However, while the two are teaming up to fight enemies, they are actually competing with one another for high scores to receive better bonuses through betting. Having the ability to play with friends or a randomly paired partner, there is always fun to be had in Tag Climax. With the already top notch story mode and even the horde mode based lost chapters, Tag Climax feels almost like the icing on the top of the already delicious cake.
As mentioned before, Bayonetta 2 would not have been possible without Nintendo, which is all the more surprising considering the company’s propensity for more kid friendly games. While this is a Mature rated game, Nintendo did not stray away from allowing the use of some iconic franchises within Bayonetta 2 itself. Unlockable through Rodin’s shop, gamers can outfit Bayonetta in a variety of different costumes, including even Nintendo themed garb. Between the temptation to buy the other unlockables from the in-game store and with the proclivity for a player to better his or her various verse scores in each chapter, gamers will have no trouble finding a high level of replayability here.
These special Nintendo costumes are far from simple superficial changes either, as the collectible halos found throughout the game change depending on the costume, such as the use of rupees for the Link costume and coins for the Mario based ones. Not to mention the inclusion of their signature weapons in some way as well. While the somewhat revealing costumes are a little shocking coming from Nintendo, this was a very welcome addition to the game that really helped to solidify the Wii U exclusivity.
The influence of Nintendo with Bayonetta 2 is very visible with the available costumes, but also on a much more subtle level. With the Wii U not being able to compete power wise with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, games on the system have had to rely on other methods to amaze gamers graphically. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Mario Kart 8 both utilized the system to the fullest with unique animations and color choices. Moving away from the more muted designs seen in the first game, Platinum Games found a perfect mix of vibrant colors and creative designs that never felt held back by the less powerful Wii U.
Known previously for its controversial exclusivity announcement, there is no doubt that Bayonetta 2 will instead be revered for creating a new standard in the action game genre moving forward. By building on all the elements that made the first game a grand experience of its own, Platinum was also able to infuse new mechanics and game modes into the sequel that elevate it to new heights. With the intense level of replayability and the inclusion of the original Bayonetta in the package, this Game of the Year contender is a must buy for ANY Wii U owner.