Bayonetta 1 & 2 (Switch) Review
Somehow I’d slept on Bayonetta as a franchise. I knew it was pretty well regarded – heck, I even bought it more than once, but for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on I still never put any real time into it. Once I finally sat down with Bayonetta I quickly realised how stupid I’d been. Incredibly fluid combat, spectacular boss designs, and a vibe that doesn’t take itself too seriously combine to make a set of action games that I had no trouble playing for hours on end, and Switch is among the best ways to play them.
You could reasonably call Bayonetta and the character-action games of it’s genre spiritual successors to the arcade beat-’em-ups of the 90s. That description gets you some of the way there, but there’s a lot more going on here than simple button mashing. Bayonetta is all about using her witchy powers to artfully dodge your opponents’ attacks and return fire with your own combos. As a character, Bayonetta conducts herself with immense self-confidence, and this is reflected in how combat feels to control. Without any great effort you can dodge at the last moment and enter Witch Time, where the flow of time slows for everyone but Bayonetta and she can riposte with a flurry of quickfire attacks.
Difficulty is handled well, making both games more accessible to players than I had expected. Personally I found the ‘Normal’ difficulty to be a fantastic balance – offering a formidable challenge, but never to the point of frustration. Once I’d intuited the timing of enemy attacks and found a combo or two to get in some quick damage after a dodge, the encounters became a creative combat dance with my foes. You can begin with one or two combos, but as you progress through the game you’ll unlock and discover new combos, movement and weapon options – experimenting with these once you’re comfortable with the basics is joyous. Gradually discovering new ways to incorporate cool techniques into your repertoire is immensely rewarding, but absolutely not a requirement for success. Both Bayonetta games are entirely possible to complete with only the most basic of techniques if you don’t feel the desire to play around with new combo possibilities.
For those who feel the game is too fast paced, easier difficulty modes offer some thoughtful adjustments to how the game plays to make encounters more lenient. ‘Easy’ and ‘Very Easy’ difficulty modes adjust enemy movement speed and make enemies take longer pauses between attacks, which can be useful if you find it difficult to keep up with the games’ generally frantic pace. Very Easy mode also introduces health regeneration to mitigate any stress around health. Additionally, both the Easy and Very Easy difficulties allow you to use an ‘Automatic Mode’. First seen in the Devil May Cry games, Automatic Mode is intended to allow one-handed play by automatically positioning your character during encounters and allowing you to perform attacks with less complex button sequences. These different difficulty modes and options mean that Bayonetta 1 & 2 are both accessible to a wide range of players , and while I didn’t find myself drawn to them, they’re a great inclusion.
From the character herself to the world she inhabits, everything about Bayonetta is larger than life. Bayonetta is among the last of a clan of Umbran Witches, fighting a war with heavenly Angels in the background of our perceptible reality. Bayonetta herself is a divisive character, she certainly asserts her sexuality and dominates every scene she’s in through sheer force of will. I found that her over-the-top nature played right into the way she played – her combat techniques perfectly reflect her bold, assertive manner. The enemies she fights are similarly spectacular. Bosses in particular are pretty incredible, being astonishingly creative in design whilst seeming both feasible and entirely out of this world. Often the sheer scale of the arenas and bosses will dwarf Bayonetta in size, but her stupendous personality makes her more than an equal opponent.
Given the massive scale of the environments and characters, it’s impressive how consistently both Bayonetta games perform on Switch. While I admittedly didn’t do any pixel counting or frame rate analysis, both games never felt like they dipped from 60 frames per second (aside from during cutscenes, which play at half that). Performance in handheld mode is similarly impressive – it seems to be running in the native 720p resolution (to my eyes anyway), and as a result it looks super sharp while still maintaining consistent performance. Switch is absolutely the best-performing way to play Bayonetta 2, and aside from the PC version, the best way to play the first Bayonetta too. It’s an impressive overall package.
There’s a reason Bayonetta is revered amongst fans of character action games. While Bayonetta as a character might deter some people from giving the franchise a chance, there’s an incredible set of action games in this collection. As I said right at the beginning, after playing both Bayonetta games for the first time on Switch I was kicking myself for not trying them sooner. The characters and utter spectacle of the environments and encounters are impressive, and the flow of combat is immensely satisfying whether you keep it to basic dodges and ripostes or get experimental with combining techniques. Both games are adjustable to your preferences as far as difficulty, game speed, and complexity – even if you’ve been intimidated by similar games in the past, you can get in on the action here.
Stylish, spectacular, and satisfying, the Bayonetta games are among the best action titles I’ve ever played.
Rating: 5 / 5
- Stylish, fluid combat
- Spectacular worlds and enemies
- Flexible difficulty options
- Creative weapons and combo possibilities
- Bayonetta's character will be polarising