It’s been four years since Bayonetta came out, and given how much of a veritable romp it was – it was hard to believe that Platinum could ever top what they did with the game. Further titles they put out, including Metal Gear Rising and Wonderful 101, managed to do just as good a job, if not better at cramming as many high octane situations into a video game experience.
With Bayonetta 2, while spearheaded by a different producer and director, Platinum Games have managed to craft a sequel that largely eclipses its predecessor to provide an action game experience no other. While the praise might seem hyperbolic – one thing is abundantly clear – Bayonetta 2 is one of the best experiences you can own on your Wii U without a doubt and one that almost anyone can play too. Lastly, it’s perhaps one of the strongest pieces of evidence as to why an iterative sequel is not a bad thing, especially when built on the right foundations.
Bayonetta 2 takes place a few months after the events of the first game. Bayonetta is on a (presumably) lavish Christmas shopping trip with Enzo, her information broker, and is interrupted when angels hijack a routine performance for the city, forcing Bayonetta to suit up and fight back. During her battle, Bayonetta summons one of her infernal demons, who escapes his summoning portal and attacks Jeanne. Sending her soul to Inferno, Bayonetta must embark on a journey to save her friend while meeting a mysterious new threat in the masked Lumen Sage along the way.
Okay, I’ll be honest here, Bayonetta 2’s storyline is easily the weakest aspect of the game but I’d be remiss to not highlight that almost every Platinum Games title suffers from the same problems. This is a game first and foremost and while I’d be quite unforgiving on a game with a lacklustre story with rather predictable, if not nonsensical twists, Bayonetta 2’s tight and polished gameplay and set-pieces more than make up for it.
The game plays pretty similarly to Bayonetta. Bayonetta can kick and punch her way through enemies, ending combos with either a devastating Wicked Weave attack (conjured with her hair, yes, we know) or a gruesome torture attack. Weapons, depending on what the game allows, can be equipped on either Bayonetta’s hands or feet or both. Obviously, equipping certain weapons to certain limbs will vary their effect and the combos available to the player, but as we said in our Bayonetta review it already opens up the combat to a wide variety of options for the player.
Bayonetta 2 only seeks to widen these options for the player – attempting to subvert anything and everything that the first game put in place. One sword in the first game? Give Bayonetta two of them in this one. The standard enemy having two feet and one weapon? Make them quadrupeds with multiple weapons! The only thing that’s been scaled back, in all honesty, is Bayonetta’s haircut which suits her much better than the last one, if we’re being completely honest.
Once such example of scaling things up is the new Umbran Climax feature, which allows Bayonetta to use her magic gauge to bolster all of her attacks with Wicked Weaves, adding not only a gigantic visual spectacle but also increasing the power of her attacks. While it’s not, by any means, a game changer in this genre, it’s a nice touch that makes the game much more accessible. I’ll confess I didn’t rely on it a lot, but for people like me, the magic gauge can be sacrificed to initiate torture attacks just like the old game. This is a prime example of how Bayonetta 2, as a sequel, doesn’t ostracise its old fans but also makes efforts to bring in new ones to make the experience more accessible without compromising it’s depth and complexity.
The abilities you love all make a return still, with minimal changes, if any. Bayonetta can still dodge attacks at the last minute to trigger the captivating Witch Time mechanic to lay the smack down on her enemies. She can still purchase a slew of abilities from Rodin, including some new additions that are minor but build upon the steady foundation laid by the original game. Almost all the techniques you’ve come accustomed with will be featured in some form in Bayonetta 2, so people jumping straight in from Bayonetta will feel right at home.
But the encounters and set-pieces are much better in terms of design, scale and spectacle. Every situation demands your attention but at the same time never feels too unfair or too overwhelming – Bayonetta is outfitted with the tools to handle almost any situation and the sheer amount of variety and flexibility in combat, so you never feel like you’ve been thrown in the deep end. The minor elements that have been improved, such as the animations, help to add a better sense of flow and visual feedback to the combat for players. These minor touches, which I can only describe with the bromidic metaphor of icing on the cake, perfect the gameplay rather than add anything drastic.
Similarly, boss battles are designed in a manner that requires your full attention but feel incredibly satisfying to defeat. Most of the boss battles in Bayonetta 2 take on more of a gigantic flavour, with fewer of them being humanoid as in the previous game. My only complaint with Bayonetta 2 would be to see more of these boss battles but this is purely a personal choice. The boss battles on offer here are absolutely fantastic, and the sheer variety of enemies on offer to do battle with is astounding considering how much variety was in the original game.
Some of the bosses’ size lends to them a massive spectacle, a visual feast of sorts that’ll leave players with a grin from ear to ear. One of the boss battles is against a giant gold plated snake that you’ll do battle with while riding on a piece of debris surfing through a giant waterspout/tornado. And that’s just the first one you’ll encounter. Others are armed with ball and chains, lasers, swords or even swords that shoot lasers. And despite how intimidating these bosses are, you’ll feel like an absolute force to be reckoned with when you take each of them down.
The other major new addition is the Tag Climax mode, which sounds pretty gross but it’s actually a pretty fun distraction. Playable with the CPU, or online with a friend, it allows you to take on a group of levels and wager who will come out with the higher score. The higher the wager, the more difficult the situations will be and thus the greater the reward. There’s even different playable characters too, each with their own unique characteristics that help add uniqueness to the battles. Thankfully, the online performance and procedure to get into a match are smooth too, which is a very nice surprise. My only major gripe with this is that everything has to be unlocked and is not available from the get go, although this is more than likely an artistic decision to shield players from spoiling later set pieces in the main game, so I’m willing to let it slide.
Platinum Games have a tendency to be short but be cram packed with replayability, but Bayonetta 2 seems to tick only one of these boxes. Clocking in at a rough thirteen to fourteen hours, there’s heaps to get through before the credits roll. Similarly, completing the game is really only half the battle, as the game encourages players to replay its level to achieve the elusive Pure Platinum rank. There’s unlockables for Tag Climax mode too, as well as hidden battles, costumes and items to uncover for the main game too, none of which feels rehashed or like useless filler. Tag Climax mode alone adds a great amount of replayability and longevity to the game that really brings it to another level from its predecessor.
Speaking of its predecessor, Bayonetta 2 does a fantastic job at outclassing it in every aspect when it comes to presentation. You’ll be shocked to boot up Bayonetta 2 and find just how much colour they’ve managed to fit on the screen at any given time, and perhaps even be taken aback by how dull the original game looked by comparison. Animation has been improved dramatically too – not only does Bayonetta move fluidly but her enemies react much more dynamically to her attacks bringing life to battles more so than previously. Thankfully, the framerate is also running at a very steady 60fps with minimal slowdown, which is pretty impressive given how much can be going on on-screen at any given point. Presumably, to achieve this target, Platinum have appeared to slightly lower the level of aliasing but with action moving so fast it’s barely noticeable anyway.
Whereas Bayonetta used a recurring leitmotif in Fly Me To The Moon, Bayonetta 2 uses the Breakfast At Tiffany’s classic, Moon River. It’s a weird choice, but then again, so was Fly Me To The Moon, but it weirdly fits and only make sense Platinum would choose such a song associated with glamour for one of its most glamourous characters. As with the original game, the sequel employs fast paced jazzy or piano fuelled ensembles with a distinct gothic tinge to them. It sounds like a mess on paper, but in-game it works perfectly to complement the game’s ridiculous and over the top action.
Just like the first game, Bayonetta’s voice actress does a good job at giving her character a distinct level of camp and seriousness. However, the voice actor for newcomer Loki appears to either be faking his accent or not interested in the script as his voice can come across as dull from time to time and brings down and otherwise well rounded cast. It’s a minor issue, since he doesn’t appear in the game as much as Bayonetta does, but still worth mentioning.
As the credits rolled on Bayonetta 2, I was left pondering where Platinum Games could possibly go with this franchise. It’s fantastically unique and in the four years since it debutted no action game has managed to fill its shoes (literally). And despite that, Platinum still managed to dust off Bayonetta’s heels and perfect what they already put out in the original game.
I’ve played every action game like this since the character action genre was first unleashed, but it’s rare to find something that manages to wow me consistently with its over the top set pieces and fantastic combat, and in a sequel no less. Yes, Bayonetta 2 is an iterative sequel to Bayonetta. But it’s ridiculously good fun, and ridiculously over the top. Having spent considerable time with the game, it’s easily one that no Wii U owner should miss under any circumstances.
Rating: 5 / 5