The witch is back
Bayonetta 2 is an absolute triumph for Platinum Games, Sega, Nintendo and anyone else involved in its production. It’s surprisingly heart-warming to see Sega and Nintendo side by side on the credits, it’s even more satisfying to play a clearly adult-themed game on the Wii U that is easily a contender for game of the year.
For those familiar with the original, there’s few surprises in Bayonetta 2. This is still a combo-focused beat-em-up that rewards lightning reactions, contains a healthy amount of sleaze and pits you against the massed armies of heaven (and more) in a roughly eight hour campaign. The innovation lies more in refinement and perfection of elements that were always fantastic. Now you can traverse both land and sea at breakneck speeds by transforming into a jaguar or sea snake, perform ridiculously powerful attacks as you trigger an ‘Umbran Climax’ (set up by performing combos and filling a meter) and even join a friend online in a co-op challenge mode.
Bayonetta is all about the fighting and no games in memory have managed to get it so right. You combine fist attacks on Y, kick attacks on B, gun attacks with X and dodges with the trigger into a ballet of destruction and death. The music beats happily along as you dive out of the way of a falling axe at the last moment only to turn into a cloud of bats (if you have the right item) and trigger ‘Witch time’ where everything goes purple and slow while you unleash a hellish combo and slice your opponents into oblivion. The screen is rarely free from special effects, enemies, blood and halos (the game’s currency) but somehow there’s a rhythm to the game. Once you get that rhythm, dodging becomes second nature and you’ll start completing encounters without taking a single hit. We’ve never been that good at beat-em-up games but once we found our groove we felt unstoppable, completing the whole campaign in two sittings because the action was just so compelling.
Graphically the game is not technically impressive, but keeping the action running at a silky smooth 60fps was definitely the right choice. The art style makes up for anything the engine lacks and many of the environments and effects are spectacular and never less than entertaining. From a sort-of Venice to the depths of Hell, every environment is unique and bathed in fun little details. The over-the-top bawdiness of the first game has been toned down. Yes Bayonetta gets progressively more naked as your combos increase and there’s still a few unnecessary crotch shots but there’s nothing as uncomfortable as the masturbating angels from the first game. Bayonetta 2 comes across as endearingly cheeky rather than puerile and it’s all the better for it.
The story is surprisingly comprehensible given the genre and while it’s unlikely to win any wards, the pace is kept up throughout and the stakes are kept relatively high. Really this is a game where the moment-to-moment action is more of a focus and the little jokes, fun characters (even the kid!) and over-the-top stunts are always front and foremost over any kind of real drama. The voiceovers are generally fine although a couple are cringe-inducing towards the end. The biggest complaint we have about this game centers around the cut-scenes. There’s plenty of excellent done high-resolution action scenes but then all too often the cut-scenes will be replaced with a series of still images. That might have been acceptable on the N64 in Vigilante 8 when they had very little space to play with, but in a 2014 game it seems ridiculous. It does add a little to the game’s quirky charm but when you come across some incredibly sounding action scenes told in still images you’ll hate them as much as we do.
The multiplayer mode is exactly what you’d expect. You choose challenges (unlocked via the main campaign) and take them on as a character (And in a costume) of your choosing alongside someone else online. We couldn’t get the quick match function to work at all, but making a game with friends seems to be fine and this is definitely entertaining, if a little short lived. There’s no real way to co-operate with your teammate so it feels like you’re fighting at the same time rather than with your companion.
Overall Bayonetta 2 is yet another reason to pick up a Wii-U. For a console that’s sold poorly, it surprisingly has more killer apps than the others by way of Mario Kart, Mario 3D world, Smash Bros, Zombi U and now this. It’s an absolutely excellent fighting game let down only by some dodgy use of cut-scenes and a slightly soulless multiplayer mode. If you have a Wii-U, this is a must have. If you haven’t got one, what are you waiting for?