Bayonetta 2 is a game that logically shouldn't exist. The original was the result of a collaboration between Platinum Games and Sega, directed by Devil May Cry director Hideki Kamiya. Sales of the game were great for Platinum, but not good enough to get other publishers on board for a sequel. Into this gap stepped Nintendo, who funded Bayonetta 2 for an exclusive release on the Wii U. Did Bayonetta and the Wii U make magic together?
Hell yeah they did.
Let's get this out of the way: Bayonetta 2 might've looked better on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but Nintendo is the one who stepped up and made it happen. Love what you got, not the what-ifs. What you have is fast and fluid gameplay, presented in 720p and 60 fps. The frame rate doesn't seem locked - there seemed to be a few hitches here and there - but for the most part Bayonetta 2 is smooth as silk on the Wii U.
The game is doing a lot with the horsepower it has available. The world is bright and vibrant, jumping from sleepy European towns, to gothic living hellscapes, underwater churches, the insides of demons, and the gates of heaven itself. Everything twists, turns, and moves, shifting underneath Bayonetta as she fights her way across the landscape. Honestly, the highpoint of Ninja Theory's DmC was the absolutely gorgeous morphing levels, but the Bayonetta 2 out-does that game in the sheer amount of stuff that it throws at you.
Half of the Wii U's strength is reserved for the bosses, which are a complete class act. All manner of angelic warriors and demonic soldiers are thrown your way, with huge dragons and headless knights to contend with. These bosses will chase and fight you, destroying the very ground underneath you in an attempt to finish you off. Fighting the golden knight Valor as you fall down an endless tower, the ethereal Prophet as you float in null space, or Bayonetta's underwater battle with Insidious; Bayonetta 2's bosses get better and more extravagant as you dig your way deeper into the game's sixteen chapters.
As the chapters stretch on, you're treated to spectacle after spectacle. You'll begin the game fighting angels on the back of a fighter jet, jump to combat against an armored fiend on the back of a train, and finish the fight against a demonic dragon on the side of skyscraper. Sure, there's a lot of simple, rote encounters against grunts and mini-bosses, but when Bayonetta 2 turns up the volume the entire game screams by at high speed. I've simply never seen anything like Bayonetta 2; the closest my feeble mind can reach for is the Quick Time Event-heavy Asura's Wrath and Bayonetta 2 is infinitely more playable than that title amidst all the insanity.
Bayonetta herself features a new costume and hairstyle, with her updated model showing off streaming hair and tassels, but she's still the same powerful, confident, and sexy lady she was the first time around. Bayonetta is the Beyonce of the action game world and she stands here as the female version of Devil May Cry's Dante. Yes, her clothes disappear when she does some of her attacks, but she dominates every scene she inhabits and is in full control. There's multiple ways to portray a strong woman as a lead, and Bayonetta's presentation is one of the more interesting takes.
Bayonetta shoots, punches, slashes, flips and dodges past everything the game throws at her. At the basic core, this is still an evolved version of the combat found in the first Devil May Cry: attack, dodge, and attack some more. Most veteran Devil May Cry/Bayonetta players will fall into Bayonetta 2's combat like a soft, warm couch, but it's not completely impenetrable to neophytes.
Timing your dodges is key in Bayonetta 2, as a correctly-timed dodge moves you into the slow-motion Witch Time. Witch Time is necessarily to defeat many of the game's bosses, putting most of the game's focus on dodging. Dodge quickly and dodge often, my students, and you will see the end of Bayonetta 2. Successful attacks also build up your energy and when it's full you can release an Umbral Climax, which super-charges Bayonetta's attacks for a limited period of time. The Umbral Climax also staggers enemies and bosses when used, making it useful as a brief breather from all of that dodging.
That's not to say the attacking side of things is a button masher; there's a real technical action game here. Yes, you could stick with Bayonetta's starting weapons, the handheld and heel-mounted handguns called Love Is Blue, but there's a whole host of weapons to unlock in the game: the Rakshasa swords, the flame-throwing Undine, and the whip Alruna are just a few of items at your disposal. Each weapon has its own rhythm and range and they all can be equipped on either Bayonetta's upper or lower half to switch up your combos and keep them interesting. Moving beyond a single bread-and-butter combo and adding some air attacks into the mix means more damage and more points in the end.
See, every encounter (called Verses in the game) in Bayonetta 2 is rated based on how quickly you finished the encounter, your combo score, how much damage you took, and any bonus points you gained. You're given a medal for your trouble: Stone, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Pure Platinum. These Verse medals are then added up at the end of each Chapter to give you an overall score. The game keeps track of the medals you've won in each Chapter for each one of the four difficulty levels, so the veteran players will spend plenty of time attempting to get Pure Platinum on everything.
You'll also gain Halos during your playtime, which act as Bayonetta 2's currency. In the Chapter Select screen and at points in each level, you can enter the Gates of Hell, the game's shop. Here you can have the shop's owner, the suave Rodin, forge the weapons you've unlocked. You can also purchase new accessories, combat techniques, one-use items, and even new costumes for Bayonetta. (The magic of Nintendo support means there's Zelda, Metroid, and Star Fox-themed looks for Bayonetta available!) It's one way to customize and improve your Bayonetta, whihc is more useful for multiplayer than the single-player campaign.
The rest of the game is filled out by a number of challenges and collectibles. There's the Muspelheim challenges in each stage, which task you with completing certain combat objectives within a time limit. Limited exploration in the levels means many of the collectibles and extra encounters are hiding slightly off the beaten path, but Bayonetta 2 isn't about deep exploration; most of the time you're heading back into Chapters just to improve your score.
There's also the all-new multiplayer Tag Climax mode. This pits two players against each other in a six-stage face off. Players can choose their characters and load-outs based on what they've already unlocked in their game. The stages are determined by picking Verse Cards, which you'll unlock in the game's story mode. After choosing a specific Verse, players then wager a certain number of Halos on the match. Both players enter each Verse together and the winner is determined by who has the better combo score. Beat your opponent and you'll win bragging rights and a large sum of Halos. Bayonetta 2's most expensive item costs 999,999 Halos, so Tag Climax is an easier way to grind your way to that crazy sum. Otherwise, it's multiplayer Devil May Cry action; it won't change the world, but it's a nice addition to the overall package.
From beginning to end, Bayonetta 2 crackles with energy looking to break its way out. The combat is as solid as ever, even though you'll occasionally find yourself just going through the motions of dodge and attack to finish off some of the smaller Verses. Bayonetta 2 is at its best when it goes wild in the bigger action sequences and boss fights. Does the Wii U mean the presentation isn't up to PC snuff? Yes, but in the end, Platinum does a great job with what they got. If you can overlook the lack of 1080p and anti-aliasing, there's a great technical action game here.
The Nitty Gritty
- Visuals: The bosses are big, the levels shift around you, and the action is fast, all in 720p at 60 fps. The frame dips occasionally and anti-aliasing missing, but it looks great.
- Sound: The music is suitably epic and cool for Bayonetta.
- Interface: The interface is solid and the menu can be controlled via the Wii U GamePad's touchscreen.
- Lasting appeal: Unless you're amazing, it's going to take you a long time to get Pure Platinum on every level in all four difficulties. Plus, there's a host of costumes to unlock.
Bayonetta 2 is the high-flying return of everyone's favorite Umbra Witch. Platinum Games pushes to the Wii U to its limit with fast action, magnificent vistas, and huge bosses. The addition of the original Bayonetta just pushes the entire package over the top. If you're a Devil May Cry fan, this is a must-buy.
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