Does It Hold Up?: Bayonetta 2

Does It Hold Up?: Bayonetta 2

We examine last year's triple-A games to see where they stand after twelve months.

Before writing this "Does it Hold Up?" piece, I sat down to revisit Bayonetta 2 for about an hour to see if it—well, you know. As I sliced through robo-angels with two chainsaws strapped to my arms while dressed as Fox McCloud, the only thought running through my head was "Yes."

Bayonetta 2's developer has done a few work-for-hire gigs in the passing year, but this 2014 release is the last of theirs to be Purely Platinum. Though Bayonetta creator Hideki Kamiya didn't serve as director for this Wii U sequel, it still feels like the logical conclusion to the type of stylish action he pioneered in 2001's Devil May Cry. So why—at the risk of giving away my conclusion—has no one been able to top Bayonetta 2? Let's figure this out.

What we said at the time

From Mike Williams' review: "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."

At the risk of being boring, my thoughts align pretty closely to Mike's. Though I'll fully admit the lack of 1080p and anti-aliasing doesn't really bother me; I like when games look good, of course, but Bayonetta is simply so fast and outlandishly stylish that these minor technical issues don't really interfere with the experience. But, as Mike says, the bigger action sequences and boss fights are really where Bayonetta shines. This is a game that starts with a set piece could easily be another game's final level, and only raises the stakes and scope from there. Even if the Wii U's hardware is underpowered compared to the PS4 and Xbox One, those two systems have yet to deliver anything as visually interesting as what's seen in Bayonetta 2—at least, according to my eyeballs. It really goes to show how much strong art direction can triumph over technology.

In hindsight...

Upon its release, Bayonetta 2 received mostly glowing reviews—it currently sits at a healthy 91 on Metacritic. Just as (in Hideki Kamiya's words) Devil May Cry was a video game for people who played video games, Bayonetta's sequel amounted to a fairly hardcore experience on a system designed solely for gaming, and I think that fact really resonated with critics. But Bayonetta 2 didn't exclude players new to the ways of Platinum Games: It's possible to dial down the input complexity to turn it into a pure button-masher. But the most rewarding moments come when you master a particular weapon's moveset and emerge from the end of battle with the highest possible grade—a ruthless evaluation system that rewards true perfection. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that, despite the sheer amount of chaos on the screen, Bayonetta 2 still manages to communicate the essential visual information you need to keep kicking ass.

What makes Bayonetta 2 stand out even more is the fact that no one else is really making games of its type. Of course, we have Capcom, who released DmC: Definitive Edition and Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition in 2015—both lots of fun—but Bayonetta 2 is essentially the last new "stylish action" game to come into being. It's especially telling when you play another action game that doesn't treat its mechanics quite as seriously as Platinum Games does; while I love the atmosphere and characters, I essentially feel like I'm sleepwalking through Dragon Quest Heroes, which offers a similar combat system, but without any of the same depth or attention to detail.

Really though, it shouldn't be a surprise to not see many modern games in Platinum Games' genre of choice—their demanding nature and bizarre premises don't hold the same appeal as equally expensive AAA productions. The fact that Platinum essentially exists to provide content to video game fans of a certain stripe makes the existence of things like Bayonetta 2 all the more special. As Mike said in his review, "Bayonetta 2 is a game that logically shouldn't exist."

The content since release

Bayonetta 2 offered no post-release DLC, but that's likely because it already includes content that could have been sold as such. Bonus costumes, extra modes, and the entire first game are included in the entire package, which feels extremely charitable these days. Plus, Bayonetta 2 is a game that doesn't really need more stuff; where the first game meandered for a bit and recycled too much content, the sequel is the perfect length. And really, the point of games like Bayonetta 2 is to play them over and over until you rise through the ranks and bring home the highest grade on every challenge. What's presented in its final version doesn't at any point feel incomplete.

So does it hold up?

Not to sound like too much of a downer, but Platinum Games is really the last of a dying breed. Sure, other developers can publish games just as complex and strange as Platinum's creations, but they're one of the last to do this sort of thing with such high production values. We're honestly kind of lucky that something like Bayonetta 2 exists; and even though Platinum can only afford to make one of these games every three or four years—hey, they've gotta pay the bills—I'm glad that these sorts of experiences are still somewhat viable. Scalebound may be a ways off, but thankfully, Bayonetta 2 is a game that still has me coming back more than a year later.

Verdict: A resounding yes.

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