Review: Bayonetta 2

Here comes the season of the Witch.

By Anthony Pershkin. Posted 10/27/2014 13:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Exilirating action gameplay unlike anything seen on a Nintendo console before; very high replay value
Poison Mushroom for...
Newcomers might find the combat difficult to master

With Bayonetta 2, Platinum Games has a lot to prove. After all, it’s the first traditional sequel the team has developed since the days of Clover Studios and Viewtiful Joe 2. Releasing a new installment exclusive to a whole new platform can also be considered quite a challenge– especially since Nintendo consoles usually don’t happen to hold a lot of “character action” games.  Can Platinum conquer the hearts of a new audience, while still bringing an improved sequel to the already excellent Bayonetta 1? Let’s just say Bayonetta can do some magic.

Like the majority of Platinum Games titles, the narrative in Bayonetta 2 can be both very tongue-in-cheek and dramatic when needed. So, just relax and enjoy a lighthearted tale full of in-jokes, your favorite video games references, and a lot of creative cinematic action. Bayonetta 2 can feel a bit too familiar for the fans of the original, and it is because certain story bits are repeated in the sequel. I don’t necessarily mean that as a negative thing, since the game, while of a similar structure, maintains its own unique flavor. The old cast of colorful characters has completely returned for another adventure, even though some of them are not getting enough screen time. Fortunately, there are still plenty of new faces throughout the game to enjoy, so I didn’t mind the absence of some of my favorites all that much. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give Bayonetta 2 in terms of story is how well it expands on the world built in the original game. Without spoiling too much, I was happy to see some events of the past in greater detail here, and it felt quite thrilling to finally set foot in this game’s version of Hell, simply called Inferno. While the story is not exactly self-contained, it wraps up very nicely, connecting the events of the original to the sequel. The game technically can be played without the prior knowledge of the first installment, but I still highly recommend experiencing the series’ narrative in the proper order.

The original Bayonetta to this very day remains at the top of character action games. How, exactly, do you make a sequel to something that is already dangerously close to being perfect at what it does? Well, first of all, you don’t go fixing something that ain’t broken. The combat system remains mostly the same in Bayonetta 2; in other words, fantastic. The combos connect to each other fluidly, every move has a cancel, and pretty much any ability in the game has a unique use. With your imagination being the only limit, you can be as offensive or defensive as you like, although the defensive play in the form of Witch Time still remains at the core of the gameplay. When you dodge an enemy attack at the last second, for a short period of time you enter Witch Time, a state in which time slows down, allowing the players to get an upper hand in a fight. This is the most important technique that you absolutely need to master, because the game will be testing your ability to react to anything it throws at you.

Bayonetta is a walking arsenal, as she can equip weapons to both her hands and feet. Standards pistols already offer a lot of easy combo-potential, but they’ve got nothing on the rest of the weapon collection this game has to offer. Bayonetta 2 is the first game I’ve encountered in the whole character action genre where every new weapon I found was just as fun and well-balanced as the previous one. With the ability to equip almost all weapons to both arms and legs, players have a huge amount of creative freedom in crafting their own build that perfectly suits any play style. Even with the second set of weapons to which you can switch on the fly, I still found it incredibly difficult to favor some weapons over others in this magnificent arsenal.

Bayonetta wouldn’t be a witch without her own set of magic powers, so prepare to use all kinds of nifty tricks besides your trusty guns and swords. By keeping a combo going while dodging all incoming enemy attacks, you build up your Magic Gauge, which allows you to perform Torture Attacks, which instantly kill certain types of enemies. New to this game is the Umbran Climax, a mode that eats up the whole Magic Gauge, but gives every attack a powered-up version. Fortunately, Umbran Climax builds up pretty quickly as long as you keep playing with style. Speaking of style, every enemy encounter or boss fight is ranked according to three categories: Time, Combo, and Damage (what you took). At the end of each mission you will be given a ranking, with Pure Platinum being the highest one. Even if you manage to get hit, as long as you were fast enough or kept a really long combo going, you might still get Gold. In other words, the ranking is both harsh and flexible, but most importantly, a lot of fun.

Overall, the combat system somehow manages to become even more accessible and deep at the same time. It almost feels like every existing move and combination from the original entry has been altered slightly to make fighting more responsive and controls more fluid. The combat system especially shines in various insanely creative boss battles, which can now take place in the air as well, making the fights multi-layered and more challenging.  With all of these little touches, Bayonetta 2 not only sets a whole new standard for the series or even Platinum Games, but for the entire character action genre.

Of course, you won’t be always fighting an army of Angels and Demons, and the aforementioned mind-bending bosses. You will be also spending a lot of time exploring beautiful environments, searching for various bonus items, and undertaking secret missions which test your ability to adapt to specific battle conditions. If, by the end of the game, you feel like you still want more, there’s plenty of bonus content including New Game +, Witch Trials (this game’s version of Bloody Palace from Devil May Cry series), and Tag Climax, a unique co-op mode that lets you fight various enemies with a friend or the CPU. On top of that, you get new weapons, new costumes (with a lot of them being Nintendo-themed), and plenty of items that can enhance your playthrough. With a Prologue and 16 Chapters, the game lasts about 10-12 hours, but there’s still plenty of fun time to be had even after the final credits.

As much as it is fun to play Bayonetta 2, the game would lose a lot of its unique action feel without the stunning presentation. While going into Witch Time still looks just as gorgeous, the sequel is a massive improvement in terms of its visuals. The game’s color scheme is bursting in all directions, making even The Wonderful 101 look restrained at certain times. Of course, all this glorious visual splendor is happening at a mostly vanilla smooth 60 frames per second, a standard of all Platinum Games titles. As a cherry on top, the music also goes for more energetic and fresh tunes, while still having some very nice remixes of classic songs like “Moon River” by Andy Williams.

Bayonetta 2 might’ve been pretty hard to get into without the proper context of the original game, but thankfully for us, Bayonetta 1 comes in the package. Not only do you get one incredible action game, but also the previous entry in its finest form. The Wii U port of Bayonetta is the most consistent in terms of visuals and frame rate out of all the existing versions. And as a sweet bonus, it comes loaded with Nintendo-themed costumes, which can make this port seem fresh even for hardcore fans who’ve already experienced the witch magic numerous times before. I don’t want to sound like a salesman, but if this is not the greatest deal for action game fans, then I don’t know what is.

Bayonetta 2 doesn’t do anything particularly new, but it does serve as an improvement of an already excellent action title, perfecting the formula even further. I didn’t think it was possible to outdo the original Bayonetta, but was gravely mistaken. There’s a new Witch in town, and she will put you under her spell.

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