Before we start let me preface by saying I am a huge Bayonetta fan. I love its style, I love its humour and I adore the combat! Bayonetta was one of my favourite games last gen and easily best of its genre. While this may mark me a little biased it also tasked Bayonetta 2 with the tough job of meeting my lofty expectations; something it accomplishes easily.
For those unfamiliar with the series Bayonetta is a fast paced, over the top action game. At its core is a unique and refined combat system that’s extremely complex yet easy to use. Mixing together hundreds of combos, timed evades and special moves its combat is complemented by frenetic and heavily stylised visuals creating an experience that will have your adrenaline pumping from start to finish!
Variation is key to enjoying the experience as, without it, Bayonetta 2 follows a fairly simple pattern. Levels are linear and merely require you to progress until blocked, defeat waves of enemies, and then repeat until the level ends. Bayonetta 2 effectively counters potential monotony by mixing up the level design, scenery and combat required to progress. This is the core of what makes Bayonetta 2 great; style and substance.
First let’s cover the style. Bayonetta 2 treads the fine line between crazy and stylish perfectly providing a “balls to the wall” experience the entire time. Bayonetta herself is over sexualised and her tongue in cheek behaviour pervades all aspects of the game. Whether standing still, throwing out one liners or spinning around a stripper pole switch it’s something you’ll either love or hate. Everything is in obvious jest and, personally, I loved it! Reminded me very much of the humour in games like Deadpool or Lollipop Chainsaw.
The rest of the game feels like an action sequence from a Japanese anime. The game rarely slows down and most dialogue is completed in the heat of battle. Even outside cutscenes the “camera angles” and presentation make you feel like you’re participating in an action movie rather than a video game. It’s one of those rare games that is almost as much fun to watch as it is to play. There was a downside to this however and a couple of boss fights felts they were too chaotic, sacrificing gameplay for visual appeal resulting in a battle that relied more on guesswork and timing rather than calculation and skill. I only found one or two instances where that was the case however.
Don’t let the presentation fool you though; if you let up for even a second you’ll be reminded that Bayonetta 2 is a game and not an interactive movie. With hundreds of weapon specific combos to learn, special moves and a bunch of new features Bayonetta 2 sets a very high bar. One of the issues with the original Bayonetta was that, despite the variety, you could stick with a few of your favourite combos and spam them for most of the game. Bayonetta 2 counters this quite nicely with the addition of combo breakers (pun totally intended!). These force you to vary your combos, try things with shorter commits and rely more on witch time (slow motion activated with a perfect dodge). By forcing you to vary your play style it keeps the experience fresh and fun.
Another big problem with the original Bayonetta was that boss fights tended to devolve into long battles against a huge health bar. Bayonetta 2 fixes this by rewarding players who learn how to dodge and counter. Each time you activate witch time or complete a combo you’re rewarded with a magic orb. Collect enough magic orbs and you’re able to activate Umbran Climax; an extremely powerful, unblockable combo that deals huge damage. This significantly reduced the time taken to complete boss fights and, more importantly, eliminates the repetitiveness. The only downside is that it made the game feel much easier than the first… or maybe I’m just better now than I was when I played the first.
With such a strong focus on mechanics and style you would imagine the story might suffer. This isn’t the case with Bayonetta 2 whose story proves both engaging and interesting from start to finish. Whilst the stories of 1 and 2 are linked neither is mandatory for the enjoyment or understanding of the other. That said both stories are heavily intertwined so you’ll definitely get more out of 2 if you’ve played 1. If you’re debating which one to play I’d say start with 1; a HD remake comes for free with Bayonetta 2 after all.
The story is told via three mechanics; cutscenes, voiced over stills and text. This is no different from the first Bayonetta however I was disappointed this wasn’t improved between games. In the first Bayonetta they cited financial reasons for the style however, as it carried across to Bayonetta 2, I can only surmise it’s a style choice this time around. It serves its purpose but just felt amateurish and clashed with the high level of polish displayed elsewhere. As with its predecessor Bayonetta 2 has a wealth of lore which can only be explored by discovering hidden texts. I felt this was a great addition to the game and rewarded players who wanted to learn more without sacrificing the core story.
Much to the chagrin of many fans Bayonetta 2 is a WiiU exclusive. Whilst I did have a quick play with the touch controls I found them to be pretty gimped and intrusive. A single right swipe to perform a four hit combo might be great for someone learning how to play but, for those of us able to push buttons, the versatility sacrifice isn’t worth it. That said I am an old man set in my ways so I was always going to play using the pro controller and may not have given the touch controls a fair shot. It did make me wonder if they were looking to bring the franchise to phone or tablet platforms in the future though.
The main campaggin takes approximately eight to ten hours to complete. It’s only available in single player however there is a multiplayer mode where you replay the game’s boss fights trying to earn a higher score than your partner. You can place bets at the start of each round increasing both the difficulty and reward. Match making worked quite well and I never had to wait long before finding a match. It’s an enjoyable addition and a great way to earn cash to buy extra weapons.
Aside from multiplayer the only other replay is gained in single player mode. All the challenge arenas and collectibles are built into the levels so it’s great for those who love the game but not so great for people who don’t want to replay the story.
In conclusion this is the best game I’ve played in a long time. It’s rare that something comes along and has me so engaged I’m excited whilst playing and thinking about it when not. It has a few small flaws but is 99% perfect and spot on where it counts. If you’re a fan of action games and enjoy some tongue in cheek then you absolutely must pick this up! My only problem now is what do I play next? Nothing can live up to the fun I’ve had with Bayonetta 2.