Bayonetta 2 is not the prettiest game to release this year. It’s also not the most heavily advertised, tirelessly marketed, or even longest-developed when it comes to particularly excessive development cycles. Despite its lack of mainstream flair, one category Bayonetta 2 absolutely does fall into is a coveted one: Game of the Year contender. I could stop there, but I’ll assume you came here for specific details and continue.
Much like the Wii’s Platinum-developed MadWorld, Bayonetta carves out a unique niche of mature-rated content on a Nintendo console. That’s not all this sequel strives for, though — as the successor to a game found exclusively on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Bayonetta 2 represents a sort of testing ground for Nintendo and Wii U. What was it that turned the hardcore gamer off of the original Wii? Was it the SD graphics? The wand? Bayonetta’s commercial success (or lack thereof) on Wii U will help answer some of those questions, and hopefully avoid spawning too many others in the process.
Though Wii U’s graphical prowess falls short of being markedly better than that of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, I was pleased to discover that with both a small boost in power and the passage of time on its side, Bayonetta 2 manages to look a fair bit nicer than its predecessor. Not only have animation and general polish improved, but so have lighting and consistency of frame rate (especially compared to the awful PS3 edition of the original — the 360 edition ran far more smoothly). There’s still less anti-aliasing than is preferable, but this is a fast-moving action game — on a quality display, any glaring visual shortcoming are hardly noticeable. A steady 60fps certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
With that discussion handled, we can dig into the meat and potatoes of the Bayonetta experience: namely its fast-paced and arrantly thrilling gameplay. If Zelda is high adventure, then Bayonetta is high action; every moment demands your utmost attention to execute combos and string them together, and you never feel as though onscreen events are too hectic or unpleasantly out of control. Combat itself is iterative of what was found in the original game, but Bayonetta’s combat was already best-in-class. The sequel adds refinements and special abilities that don’t just improve the gameplay experience, but perfect it.
Among these special abilities is something called Witch Time, my favorite of the two major additions. Upon executing a perfect or near-perfect dodge, Bayonetta immediately gains the ability to enter a state of slow-motion heightened awareness, where the possibility of unleashing hell upon opponents is suddenly only a few button presses away. Of course, this doesn’t mean doing so is easy — it’s still perfectly possible to screw up. When you do successfully loose your torrent of destruction, the results are incredibly satisfying.
On the opposite spectrum is the Umbran Climax, a rather standard action-game state that powers up and strengthens attacks for a short duration. Though its accompanying animation is endlessly entertaining (massive strokes of dark energy accompany each and every blow), it’s more cliche and mindless than Witch Time. That’s not a bad thing though — it’s merely an observation.
There are downsides to the Bayonetta 2 experience, but the state of zen thrust on the player as Bayonetta dodges, weaves, and struts across the screen, fluidly and naturally responding to each and every calculated button press, is enough to overshadow nearly all of them. It’s no surprise that Platinum is comprised of team members who formerly worked on God Hand and Viewtiful Joe — though very different games, that same sense of satisfying enemy pommelation is pervasive throughout. You’ll begin your quest button mashing, and complete it feeling like a champion. All this within the confines of a short-but-sweet 10-15 hour single-player mode.
I’d be remiss not to talk bosses, and relaying that Bayonetta 2’s boss encounters merely “deliver” would be the understatement of the entire new console generation. Take Urbane, the hulking, gold-plated monolith that ferociously hurls its deadly ball-and-chain as you dodge-and-strike, seeking a moment to crush you under its weight and sheer ferocity. The enormous blade protruding from its head doesn’t help either, from which it can fire lasers. That’s just one example, and yet each boss encounter finds a way to test your skills via means just varied enough to rack your brain, but familiar enough to render acquired skills applicable. I mentioned Bayonetta earlier as the high-action to Zelda’s high-adventure, and like any great Zelda, Bayonetta 2’s bosses make you feel both smart and sufficiently challenged, whether either is actually true or not.
There’s a bevy of other new activities to try as well, from the surprisingly worthwhile co-op mode (which can be taken online), to the halo-betting and risk-reward mechanics of Tag Climax, a distraction with surprising replay value and longevity. For me, simply replaying the single-player mode repeatedly on increased difficulty is enough, but gamers who look for and appreciate variety will find themselves perfectly pleased.
I touched on it already, but at the end of the day the only real complaint players might leverage against Platinum’s latest gem are its graphical shortcomings. The skimpy anti-aliasing is a definite bummer, but the sooner you accept it the better — dial down the sharpness setting on your television if it really bothers you all that much. In the end, Bayonetta’s lighting-fast pace keeps things looking crisp and fresh, and the 720p native resolution should only bother you on a PC monitor or if you sit way too close to your TV. For 90% of standard gaming scenarios, you can expect a very pretty game.
The one reason you should even consider skipping Bayonetta 2 is if you don’t own a Wii U, and even then you ought to entertain snagging a refurbished model from Nintendo’s official store. Platinum has crafted one of the finest action games of the modern era on Wii U, and delivered on the promise of a game that at one point was thought to be completely and irrevocably dead. Play Bayonetta 2, however you can, and enjoy its unfettered gaming goodness. This is why you play video games — or at least, it’s why I do.
This game is based on the Wii U exclusive, which was provided to us.
Bayonetta 2 doesn't look like a PS4 game, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anything else wrong with it. Sublime combat meets high-adrenaline action in perfect harmony, resulting in a game that elevates its genre to new heights. The only remaining question is how Platinum can possibly top this with a third game in the series.