When Devil May Cry 3 came out way back in 2005, I was sure that no action game could possibly top its smooth, fast action and over-the-top characters and gameplay. Then, in 2009, I picked up the first Bayonetta. I was absolutely blown away by Bayonetta’s furiously paced combat and the shear outrageousness of it all. I was sold. I was in love. Now, Bayonetta 2 has come along to quench gamers’ thirst for action insanity.
Bayonetta 2 sees the titular character again fighting through hordes of angels. Only this time, there appears to be something wrong with the balance of the game’s Trinity of Realities (Inferno, the Human World, and Paradiso), as angel/demon attacks and natural disasters have been occurring more frequently. In fact, the story starts out with one of these attacks, and Bayonetta’s friend Jeanne ends up sacrificing herself to save Bayonetta. As a result, her soul is dragged down to Hell. This doesn’t sit well with our Bayonetta, so she decides to travel into Hell itself to rescue her friend. Just another day in the life.
As per the norm in video games, things don’t follow in a particularly straight line, as new plot points come up and are dismissed. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but while the story feels more present than it did in the first game, I was sometimes a little confused. In fact, at one point I completely forgot Bayonetta’s entire purpose was to rescue Jeanne—I had become too wrapped up in understanding the rest of the story.
Most of the supporting cast from the first game makes a return, including sleazy Enzo and bartender/merchant extraordinaire Rodin. As mentioned earlier, Jeanne is also along for the ride, and she’s a great complement to Bayonetta’s character. Good old Luka, or Cheshire, if you prefer, is back to help give the players some helpful information about the world as told through collectable journal entries. The most prominent new character, Loki, an adolescent boy who has some abilities on par with Bayonetta, is sort of disappointing. I found him to be extremely irritating at the worst of times, and only barely tolerable at the best. He does redeem himself as the game wears on, but I found him to mainly be a source of frustration.
Part of what makes this game so much fun is its overtly and unapologetically sexual nature, just like the first one. I made the mistake of playing Bayonetta in front of my young sister-in-law, and it was just a little bit awkward. I think it might have had something to do with the…orgasmic noises Bayonetta makes as the angels in the prologue tear her clothes to shreds. Or maybe it’s the way she exclaims, “You’ve been a naughty boy” when you earn a Pure Platinum medal for clearing a section perfectly. In fact, if you’re lactose intolerant, you might want to avoid this game, as most of the characters are studies in different levels of wonderful, stereotypical cheesiness.
The most amazing thing about Bayonetta 2 is the combat system, which is almost identical to that of the first game in the series. The face buttons are used for shooting your guns, attacking with your hands, attacking with your feet, and jumping. You can combine these to initiate awesome-looking combos, and it feels like there are hundreds of them to choose from, though I found myself sticking with a couple favorites. You can switch weapon sets with a tap of the right bumper, while pressing the right trigger will allow you to dodge an enemy’s attack.
Even when compared to the first game, Bayonetta 2 really ups the ante when it comes to the speed and flow of the combat. The smooth-as-silk controls make movements feel natural, and I never felt that I wasn’t in control of what Bayonetta was doing at any given moment. Even if I had to bail on a combo to dodge an enemy attack, the controls were crisp and precise. I was using the Wii U Pro controller for the first time, and I found the button placement to be hard to get used to at first, but that’s hardly the fault of developer PlatinumGames.
Bayonetta has a few different weapons to choose from, and when you purchase the alternate version of a weapon from Rodin, you have the option of equipping it to Bayonetta’s feet as well as her hands. This makes for some pretty effective combinations. Want swords in your hands and flamethrowers on your feet? A scythe? A whip? Go for it!
Attacking with fancy-schmancy weapons will only get you so far, however, as knowing how to activate and exploit Witch Time is your key to victory. If you time a pull of the right trigger just before an enemy attacks, you’ll dodge and activate Witch Time. This slows time down for a few seconds while you continue to rain the pain down on your enemies. For some reason I had a lot of trouble grasping the finer points of Witch Time in Bayonetta 2, even though I considered myself quite good at it in the first game. I think this might be because the controls are that much tighter this time around—dodging is no longer just an okay-times button press. Instead, it really requires you to focus on the moment, and it makes the combat even more fulfilling and rich when you nail it.
Almost every battle I engaged in felt like a boss battle, that’s how hectic, huge, and numerous these enemies are. One of my friends was gushing about the demo for the game, and wondered out loud what part of the game that was. When I told him it was just the prologue, he didn’t believe me. It just gets better from there: Bayonetta 2 is constantly one-upping itself, and it delivers. For example, I can name few moments in gaming that are more satisfying than watching a summoned hair demon literally rip a boss in half.
At “Second Climax” (medium) difficulty level, I found myself facing the perfect challenge. Sometimes I was battling for my life with a sliver of health left. When I succeeded, it was absolutely exhilarating. The higher difficulty levels of this game are reserved for gamers who really want a challenge. If you feel like tackling higher level, I recommend doing it immediately after finishing the game, that way you’re warmed up. Going into an extremely difficult level cold is a recipe for disaster.
The insane combat wouldn’t work half as well if this game didn’t have the graphical chops to keep up, and it does. I rarely noticed any kind of frame rate issue, and the game is so damn bright and colorful that I was almost too distracted by the pretty colors. Since everything in the game goes by so fast, it can be difficult to really appreciate the graphics, but the cutscenes are just as action-packed as the in-game sequences; however, just as in the first game, I really disliked the still-frame comic book-style cutscenes that play out now and then. I’m not trying to criticize the work ethic at PlatinumGames, but I would like to know whether there’s an artistic reason for the still-frame cutscenes or if it was just to save money.
While not everything in the game is perfect, much of it comes together flawlessly. It’s cheeky, sexual, and funny, while going all out in combat speed, responsiveness, and flow. Add to that the good replay value (multiplayer and replaying old missions), and it’s clear to see that Bayonetta 2 has set a new standard for action games.
Final Verdict: 9/10
+ Absolutely insane, fast, rewarding combat
+ Really memorable battles, even against regular enemies
+ Super responsive controls
+ Good replay value
– Blatantly sexual content might be off-putting to some
– Story can get confusing
Bayonetta 2 is available on the Wii U
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XBL and PSN: FeirlessLeider