There were more than a few confused and surprised fans (probably all of them, to be honest) when Bayonetta 2 was announced, as a Wii U exclusive no less. Of course imaginations ran wild when it was said that Nintendo would publish the game as many believed the over the top action and sexuality personality of Bayonetta would be a thing of the past, swapped for more casual and subdued sensibilities. Well, Bayonetta 2 is anything but that. In fact, it is more over the top than even to original. A seemingly tall order, I know, but Bayonetta 2 takes everything that made the original one of the best action games to date and makes meaningful improvements. Bayonetta 2 somehow manages to accomplish the insurmountable task of being better in just about every way.
Being better starts with being more human. Bayonetta 2 tells a more personal tale, surprising given the fact that the original was about recovering her 500 years lost memory. This time, Jeanne’s soul has been taken to Inferno after she risked her own life to save Bayonetta from a similar fate. Though her journey is most likely perilous, no human has ever willingly entered the Gates of Hell, she cannot let her friend suffer for eternity. She’ll also have her motherly instincts tested as she is accompanied by a young but powerful companion, Loki. There are a few surprises along the way that keep things interesting, despite improved, this still isn’t a genre defining story, though it is a perfectly competent one.
Unlike the original game, we really get to see some emotion from Bayonetta, and some vulnerability. It is a nice change of pace compared to her normal suave and nonchalance. Though these moments are few and far between, they serve to deepen her more than even the search for her own memories ever did. Of course, shes not one to simply admit to her feelings and always plays it off with her usual grace and poise. It also helps that Hellena Taylor once again nails it, delivering a truly standout performance while the returning cast of characters, retaining their respective actors, each deliver comparable or better performances than the original.
The campaign will take a similar 15 or so hours to finish as the original, though it certainly seems to go by much faster than that. Several missions are very quick with many of those being major boss fights. The rest are usually exciting set piece events such as fighting atop a fighter jet or piloting an Umbran Mech as you lay waste to countless angels. Along the way you’ll find dozens of collectables ranging from items that increase your maximum health and mana to journals that give back story. Completing missions reward you with cards used in other modes, which we’ll get into later. Needless to say, one playthrough is probably not enough, but you’re more than likely to want to play it all again anyway.
Bayonetta 2’s improvements also translate to gameplay, which maintains the familiar fundamentals while feeling smoother and more satisfying. Not to scare any diehard fans, but the game definitely feels easier, but only due to the fact that it plays and responds so much better. Dodging feels more swift and attacks feel more punishing. Witch Time is once again your best friend, accomplished by dodging at or near the very last moment before an enemy hits you. Once active, Witch Time slows enemies around you, allowing you to easily dispense hurt on undefended targets. Delivering combos is not only key to killing foes, but to building up your magic. That magic power is required for the game’s two best combat abilities, the familiar torture attacks and the new Umbran Climax. Both attacks take and entire mana gem, but serve two different purposes. Torture attacks are focused on killing a single enemy quickly, while Umbran Climax enhances your basic attacks to deal damage to multiple enemies.
Additions such as these make playing Bayonetta 2 a far more enjoyable experience, an impressive feat considering how fun the original was. The way you fight just feels more varied and exciting. The only frustrations I experienced in my time playing it came only from my general lack of skill with the genre. I’m not much for hardcore action games such as this, but it speaks volumes that I enjoyed myself even through the frustrations. The Bayonetta games, 2 in particular, are just a special breed of fun. While they can be very challenging for those who thrive on defeating only the most formidable of foes, they can also be approachable for those who simply want to play a game that puts fun above all else, with 2 again proving superior.
Bayonetta 2 also introduces a co-op mode which allows you to team up with friends or random players. If lacking in the friends department, or a stable connection, you can also have an A.I. companion join you. In this mode you’ll select from the cards you have earned while playing through the story, each representing an event or boss fight. You place bets on each mission based on your likelihood to succeed, with larger bets causing drastic increases in difficulty. Your reward is your initial bet multiplied by your difficulty modifier, which means that skilled players will be taking in halos hand over fist. This, in turn, leaves no item it Rodin’s shop off limits, as long as you are willing to work for it. Co-op adds its own very obvious replayability by including new players, and even let’s you play as characters other than Bayonetta, each with their own strengths.
Retaining it’s amazing art style, Bayonetta 2 is a visually striking game for all the right reasons. For what the Wii U may lack in hardware, it sure does feature some pretty games. Angelic stylings cover the landscape from cities to mountain tops. Colors pop and textures look pretty good overall. While the designs of your angelic foes vary slightly, but maintain familiarity, you new hellish foes provide brand new designs to gawk at until you see how pretty their insides are. The minions of hell actually look much more impressive than their angelic counterparts. While this may be due to the fact that the original featured them extensively, the more likely reason is that the demons just look that much cooler. Metallic machines wielding saws, giant manta rays with an almost clown like grin, they are memorable, even if the way they act isn’t all that different. The most noteworthy improvement is the framerate, which holds steady over 30 FPS for about 90% of the game. A few sequences will chug along as best they can, but it is far better than the original handled itself. The music is on par, this time featuring Moon River as its classic song of choice. Battle music is exciting and matches the tempo of combat well. Other ambient music is good, but not standout.
Bayonetta 2 is a very important game for the Wii U. Not only is it a potentially console selling exclusive, but it appeals to the kind of audience the original Wii did not. It also goes to show that non-Nintendo developed games (it was published by Nintendo, but they did not influence the actual development) can be considered the best on the platform. In a year where the Wii U is finally entrenched in quality games and beginning to demand a place in every gamer’s home, Bayonetta 2 stands out as a game that will long be a requirement for Wii U owners. It’s brilliant blend of approachability and hardcore sensibilities, beautiful visuals, improved storytelling, and undeniable charm allow it to stand out in the crowded final months, perhaps at the very top.