It's been a long time coming, the agonizing wait for a sequel to one of 2010's best games, Bayonetta. Stuck in a publishing limbo, it seemed like no one was going to experience the follow up to one of Platinum Games' best efforts, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm glad Nintendo decided to step in and save Bayonetta from a fate worse than Purgatory. Bayonetta 2 is finally here and I'm happy to say that it's everything I could have possibly hoped for. Platinum Games has outdone themselves in every way possible, from the characters, to the visuals, sound, to the story, this is one of those titles that will make you reconsider whether or not you should purchase a WiiU, and be extremely pleased with yourself if you already have.
Bayonetta 2 is a fairly straightforward follow up to the 2010 title, Bayonetta has, adjusted, so to speak after having defeated the last of the Lumen Sages. A shift in the balance of power between Inferno, and Paradiso have brought her back in to the middle of the chaos that exists between those two powers, and with Jeanne's soul captured and being held in Inferno, Bayonetta sets out to bring her back. With the help of a few returning characters, like Enzo and Rodin, and some new ones, like Loki, who holds on to one of the games key mysteries, Bayonetta will battle the forces of light, and dark this time around as she once again saves the human realm from two powers that have largely gone unchecked. It's over the top pulp to say the least, but it's damn entertaining, and certainly not for kids.
It's easy to bemoan the fact that this game is on the WiiU console, but honestly, it's so well done in terms of visuals and performance that it really doesn't matter if the horsepower is inferior to the PS4 or Xbox One, and proves time and time again that visual style can easily surpass the limitations of fidelity in the right hands. Bayonetta 2 is one of the best looking, and performing games on the console, which is great for a game that relies on frame-rate. The locales of Noatun and Fimbulventr provide a majestic backdrop to the story, and while some places can feel kind of empty as you run through them, things can get busy in an instant, and you'll be dazzled by the visuals all over again. Some of the boss fights in particular are striking in their presentation and execution, I didn't think getting curled by a tidal wave and thunderstorm while chasing a giant angelic serpent could look so good, but there it is. The jazzy, poppy, danceable soundtrack of the first game has made a solid follow up as well. Where as Bayonetta gave us a great rendition of 'Fly Me To The Moon,' Bayonetta 2 does a mean take on another great classic, this time it's Moon River by Andy Williams. The voice acting is nothing award worthy, though Bayonetta's actress carries that sultry, almost mocking tone to perfection. Japanese vocals are included as well, and while appreciated, it almost fits Bayonetta better to have her speaking in English.
Across the more than dozen chapters you'll find that the game does a great job of pacing the combat and exploration, and it also likes to reward searching off the beaten path, with hidden Muspelheim portals that hold special challenges to improve Bayonetta's health and Lunar Umbra powers. The Umbra Climax is the new power associated with Bayonetta's Moon Pearls, this allows her to conjure even more powerful forms from her Wicked Weave depending on the weapons equipped, this also allows her to perform her signature torture attacks, which will decimate any enemy that falls victim to their power. The actual combat system remains largely unchanged from the first game, which isn't a bad thing in the slightest, and it even features a few enhancements that I am in love with, like the ability to dodge in mid-air, along with a few skills that can be purchased from Rodin in exchange for halos. The gear you carry also has a direct impact on how you'll be fighting, and in most cases it is totally worth spending the extra halos to make those weapons available. And while Bayonetta's default guns, 'Love is Blue' are worth rocking from start to finish, some of the unlockable weapons are just too much fun to ignore, like the twin blades Rakshasa, or the fire and ice clubs, Undine. The difficulty this time around is also devoid of a sharp ramp up, which I had a problem with in the first game, instead this game lets you get your legs for a bit, and then throws you something new or completely unexpected, and with the way Platinum likes to shake up gameplay with Bayonetta 2 and The Wonderful 101, you'd think they were making a bid to make the next Punch-Out game.
The world of Bayonetta is also populated with a ton of weapons and collectibles to find, which means you could be spending hours just looking for some of the Umbran Tears of Blood, or Verse Cards, or costumes that are littered throughout the game. The Verse Cards are of particular importance, for they can be used in the game's online mode, Tag Climax. This mode allows you to play online against other players, or against the CPU, in a wager of who is more effective in battle. The more you bet though, the harder the enemies will be, and don't think that just because you're going against the CPU that it's going to cut you any slack and let you get away with easy winnings. You've also got to make sure you complete a whole round of Tag Climax or your wager and winnings are forfeit, which I discovered the hard way early on. There are also different characters that can be unlocked for Tag Climax, though initially you're going to be locked into some Bayonetta versus Bayonetta matches. Networking for the Tag Climax mode was unfortunately pretty shoddy for me, which meant I'd manage to get a lot of connections, but then would be unceremoniously dropped by the server with a generic WiiU system message. But when it does work, it's pretty fun. The Umbran Tears of Blood serve as a sort of achievements system in Bayonetta 2, and they come in two forms, Bewitchments, which serve as achievements, and crows, which are hidden throughout the game.
It's hard to nitpick for faults with Bayonetta, especially when I was having so much fun throughout the game. The pacing is great, broken up at just the right moments so you never really get a chance to feel bored. The combat starts to grow and flesh out at a reasonable pace, if anything the first real chapter of the game took a little too long to get going, but that's a small drop in a very large bucket here. Cap that off with the fact that the first game is included with a ton of extras and you're going to have a hard time trying to find faults. I know I did, in fact, the worst thing I could come up with is low quality shadows with aliasing issues, and a curious decision to make the vocals tied to the WiiU gamepad, which in the grand scheme of things wasn't that big a deal since I enjoyed playing this game off the gamepad more than off the television. The networking problems I had were thankfully remedied by the versus CPU feature, which I think is great for people who don't have the best internet connections, or even one at all. They could have left this exclusively an online mode and called it a day, but the fact that they didn't, and even made the CPU smart enough to revive you when possible, turns that little negative right around for me.
So a few pretty minor complaints aside, Bayonetta 2 is exactly what the WiiU needs right now, a nice quality title that appeals to the core gamers out there who burned through Hyrule Warriors. Hopefully this title does well enough out in the wild to convince the big N that other titles of this type, the gritty, mature titles, are worth bringing out over here. Bayonetta 2 has been a long time coming, and now that it's finally here, I am beyond pleased with what Platinum Games has done. From the big things like gameplay, to the intangibles, like Bayonetta's redesign, everything feels like it has a purpose and nothing feels half-assed or tacked on. If you're like me, you've had a lot of high hopes on Bayonetta 2, especially thanks to its long development time and Nintendo's less than stellar record with the hardcore gamers out there over the life of the Wii. Bayonetta 2 is a step in the right direction, and it's a game that absolutely deserves a place in any WiiU library. Platinum Games continues to give gamers the type of titles we want on the WiiU, and for that they have my praise and adulation.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
In a past life I worked with Interplay, EA, Harmonix, Konami, and a number of other developers. Now I'm working for a record label, a small arm of casual games in a media company along with Gaming Nexus, and anywhere else that sees fit to employ me.