Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)
Playing Bayonetta 2 is like traveling to the top of Mount Everest and finding a platypus. Look at this platypus. It's so bizarre, so strange, so curious. You can't really look away. And finding it on top of a mountain! Of all places! What are the chances?
Slim. Insanely slim. But against the odds, Platinum Games found the funding for a Bayonetta sequel. And it's a Wii U exclusive! Yeah, you read that right. The WII U! Can you believe it?! How the hell did that happen?! What planets had to align? The existence of this game is truly an anomalous occurrence, so much that I had no choice but to embrace it fully. As much as I know I would have loved Hyrule Warriors, I couldn't pass up this scientific oddity. Bayonetta 2 is a sin against nature. It's pure, incorrigible sacrilege. And it's beautiful.
The city of Naotun and the sacred mountain Fimbulventr, whose significance is lost on me.
The topic of today's discourse is the sequel to the 2009 action game Bayonetta. Developed by Platinum Games, the eponymous Bayonetta is a witch belonging to a long-lost clan of demon-summoners who fight through the centuries against the hordes of heaven. The kicker? Bayonetta's special powers lie in her hair, which wraps around her body like clothes. To summon demons, the hair has to come off her and take the form of giant swords, stiletto heels, dinosaur jaws, etc. This leaves her temporarily nude. Yeah, it's that kind of game. Over-sexualized, over-the-top, thoroughly ridiculous and a blast to play again and again. To put it simply, it's a Hideki Kamiya game.
Sure, the first entry is a flawed game in its story and tone. Nothing that can't be fixed in a sequel, right? Absolutely right. Nearly every facet of this game has been improved in this 2014 Wii U sequel Bayonetta 2. From the main character's new shorter haircut, to the frame rate, to the flow of combat, to the tone of the cut scenes, this sequel has streamlined an otherwise bumpy ride.
The game opens up with Bayonetta and her BFF witch pal Jeanne shopping in a North American city. After remarking that angels have been quiet recently, some enormous angels attack and the witch sisters must dispel them. When summoning a demon beast, the monster escapes and kills Jeanne in its rampage. Jeanne is dragged to hell. Bayonetta enlists the help of her arms dealer Rodin and her mortal friend Enzo to travel to the depths of hell (seen below) and rescue her friend.
The story from there is essentially nonsense, much like the first game. I mean, there's a young boy named Loki who throws cards around. He's traveling up the famed Mount Fimbulventr but can't remember who he is or what his motivation is. Amnesia. How original. The mortal investigator Luka returns and provides witty dialogue yet again. The team's adventures fighting angels, devils, and whatever Prophet is supposed to be is an absolute joy to play through. It's total drivel, no doubt about it. But this time around, the game acknowledges that its story makes no sense and doesn't let it get in the way.
The combat system remains the same. Press X for hand-based weapons and A for those on your feet. B to jump and ZR to dodge. If you dodge an enemy attack at the very last moment, you can activate Witch Time. In Witch Time, all foes are slowed down, letting you have at it undisturbed. It's a fascinating system. The combos that you can achieve with differing presses of X and A allow for experimentation. The game rewards you for using a variety of combos and gaining Witch Time by giving you a higher score at the end of each arena battle. Each melee is scored from Stone, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Pure Platinum. Replay each chapter to improve your score and earn more halos!
Halos earned from battle can be used in the in-game shop, the Gates of Hell. Rodin will sell you new techniques, items, costumes, and treasures. Items like lollipops can heal you, buff your shield, or increase your power meter. Accessories cost some serious cash, but can give you special advantages in battle. It's cool to re-enter battles, try new ideas, gather some halos, and then go to the store to upgrade some more. But the true pleasure in Bayonetta 2's combat is in Bayonetta's witch powers.
The battles against the last Lumen Sage are some of the most intense and heart-pounding I've ever played.
When you land combos, a small meter at the top of the screen builds up. Once filled, you can unleash special summons. Wicked Weaves are single-enemy attacks that torture and brutalize an opponent in increasingly gory ways. Guillotines, racks, chainsaws, demon claws, you name it. Going up against a huge angel? Instead, you may have to spend your witch power on Umbran Climax. Once activated, Bayonetta's regular attacks are amplified to absurdity. Plus she recovers health and does not flinch.
I cannot express in text how satisfying it feels to pull off combos and Witch Time. It's exhilarating. It never gets old. It was great the first time. And somehow, Platinum funded by Nintendo made the whole process smoother and cleaner. The forays themselves, the set pieces connecting large battles in sequences, and the traveling between them has been ironed out and honed to near perfection. There's enough enemy diversity so you never feel like you're fighting the same guys over and over again. The locales that Bayonetta explores are so distinct that you can tell them apart instantly. Nothing is unclear or requiring long explanations. Every battle and every platforming bit flow seamlessly into one another.
In addition to a perfectly-paced single-player, Platinum added a two-player online mode. In Tag Climax, two players can join up in battles ripped from the campaign. They compete to see who can earn the best score. It's not co-op, per se. It's a competition. Whatever it is, this is an excellent way to earn halos to unlock more stuff.
Totally something I'd expect to see from the Book of Revelations.
I suppose I should mention that Bayonetta can wear outfits resembling Princess Peach, Princess Daisy, Fox McCloud, Link, and Samus Aran. I suppose I should also mention that sound effects and summons are even customized accordingly. Somewhere in this review I should bring up the fact that there is a very solid port of the first Bayonetta is included in the retail purchase. But I'm sure you've already heard about all that.
Bayonetta 2 is a flawless Bayonetta game. The game play has been rendered sharper and more precise. The story, as lackadaisical as always, ascends from slapdash distractions to pulp fun. An extra online mode and hilarious bonus costumes on top of an deep system of experimentation and customization. This unlikely revisiting of this universe takes the concept of Bayonetta and builds it to sheer, undeniable excellence. This may stand as a shining beacon of fantastic third-person action games for this new generation.
It may be my years of repressed feelings after dense Catholic school education talking here. But I honestly believe that Bayonetta 2 may take it for my personal Game of the Year for 2014. Let's just see how Smash Bros 4 for Wii U turns out. As for now, let's give this thing a rating.
Categories: Member Discussion, Reviews, Wii U