Some forces in the universe can’t help but clash, what with opposites attracting, causality, and any number of unentertaining laws of physics, space, and time, so it’s no surprise when Platinum Games thrusts heroine Bayonetta back into a war with the forces of light. Originally debuting on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Bayonetta promised everything action gaming aficionados wanted in a spiritual successor to the likes of Devil May Cry and to its credit the game actually delivered. Despite the awkward stripper-pole dancing and a costume made out of her own hair, Bayonetta kicks a ton of ass in heels you couldn’t get Master Chief or male Commander Shepard to wear. I’d say she carries a lot more weight on her chest too.
What proved surprising was Nintendo’s close relationship with Platinum Games and the ensuing exclusivity of Bayonetta 2 on Wii U, with new copies of the game offering digital downloads of the original title ported to the console. I wouldn’t normally associate the company with a product like this, though having played the first game several years ago I think Bayonetta 2 does a better job of creating humor out of such conflicting material. Where the original game attempted to capture a sense of motherhood in a war between light and dark, Bayonetta 2 goes above and beyond the call of duty to tie loose ends, add to gameplay, and wink at fans.
The experience starts with mostly familiar faces, including Bayonetta’s lackey Enzo, her shopkeep Rodin, and her friend Jeanne. Soon, Jeanne’s soul is trapped by a masked Lumen Sage and Bayonetta is forced to battle through a series of angels before stumbling upon a young boy named Loki, seemingly gifted with the ability to navigate Purgatorio as Bayonetta does. While cutscene textures leave a lot to be desired and the game’s subtitles use a Comic Sans MS style font of all things, gameplay quickly boils down to intense fights against baddies of varying size and power.
A few familiar faces dot the landscape, but through the game’s sixteen chapters, brawling with enemies didn’t feel nearly as repetitive as the first outing for our witchy woman. Bayonetta can switch between weapon sets by altering X and A button presses, though overzealous fans of her whip or dual swords can double-up in the menus. As with past action games from Hideki Kamiya, you’ll familiarize yourself with combos during loading screens and in the end the overall difficulty curve proves smoother and more satisfying in Bayonetta 2 than it did in the original game.
For one, arenas aren’t packed with as many filler enemies and mid-boss designs remain that way throughout much of the game without adding to health or attack power. Only in the final chapters will Bayonetta have to face off against familiar enemies, though in single-player these sequences are made easier and more entertaining through the inclusion of new co-operative fighting mechanics. Throughout the game, you’ll unlock Verse Cards which open dedicated objectives for two players to tackle together adding to replayability and emphasizing Wii U’s multiplayer focus.
While I didn’t spend much time in this mode, I did come to laugh more and more at Bayonetta’s awkward animations and slightly less-than-believable narrative shifts. The experience focuses greatly on time and a clock face acts a sort of comic-esque cinematic director, swinging long and short hands wildly to cut between character reactions, explosions, and other unbelievable scene-blocking. This might leave a few players disinterested though each chapter is balanced with a few choreographed and fully animated sequences.
Still, Bayonetta manages to turn enemies into friends, save the day, and generally kick angel and demon ass despite an overarching awareness that dampens and nearly mutes some of the outlandish content that sold the original experience. When you attach our heroine's dual swords to her feet, one of the blades consistently cuts through her leg as Bayonetta returns to a resting, standing position. The enemies themselves speak far less in this sequel, perhaps knowing that doing so would only drive up the playtime and I would say that I appreciate Bayonetta not overstaying her welcome if not for fear of a spanking.
In the end, Platinum Games manages to tie up the possibility of a sequel in some of Bayonetta’s past and in doing so leaves little to the imagination. What more do gamers need to know about this dominatrix of the battlefield? Unlocking Nintendo-themed costumes and weaponry will certainly provide the fodder necessary to waste a month between now and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U or any other games you may get this holiday season.
If you’re an action gamer with a Wii U or even an older Nintendo fan with patience enough for Bayonetta’s Moon River remix soundtrack, then summon the strength to face this bad hair day with both guns up. Actually, make it all four guns up. Bayonetta manages to pull it off without tucking her ankles behind her head, though you might strain something if you try it her way.
Code provided by publisher. Exclusive to Nintendo Wii U.