This year at the Nintendo Australia booth at EB Games Expo, Nintendo Australia were showcasing a number of upcoming and recently released games for the public to try out and play while at the booth. Nintendo themselves had games like Super Smash Bros. (3DS and Wii U versions), Splatoon, Hyrule Warriors, Mario Kart and more. However, locked away, behind the curtains to hidden away from underaged eyes was the game that we were hyped up the most to see (at the entire expo), Bayonetta 2. Bayonetta 2 is the sequel to the incredibly fun and controversial Bayonetta, which originally appeared on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 devices back in 2011. Since then, Nintendo has locked in exclusivity rights for the sequel with Sega, which means that the Platinum Games developed title will be released solely on Nintendo systems.
The build of the game on display ran through a prelude level consisting of three acts. In total, the play time was around 10 minutes or so, depending on how fast the players could clear each of the acts. The level starts with a custscene of Bayonetta flying in on the back of a Fighter Jet of some kind (I think it may have been a Hornet or a MiG, but can’t be too sure) when she is suddenly confronted by the angelic enemies from Paradiso. The player then assumes control of Bayonetta and is tasked with defeating the enemies to go onto the next act. The second act has Bayonetta meeting up with Jeanne, also flying in on the back of a plane. After a brief cutscene, the player is tasked with fighting a mini-boss monster, which ramps up the difficulty a little, but also further showcases the variety of fights in the game. Finally, the Jets crash into a building and Jeanne’s soul is kidnapped, leaving Bayonetta to fight a big Boss monster.
From the looks of things, this particular level was chosen in order to best showcase the feel for the energy, and variety, in Bayonetta 2. While the storyline is taking place, you never actually question why it is that Bayonetta and Jeanne are riding on the backs of planes, or even why these enemies are trying to kill you. This is a good thing, as it means that Bayonetta 2 is immersive right from the moment the player picks up the controller. I’m not just saying this as a massive fan of the series, but it was a thought that occurred to me when I was watching someone else play the game. It was strange to think that I just so readily accepted the strangeness happening on the screen, and the Bayonetta franchise is one that I love for making the impossible seem so believable.
One of the most important things that was on my mind when coming into Bayonetta 2 was how it would be handled under Nintendo’s umberella. Historically, Nintendo have been known to alter and remove, even censor, some content to make a game more family friendly. What’s interesting here is that, at least as far as I can tell, the game hasn’t been watered down in design at all. It’s still a frenetic, fast-paced action brawler, it’s still lewd as all heck, and some of the more controversial parts, like Bayonetta going almost completely nude while using special attacks, and some of the more gory climaxes and torture attacks have all been left in the game. However, it’s hard to say how the story will progress and if it will have some of the more lewd humour the first had considering we only got to play one chapter, but we’d say that what we’ve seen so far, there’s a good chance of it being left intact as well.
What was quite good was how the combat system has been pretty much left intact since the first Bayonetta was released. We played on the Wii U tablet, as there weren’t any Classic Controllers at the booth, but the controls were very reminiscent of how they were back with the first title. The tablet itself did have some functionality, I didn’t really note on what it was as the section we were playing required our full attention to be paid on the screen, but while I was watching other people play, it looked like some kind of menu or map. I will say that playing on a tablet wasn’t the most comfortable experience, but this is true for all Wii U games that have you play with it.
So in combat, the main idea is to use attack combos as either punches or kicks (or if you have other weapons, the buttons corresponding to where they’re equipped, so arms or legs) to defeat enemies quickly. If you are attacked, you can dodge, and if you dodge at the right time you slow down time and enter Witch Time, which essentially stops time for enemies but you can still move around and beat up on things. Players also have access to Bayonettas guns, which can be used to extend combos by holding down the button you’ve been attacking with, or can be used to chain combos like in Devil May Cry, by shooting with the Y button. The combat gameplay has really not changed significantly enough between games to comment on in too much detail. It’s definitely good that the near-perfect combat system was retained for this sequel.
What I found most interesting was that in the big Boss fight for this level was that Bayonetta has gained the ability to grow something akin to Butterfly wings. These wings allow her to fly around the enemy boss while it is climbing up a skyscraper. This mechanic seems like it would make the boss fight a breeze, but, it’s a Platinum game and it’s Bayonetta. The fight was definitely built with this mechanic in mind, and you can tell by how the Boss reacts to the player. You still need to dodge around and pick your fights, flying changes nothing more than the directions that you can dodge in. The Boss fight was and interesting, and it was a nice shakeup to the formula. Hopefully it’s not a flight fight every Boss, but it’s something fun to explore as a change of pace.
One of our biggest concerns was that considering that Bayonetta was such a fast paced game and had a frenetic premise, that the Wii U’s hardware wouldn’t be able to keep up with the pacing. In the demo we played, there weren’t any framerate issues that we could notice while playing, and the fluidity of each scene seemed to suggest that Wii U hardware was outputting at a decent rate. Personally, I’m a PC (master race) gamer at heart, and I expect the best out fo my games when it comes to fluidity. 30FPS does not cut it. I’d argue that sometimes 60fps doesn’t cut it either, for some games anyway. Does Bayonetta 2 hit 60fps, I’m not sure, we didn’t have a counter, but it was fluid in a way that suggested that it was running at a rate higher than 30. It felt like 60, but we can’t say for sure.
As a Bayonetta game, we have incredibly high hopes for Bayonetta 2 and are really optimistic that it will be a game that delivers on those hopes. From what we’ve played, it seems like Bayonetta 2 will be a successor worthy of the Bayonetta franchise. We look forward to spending more time with the Umbran Witches in a week or so’s time.
Other notes: I can’t confirm or deny that Bayonetta’s butt is flatter in this title. It feels like it’s flatter, but that could be the new costume. Jeanne is much prettier with long hair. Now that Bayonetta has short hair, I assume that her clothing is grown from pubic hairs.