Platinum Games’ Bayonetta is easily one of the best action games of all time. The original Bayonetta was released on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 a few years ago, but thanks to some kind of deal, Nintendo have secured the sequel, Bayonetta 2, for exclusive release on the Wii U. The action-brawler features the sexiest video-game character of all time, Bayonetta, in another adventure through time and space. The franchise is known for being incredibly lewd, having tight and amazing combat mechanics and generally having a great sense of humour. Bayonetta 2 continues this tradition.
The titular Umbran Witch returns to Europe in a quest that will take her through the (actual) Gate of Hell in order to save a friend that is close to her. This friend is none other than Jeanne, an Umbran Witch returning from the first Bay0netta, who seems to have a much more intimate relationship with Bayonetta this time around. The story starts with the cast of characters going out for a bit of last-minute Christmas shopping the day before the celebratory event. However, things soon turn from the worst when the city is attacked by angelic forces. During a battle involving a massive fight on the back of a plane, a train and then up the side of a building, Jeanne’s soul is captured and taken down to hell, giving her body a short time to live. Even worse is that Jeanne herself could be devoured by demons while in hell. After the prologue mission that runs through this process, Bayonetta takes flight in a Sonic and/or Alex the Kidd reference (on the back of a plane) and heads for the Gate of Hell.
Much like in the first Bayonetta, the storyline in Bayonetta 2 is both really serious, and entirely nonsensical at the same time. What we mean here is that the themes being showcased are usually quite serious in nature, like having to save your friends very soul, but a lot of the dialogue and character interactions often go from incredibly serious to playful in a matter of half-a-second. Quite often some villain will pop-up to taunt Bayonetta, or something similar, and there’ll be this ominuous feeling all around, when suddenly Cereza (Bayonetta’s real name) will do something ridiculous and make her opponents play into her own frame. This doesn’t even have to be a bad-guy, for example, her interactions with the new character, Loki, will quite often venture into a comedic tone, while still being on a really serious topic. For example, the first scene that the two of them meet each other in (technically), and where it carries on just a little bit later in the level.
The biggest strength of the storyline is how absurd it can get, while still being incredibly believable. This is probably because the premise of the game is already incredibly absurd, as it’s about a 500+ year old Umbran Witch is running around the modern era fighting Angels and Demons while also running around and traveling through time and space, at times, as well as the Angelic realm of Paradiso and the demonic realm of Inferno. However, these angels and demons are not able to be seen by regular humans, so most people are completely unaware that they are there. However, Lumen Sages and Umbran Witches are able to access a third realm, Purgatorio, where these creatures often interact with the human world.
One of the major differences in the Story mode of Bayonetta 2 is that the story feels like it is a bit less than the first Bayonetta. This might sound strange, but the story progresses much more quickly than the first, and the levels feel a lot more shorter as well. What was also concerning was that there was a bit less exploration involved through the majority of the early game, but, it changed towards the end where heading off the beaten path was amply rewarded. The opening exploratory level in Bayonetta 2 felt exactly like a level in the first Bayonetta, but with some really cool elements being added gradually the further you’d go. What was great was that there were a few un-obvious walkways and corridors that could be explored and they would lead to Witches Graves (treasure chests), or special portals that take the player to a challenge.
However, as the game progresses, it becomes much more narrow in scope in regards to level design, that some sections resemble the maps of Final Fantasy XIII. This was a bit disappointing as the secrets were too easily found and didn’t take too much of an effort to find. Sometimes, hidden challenges would be placed directly along the path from the beginning to the end. This kind of level design carries on, with a few exceptions, until Cereza finds her way into Hell. Although, after this point, the levels do become a bit more complicated, and there are nice rewards for following those complications. Although, sometimes, you just have to fight enemies that are three times stronger. So, it’s pretty fun when it gets like that.
The standout part of Bayonetta 2 is the excellent combat system. This system is taken from the first Bayonetta, but is changed just a little to make combat a little more interesting. With the first Bayonetta, players could build up their Magic Gauge and utilise it to extend their Witch Time while dodging at just the right moment. Witch Time is still an integral part of combat, and dodging at the right moment does cause a slow-down, similar to ‘Bullet Time’ in ‘The Matrix’. However, it no longer drains Witch Power, and it doesn’t last as long. Instead, Witch Power is utilised in both special ‘Umbran Climax’ abilities and ‘Torture Attacks’.
When activating an Umbran Climax, all of Bayonetta’s attacks become a bit more magical and a lot more powerful in nature. Quite often, demon summons will assist with these attacks with more devastating damage and effects. What’s cool is that Umbran Climaxes could only be used against bosses in the first Bayonetta, but in Bayonetta 2, they can be used against normal enemies as well. The Torture Attacks are similar to the original Bayonetta, but, they drain the Magic Gauge, instead of being able to be activated when the enemies are stunned.
These changes in the combat system change the fluidity of the combat in Bayonetta 2, but it doesn’t change it for any worse. It flows just as well as the first games combat, and behaves very similarly on a functional level. It’s those minor changes that separate it from the first, and it feels a lot more like a sequel because of that. The combat now feels even more fluid because players can segue in more powers and not cut out large portions of fighting with torture attacks, which did make the first flow a bit less. Although, for players like me, Torture Attacks are a little missed, because I really loved those, and now that you have to earn enough Magic to use them, it’s a bit different and they don’t pop up as much as they did in the first.
Customisation was one of the biggest draws of the combat in the first Bayonetta game, and the second carries along that legacy. Throughout Bayonetta 2, players unlock weapons by handing in LP records to the vendor, Rodin. Most of the time, these LPs are found incredibly easily, with little effort involved in hiding them, but there are a few hidden weapons where players will have to collect portions of broken LPs in order to unlock them. At the time of writing, we are still missing a piece of an LP that we just can not find. Anyway, once a weapon is unlocked, it can be equipped as an item set, just like in the first, with one weapon going the legs, and another in the hands. What’s cool is that you can’t have two of the same weapon equipped unless you purchase the alternative set for each.
Utilising these weapons in combat completely changes the way that Bayonetta approaches battle. For example, if you use the swords, Bayonetta is much quicker to attack, and if you use the whips, she is slower but can do more AoE-esque attacking. The player can combine these effects with combos if these items are equipped together, meaning that you can keep enemies back with one weapon while slashing through them with another. We definitely recommend playing around with a bunch of different weapons in the practice mode available to find a couple of weapon sets that work for the players playstyle. You can switch between two different weapon sets during play, which actually does get utilised quite a bit. This is definitely true for the Lumen Sage fights, where you’ll need that speed advantage when he is close, and that ranged advantage when he is far.
Added into Bayonetta 2 is a multiplayer co-operative mode where players can team-up with each other and fight enemies that they unlock throughout the story mode of the game. Unfortunately, the multiplayer has very little bearing on the singleplayer story outside of accumulating the games currency, or Halo’s, for spending in Rodin’s store. The multiplayer is a lot of fun though, and players can team up with CPU fighters if they have any problems with playing with other players. In the multiplayer, players can also bet Halo’s, which increases the winnings at the end of the six fights in the mode, but it also makes the fight that the bet was on a bit more difficult.
The first Bayonetta had a really catchy pop soundtrack for combat that often contrasted with some of the more ambient tunes that played while exploring. This is definitely true for Bayonetta 2, with a pop-remix of Moon River being one of the central songs in the game, much like Fly Me To The Moon was in the first. However, this time around, Bayonetta has a new central theme song that plays, which is ‘Tomorrow is Mine’. What was awesome was how pop tracks would play while in standard battles, these songs would pop up for more intense ones. Although, boss fights tended to have much more heavier songs, much like in the first game. One of the most noteworthy parts of the musical score was that it got a bit fanservicey at one point in the game, with some of the classic Bayonetta tracks making their return for a few battles.
One of the most amazing things about Bayonetta 2 is the amazing voice cast acting as the characters in the game. Bayonetta is just as sultry as ever, and the rest of the cast fit their roles so well that it’s hard to fault the production on the quality of voice acting. One of the biggest parts of Bayonetta 2’s dialogue is how it can go from serious to dropping jokes and one liners in just an instant. The voice cast seems like it has little difficulty in doing this and it really seems like they were passionate about this project by the sheer quality of the vocal performances on the English casts side. It’s great that a game that has such witty dialogue has a cast of actors that can deliver on that wit. It’s quite fun because of this.
Overall, Bayonetta 2 is easily the best action game to have come out this year. Platinum games have built a successor worthy to the original Bayonetta, even if it has a few smudges that make it a bit less in some areas, but a bit more in other areas. The highlight of the game is Bayonetta’s lewdness, the combat and the incredibly witty dialogue. This is all packed into a story that will keep players entertained the entire way through. While the game can come across as absurd in some regards, it’s an absurdity that benefits the game.
Bayonetta 2 is copyright SEGA, published by Nintendo and developer by Platinum Games Inc. It is the sequel to the first Bayonetta and the Australian edition comes packaged with the first game as a bonus. This review was paid for by the reviewer who is also a massive fan. Bayonetta 2 can be purchased from EB Games for ~$80. Check out our preview for more impressions on the title.