There an impossible number of ways to describe a game like Bayonetta 2. Sexy, confident, and especially brutal, Platinum Games’ darling action heroine carries herself with the elegance of a dancer and fights like a character possessed, only she’s the one exorcising demons here. Bayonetta is a mess of contradictions, a femme fatale unabashedly nonchalant, with her game of equal measure. Bayonetta 2 embodies the same cruelty and kindness, blowing a kiss before firing a hail of bullets as if teasing its players to keep up. Beneath the theatrics, Bayonetta 2 is no less a game of its predecessor’s high merit; rather, it’s the visual and interactive masterpiece its rivals aspire to be.
Months after the climactic events of the original, Bayonetta 2 sees our lovely Umbra witch in the middle Christmas shopping with her friend Jeanne. Unfortunately her respite is cut short when a small legion of angels attack this mortal city, forcing Bayonetta to strap on her guns once again for another round against her divine arch-enemies. It’s Jeanne’s kidnapping that has our lady of the hour battling angels and demons alike on her journey to the darkest depths of the Inferno to save her friend.
For those that doubt the Wii U’s power, Bayonetta 2 proves it’s powerful enough. The system seems the ideal easel with which Platinum paints its masterful work and its results are stunning to be hold. From the way the light reflects off the water to the game’s commendable character models, Platinum succeeds in its artistic endeavors every turn down to its gorgeous attention to detail. Its exhaustive swirl of color and movement is nothing short of hypnotic, and it lends the game a titillating bout of energy that – when set against the Gothic-inspired architecture and Asia-inspired landscapes – makes for the perfect backdrop to its epic battles of good and evil, of which Platinum spare no expense.
Playing Bayonetta 2 on its hardware of choice is something less of a feat, but no less of an accomplishment. Bayonetta’s control scheme is remarkably simple, including buttons for attacks and double-taps of each for extended moves, from running and gunning to the trusty dodge mechanic unleashing the game’s makeshift bullet-time dubbed “witch time.” You can also string attacks together to form a variety of combos that when linked to her weapons and “super” powers is a joy to watch. Bayonetta 2 can also be played a variety ways such as with the Wii U Pro Controller or GamePad. While the former is preferable, the latter remains serviceable, with supporting off-screen play and touch-screen controls unlikely to be used by most for want of keeping pace with the onscreen action.
As the game would suggest, Bayonetta herself is the game’s real star, one as easy on the eyes as she is to like, if not love. She’s sexy and she knows it, as she would make known to every demon squirming beneath her heel. She loves butterflies, hearts, and flowers, and they’re all how she kicks butt, literally blasting valentine-shaped holes in whatever stands in her way. Unlike the Tomb Raider reboot, where Lara’s womanly sensitivity is what keeps her from becoming a killing machine, Bayonetta is unforgiving; her overtly sexualized proportions not compromising her agency, but empowering it. Her clothes (or magical hair suit) vanish for a brief moment while she unleashes her fury, but careful camera angles never seem to inhibit its otherwise innocuous nature. It would be too much to call the game feminist; like Wonder Woman or Xena Warrior Princess, Bayonetta is very much a man’s vision of female power. She’s neither a damsel in distress nor a watered down maternal figure and the game is blessedly indifferent towards semantics.
The game at large proceeds with the hypersexuality in the same manner: joyful rather than oppressive, extending Bayonetta’s overdetermined power rather than contrasting it. The voice acting is endearingly corny, sound effects are perfect, and the soundtrack laden in J-pop has a feel to it that goes hand-in-hand with the gameplay. Each monster’s arrival beckons the sound of a similar foreboding orchestral score, whereas Bayonetta’s triumph ushers in a cheery J-pop tune that perfectly plays to the game’s themes of power and dominance. Boss battles rage larger than life, some masculine, feminine, and monstrously alien, all respectively fill the screen with their size and scope. Skyscraper-sized angels and demons threaten to eat Bayonetta live, but there is no handsome prince to save our clearly capable witch.
All the same, Bayonetta ditches the macho self-pity of such slaughters like God of War’s battles in favor of insolent mischief. Bayonetta is not just beating her lugubrious foes; she’s having a better time than they could possibly imagine. “See ya!” she says as she knocks a baddie off his perch, and “F**k off!” she taunts as she dances to the tune of slicing a half-dozen oversized Goliaths with titillating ferocity. Here, Bayonetta is the one unleashing hell for which there is no true heaven, unashamed and delightfully outrageous.
If any fault can be found with Bayonetta 2, it’s that a bulk of the action is dedicated to an on-rails experience, but even these serve as a refreshing change of pace to ground-based combat. Boss battles boom on an epic scale from playing punch in a mech-suit to jumping onto the back of a fighter jet while you take on the armies of heaven; it’s just pure fun. As Bayonetta performs her flips, jumps and dodging, there’s an element of rhythm required to succeed and when you find this zone, the gameplay really gets exciting. Bosses and flying segments can blur together and feel a bit like Bayonetta’s greatest hits ten hours later, though they all hit hard enough never to become passé. That they all seem to permeate an endless loop of action is in fact key to the plot – so much so as to question the very logic of a third entry, all likelihood of it aside.
Another highlight of Bayonetta 2 on the Wii U is that it comes with the original game so if you’ve missed this title the first time around, rest assured that the original shares every bit of its sequel’s action and charm. With just over 15 action-packed chapters, Bayonetta 2 should take most seasoned gamers around 12 to 15 hours to beat. Nonetheless, you can increase or decrease the difficulty to match your skill and you’ll likely have plenty of secrets and unlockables to find your second time playing. As you do defeat enemies in the game, you’re awarded the in-game currency called halos, which allows you to upgrade at the shop thanks to Rodin. You can also mix and match the weapons that Bayonetta has access to and nothing is more enjoyable than unleashing your dual swords while finishing off your enemy with your high heels that are linked to a gun.
A review of Bayonetta 2 can’t go without talking about climaxes, the new Umbran Climax among them, which allows Bayonetta the power to summon ancient demons to increase her attacks and damage to devastating degree once her meter is filled. Like the original game, the witch time mechanic, which is basically bullet-time that slows down the game to give Bayonetta the upper hand, provided you perform a last-minute dodge. The second climax is the new Tag Climax, which allows players to team up with another player in co-op mode therby allowing for double the action for competitive gamers as you try to beat each other’s scores. This mode’s great for racking up your halos and doubly fun, adding a bit more time you’ll spend giving enemies the boot.
It can be said that Bayonetta 2 sets the gold standard for action, moreover for the Wii U. What we have here is near-perfection: its graphics are exceptional, its gameplay flawless, and its art-style inspired. Here’s a femme fatale that will make you laugh and also give you a healthy dose of controller rage. Playfully mature and darkly satisfying, Bayonetta 2 outdoes itself so often that even perfection can’t ever not seem good enough. Like any addiction, Bayonetta will always make you want more, but two games may have to be enough for us mere mortals.