Bayonetta 2 Review – One Hell of a Ride

Bayonetta 2 has been quite a while in the making. After Platinum Games spent time trying to find someone to make the sequel a reality, they found a friend in an unlikely company: Nintendo. Would Nintendo alter the content? How would it be received? Would the game even be good? Now that the game has released, I have to say it doesn’t disappoint.

Visuals – 10/10
Platinum have become masters at making their games visually appealing and incredibly smooth; Bayonetta 2 is no exception to this trend. After playing through the original Bayonetta, which was a great game to begin with, the difference is staggering, as well. The moment I took control of Bayonetta and began whooping up on some angelic creatures, my eyes were given a visual feast full of colors and an incredibly smooth frame rate.

I seriously cannot emphasize how good this game looks and runs. It didn’t matter how many enemies I was taking on, the frame rate was solid and, in turn, fed into fluid gameplay mechanics. The developers put a lot of time, effort, and care into every detail, and it visually shows.

Gorgeous backdrops and locals use a wide palette of colors: ranging from drab browns to vibrant powder blue
Gorgeous backdrops and locals use a wide palette of colors: ranging from drab browns to vibrant powder blue

As always, one of my favorite aspects regarding the visual splendor in Bayonetta 2 is that the developers utilized colors. Is this on the same level as a Mario title? No, not at all. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a vibrant usage of a broad color palette. In the Prologue alone – which the Wii U demo of the title was based around – the gamer is treated to various colors: different shades of blue, red, yellow, green, and purple. The level designs and color usage only get more varied as the game progresses, ranging from the [seemingly] standard browns, grays, and olive greens, to robust yellows, reds, blues, and oranges.

In addition to the color usage, the game simply looks outstanding. I cannot think of one moment throughout my entire experience (both online and offline) where the game didn’t leave me in awe. The incredible locales and battlegrounds are all held to high visual standards, outdoing anything the first game had to offer, which was already a high standard to begin with. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll stick mainly to opening segments for examples.

In one of the opening levels, the player is battling angelic creatures on top of an F-16 soaring around a city. Now, if you are actually playing the game you wont notice a lot of the detail because you are too busy thrashing enemies amidst chaotic action. I highly recommend having someone else play so you can simply watch what is going on; it is gorgeous and offers something for even the friend that might be watching you play. Beautiful man-made lakes glimmer below, buildings pass by with dizzying speed on either side of the jet, and angelic beings of yellow, white, blue, gold, and gray soar after you with a glorious powder blue sky as the background. This is only the prologue into the story of Bayonetta 2, and it constantly one-ups itself until the very end.

Even amidst the fighting, Bayonetta makes sure to throw in some dance moves. Fighting with style
Even amidst the fighting, Bayonetta makes sure to throw in some dance moves. Fighting with style

Bayonetta 2 is a title that you can show off to those naysayers who think the Wii U cannot produce quality HD visuals that resemble the “next gen experience.” What’s more, it isn’t a superficial visual display similar to titles that focus solely on how the game looks than how the game plays; Bayonetta 2 is a perfect marriage of the two. I legitimately couldn’t find anything to complain about, other than perhaps an improved screen resolution on the GamePad would’ve benefited a game like this. However, that is hardly a complaint at all, since it still looks very nice on the GamePad and is very much enjoyable to play on the GamePad alone.

Audio – 9/10
The tricky thing with audio is that it can go completely unnoticed, but once a player comes across a game that does a poor job implementing audio aspects, in both compositions and general audio cues, it is clear to see the affect the audio can have on a gaming experience. For instance, if the music in a game isn’t varied enough or is generally bland, it can make the gameplay experience through specific segments seem more dull than they might actually be. Audio fatigue or lack of creativity and variation can truly hinder the gameplay experience in a title.

Again, Bayonetta 2 gets the job done with incredible fashion. Audio cues and sounds are all spot on, with Bayonetta spouting one-liners as the player is treated with grunts, vicious punching sounds, and a plethora of cues triggered by how the characters interact with the surroundings. Every audio cue is crisp, clean, and fits very well.

The actual compositions in Bayonetta 2 are well done, too, and it is hard for me to even wrap my head around the work that must’ve been put into making the transitions between audio cues and compositions. Masami Ueda, the lead composer for both Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2, gave an excellent overview of the overall work put into the game earlier this year. The love and care put into the soundtrack to fill in the deliciously chaotic action sequences definitely shows.

Music is a key component in Bayonetta 2. Heck, there are even collectibles influenced by music
Music is a key component in Bayonetta 2. Heck, there are even collectibles influenced by music

What is so great about the soundtrack in Bayonetta 2 that many other titles in various genres miss are the correlations between audio and gameplay. What I mean is this: audio (both musical and general sounds) can directly affect the gameplay the player experiences. For example, in a title like Bayonetta 2, timing is key to combinations and flow of moves. When an enemy is about to attack, there is a very subtle sound that is triggered along with the enemy weapon glowing, to signify the player needs to dodge the oncoming attack. Bayonetta 2 is perfect in this aspect; the developers implemented a system of sound to accompany the fighting system, and it truly helps to make the gameplay even more fluid and quite enjoyable.

Gameplay – 9.5/10
Action games can be very enjoyable experiences, but it is very common for them to turn into “button mashers,” where the player simply begins pushing buttons as fast as they can, with no method or reason. Though there is some fun to be had in these types of games, they usually get redundant very quickly and lose their charm and appeal after a short amount of game time. Bayonetta 2 delivers one of, if not the, best gameplay experience in an action game I’ve ever encountered.

There are some minor flaws in the gameplay in regards to camera angles, though. There were different battles where a larger enemy would take up more of the screen, and as I battled it I would lose track of Bayonetta behind an arm, tree, pillar, or some other obstruction. Luckily the audio cues play so well, when speaking of dodging and defense, that rarely ever did it hinder me. However, I have to point it out that some angles are a little less than desirable and could alter the flow of a combo. I also seemed to be repositioning the camera quite often just to look in the right direction, where I should be using the right stick to explore the surroundings, not just to focus on the correct direction.

Other than those minor complaints, I have had a substantial amount of fun with this game. The “X” button is used for your punch-based attacks, “A” button is for kick-based attacks, and the “Y” button is used for your gun/enemy weapon. Each weapon brings along with it different combos of button sequences, and mixing arm and leg weapons adds even more to the vast amount of attack combinations. I’ve played this game quite a lot and I’m certain there are still a few moves I haven’t really utilized yet. Not only do the sequences matter in the attack combos, but the timing in which they are pressed. For instance, press “X” and pause slightly before pressing the next button and it creates an entirely new string of combos. The fighting mechanics are extensive, and are more than just a way to “button mash” to win.

Add into these exceptional button combos a fantastic dodge mechanic, and you’ve got some ridiculously solid controls. The mechanics are, thankfully, extremely tight and work well. For an action game with this type of pace, that is a huge blessing, and enhances the gameplay tremendously.

The fighting is chaotic, and with each new level comes a new way Bayonetta 2 one-ups itself
The fighting is chaotic, and with each new level comes a new way Bayonetta 2 one-ups itself

When an attack is dodged at just the right moment, “Witch Time” is triggered, slowing everything but Bayonetta down for a limited amount of time. This is extremely helpful when surrounded by large numbers of enemies, or getting some good attack time on a boss. All of this dodging and attacking builds up a meter, and once that meter is filled, the player can either choose to use “Umbran Climax,” which essentially beefs up Bayonetta’s moves with the help from her demonic pets, or use a “Torture Attack,” which are amusingly satisfying cutscenes fueled by button mashing (ironic, right?) or rotating the left stick. There are so many ways to destroy your enemies that it is really hard to get bored with this game.

I’ve played quite a few titles; ranging from beginner-type games (to introduce new players to the genre) to those which require true skill (and patience to not throw the controller across the room). Bayonetta 2, interestingly enough, covers the entire spectrum of skill. I’ve spoken of the gameplay mechanics an action game aficionado might care about, but what has been implemented in the title that is extremely cool is the usage of the GamePad.

Perhaps you don’t have much experience playing these types of games, or you really enjoy these games, but are just terrible at them. Look no further, as the developers use the GamePad to get by that: with the stylus, you can direct Bayonetta on the screen, and combos are made very easy to perform. Essentially, the player can use the touch screen for various moves by tapping and swiping on the screen with the stylus. Need to walk to a spot in the distance? Tap and hold where you want Bayonetta to run to and she’ll head there. Annoyed with a particular enemy who won’t leave you alone? Give them a tap or swipe and Bayonetta begins performing combos on the poor wretch. It is a perfect way to introduce a new player to the genre, and works surprisingly well. I was very skeptical about it, and I have to admit I had a blast playing with these mechanics. They open up the accessibility for a new crowd.

Gameplay in Bayonetta 2 is fast, frenetic, solid, tight, and over-the-top. If you want a game with some of the best gameplay mechanics in an action game, ridiculously awesome boss battles, with just a few minor camera angle flaws, look no further than Bayonetta 2.

Bayonetta takes a breather from battle to have a look at the moon...while walking along the side of a building
Bayonetta takes a breather from battle to have a look at the moon…while walking along the side of a building

Entertainment Factor – 9/10
Firstly, I want to speak on the content of Bayonetta 2 and look/portrayal of the main protagonist. The game has garnished some criticism and controversy regarding the portrayal of women in video games. I want to quash that thought right now. Bayonetta isn’t some sex symbol toy created by misogynistic developers, nor is the game sexist in any way, depicting women as sex toys. Bayonetta is in control of her fate and she uses her sexuality to her advantage; she is not a damsel in distress, she is not a sex symbol for man-children (though I’m sure she will be construed that way by, well, man-children), and she is not invulnerable either.

The story is very much like the rest of the game: over-the-top. But I quite enjoyed it, and found it to be a story worth telling. The game takes place not long after the first one, and Bayonetta is quick to find out that something is amiss between the balance of light and dark, Lumen Sages and the remaining Umbra Witches. After losing control of her pet, Gomorrah, her friend and witch sister Jeanne falls victim to the demon, her soul pulled down to the depths of Hell. Bayonetta’s goal is clear: save Jeanne at all costs, even if that means going to Hell. The powerful protagonist recruits the help of a mysterious character named Loki and her “friend” Rodin, with Enzo making an appearance as well.

Bayonetta and Jeanne are pals and witch sisters. They'd (literally) go to Hell for each other
Bayonetta and Jeanne are pals and witch sisters. They’d (literally) go to Hell for each other

What made me connect with Bayonetta and actually care what happened next was that she is both incredibly powerful and vulnerable as well, putting her own life in danger to rescue her friend from the clutches of Hell. Bayonetta truly cares for her friend, and she also grows an affinity towards Loki as well, nicknaming him as, “Little one.” She, however, is still more than capable of getting the job done. In fact, if anyone in this game is helpless and made into a comical victim, it’s Enzo, not Bayonetta.

Another fine addition to the title, though a game like this doesn’t necessarily need it, is an online feature named “Tag Climax.” The player gathers things called “verse cards” and can then use them in Tag Climax. The mode pits two players against each other to gather the most halos. How is this done? By betting halos on verse cards (which bring up different enemies to fight) and outperforming the other player while fighting enemies. Combos and damage taken factor into overall points, which lead to halos earned. At first, I wasn’t a fan of the mode, but it definitely grew on me over time. It is a fun addition to the core game, but don’t expect any kind of amazing online experience: it’s a simple, effective, and fun addition to the main game. It is better to think of Tag Climax as an addition to the stellar main game, which just adds to the overall experience.

So is Bayonetta 2 worth your time and money? Absolutely. Whether you are new to the genre, or a seasoned player, Bayonetta 2 is a must-have for any Wii U owner. Is it a system seller? No, I wouldn’t say so, unless you are an action game junkie, in which case, go buy a Wii U and play this game right now. Fantastic gameplay mechanics, gorgeous visuals, a brilliantly implemented soundtrack, with a few minor gameplay flaws regarding the camera; this sums up Bayonetta 2. It is easy to say that Bayonetta 2 is one hell of a ride. Yes, pun totally intended.

Overall – 9.4/10

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