Bayonetta 2 Review (Wii U)
The action never stops in Bayonetta 2, not until the end credits roll. Sure there are moments in between battles where I'm solving a puzzle or running to another destination, but I can always count on some kind of monstrous figure making its presence known before long. With an ability set like Bayonetta's, however, even those brief interludes seem like an eternity as I just want to keep beating the crap out of everything that stands in my way. This is the perfect game for people who just want to sit down, take up a controller, and beat the ever-living snot out of enemies for hours at a time.
Controlling Bayonetta is super simple: walk with one control stick, change camera angles with the other, and attack with the face buttons: Y shoots the gun, X punches, and A kicks. Holding X or A after an attack leads to a short barrage of gunfire, which can extend a combo should an enemy be far away. Combos come from every variation of punches and kicks you can think of, and each one ends with an impressive attack with a giant fist or foot from Bayonetta's magic hair suit. Reaching Umbran Climax makes her even more powerful, and every hit of the combo features the giant appendages in some way.
Bayonetta herself is just how I remember her from the first game: brash and sassy with a wit as sharp as the weapons she carries. She's still a bit provocative in her design, and a few errant camera angles sprinkled throughout the game's cutscenes are a bit suggestive (to put it lightly), but she's still the same Bayonetta that I remember from the first game. Oh, except her hair is shorter.
Part of the reason I like Bayonetta the character so much is how powerful I feel controlling this Umbran Witch as she blasts her way through angels and demons alike. Every battle just makes me want to experiment with more combos, more elements to the attack, and every time I see the three-screenshot "end of battle" signal I get a bit disappointed. That's one of the most amazing things about Bayonetta 2; every control element here points to a measly hack-and-slash game with monotonous button mashing and repetitive enemy design, but it's nothing of the sort! I want to keep mashing these buttons, I want more enemies to try and take me down.
I say all of that without even mentioning the most satisfying part of the battle scheme: Witch Time. Pressing ZR to evade (the equivalent of R2 or RT to the non-Wii U crowd) at just the right moment essentially freezes time for a short period, allowing me to get a few free licks in without worrying about defending myself. Getting that timing down is essential to success in later chapters, but even against grunts seeing time stop and hearing Bayonetta yell, "Almost!" or some other cheeky phrase is so cool. I'm normally one of those full speed ahead types who prefers constant offense to a balanced attack, yet here I was evading almost every attack in the hopes of triggering Witch Time. I'm fully aware that Witch Time was in the first Bayonetta, it's just still that satisfying.
Bayonetta 2 pits our witchy heroine in the center of a struggle between Heaven and Hell (again), but the story really doesn't matter all that much outside of "this is the next place I'll be kicking some supernatural ass." Some of these locations are ridiculously cool; the first stage alone lets me battle on top of a fighter jet, a speeding train, and the side of a giant skyscraper. Other characters from the original game, like former rival Jeanne, the Gates of Hell bartender/shop owner Rodin, the journalist Luka, and comic relief wise guy Enzo all make appearances for fans of the first game, but the story centers around the young boy Loki and his quest to remember why he needs to get to the top of the mountain Fimbulvintr. Sure, Bayonetta is also trying to save Jeanne's soul from the depths of Hell, but there's more to this story than meets the eye. I was left guessing what was going on a few times, but the ride was always enjoyable.
Bayonetta 2 adds a new Tag Climax Mode, which allows two players to take on challenges set in the main story together via online. This means there's even more insane action happening on-screen (which, to be fair, does happen a few times in the story, too), but it also means that some other person is trying to take my kills away, and damn it I don't want that. Some may call it a co-op mode, but battling and killing enemies is so much fun I don't want to share, so the competitive nature of the mode is evident as well. Tag Climax does an admirable job of extending Bayonetta 2's shelf life, but there's nothing there that can't be experienced alone in the story mode.
I'm probably going to play through Bayonetta 2 again. Rare is the game that makes me want to play it multiple times, but mowing through enemies with insane combos and awesome witch powers is incredibly satisfying in ways that sometimes don't make sense. As I said above I should be lamenting the fact that the game makes me push the same buttons monotonously during battle, but it never grew old for me. Finding weak points, evading attacks to slow down time, and summoning insane hair magic monsters sounds just as fun as I sit here typing this as it did when I first booted the game up. Sure it gets a little suggestive, but I knew that coming in with Bayonetta, so nothing this game did surprised me in anyway.
The bigger surprise really is that Nintendo agreed to publish this at all, as Bayonetta 2 may be the most non-"Nintendo" game its ever backed. I'm glad it did, because Bayonetta 2 very well could end up one of the best games on its system.
This review is based on a digital copy of Bayonetta 2 provided by the publisher for the Wii U.