Release Date: October 24, 2014Platform: Wii UDeveloper: PlatinumGamesPublisher: NintendoGenre: Action-Adventure
“It’s not Christmas without caviar.”
The above quote is one of many of the ridiculous lines from one of the many ridiculous cutscenes in this ridiculous game, but it kind of distills everything that you need to know about Bayonetta 2 in a shockingly economical way. “It’s not Christmas without caviar.” This is the whole point of the game. Decadence upon decadence. It’s taking something as big as Christmas and then covering it in gold. It’s hundred dollar bills that are also candy. Puppies that bark out winning lottery tickets.
Bayonetta 2 is not a game that practices restraint, and the amount of “dessert” that is heaped on this game is overwhelming to the point that the title should have come packaged with a shot of insulin.
The game opens up to some philosophical babble about the Trinity of Realities and yada yada damnation, but the plot here is basically you rescuing the fallen Jeanne from Inferno, the Hell surrogate, before her soul is completely absorbed, destroyed, and she leaves the Realm of the Living for good. Naturally, it’s Bayonetta to the rescue!
Even if you were to ignore all of that, the opening cutscene of the first level gives you all that you really need to know about Bayonetta 2, right down to the cheeky “credits” that introduce it. And if you happen to fall into the camp that doesn’t know anything about the Bayonetta series, this acts as a perfect descent into the insanity that is this game.
We start with Bayonetta walking around sucking a lollipop in her Sunday best while a mobster carries armfuls of Christmas presents for her. Not long after, Jeanne shows up on a motorcycle that seems to defy gravity (cars in general just ride full-out vertically along the side of buildings when they see fit), and before long, Bayonetta is kicking a jet out of the way and saving a building from being destroyed. Reality and convention are two things that this game has absolutely no time or interest in. And this is all before the fighting even starts.
Not long after weapons “cleverly” cut Bayonetta’s clothes off so she is briefly fully nude while attacking these demons, she quickly mounts a spirit horse and strikes him with a pistol so he’ll speed up. It’s such an overload of stimulation, color, and silliness. There are constant nods towards fan service and the fact that our protagonist is freaking stacked. It’s almost like the gaming equivalent of an orgasm. Or having an orgasm while you’re in the middle of a fever dream, might be more appropriate. It’s just so much, and it just keeps rising and never slowing down. When the level finally ends, you’re almost out of breath and forgotten where you were.
A lot of games like Devil May Cry, or even the recent Hyrule Warriors, try to emulate this sort of hack-and-slash gameplay, but Bayonetta stands out for the aforementioned silliness and absurdity that’s thrown in. But even if it wasn’t’ there, it’s still a constantly moving, refined, fun game that you never want to stop playing.
In terms of controls and gameplay, there’s not that much different going on here than the first Bayonetta, with a very simple setup for punching, kicking (which will see a giant stiletto materializing and knocking out baddies, if you’re strong enough), shooting, or even using your hair and the symbiote-like, ever-elastic outfit you wear, as you compile hefty combos that throw your foes all over the place.
It’s not necessary to master any of these combos (while it’s not difficult either), and button mashing will largely help you get through the game (excluding bosses), but it’s a pretty refined system if you explore everything it has to offer. You’ll find yourself collecting halos as currency to buy new weapons, items, accessories and costumes, techniques, and more from The Gates of Hell, Rodin’s item shop, to take all of this to its limit.
Level design is pretty simple, too: you’ll be exploring some temple-like area, a bunch of enemies will appear, and you won’t be able to exit the area until you’ve taken them all down. Just like before, and just like in countless other games like this, but it’s a system that works. There is variety, though. You’ll get to surf within a tornado and fly around with your Umbra wings. These levels are frenetic fun and a nice change of pace (who needs the ground!), although by no means slower than the other levels.
Bosses are a big focal point in the Bayonetta series, and just like last time, there are deeply interesting battles as you face off against things like an 1000-feet long millipede angel monster while running atop a moving subway train. You get to fight some seriously huge creatures that would seem impossible to defeat in any other game, but here are rendered into a kinky challenge. Each boss is amazing in a completely “this is not happening” kind of way.
These boss fights also have exhilarating “Gigaton” and “Megaton” segments where you really throw these huge monsters through the ringer, as you pummel them to pieces with your fists (from first-person), open up a black hole that chews on them effectively before spitting them back out, or even create a vicious beast out of the depths of your weave that messes with your enemy for a little bit. They’re just mash-heavy segments, and not difficult to pull off, but engaging to watch, as you once again shout out “What is going on?”
Bayonetta 2 is also thoughtful enough to include a handy Practice Mode between levels where you can work on your moves and try to master combos or concepts that are eluding you.
There’s plenty of new modes and features being offered up here too, with Witch Time being a fresh concept where if you dodge enemies at the right, last moment, they’ll be relegated to moving in slow motion as you tear them to shreds accordingly. While hardly necessary, Witch Time is an enjoyable mild complication to the gameplay that’s fun and adds to the surreal physics that move through the fighting of the game.
Similarly, the Umbran Climax (like Serious Mode from the first title’s boss fights) allows you to build your magic gauge as you attack enemies, and then allows you to unleash even more ridiculous special attacks, a lot of the time stemming from Bayonetta’s hair (Infernal Weaves, to be exact). Sometimes an aircraft will appear as you pull your opponent up into its mechanisms with a rusty chain, or a series of spiked wheels will appear behind your enemy as the ground turns into a treadmill before they’re quickly obliterated. As if there wasn’t enough going on as it is, these extra injections of insanity into the gameplay help make sure that things never settle on “normal.” You won’t be able to stop laughing at how over the top and grotesque these moments are.
When you find yourself in the non-combat heavy portions of levels and you’re acquainting yourself with the surroundings, Bayonetta has a number of great transformations to help her get around. This includes turning into a panther to move faster and run across water, a butterfly to soar to new heights, or even an eel when navigating the waters of wherever you are.
The Sega references that made the first game so charming are still here, as well. The halos you collect as currency are more than a little reminiscent of the rings that Sonic collects. There are even references to Alex Kidd, and After Burner. Just looking at all of the Nintendo costumes that have been included in this alone (and the port of the original title, which is a more-than-generous inclusion here), it’s clear that the goal is to have fun rather than take itself too seriously. Just kick back, roll around in the cross-promotion and references, and enjoy.
Bayonetta 2 is a beyond-smooth gaming experience that takes a near-flawless first game and actually improves upon it. Perfected gameplay, controls, and level design are strengthened even further by the title’s bizarre sense of humor, its even more insane presentation in general, and gorgeous, crisp graphics and audio. With much to unlock, and many difficulties and extras to master, this is one of the Wii U’s absolute strongest titles and a must-buy for owners of the system.