Originally published in 2014, for The Australia Times Games Magazine.
Format: Wii U
Developer: Platinum Games/Bee Tribe (Bayonetta port)
All the way back in the ye olde days of 2010, a little-known Japanese studio released a videogame called Bayonetta.
Bayonetta, you see, was no ordinary videogame. It was the most videogamey videogame that ever videogamed. It starred a sultry witch who had a gun strapped to every limb, and a svelte outfit made from her own hair. She possessed a sharp attitude – and a sharper arsenal; demons, swords, whips, and shotguns were the order of the day, and they were used in creatively gruesome ways against her angelic enemies.
Yes – as if unafraid by its blasé approach toward the very tenants of Christianity itself, this Japanese studio made Bayonetta face off against the very armies of God; divine beings that were both awesome and fearsome in their presences.
Divine beings that were squashed under the high-heels of a half-naked lady.
What game developer would dare to create such blasphemous content? Why, Platinum Games, of course.
Fast forward five years, and we now have Bayonetta 2, the sequel to one of the greatest action games of all time. Its development saga was almost as tumultuous as its Polygon-displeasing content (insider reference, yeah!), with raging fans that frothed at the mouth due to the game’s exclusivity on Nintendo’s Wii U console. However, this game wouldn’t have even existed if not for the House of Mario, who kindly offered to fund its development in return for said exclusivity.
Luckily it did, as Bayonetta 2 is hands-down one of the best games I’ve ever played, and my personal game of the year.
Where to begin? Well, let’s take a look at the story; things start during Christmas time, when Bayonetta and her best friend Jeanne are doing a little shopping, before all hell (or should I say heaven?) breaks loose, as angels come after our heroines. This is where the game begins, as you are thrust into one of the most insane tutorials I’ve ever seen. How many games plonk you on top of a screaming jet as you battle angelic hoards, before engaging in an aerial battle with a skyscraper-sized demon?
Yeah, not many.
Things go awry, as Jeanne’s soul is ripped from her body, and taken to Inferno (Hell). Not one to let such matters lie, Bayonetta then journeys to the mountain called Fimbulventr, which is said to be home of the gates of Inferno and Paradiso – and the only one who can lead her there is a mysterious, card-wielding kid named Loki.
This is the basic premise, and things get quite a bit more convoluted as you journey throughout the game’s 10 hour campaign. Obviously, I won’t spoil things here, but the plot makes way for some truly crazy set pieces that will leave your jaw permanently stuck to the ground.
The gameplay itself echoes the best of the genre, like Capcom’s Devil May Cry and Sony’s God of War; but with everything turned up to 11. If you played the original Bayonetta (and if you didn’t, now you have no excuse – see the boxout) then you know just how tightly designed everything was. It is no different here, as Platinum once again proves its programming chops.
As mentioned before, Bayonetta has a gun strapped to each appendage (her default setup), in addition to her main melee weapon. She has two main attack inputs (X and A) that can be mixed much like a fighting game, and this results in some truly spectacular acrobatics – especially combined with ranged (Y) and aerial (B) attacks. Pulling the ZR trigger lets Bayonetta perform a dodge, and pressing this at the right time triggers ‘Witch Time’, which slows time for a few seconds (enabling the Umbra Witch some extra offense).
Occasionally, enemies will drop weapons that can be used against them, and Bayonetta herself has two different weapon setups that can be switched with ZL (I myself am partial to the whip and chainsaw combo). To add to this, a special move called the ‘Umbra Climax’ acts as an overdrive mode, wherein pressing the L shoulder button when the magic gauge is full allows Bayonetta to unleash souped-up attacks. Combine all this with unlockable combos and equippable accessories (that fundamentally change the combat system), and you have a recipe for some deep, deep gameplay.
Structurally, it’s the same as its predecessor. Levels are comprised of fights and secret challenges that are graded from ‘Bronze’ to ‘Pure Platinum’, and performing well gets you more halos (the game’s currency) that can be spent at ‘The Gates of Hell’, a shop that is run by a demon named Rodin. Halos are exchanged for weapons, health, magic, helpful items and even Nintendo-themed costumes!
So, there’s plenty of stuff to do. There’s even an online multiplayer mode called Tag Climax, which sees you and a partner band together and vanquish foes in the pursuit of tasty halos, which can be wagered, Sakurai-style.
Visually, Bayonetta 2 is simply incredible. The combat scenarios you will find yourself in will take your breath away, as Platinum’s visual designers squeeze every bit of power from the Wii U. I cannot tell you how many times I sat there slack-jawed, as the game bombarded me with insane graphics that accentuated the incredibly creative scenes that would put any anime to shame. I’m talking a boss fight amidst a rising ocean of blood. Chasing a dragon through a city-sized whirlpool. Fighting monstrous angels at the gates of Paradiso. It all hits home just how amazing a videogame can really be, and how they can offer experiences that are totally unlike other media.
Technically, too, the game is a marvel. Colours are a lot richer than the first Bayonetta, and the visual effects really illustrate just how much grunt Nintendo’s little machine is packing. It all runs at 60 frames per second, too (take that, Ubisoft).
I also must give props to the sound design. Bayonetta 2’s soundtrack expands upon the original by including orchestrated pieces that makes the whole thing feel more ‘movie-like’, and the voice acting is suitably cheesy, much like Platinum’s other titles.
It’s rare when a videogame meets the hype, and even rarer still when it actually exceeds it. Bayonetta 2 is one of those games. I’m not the type of reviewer who likes to give out perfect scores like cheap candy – but in this case, I have absolutely no qualms in doing so, especially considering the free inclusion of the original Bayonetta.
This game is amazing.
10 out of 10
Season of the Witch
How does the original Bayonetta fare against its amazing sequel?
So, one of the major selling points (among many) of purchasing Bayonetta 2 is the free inclusion of the 2010 original game; Bayonetta.
Released to great praise four years ago, this was the game that cemented Platinum Games’ place as one of the best developers in the world, and going back, it’s easy to see why.
Bayonetta has aged incredibly well, and its fast-paced action gameplay doesn’t feel a day older than when it was first released. It’s essentially the same deal as the sequel – albeit a deal that feels a tad more difficult overall.
Performing Witch Time was noticeably harder when I revisited this game, and the use of equippable items is much more of a boon in acquiring those elusive Pure Platinum medals.
Visually, Bayonetta is noticeably drabber than numero dos, but it does run incredibly well on the Wii U hardware (the best version of all three available). Everything is silky smooth (totally not a double entendre), and the Pro Controller is equally as wonderful to use (though the Game Pad isn’t too bad, either).
As great as Bayonetta is, it is by no means a perfect game. The insta-death QTE segments are truly aggravating, and I have to wonder why Bee Tribe (the folks behind this port) didn’t just remove them entirely. Additionally, there were some instances of crap game design (one moment involving a jet propeller), a lousy boss (which has you using a turret), and moments where I could have sworn I pressed that button (you know the ones…).
Still, it’s not enough to ruin the experience – and there are some special extras to make the Wii U version just that little bit more attractive. The sultry witch can don outfits based on famous Nintendo characters like Peach, Samus and Link; which look suitably seductive (or ridiculous, take your pick) and even change aspects of the gameplay. For instance, using Peach and Daisy will have her summon giant Bowser fists, and using the Link costume will replace halos with rupees!
So overall, this is a mighty fine port – and one of the best extras in recent gaming history.
Two witches for the price of one? Who’d pass that up?