Bayonetta 2 was probably the biggest selling point for the WiiU for me, -that is, until it gets a proper Zelda title-, and I can’t say I’m too disappointed. Revolutionary level design? New gameplay styles? A groundbreaking story that makes you really think? Sod all that, it’s just Bayonetta, with a “2” tacked on, and that’s not a bad thing because Bayonetta was kinda absolutely amazing. And it doesn’t hurt that it comes with a port of the first game for newcomers, where you can dress Bayonetta up as Link, a la Hyrule Warriors. It almost feels like an HD remake coupled with a full game’s worth of DLC, where every aspect of the original isn’t lazily carried over, but faithfully remastered and expanded upon.
The most recognizable aspect of Bayonetta 2 is the general aesthetic. I don’t want to just talk about the game in terms of how well it fits the shadow of its predecessor, but in terms of visuals and sound, it comes from the same mold. While nearly all the angels from the first game make a reappearance, they are outnumbered by completely new designs. However, the new designs fit the motifs of the old one’s so well, it’s impossible to tell them apart. Also, new to this game are demon enemies, which are clearly distinct from the angels, but fit the overall look of the game well.
Two of the composers from the first game, Norihiko Hibino and Takahiro Izutani, returned to do the new soundtrack; the first game set a high bar for the music, as it reflected Bayonetta’s character, and the squeal doesn’t quite measure up. While better than most video game soundtracks, when held up against the original, Bayonetta 2 has less to offer, and is less memorable. The two most notable songs are a “climax mix” of Moon River, and Tomorrow is Mine, which are responses to the cover of Fly Me to the Moon and Mysterious Destiny. Both take a slightly different direction, and both are very good, however I prefer the originals.
But what really drives the point home is one little animation. Bayonetta’s kiss animation used when a set of enemies is defeat and an angel gate is broken has been perfectly recreated, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Several other small animations and screens are brought back, but this one is what brought back that feeling of playing Bayonetta for me.
On to the story; it’s fine. Bayonetta’s BFF, Jeanne, dies, and she swears to conquer hell itself to bring her back. Of course, being Bayonetta she gets that done before tea time, but runs into some prick trying to become a god on the way out, kinda like when you go to the store only planning to get one thing, but some guy in the parking lot won’t let you go until you buy his band’s CD, because they’re totally gonna make it big any day now. There’s also some kid with amnesia, because why even fake originality with a sequel, but I couldn’t be arsed to remember his name, or acknowledge his existence as anything other than the luck bugger who gets to hangout in Bayonetta’s cleavage. Oh, and time travel. It’s all very clichéd and uninteresting, which is the last thing I want to have to say about a game like this, that’s supposed to be full of personality and originality.
Oh, and it turns out that the guy trying to become god didn’t plan on being one of those benevolent, all-loving gods either. Go figure. Nah, he hates humanity, and would probably wipe them out or something; I don’t know. One character goes all Gurren Lagann, and gives a speech about the strength of the human spirit and stuff. For a game where the protagonist is an angel slaying witch, you’d think there would be a bit more depth to this story and ambiguity between good and evil, but frankly Mario games have more ambiguous morality; at least with them there is feudal political struggle, even if it is reduced to boot beats head.
The game tries to have this big emotional twist at the end by revealing that the writing staff have short term memory loss. Yeah game, I already knew that from when you told me earlier. Got anything else for this finally, or can I go play the first game again now?
The controls are pretty tight and responsive (I played primarily on the gamepad, not using the touch screen), and while it can devolve into a button masher if you’re playing on easy and let it, with harder difficulties you will find yourself wanting to experiment with the different combos. Probably the most common one if you’re just mashing is the rapid punch technique, but after the early stages, most enemies won’t actually give you time to pull it off, and you’re gonna have to try throwing in some kicks. May main complaint with the controls is the jump button. It’s B. But after hundreds of times losing my combo and taking a hit because I forgot that that button at the bottom of the controller is the one that send you way up in the air, I still couldn’t get my thumb to remember not to press it.
The level design is, for the most part good. It’s linear, but with bonus chests and challenges hidden everywhere. Generally this is a good thing, but the level designers didn’t do enough to distinguish areas that didn’t have secrets. More than a few times, I ended up falling to my death trying to reach a suspicious looking ledge far below me, only to find the ledge surrounded by an invisible wall. As a general rule I eventually decided not to jump unless I could actually see a chest or bonus area.
Compounding this problem, there are occasional water sections. I don’t know why games still do this; it was pretty well established by LoZ OoT, water levels suck. And Bayonetta 2‘s are no exception. Somewhere between her flying, time control, and pole-dancing lessons, Bayonetta apparently skipped swim class. She sinks like a rock, and the only way to get through most of these sections is to transform into a giant snake that controls about as poorly as any swimming sections. Unfortunately, these underwater areas are often very tight and ripe for secrets, so you have to try to maneuver Slytherin’s giant hit box, and the camera through the ruins of Atlantis. And it’s not even particularly fast; the panther form is awesome because it not only helps you jump further, but it’s great for just running around. The snake is an only-use-when-required form. Also, there can be fights underwater; half of the time during them is just spent waiting for enemies to sink back down to you after they’ve been toss upwards.
A couple times in the game you take control of some big robots, leaving me to ask “why” to so many things all at once. Why would Bayonetta use this thing to fight? It doesn’t really hit any harder than she does naturally, it is way slower and more awkward to control, and it doesn’t have many attack combos. Why did the game designers add this? And why would this even exist in this world; who made it? Admittedly, the game probably answered that last one at some point, but it doesn’t matter. It was either the angels, demons, or witches, and none of those things should be making god damn robots!
Also, some of the bonus challenges involve platforming, which I’m usually fond of –I loved Bubsy 3D– but the problem is, the game wasn’t made for it, and the physics are imprecise. Half the time once I did find a way to beat it I wasn’t sure if what I had just exploited a glitchy wall, or if that was actually what I was supposed to do.
Is Bayonetta 2 good? Yes. In fact, it’s great, and if it weren’t for the port of Bayonetta, it would be in close competition with Hyrule Warriors for being my favorite game on the WiiU. But that’s the thing; while Bayonetta 2 builds on the gameplay of the first game, it doesn’t have the same character, or, rather, it tries so hard to be the first game that it doesn’t have much character of its own at all. It didn’t make me feel invested or excited, and in the end I prefer the original for sake of its originality.
Don’t Lose Your Way