This review was originally posted on Nintendo Scene on Thursday 15th February.
After the arguable sleeper success of the first Bayonetta game, especially from a large group of players, it all seemed like a sequel was inevitably on the cards. However, we wouldn’t see our favourite Umbra Witch for a few years afterwards and the means of her return would surprise all of us. After striking a deal with Nintendo to essentially bring the project out of initial concept stages, Platinum Games brought Bayonetta 2 exclusively to the Wii U in 2014. Now, we all know the fate of the Wii U, so a lot of people were pleased to hear that both games were being brought to Switch to give them another chance. You’ve seen my thoughts on the first game, but how is the sequel and how does it run on Switch?
If you were expecting Platinum Games to rein in the story for the second adventure of Bayonetta, then I have some quite bad news. The sheer ludicrous spirit of the original is very much alive, and our sultry protagonist is just as absurd. In Bayonetta 2, the titular witch loses her best friend to the forces of Hell (referred to as Inferno in this game), she begins a journey to the sacred mountain Fimbulventr save her. Along the way, we reacquaint ourselves with some returning characters from the previous game, meet a new character taking the form of a young boy with unusual powers, and begin to unpick a mystery in which a powerful force is threatening the balance between the three realities. So, long story short, business as usual for our favourite bit-, I mean, witch.
Also business as usual is the gameplay, which essentially just builds upon the framework laid down in the original game. By combining together button presses, the player strings together of hand and foot attacks on increasingly more aggressive and threatening foes, this time from both Inferno and Paradiso (the game’s Heaven). The action is still divided up into Chapters, and then divided again into Verses, which are often combat set pieces. The player will get graded on each Verse from Stone to Pure Platinum, and then have their performance over an entire Chapter overall averaged out to give an overall rating. These ratings, much alike the original, are based on set of parameters that include damage taken and time taken to complete. The better ratings earn more halos, so there is a constant drive to improve your score for the better rewards.
Those coming straight from the first game need not worry the demon-summoning Wicked Weaves return in the combat, allowing the player to end combos with substantial damage, along with the sadomasochistic Torture Attacks. Also, needless to say, the fantastic Witch Time returns too, giving the player a considerable advantage by slowing down all enemies if they dodge an attack at the last moment. There have been a couple of small but welcome changes to the moment-to-moment scenarios with Witch Time having slightly more forgiving timing in this instalment; also, the horrendous instant kill quick time events have been severely reduced, so there are significantly less frustrating moments compared to the original.
The big new mechanic in Bayonetta 2 is the Umbran Climax. Once the player has built enough power in their magic meter, they can sacrifice the use of a Torture Attack to instead activate this mechanic, which greatly increases Bayonetta’s power. In this state, almost all of Bayonetta’s attacks cause tremendous damage, have greatly increased range, and will stagger even the largest and most powerful enemies. The most interesting aspect of this power is that it is fundamentally altered depending on the weapon being used, with the basic Love Is Blue firearms attacking with Wicked Weaves on every blow for instance. This gives the player a lot of options in how to progress with any combat scenario.
Exploration is still key, with even more objects and secrets to find in each level. Returning from the previous game are the Umbran Tombs, which still contain a variety of bonuses including Halos (the in-game currency), components for crafting items, and health and magic boosting treasures. Also back are the Alfheim Portals, now called Muspelheim Portals, giving the player bite-sized combat challenges which, unlike those in the original, are far more balanced whilst still being challenging enough to be satisfying. Furthermore, certain combat scenarios will gift the player LPs, which can be exchanged for new weapons. A new object to find in Bayonetta 2 is a new type of Umbran Tomb that is fractured in time. Checking these will activate a short challenge in which you have to collect all five pieces of the tomb in a set time to rebuild it, at which point you can grab the wonderful treats within.
Finally, returning from the original is the Gates of Hell, Rodin’s shop and the only place where the player can spend the halos they find throughout the game. In the shop, the player can purchase new techniques, new game-changing accessories, and to top up curative items. A new addition to Bayonetta 2, and greatly bolstered since the Wii U iteration, is the Amiibo functionality in the game. When you tap an Amiibo while in the Gates of Hell, you will receive a gift of some description, and a note that subtly mentions the franchise the figure is from. These little touches are not only a wonderful little homage to various Nintendo properties and even reference Bayonetta’s time in Smash Bros, they also feel distinctively part of this universe too. What’s more, you can tap up to 32 per day, so that’s a lot of rewards if you have a decent Amiibo Collection.
Bayonetta 2 is, unsurprisingly, leagues ahead of the original with its visuals: all of the locations are brighter, clearer, and more defined; Bayonetta has had a fantastic, and classy, redesign; even the user interface is bolder and cleaner. The enemy design is even more ludicrously impressive with the incredible stylistic choice made to make the beasts of Inferno mechanical, robotic monstrosities to counter-balance the more organic Angels of Paradiso. Also, the design of the weapons in Bayonetta 2 needs to be highlighted as well, if only for how much all of the weapons feel like a perfect match to the over-the-top visuals (of which, some weapons add to) whilst still feeling grounded and realistic within the world Platinum Games have created. The only negative in terms of aesthetic is that, in terms of the soundtrack, Bayonetta 2 only seems to replicate the sound that accompanied the original, rather than striking out with it’s own. A minor niggle, sure, but it led to the music being indistinguishable from the former game.
We can’t discuss the aesthetics of the game again without bringing up the Nintendo outfits which are all back, with a new addition. The Hero of Hyrule, and Princess outfits are back with all of the changes to the sound effects from the first game (and the subtle mechanical changes for Link). The Galactic Bounty Hunter returns with a few little changes to the aesthetic touches which I won’t ruin here so as to leave surprises for you all. A new addition for this game is the Star Mercenary, which dresses our witch up like Fox McCloud from StarFox, complete with replacing the Love is Blue guns with miniature Arwings. This, like the other Nintendo outfits, changes all of the sound effects to ones straight from StarFox, and even adds a charge shot to the guns like in the source material. It’s fantastic to see these back, and enhanced in Bayonetta 2 and really shows how much of a passion project this was.
So, should you buy Bayonetta 2? An undeniable yes. This is the perfect example of a sequel done right, upping the ante in almost every way, whilst still feeling cohesively part of the same story. The new characters gel perfectly with the original cast, the visual design is more refined and incredibly impressive, the script is still funny and arguably snappier than the original, and all of the issues in the former game have been ironed out. As this game comes with the original Bayonetta, it’s an absolute steal and is absolutely essential.
Thank you to Nintendo UK for kindly supplying a review code for this game.
Bayonetta 2 is released today on eShop and retail.