Review: Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)

Developer: PlatinumGames
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Wii U
Genre: Action
ESRB: M for Mature
Price: Try Your Luck (out of print)
As I said in our review of the original remaster of Bayonetta for the Wii U, “PlatinumGames made the entire gaming industry do a double-take when it was announced that Bayonetta 2 would be a Wii U exclusive, forever and ever Amen.”  The tears of so-called fans who refused to purchase the console have been delectable all these years, yet a timer with a trademark gun-mounted stilleto in the background appeared on April 1st alongside a 2D  Bayonetta game on steam. I conjectured that it entailed the announcement that the 60fps “definitive edition” of the original game would be ported to other consoles and PC (I was half correct). Given this news, I thought a Geeks Under Grace review of its one and only sequel long overdue. 

Some folks are still mad that Bayonetta 2 is a Wii U exclusive.

Content Warning

Please reference the Content Warning section of our Bayonetta review for a comprehensive overview of the series’ potential content concerns. Most of the subject matter found in the previous game is  also present here. I will be using this space to focus on content unique to Bayonetta 2.
It feels as though Cereza (and by extension, PlatinumGames) has matured since her last adventure. Everything in the game strikes me as subdued, but that might be attributed to the overall shorter length of the game. The camera does not appear to linger as it did in the first Bayonetta, so while the titular character is no less brutal in the extermination of her foes, not even the violence of the appropriately-named “torture attacks” feel as savagely brutal as they once did. Still, her infernal demon finishers result in generous quantities of blood.  Enzo’s on-screen presence is almost non-existent except for the introduction, resulting in an alleviation of profanity spam, but not before peppering the game’s opening hour enough four-letter fouls for the game to deserve its M rating for language. And this is before Luka and Loki pick up the slack by being equally offensive. 

Bayonetta 2 spares gamers by exhausting its most egregious suggestive themes in the opening hour of the game. The developers want to remind players that Cereza is still a vixen, but she now has better things to do than constantly tease with her body.

I do not want to be misleading by giving the impression that the game is devoid of sex, as is Bayonetta 2 not without its share of crotch, buttock, and boob shots from all angles. In fact, during the opening sequence Cereza herself sheds her entire beginning outfit with her backside into the camera before her hair extends into her iconic combat suit. However, unlike in Bayonetta, these scenes are fewer and less flamboyant. Again, the camera pauses long enough for a tease, but quickly moves on to other, more important things such as kicking, rather than showing, butt. It is as if the game itself tires of the tension between the odd juxtaposition of fanservice and female power fantasy to focus on action. Trust me, I braced myself for something worse than the introduction of Joy in the first game, but it never happened. Whew!
Lastly, gamers will be treated to a descent into Inferno, the game’s equivalent of hell. The stay is more brief than standard industry ventures into the abyss, and it hardly feels like the accursed place of the Christian imagination. Still, some gamers might draw the line well before that escapade.

Review

Bayonetta 2 begins with Cereza on a shopping trip, dragging around poor Enzo as her bag boy, until Jeanne nearly emasculates him with her bike. She is on the scene just long enough to relay to Cereza that something peculiar is about go go down, and leaves right before a jet airplane barrels down he street at low altitude and hypersonic speed. Bayonetta then literally kicks into action, crossing over from the Human World into Purgatorio for the purpose of issuing some holy hell,for there are angels on the other side causing this rukus. In her ecstasy, she summons Gomorrah, who devours a boss angel. Instead of returning to the depths from which he came, it fully emerges, and rears to attack Cereza while she is still “channellng” the summon. Jeanne shoves her friend out of danger, but gets the soul slapped out of her. As per the terms of the contract that Umbran Witches form with the demons of inferno to gain their powers, should a witch ever die, they will spend the rest of eternity within Inferno; it at first appear that Jeanne’s patron demon, Madama Styx, had laid claim to her prize, but something is amiss….

Bayonetta and Jeanne spring into action!

Bayonetta conspires with Rodin to rescue her friend’s soul from Inferno. She must travel to Fimbulventr, which is supposed to be the only place on earth where Inferno and Paradiso—heaven and hell—can be accessed from Earth. Why this location does not appear during Cereza’s travels in the first game, I do not know. Yet it is at the base of this location where she encounters a new character, Loki, who strikes me as a Japanese version of Zack from the original Power Rangers. He, too, is on his way to Fimbulventr for reasons that he cannot remember. Surely gamers should anticipate that his purpose will be revealed along the journey, yes?

From the base of Fimbulventr, one must concede that Bayonetta 2 is the best looking game on the Wii U.

Much like the first game, the story in Bayonetta 2 accumulates momentum, reaches an apex 3/4 through, but nearly flat-lines through the finale. Without revealing too much, I all but ceased caring about any and plot elements after the detour into Inferno, when the narrative shifts back toward Loki and the masked Lumen Sage, whose identity is shrug-worthy. Furthermore, I know why the demons of Inferno assault Cereza, as they want to thwart her efforts for saving Jeanne; I cannot piece together why the angels are attacking her this time. Are they still mad about Jubelius from Bayonetta? Did the game fail to convey to me the importance Loki and Loptr? At any rate, Bayonetta 2‘s story exchanges the silly antics of Luka and kid-Cereza for the inadvertently silly antics of Loki, the kid.

Bosses are not as memorable this time around. Except for Mr. Sword-for-Head here.

The highlight of Bayonetta 2, like its predecessor, is its gameplay. It remains an “easily-accessible action game with an astronomically high skill ceiling,” now to a heightened degree. Dodge offsets, Wicked Weaves, Witch Time, and Torture Attacks all make their return. Added to Cereza’s repertoire is the the Umbran Climax: for the same amount of magic power required to execute a Torture Attack, one can instead wield an entire hit string of Wicked Weaves rather than a singular finishing blow. This is my favorite technique because I enjoy holding buttons down after every hit—I get satisfaction out of Bayonetta’s playful poses as she shoots from her guns for extra points. I would do this for every hit string if I could, but unfortunately, the guns do not grant hit stun, and I do not think I have ever successfully performed a Dodge Offset (starting a combo, holding down a button, and successfully evading an attack allows players to continue the combo without breaking sequence; I always dodge and have to restart the combo). With UC, I can execute the longest hit strings every time due to every one of Madama Butterfly’s strikes causing a stagger.

Enemies may not be as large as they once were, but these setpieces are still on point.

Bayonetta suffers from slowdown even as the “definitive” console version of the game, but I detected little to no slowdown here. Consequently, Cereza moves and responds with heightened alacrity. The aforementioned special attacks are easier to executenow because the game no longer punishes poor play by draining the magic meter upon suffering damage. Chapters are shorter, alleviating the pressure having to play at optimum proficiency for extended periods of time, resulting in me earning more silver, gold, and platinum scores than in the previous game—even the Muspelheim, the challenge rooms replacing the Alfheims, are easier to locate and conquer. Button-mashers can feel as stylish and awesome as Bayonetta veterans, who have the option of increasing the difficulty should they find the default setting unsatisfying; for them, I recommend 3rd Climax. 

The arachnid demon, Phantasmaraneae, was cooler, but this will do.

I did not spend much time experimenting with different weapons in the first Bayonetta, sticking with Scarborough Fair (hand and heel guns) 99% of the time. That’s because I sucked. By the time I achieved any sort of proficiency, I was at the end-game when bread and butter chains felt more effective and rewarding than experimentation. I broadened my horizons in Bayonetta 2, encouraged by the already-mentioned quality of life features absent in its predecessor.

There is nothing else in the industry quite like first-encounter enemy introductions in the Bayonetta games.

The Golden LPs required to build an alternate weapon stockade are easier to find, and the game also just drops weapons in players’ laps. My favorites include Rakshasa, which replaces Shuraba; its strikes become embued with grace, precision, and viciousness. Kafka (bow and arrow) is an option for those who wish to keep their distances at the cost of less damage and combo potential. Undine (flame/ice throwers) is a fun weapon that is difficult to describe, alternating between fire and ice elemental attacks for an added flavor of flair with questionable effectiveness, yet I found myself using it anyway just to finish with Cereza doing a headstand while splitting and rotating her legs shooting fire or ice blazes in two different directions (I totally GEEK OUT about that finisher). Chernobog  (multi-bladed scythe) combines the slashing arks of Rakshasa with power.  I spent a considerable amount of time swapping weapon loadouts, never settling on any in particular because they all feel sublime. Gun-to-head, I would settle for Love is Blue, because the infernal demon summoned during Wicked Weaves and Umbran Climaxes defaults to the reliable Madama Buterfly. Did I mention that the Wicked Weave component of every weapon executes its own unique finisher.

Questionable content is scaled back, but so are the epic battles. I want, NEED, more of this!

Bayonetta 2 significantly reduces cutscenes and set pieces, a characteristic that I am torn about because the spectacular finales that take place when finishing bosses were my favorite feature in Bayoneta, yet they are muted here—even the bosses have been scaled down from the titans that are the Hierarchy of Laguna in the first game, therefore making the battles less epic. Perhaps the lack of memorable music impacts the tone of the game. “Chapter Start” is pleasant, but it plays when there is no action. “Tomorrow is Mine” is okay, but I would prefer the option to the remix of “Mysterious Destiny” that plays, ironically, as Cereza allies herself with a woman who looks like her….

Maintaining its flirtatious flavor.

Bayonetta 2 picks up gaming goodness precisely where Bayonetta leaves off in terms of unmatched gameplay. Thankfully, it is also less interested in a consistently lewd portrayal of its main character, and instead, focuses on its brighter color pallette to enhance the fabulousness of fashion and power in fusion. Though its music and catalog of angelic and demonic enemies are less spectacular than seen in the previous game, the gameplay enhancements almost earn from me a recommendation that the sequel be played before the introductory title. It would appear here that PlatinumGames decided to not fix what is not broken, and settled for optimization.

If fans thought Link, Princess Peach, and Samus outfits were rad, wait till they get their mits on Star Fox! Rock that gear in Tag Climax multiplayer for added effect.

The Bottom Line

 

 

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Maurice Pogue

Since picking up an NES controller in 1985 at the age of 2, Maurice and video games have been inseparable. While most children aspired to be lawyers, doctors, or engineers (at the behest of their parents), he aspired to write for publications such as EGM, PC Gamer, PC Accelerator, and Edge. After achieving ABD status in English at MSU, Maurice left academia and dedicated his writing to his lifelong passion. He is currently the Video Game Editor at Geeks Under Grace.

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