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Bayonetta 2 – Wii U

Bayonetta 2 – Wii U

Bayonetta 2 - Wii UPlatform:  Wii U

Release Date (NA):  October 24th, 2014

Developer:  Platinum Games 

Publisher:  Nintendo

Genre:  Hack and Slash, Action

Nerd Rating:  8 out of 10

Bayonetta 2 had been on my  “should I or shouldn’t I” list since not long after its release, but watching some gameplay first hand finally sealed the deal.  I was instantly drawn to the combination of freedom and linearity, and one of the first games that came to mind was Castlevania: Lords of Shadow due both to the play style and the bizarre aesthetics.  Bayonetta 2 is great to jump into for the first time and to revisit time and time again due to both the simplicity of the gameplay and the endless variety offered up by the combo and weapons/inventory systems.

Bayonetta 2 may look a little complicated after your first trip to the shop or your introduction to the game’s myriad combos, but if you can just spend a few seconds pushing past items, accessories, and everything else, you’ll find that what you have here is a finely crafted hack-n-slash.  You can either mash away carelessly with the help of the “Immortal Marionette” (an item for newcomers that lets Bayonetta automatically pull off combos) or elegantly string together any one of the dozens of listed combos.  The result is a highly intuitive game – what looks like a blend of chaos and complexity on screen is not only easy to pull off, but a lot of fun as well.

Bayonetta 2 - Wii U

Looks a little crazy, right? But it’s totally a fun kind of crazy.

Bayonetta 2 takes place in a reality where the concepts of both Heaven and Hell exist roughly within the figurative prescriptions of Judeo-Christian beliefs (especially the more imaginative parts of Catholicism).  However, the important distinction is that both factions are depicted as being vigilant, if not downright militant, not only towards each other, but also external threats.  What’s really interesting is that despite all the Judeo-Christian overlay, there’s a strong undercurrent of not-so-subtle Norse nomenclature (Loki, Muspelheim, Aesir, to name a few), a belief system which espouses a rather bleak future for gods and deities.  Although these facets are recognizable, Bayonetta 2 works hard to create and establish its own rules and cosmology.  The plot is rather difficult to follow, but the basic setup is intriguing – both the “angels” and “demons” are after a witch (the eponymous Bayonetta), who herself is on a quest to rescue her friend from Hell/Inferno, while encountering some larger truths and conflicts along the way.

As I said, I really like the premise behind the adventure.  I’ve got a soft spot for deities and spiritually-inspired extra-dimensional beings, though ultimately I feel that the plot is one of the weaker points of the game.  It’s enough to keep the player interested and keep the story moving and the events sensible, but the specifics (even after playing through most of it twice) are lost on me.  Near the end we get an especially large dose of “huh?” as all sorts of details about different times and different beings who are really the same being are thrown around.  It’s a little too muddled to ever reach the gripping suspense of some modern day games and the cutscenes perhaps don’t have the impact that was intended, but there is a passion and ambition obvious in every second of the “plot” – I can’t fault it too heavily for this shortcoming.

So what does one do in Bayoneta 2?  The player assumes the role of Bayonetta, a witch with access to all sorts of fun equipment.  Most of your game will be spent beating the hell out of angels and demons.  Bayonetta can equip weapons on both her arms and legs to make for all sorts of combinations: guns, swords, flamethrowers, and whips are a few of the goodies you’ll run across over the course of the game.  Other items and accessories are available along the way as well, though you can certainly run through a game on easy (“1st Climax”) and at least halfway on medium (“2nd Climax”) without worrying too much about augmenting your abilities or adding new techniques to your repertoire.

Bayonetta 2 - Wii U

The opening moments of Bayonetta 2 take place atop a jet fighter weaving its way through a crowded skyline while shooting at angelic centaur-like beings. Yay!

A lot of games with such high levels of customization leave the player to stick the pieces together themselves and find a combination that works – fortunately Bayonetta 2 is not one of these games.  I enjoyed being able to leisurely make my way through the game while making only the broadest decisions and then revisiting certain chapters while tinkering with one aspect or another.  Coupled with the rewards system of medals and statues, this makes for great incentive to play the chapters again and again.  The battles will be the same (although once you start digging, you’ll probably find that there are even more battles that you missed the first time around), but they can be experienced in an entirely new light with newly equipped weapons and thus new combos.

Bayonetta 2 - Wii U

Bayonetta 2 occasionally breaks from the hack ‘n’ slash formula for other styles of play, including this sort of obstacle course shown above.

Besides all the extras and unlockables that pertain specifically to the mechanics of the game, there are plenty that will spice up your experience in other ways, such as Bayonetta’s alternate costumes and the other playable characters.  There are quite a few things to discover, another good reason to keep coming back.  Despite the game’s overall linearity, there are small offshoots and other clever means of hiding material, so keep an eye out.

Bayonetta 2 - Wii U

Easily one of the Wii U’s finest graphical achievements.

The graphics in Bayonetta 2 are among some of the best seen on the Wii U so far.  The cutscenes are smooth and fluid, though I find it strange that the actual animations are at times replaced with a series of stills with voice overs.  The contrasting styles are distracting, plus there’s a sort of “in-game cutscene” mode where the characters are talking and but the player has limited control over their movement or actions.  I’m not sure why the storytelling is split up into so many different forms, though I would assume it has something to do with the Wii U’s limited memory capacity.  Regardless, I found this mish-mash of styles to have a detrimental effect on presentation and would’ve preferred that the developers stick to a single method.

By far the most awesome things to see in Bayonetta 2 are the enemies, specifically the regal  yet somewhat abstract form that the “angels” take.  The demons or “infernals” are well done as well, in many ways resembling what one would traditionally associate with a servant of Hell.  But the angels are just amazing.  There’s a majesty and splendor about them that draws inspiration from the finest frescos and the whitest marble – golden accents with touches of Cerulean really come together well to form these “creatures,” and while the colors and the angles are familiar, it’s how these beings are put together that is truly awesome.

Bayonetta 2 - Wii U

An awesome shot of one of the angels.

The angels have what you might consider arms, legs, heads, eyes, tails, wings, and bodies, but they’re never arranged like your conventional humanoid.  Many lack a traditional face and instead have statuesque “face” placed on another part of their body and/or equipment, such as the belly, a shield, or a sword.  They have the appearance of everything from kaleidoscopic patterns to living machinery to incomplete piecemeal Frankenstein-ish constructs.  Damage done to these heavenly creatures during battle seems to suggest something much more grotesque underneath and that the refined exterior may be more akin to armor than these entities’ actual skin, but I never could get a super clear view of just what was on “the insides.”  Whatever the case may be, these elegant monstrosities are not to be missed!  During my first playthrough I was often losing focus during battles as I spent time gazing at these grotesquely beautiful behemoths – it is perhaps one of the most original and inspired designs I have ever seen within a video game.

Bayonetta 2 - Wii U

You’ll spend most of your time battling monsters and other such trans-dimensional entities, but the humanoid opponents are by far the toughest.

While the angels may be the real draw (for me at least), the rest of the graphics aren’t too shabby either.  Background elements are presented plainly, but great care and attention has been given to things like how fire moves, the rippling and reflection of water (there are some great looking reflections from stained glass windows hitting the water early in the game), and all manner of supernatural effects.  The characters themselves (Bayonetta, Jeanne, Luka) appear to be a little out of proportion (just look at their legs…) which I think diminishes the amped up sexual vibe that the developers were going for, yet it some ways in contributes to the overall otherwordliness of the game’s setting as well.

Bayonetta 2 - Wii U

In addition to the Judeo-Christian and Norse imagery, Bayonetta 2 also draws on mecha, kaiju, gothic horror, literary works like The Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost, anime, and low fantasy, all in a hip, ultra-modern, pan-global package.

Most of the time good sound in a game goes unnoticed.  If the backing music and sound effects are doing their job, they may be such an integral part of the experience that they’re hard to notice separately.  Other times, we get a mind-blowing, in-your-face soundtrack that catches the attention of critics and fans alike.  Unfortunately, Bayonetta 2 doesn’t cleanly fall into either boat.  While the sound effects are fine, the music is extremely irritating.  I’m not sure what to really call it…much of it weaves itself in and out of different styles ranging from J-pop to smooth jazz to lounge music.  Not only does most of it sound out of place in the game, but it’s downright annoying by my standards.  Luckily the volume of the music is fairly low most of the time, but it’s always sort of bouncing along in the background.

The voice acting is another facet to consider – I can’t decide if the weird indistinct accents give the characters character or if they just annoy me.  Either way, it’s easy to see that a lot of care and attention was put into the voice over work and if nothing else, the odd enunciation and inflection of our main characters is at least refreshing.

Bayonetta 2 - Wii U

How cool is that?

Bayonetta 2 may not be anything all that original or new when it comes to the ol’ hack and slash formula, but it takes this formula and does it really, really well.  Although rated Mature for its harsh language and over-sexualized heroine, almost anyone can enjoy the game from a gameplay perspective.  Set it on easy (or “1st Climax”) for a casual romp without much of a care towards items and powerups, or crank it up to the 2nd or 3rd Climax to put both your reflexes and creativity (when it comes to violence) to the test.  Owners of the Wii U should certainly pick this one up if possible – and keep your eyes open – you should be able to find a version with the original Bayonetta packaged in the case as well!

Oh, and if you’ve ever wondered what good a Wii U Pro Controller would do you, this is a perfect opportunity to put it to the test.  The GamePad is perfectly adequate, though I do find my hands getting a little cramped after a while and there is of course the less than impressive battery life.

Don’t forget to also check out an excellent review of Bayonetta 2 from The Watchman!

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist


Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

Email me anytime, about anything: thecubist@nerdbacon.com

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One Comment

  1. Another over the top, sexy, hilarious, Platinum Games action masterpiece.

    Though I’ve been enjoying their over the top slashers/shooters (Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising, Anarchy Reigns, Vanquish), I’d love to see them try something in the vein of Okami again. Unfortunately Capcom owns the rights to Okami, but that wouldn’t stop Platinum from making something very similar, like in the case of Wonderful 101 and Viewtiful Joe. Here’s hoping ;O

     

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