Unlikely though it once seemed, the sassy witch with the killer heels/hair combo is back, 100% exclusive to Wii U. First-off, let me reassure the original's many fans that nothing's been dumbed down compared to the original Bayonetta. But while Platinum has undoubtedly delivered again and the last four hours of the main game in particular are simply sensational, Bayonetta 2 falls a little short of matching the magic of the original. Even so, it's damn close, and that's good enough to demand your attention.
The combat is still sublime. Bayonetta has four limbs (like most women, agreed, but bear with me), each of which can hold a weapon. You can choose which weapon goes on which limb, with a whip, flame-throwers, her trademark guns and more unlocking as you progress. The integration of each into her repertoire of combos is seamless and remarkable. One second it's about close-in punishment, the next it's reminiscent of God of War, with Bayonetta bossing large areas with wide lashes of torso-severing ferocity.
These combos are mostly accessed simply by varying your inputs between punch and kick, but there's simply no way you can just mash these two buttons and hope to prevail. As before, it's imperative that you master the dodge move. Watching an enemy for the tell-tale giveaway (normally a small flash of light off their weapon) that it's about to attack means you have to constantly read the battle and maximise damage from every opportunity. It may be a drag to begin with, but dodging everything rewards you with a power shift so pronounced, formerly formidable enemies look laughable as you dance around every attack.
The need to dispatch enemies with minimum fuss is a constant consideration, not just because sloppy fights will almost certainly result in death. With every single battle graded from 'stone' up to 'Pure Platinum' level (basically requiring lightning-fast disposal of everything without getting hit once), mastering the combat is the game here. Luckily, it's deep, precise and stylish enough to make that fun. It's a purist's dream.
Bayonetta 2's special edition comes with a Wii U conversion of the original Bayonetta. The Nintendo hardware has no PS3-style problems handling the game, which remains comparable to the quality of the Xbox 360 version. Without spoiling anything, it's safe to say you really should familiarise yourself with the events of the first game, otherwise you really won't enjoy the sequel's story scenes very much at all. The original still looks, sounds and feels amazing, so I recommend you go for the pairing.
There is a small 'but', though. The visuals are so magnificently rich with their shiny surfaces, high-resolution textures and exquisitely-detailed enemy designs, it can sometimes be hard to actually tell what's going on. Much more so than in its predecessor. Couple that with a camera system that can leave you unable to see enemies within attack distance behind you and there's potential for an unseen attack to spoil an otherwise perfect run. With so much emphasis placed on the ranking mode, that's a pretty major problem.
There are also massive difficulty spikes throughout the game, even on '2nd Climax' which equates to 'Normal' difficulty. It does get easier as you unlock the better weapons and buy new moves, but the game makes no apologies for frequently handing you your own ass on a plate first-time through. The combat system and its shop-bought upgrades are there to be explored, but if you prefer to disengage your brain when you play an action game, you will get frustrated quickly. You'll be hearing "Your shadow remains cast" an awful lot. Again.
All of the moveset customisation carries over into the new online co-op mode, which works superbly. We played between the UK and US GamesRadar offices and there was zero lag as we fought bravely through the small arena matches, which unlock as you complete a corresponding section of the main story. Again, it's incredibly tough and you both need to bring your A-game, but Pure Platinum successes here are great moments when you've achieved them together. And the 60fps action is just as frantic and precise. In short, it's exemplary.
With the game's core so refined, it's odd that the story scenes are so hit and miss. The plot may be complex but the rescue set-up is simple enough, and the settings are consistently interesting (complete with some very clever self-referential moments I won't spoil for you here). But a few of the story scenes are reduced to real-time-rendered 3D freeze-frames without lip-synching, presumably to cut costs. Seeing as the vast majority of story scenes are fully-animated, 30fps 3D, it's jarring when suddenly the breathless and flamboyantly-directed action is reduced to a comic book. Also, while Bayonetta sounds as self-assured and sassy as ever, her new companion, Loki, has a grating faux-English accent. He's annoying. Finally, the frequent explicit language from all parties feels forced.
Cut-scene annoyances wouldn't be so much of a problem, but the first half of the game is so exposition-heavy, you spend much of the first four hours waiting for your cue to start fighting again. It's far too stop-start. That wouldn't matter too much if it was a super-long game, but I saw the end credits roll after 8.5 hours (and I was taking my time to explore the environments and take on the one-off fighting challenges in Muspelheim as I discovered them). But if that sounds too short, hear this: Aside from the fact there's more action, variety and sheer quality exhibited in just one of the last four hours than most games pack into 30+, the end really is only the beginning.
Not only do you get to test your mettle in the 'Lost Chapters' after the game has technically finished--there is absolutely no way in hell (or more accurately the areas around its gates) you will achieve anything higher than an average of Silver rank on your first play-through. Getting good takes dedication, practice and concentration, but those who persevere will be rewarded with one of the slickest, most graceful action games available.
Finally, the technical accomplishment really cannot be understated. In its finer moments, Bayonetta 2 could pass for a PS4 game and nobody would complain. The 60fps action is magnificent, with the screen bursting with special effects, scattered halos, enemies, bits of enemies… even parts of their armour. You can often see your hits knocking off chunks of defensive shielding, exposing painful-looking fleshy bits for you to hack at (or roast). It's also pleasant to note you can still see the Devil May Cry ancestry, in everything from the demon doors that seal each combat area to the feel of the character movement.
Bayonetta 2 is sheer class. Yes, it takes a little too long to get going, given its length, but the final four hours are relentlessly, breathlessly exceptional. Granted, it's all just 'more of the same' with a shorter haircut, but we're talking about more of one of the best games ever made. And seeing as the Special Edition of Bayonetta 2 comes with a Wii U conversion of that gorgeous original, Nintendo certainly has the ultimate Bayonetta experience in its portfolio. And that's something it should boast about as loudly as possible.
More of the same is absolutely fine, as Bayonetta delivers her trademark action in true style. This sequel takes too long to get going and can feel harshly unfair, but when it's at its peak, the action is breathtaking.
This game was reviewed on Wii U via digital download of the retail version of the game.
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