At just about any point in history you probably wouldnít be far off the mark by saying Nintendo has trouble securing good third-party support. With the Wii U that observation is a bit more apt than ever before. So it was a pleasant, if unexpected, surprise when Nintendo swooped in to fund Bayonetta 2. For all its critical acclaim, apparently underperforming sales for Platinum Gamesí Bayonetta had led to progress stalling on the sequel until Nintendo stepped in. And apparently when you mix a struggling franchise with an ailing console, witchcraft happens.
If, like me, youíre going into Bayonetta 2
without playing the first game you might initially find yourself a bit lost. The cold open does little to explain anything outside of throwing mystical mumbo jumbo talk at you. Fortunately youíre likely to be drawn in quickly thanks to the fairly likeable cast of quirky (if shallow) characters and an initially straightforward goal.
One of Bayonettaís friends has died, and sheís going to march into hell and bring them back. Sure things get more complicated soon enough, but by that point youíll likely be invested enough to roll with it.
Of course things are helped along by the totally awesome fighting gameplay which most of the game is comprised of. Combat is fast-paced and fluid, allowing you to dodge around enemy attacks and dispatch them with a range of different attack combos with ease. The gameís learning curve is much more pleasant than some of Platinumís other titles, and even when youíre facing down increasingly powerful and unpredictable enemies later in the game youíll never feel particularly outmatched.
But if youíve got an eye for earning the gold or platinum medals for each chapter youíll need to really hone your skills, taking down enemies as quickly as possible while taking minimal damage yourself. Bayonetta 2
ís a smooth ride for casual players but if youíre looking to be challenged, itís here for you.
Itís this focus on replayability and improving your scores that extends the gameís replaybility, despite the story not being terribly long and likely to last most gamers only a few days at most. In a similar vein, the massive amount of unlockables available in the in-game shop Ė everything from new attack combos and weapons to special alternate costumes for Bayonetta Ė means youíll definitely need to play through more than once if youíre aiming to unlock everything.
Visually, Bayonetta 2
is simply stunning on every level. Everything from the menus to the environments to the characters looks slick and polished. Enemy design is probably the strongest aspect of this, with hordes of fantastically creative and incredibly detailed creatures for you to smash to pieces. The bosses take this to the next level and youíll frequently find yourself facing off against intricately decorated, screen-filling behemoths.
Itís not just the size of your enemies that make these boss fights so entertaining, itís the crazy action that tends to accompany them. Often the gameplay will take a twist for some of these fights, such as a flying sequence where you have to fight off angelic dragons or an underwater segment where you face a massive hellish manta ray type thing. Even the relatively mundane recurring battles against a rival magic-user tend to be the most engaging fights in the game, and still retain their over-the-top visual splendour when you both summon your own titanic critters to brawl in the background.
Itís possibly because of these dizzying highs that the games weakest area stands out so much. The regular exploration segments that break up the otherwise constant flow of action arenít such a bad thing. But you need to explore thoroughly if youíre going to discover all the hidden power-ups the game has to offer, from helpful magic and health bar increases to brand new weapons that can have a massive effect on your fighting style. Again, this isnít such a bad thing, but while the environments tend to be beautiful they arenít always easy to navigate.
It can be difficult to tell where you can and canít actually explore. Considering some ledges will simply drop you into bottomless pits, some will lead to hidden treasures and some will simply be blocked by invisible walls, exploration in Bayonetta 2
mostly falls to trial and error. This is not only a little frustrating in itself, but also commits the cardinal sin of slowing your efforts to get to the next battle, because without doubt Bayonetta 2
is at its best when itís rapidly tossing you from one hectic clash to another.