When the Wii U was announced, much hype was made about the fact that Nintendo finally had a system that could go toe-to-toe with the competition on a technical level. Yet, thus far the system has only really been used as Nintendo franchise machine with a little extra oomph. Thankfully, Bayonetta 2 has finally arrived to show the Nintendo faithful and doubters just what this sweet little system is capable of. This isn’t just the best action title on the Wii U, it’s the best and most blissfully entertaining action game that’s been released in this entire generation so far. Rated M with a bullet and packing more skull-cracking high-kicks and swordplay than the entire Shaw Brothers’ oeuvre, Bayonetta 2 will make hardcore gamers weak at the knees just watching the action on screen. Hand them a controller and they’ll be drooling and giggling with joy until the end credits roll. We’re talking about an action game that starts with a massive fight scene set on a jet fighter flying through a city and somehow the designers manage to keep topping themselves from there. An absolute blast.
Now, while I consider Bayonetta 2 to be a gorgeous and mind-bogglingly fun gaming experience, I couldn’t describe the plot to you with a high-heeled boot gun to my head. I tuned out at some point during the prologue, which involved our titular witch enjoying a big city shopping spree before being interrupted by a magical military assault that leads to a battle across heaven and hell. Beyond that most basic description of the events, I have no idea what happened. The plot is nonsensical in a stream-of-conscious manner that feels very at home in the anime aesthetic. Calling the characters two-dimensional even feels like giving the writers too much credit and the hyper sexualization of the heroine is just absurd from start to finish. Not that I was offended or irritated by any of this (well, except for some of the sophomoric humor which is just dumb not offensive). The game’s story almost feels like a parody of anime conventions in just how far it pushes the genre extremes. It’s certainly never boring for a second and frequently quite funny, especially when the comedy isn’t intentional.
Of course, you don’t exactly sit down to play a game like Bayonetta 2 for the complex storytelling and emotionally rich characterizations. That would be tonally inappropriate and even worse, it would get in the way of all of the glorious bloodshed. This game is all about the combat, people. Everything else is just an excuse to get there, and oh, what wonderful combat it is. Since you play as a witch, magic powers embodied in flaming dragons or giant stilettos made of deadly hair join in on the fun with traditional objects of ass-kickery like swords and guns. Each weapon comes with its own combos and all are executed with a simple two button set up that’s easy to learn and difficult to master (there’s also an even more stripped down touch screen control system for beginners, but the default controls are so amazing that it’s more of a bonus feature than anything else).
Despite the fact that the fights explode onto the screen with blazing speed and that you’ll normally be fighting a variety of enemies at once, there’s never a second when you won’t feel in control. It’s an incredibly intuitive control scheme that’s deep and satisfying. Your moves all look devastating and very rarely do two fights ever feel the same. Aside from button mashing attack sprees, strategy comes into play through combo systems, items, magic, and a clever slow-mo “witch mode” that arrives after a successfully dodged attack. Make no mistake, none of the vast array of enemies should be taken lightly, but Bayonetta feels so insanely powerful in battle that you’ll truly feel like you can overcome any obstacle.
Big bosses are of course a major selling point, each boasting their own fighting personality and all packing a truly intimidating scale. They are all sweaty palmed affairs and all cap off with an astounding finishing move that will make you want to drop the controller and burst into applause after what you’ve accomplished. In the precious few moments between fights, you’ll engage in some mild platforming Never once did these moments slow down the game. In fact, normally these sections required Bayonetta to transform herself into an animal for blistering speed and even a little extra carnage. The level and character design is always beautifully gothic and strange. You won’t have much time to explore the nooks and crannies of these wacko takes on heaven and hell, but what you’ll see will always put a smile on your face. The designers truly out did themselves. This isn’t a game in which you’ll fight through a level inside a giant beast’s stomach, you’ll do so amidst a sea-storm of blood with other giant monsters that live inside the beast jumping out to get you between regular fights. It’s an assault on the senses that needs to be seen to be believed, always playing at a crisp 60 frames per second and proving that the Wii U can compete with the big boys when it comes to sheer visual beauty and overload.
This linear title essentially offers a non-stop rush through fifteen chapters leading up to its explosive conclusion. However, the game is also deeper than you might think. Each level is loaded with Easter eggs and unique challenges that will unlock extra weapons and items. Rather than leveling up, you’ll collect money throughout the game, which can then be spent on extra items and customization costumes. When it’s all over, you’ll even get 52 co-op fights to play online with friends. And yet, despite all the bells and whistles to keep this disc spinning in your system, most players will find themselves returning to campaign levels over and over just to improve their skills. It’s amazing just how deep and varied the combat design is and there are so many ways to skin each and every cat in Bayonetta’s way. Given how absurdly fast and epic each level is, replaying never feels like a chore.
So many bright colors, explosions of blood, and controller-drop set pieces are shoved into your eyeballs from start to finish that it’s impossible to remember it all on first playthrough (frankly, I doubt it could all be lodged in memory in two playthroughs). If you own a Wii U, then you simply have buy a copy of Bayonetta 2. It’s as simple as that. This is the best action game to hit a Nintendo system since No More Heroes 2 and easily the best that the genre has to offer on shelves in general right now. If you want the Wii U to be more than a Nintendo mascot machine (not that there’s anything wrong with that), then you owe it to yourself to buy this game. The folks at Platinum Games just proved that it’s possible to make a beautiful M-rated masterpiece for the Wii U. Let’s make sure that’s the start of a trend and not an anomaly.