Bayonetta 2 is a game that doesn’t withhold much. It doesn’t believe in filler or making you wait for standout moments. In the spirit of the game, allow me to cut right to the chase. Bayonetta 2 is outstanding. Right now it’s my second favorite game for the Wii U, and for that matter, any of the next–gen consoles. It’s better than Bayonetta, and my current front-runner for game of the year. Platinum Games have created their masterpiece, and one of the very best action games ever made. That’s a lot of superlatives, but Bayonetta 2 earns them all on the strength of its insanely fun gameplay.
Anyone familiar with the series knows what to expect. Bayonetta 2 doesn’t deviate much from what the first game did. What it does do is eliminate the few things that brought the gameplay down in that title. At the same time it adds more variety, a fresh coat of paint, and somehow even more breathtaking moments. This design strategy is spot on, as Bayonetta remains a pretty great game, albeit one with a few flaws. Platinum saw what needed work and what should go untouched, and thus they’ve given birth to their best game.
One of the first things I noticed is how much better the camera is. The camera in Bayonetta didn’t break that game, but it certainly caused some legitimate frustration. This is no longer the case, and I can’t recall a single instance of annoyance with how it shot the action. The quick time events from the original title? Gone, and not missed. It’s funny, after playing the first game, you’re kind of trained when to expect them in a cutscene, and when they don’t come, it just brings a smile to your face. Another negative aspect of Bayonetta was its frequent reuse of bosses, and this game almost completely does away with this issue. Some minibosses will pop up multiple times, and even some old bosses from the first game appear, but it happens so much less than before, and it didn’t bother hardly at all.
The number of enemy types has been greatly increased, so much so that the proceedings sometimes feel like a boss rush mode. The enemies are more varied and interesting than last time, featuring increased color and more design creativity. I was genuinely delighted by how much Platinum expanded the roster of foes, and how relentlessly new ones got thrown at me. This forced me to always be on my toes, and I was never bored by too much of the same enemy. More enemy types means more kinds of weapons to pick up from felled demons, and I enjoyed the increased emphasis on these cool, limited-use armaments. In general Bayonetta 2 is a less frustrating game than the first. It’s probably the easier game, but it goes beyond that. Fights feel more fair, and the awful instances of getting hit right out of a cutscene have been thankfully excised. This game never felt cheap, but it still maintained a challenge – a combination that made for a very satisfying experience.
There are other aspects of the first game that weren’t problems, but have nonetheless been improved upon. For starters, Bayonetta 2 boasts greater visual appeal than its predecessor. Of course the graphics are better and that’s great, but it’s deeper than that. The overall setting is considerably more interesting this time, with cooler sites to see and explore. There’s more color in the world of Bayonetta 2 compared to the first game, which could be a bit drab at times. The environments are richer and more enjoyable to look at, and I felt more compelled to spend time exploring the nooks and crannies – of which there are decidedly more – than in the first game, when I generally just wanted to push on to the next enemy encounter. There’s an increased attention to detail that I appreciated too, like the cool visual damage that enemies acquire during combat.
The rock solid foundation of the first game – the stellar combat gameplay – has been improved too. It has even greater fluidity because of the improved frame rate, and it just feels a bit smoother. Being on a burlier system certainly helps, and Platinum has taken advantage of the Wii U’s increased power to bring the combat up a few notches. Beyond just playing better, the combat sequences in this game are somehow even crazier and more intense than those in the original title, and they feature greater variety to boot. A handful of battles fought entirely in the air were particular favorites of mine. Platinum wisely chose not to try and outdo the scale of Bayonetta‘s battles, and on the whole, these are actually probably “smaller” fights. What they did instead was enhance the scope of the skirmishes and imbue them with a sense of movement through space. Don’t get me wrong, Bayonetta had some great fights, but they feel static and samey compared to the kinetic and thrilling battles on tap here. You’ll fight on top of jets, surfing inside of a tubular wave, and while flying around a skyscraper, just to name a few. Some incredible vehicular sequences and some neat action bits featuring other playable characters further increase the variety and freshness. There are too many awesome instances to name here, but suffice it to say, this game is basically a non-stop string of memorable battles and action scenes.
Fortunately the areas of the game that are the worst are also the least consequential. The cutscenes are definitely better than the first game, but they’re certainly still poor. The scenes are shorter and less frequent, and the awful dialogue, while still subpar, has been dialed back considerably. The plot itself is an extension of the first game’s, so it’s still pretty nonsensical, but it too is improved when looked at side by side. There’s still a fair amount of Matrix-style buffoonery on display here, but it‘s been reigned in considerably. I was dismayed to see the lazy “still” scenes make a return, but I guess the budget got tight again. Overall the general non-playable aspect of Bayonetta 2 is still the low point of the experience, but it’s noticeably better than the first game. Put it this way: I no longer felt actual pain during the cutscenes, and groaning and eye rolling were way down. This is an action game anyway, so I don’t feel like the experience is marred too much by the ho-hum story elements.
Bayonetta 2 is a short game. I finished it in just under nine hours, and I was not rushing. It’s a disappointing fact, but I’m not that bummed out by it. This is because – and I can’t stress this enough – the game is basically all highlights. There was barely any filler or wasted content padding out the run time. The first game took me nearly twice as long to beat, but a good chunk was spent fighting repeat bosses or plodding through some less than memorable sequences. Such instances are nearly nonexistent here, as the pacing is so much tighter. The vast majority of the time I was moving forward, constantly seeing and experiencing something new and awesome. Those nine hours were simply so rich with top-notch content that I’m willing to mostly forgive the brevity. Honestly, compared to the first game’s alternative of longer but less memorable, I’ll take Bayonetta 2 every time. I had so much fun that I’m way more inclined to go back and play it again to improve my scores, buy more new moves and weapons, and just experience it all over again. Also there are once again several optional combat challenges dispersed throughout the game, as well as secret chests to find and unlock, so there is some moderate side content to help supplement the running time.
Also helping matters is an online mode. I admittedly didn’t spend a ton of time with it, but that’s mostly because I’m not a huge online gamer. Basically you can compete head to head with friends, strangers, or the CPU in combat sequences from the main game to see who can rack up a higher score. You have to unlock the sequences by playing the story, and mostly it’s a solid way to revisit these awesome moments with a human partner/competitor in tow. Matches last six rounds, and you can bet halos on each round. The more halos you wager, the more difficult the round will be, which adds a cool gambling element. For players drawn to competition it should be a fun mode that will test their Bayonetta skills while adding considerable value to the package. Oh and speaking of value, the first Bayonetta is included on a separate disc at no extra cost.
In the end, Bayonetta 2 is a testament to pacing and careful content curation. Platinum clearly decided that if a particular sequence wasn’t amazing, it wasn’t making the cut. I’ve simply never played a game so densely packed with great moments. I’d strongly recommend it to just about anyone looking for an unforgettable gaming experience, regardless of genre preference. If however you are an action game fan, then this becomes nothing short of unmissable, and indeed worthy of a Wii U purchase all on its own. It’s brief, but it does more in under ten hours than a lot of games do in many times that. Platinum Games have delivered an instant genre classic that every action game will be measured against for years to come.