Falling Under the Spell Again
Throughout various gaming generations, there have only been a few titles worth buying an entire console for; the games that I would personally include on such a list I could probably count on my two hands. They are titles that either create or absolutely innovate an entire genre - games that you will undoubtedly still be playing decades from now. It goes without saying, that any game that would fall under this category are true classics - timeless, in the respect that their mechanics truly hold up to the sands of time. They are games like Super Mario Bros. 3; games like Sonic 3 & Knuckles; or games like Devil May Cry 3.
Though, more recently, they are games like Bayonetta 2.
Originally revealed in late 2012, this sequel to Platinum Games' famous 2008 title has been a long time coming. Bayonetta fans have been clamoring for a sequel since shortly after the original games launch; since as great as the first game was, it had some major flaws that definitely deserved to be fixed. Issues like unforgiving instant-kill QTEs and other annoyances held the original back from it's true potential... as even with its flaws, the original titles emphasis on dodging and countering attacks danced its way into many Action-Game fanatics hearts! Add in the original titles unique atmosphere, and the wonderful set-pieces that dotted the game, and Bayonetta became a cult hit - bringing Platinum Games into the spotlight.
But enough about that - Bayonetta 2 picks up where the first game left off, directly referencing the ending of the Bayonetta's first adventure. After her friend Jeanne's soul manages to get knocked out of her body and dragged to hell, it is up to Bayonetta to - albeit predictably - set out to rescue her. Although simple enough - and the story never really manages to become much deeper than that - various allusions and call-backs to the first game really cause the campaign to shine! The latter third of the game in particular manages to round out the story with an extremely strong ending, bringing together the best aspects of the first game for a grand finale that - while not quite as energy-filled as the first game - manages to come about as close as one could hope. The games soundtrack works well to accentuate the various situations that Bayonetta finds herself in - and the two new theme songs work fantastically to capture the feel of Bayonetta's latest adventure along with the returning tunes. Themes like the games cover of Moon River are especially memorable, and continue the tradition the first game set with classic tune Fly Me To The Moon.
Bayonetta's combat system and level design have been polished to an absolute shine here - and exploring the various levels shows a surprisingly huge amount of detail put into the world. It's obvious that every bit of the Wii U's power was put towards making the game look as nice as possible - besides the locales and the characters looking very high detailed, the game runs at a very smooth framerate - with very few dips recognized throughout our multiple playthroughs of the story. More importantly - Platinum's famous one-off shooter levels (and on rails "riding" levels) maintain a much more consistent level of polish than the equivalents found in the first game. As for the actual combat, the system has been tweaked to be all that smoother - while new weapons add to the strategy inherent in fights on higher difficulties.
Once again the majority of the combat revolves around dodging attacks at the last moment, and once again there are a plethora of weapons for you to master; but the inclusion of the Umbran Climax mechanic adds a new layer of depth to the combat in regards to fighting both enemies in groups and singular bosses. Sometimes the only way to stun an enemy is to use this mechanic to knock them on their back - and no boss can "phase out" of a combo when this power-up is active. It works well with the other mechanics in the game - far too many of them to list in this review alone - and considering while active it has an effect on ANY combo that you execute, it quickly becomes obvious just how much of a difference this one addition can make to the gameplay.
The games difficulty curve is MUCH smoother this time around; and the easier difficulties have been tweaked to become more forgiving compared to their Bayonetta counterparts... later difficulties maintain the original games challenge though, with some absolutely insane AI once you start dealing with enemies on the Infinite Climax difficulty. This much more balanced difficulty curve also exists in Bayonetta 2's new multiplayer mode - Tag Climax. By default the various "Verse Card" challenges are set on the "1st Climax" - or Easy difficulty, and by betting your halos (the default in-game currency) you can raise the stakes a bit - increasing the difficulty while also increasing the potential payout for a successful battle.
This mode works astoundingly well as a means of creating replay value! Since you can use this system to simulate a Boss-Rush mode with friends, once you have completed every difficulty mode in the main story, this is perhaps the best way of testing your skill... mostly since the hardest possible difficulty for Verse cards can be even higher than the Infinite Climax difficulty found in the main game. Tag Climax is a great addition to the Bayonetta formula - but unfortunately this great system has some difficulty actually getting you into a game. Throughout our review, we probably only got to play a match every 10th time we selected the Quick Match option in the Tag Climax menu. Other individuals separate from our review have noted the same difficulties with finding a match, so it looks like the problems that we encountered may be a fault of the system instead of connection issues on our end.
It goes without saying that I recommend this game. Bayonetta 2 is a fantastic Action title, and just a fantastic game in general - in a year where it seems like hyped game after hyped game have turned into massive disappointments, it's a wonderful feeling to see a title that truly stepped up to the plate and exceeds the expectations placed on it. Bayonetta 2 sets the new standard for Character-Action games to come, and is a game that any Action fan should play at least once in their lives.