Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and Bayonetta, aside from those late to the party, has been out of our lives since 2010. The return of the sultry Umbra Witch was revealed in September 2012’s Nintendo Direct, PlatinumGames barraged with complaints over the sequel’s Wii U exclusivity despite repeated explanations that it wouldn’t even be happening without Nintendo’s support.
Regardless of that vocal disappointment, the Japanese developer have cracked on with precisely what they do best – crafting intense, high-octane action experiences that they are entirely unrivalled in creating across the industry. With Bayonetta 2 nearing its October release I have found myself lucky enough to play through the opening five chapters, and the sequel is promising to be every bit as frenetically exhilarating as its predecessor.
We rejoin Bayonetta shortly after the events of the first game, having found herself time to spend Christmas shopping no less. She’s dragging around information broker Enzo as her personal porter, who remains just as much a comical addition, before fellow Umbra Witch Jeanne makes an unexpected arrival and all hell breaks loose. The Angels of Paradiso are on the prowl, with Bayonetta leaping straight into action atop the Platinum Stars, a military acrobatic squad of jets that are performing a flyover of the city for the annual Holiday parade.
Sliced out of her Sunday best, Bayonetta jumps to the sky to magically garb herself in her new black leather outfit before landing comfortably on the back of Acceptance, a new centaur-inspired Angel, proceeding to spank it for good measure. If Nintendo exclusivity had ever threatened a change in tone, Bayonetta 2 remains just as sexily-stylised as it has ever been.
Weapons dealer Rodin completes the returning cast, who, dressed as Santa, delivers Bayonetta her new quartet of guns, ‘Love in Blue.’ After being knocked out of the air and a high-speed train sequence later, this furiously frantic Prologue concludes with Bayonetta squaring off against tentacle-wielding Angel, Belief. Activating a Climax to call upon ‘Devourer of the Divine’ Gamorrah to finish the job, who only too eagerly chomps the remnants down, she unwittingly loses control of the monstrous demon which results in Jeanne’s untimely death.
We learn that since the loss of the Right Eye of Light at the conclusion of the original Bayonetta, the Trinity of Realities – light, darkness and chaos – have become imbalanced. All hope isn’t lost despite witnessing Jeanne’s spirit having been unceremoniously dragged to Inferno where it is doomed to suffer for eternity, with Rodin putting her lifeless body on ice. He reveals to Bayonetta that she has a day to rescue Jeanne, and must journey to Hell to reunite her soul with the heart of an Umbran Witch.
That sets Bayonetta 2’s wheels in gleeful motion and leads you to Fimbluventr, a sacred mountain that hides a portal to Inferno that is yet to be discovered. Wrapped around that plight is Bayonetta’s discovery of another Lumen Sage, even though they were all believed to have been destroyed, and a young boy called Loki. Similarly wandering Purgatorio, Loki is suffering from amnesia and is similarly being chased by the Angels who refer to him as “the Sovereign One.” He’s hell-bent on getting to the peak of Fimbluventr as well, despite not knowing why, so decides to partner with Bayonetta. Slick in combat, where, as with X-Men’s Gambit, he flings magical cards at any foes to take them out, it grates that he keeps referring to Bayonetta as “love,” while the cocky demeanour and lacklustre accent hardly make him seem a likeable addition so far .
Bayonetta 2’s combat system is the key draw to the relentless gameplay experience and is a honed continuation of that which came before – conjuring a unique concoction of hair-based attacks, demonic summons, slow motion Witch Time and button-mashing Gigaton smackdowns. It remains simple enough for any player to pick up, especially with the option touchscreen controls on the Wii U GamePad, but a multitude of combos means that more advanced players will have plenty to master. There have expectedly been tweaks with Witch Time noticeably lasting a shorter period of time, but this makes way for new, more punishing, introductions like the Umbran Climax. Activated whenever your magic gauge fills to capacity, it allows you players to excitably pummel their enemies into submission with successive Wicked Weaves and Infernal Demon summons. A Moon River remix is the playful backdrop to these relentless combat scenarios, echoing the jazz influences of Fly Me To the Moon which was used within the first game.
Dealing out successive punch and kick combos is all well and good, but it is in new weaponry that delivers variance to Bayonetta’s combat style. While the original game was slow to grant access to new weapons, these fall into your possession much earlier in the sequel. Still requiring you to return Angelic Hymns Gold LPs to Rodin, the early chapters will expand your armoury with Rakshasa, which are dual katana blades, and Kafka, a bow that allows you to shoot arrows imbued with poison from afar. Ornate and grandiose in design, these mark a striking difference against Bayonetta’s standard gun-blazing approach.
Traversal through the expansive, although somewhat linear, environments is also switched up, with Bayonetta granted a new ability to transform into a snake underwater to speed her movement. While she can now leap through mystical devices to temporarily control gravity during the day, rather than being restricted to when a full moon’s beaming down. So, improvements, differentiation and surprises across the board, and our playtime so far has only barely scratched the surface.
Bayonetta 2 is a notably improved successor, blisteringly sublime at 60 frames-per-second and with a more vibrant colour palette that makes even the most frantic of combat scenarios all the more mesmerising. Continual set piece moments are an overwhelmingly welcome assault on the senses, and it is clear that PlatinumGames have poured as much unrivalled joy in creating the sequel as the player themselves will experience by witnessing it all in action. It just remains to see whether the remainder of the Wii U exclusive is as heart-poundingly dramatic as its opening chapters. But being as stylishly over-the-top as it’s ever been, and with PlatinumGames pedigree in the genre, it certainly looks promising that the Wii U will shortly receive another winner.
Bayonetta 2 releases exclusively for Wii U across Europe and North America this October.