Bayonetta 2 begins with a resounding bang. When the smouldering femme fatale has her Christmas shopping rudely disturbed by marauding Angels of Paradiso, the combat-ready Umbra Witch bests the heavenly invaders only to unexpectedly find herself losing control of the otherwise faithful infernal demon Gamorrah during the fight’s climactic conclusion. With Jeanne killed as a consequence, her soul is dragged to Inferno to suffer for all eternity.
Having learned that a portal to the hellish realm lies hidden on the sacred mountain of Fimbulventr, Bayonetta sets out to save her friend from such fate although only has a day to do so. Mystery abounds with the discovery that another Lumen Sage is on the prowl despite them all believed to be destroyed, while Loki, a young boy suffering from amnesia, becomes an unlikely ally on your romp toward the fiery depths.
Battling on fighter jets, high-speed train sequences and spanking centaurs set the tone early on for Bayonetta’s return, the Prologue lending only the briefest glimpse at the spectacle that awaits you within the game’s thrilling and action-packed story. With the Trinity of Realities having become imbalanced since the loss of the Right Eye of Light, PlatinumGames allow themselves an expanded lore to draw from. Ever more ambitious, your continued advance through Bayonetta’s saga results in battles that steadily increase in scope and scale that readily pits you against colossal foes that intimidatingly dwarf you.
It’s impossible not to marvel once again at the outstanding cinematic direction wondrously conceived for the Wii U exclusive’s epic cutscenes and set pieces – whether that be surfing down the interior of a watery tornado, an aerial assault through Paradiso, or rampaging through Inferno on demonic horseback. It’s a continual thrill, letting us deliver into a world that has been painstakingly realised.
Unsurprisingly it is in battle scenarios that Bayonetta 2 most prominently excels, with PlatinumGames pedigree for acutely balanced combat mechanics resoundingly coming to the fore. This is made all the more striking coming straight across from the original game, with the sultry witch now feeling entirely more fluid and responsive when pounding her angelic opponents into submission
That’s still achieved by slamming your celestial and hellish foes with a combination of bullets, jabs, kicks and demonic Wicked Weaves, battering them senseless until their weary corpses explode in a shower of Halos. Witch Time returns and continues to be activated when the player expertly backflips at the precise moment their enemy attempts to strike, temporarily slowing time and opening an opportunity to pummel them as much as you can.
These instances are noticeably shorter than before, most likely in response to the mesmerising, flurried attacks that you can employ by using the new Umbran Climax. This, as with the contraption-summoning Torture Attacks, relies on the player steadily filling their Magic Gauge before they can be used, soon allowing Bayonetta to use her new ability to unleash an unwavering barrage of Wicked Weaves on her foes that feels rewardingly sadistic.
While much combat variance can be found by experimenting with Bayonetta 2’s seemingly endless punch and kick combos, a shopping spree at Rodin’s Gates of Hell staggeringly extends this even further. Bayonetta can continue to strap weapons to her hands and feet, beginning the game wielding ‘Love in Blue’ – four guns individually named Prelude, Minuet, Toccata and Nocturne – but collecting Angelic Hymns LP rewards you by unlocking more weapons for your infernal arsenal. Whether that be ‘Rakshasa,’ a pair of swords that allow you to rapidly slice your foes, the bow ‘Kafka’ that lets you poison your enemies from afar, the deadly scythe ‘Chernobog’, or the fiery and chilling ‘Undine’ flamethrowers, each are especially gratifying to use. There are more than these available to you, with more techniques and bonus parameter-inducing accessories that similarly switch up the gameplay.
Bayonetta 2 is a rarity these days in that, beyond completion, it can be richly rewarding for those that wish to sink in the hours required to truly master it. Besting the game with your preferred weapon setup only opens up the opportunity to see how you fare with those that you haven’t used as extensively, fuelled by your pursuit to achieve Pure Platinum ranking in each of the game’s chapters. Muspelheim challenges will test your combat prowess in the same vein as Bayonetta’s Alfheim counterpart, whereas journal notes, coffins and crows return as collectables for you to hunt out.
Nintendo cosplay costumes are a welcome nod to the company that has allowed Bayonetta 2 to exist in the first place, drawn from Super Mario (Mushroom Kingdom Princess and Sarasaland Princess), The Legend of Zelda (Hero of Hyrule), Metroid (Galactic Bounty Hunter) and Star Fox (Star Mercenary). Each presents their own novelty twist, whether that be Bowser’s limbs thumping and kicking when Wicked Weaves are used, rupees replacing Halos, or roll around as a Morph Ball. It’s the Star Fox costume that steals the show though, although we’ll let you discover why for yourselves.
You’ll perhaps be exhausted by the time you reach the game’s grandiose conclusion, but there’s content outside of the main Story to keep yourself occupied with. There is the welcome opportunity to listen to the game’s stellar soundtrack, view concept art, and watch selected trailers, this namely comes in the Tag Climax multiplayer mode.
This lets two players choose from a deck of Verse Cards that pit you both against a vengeful horde of enemies and bosses plucked from the main game. Your objective is to successfully conquer six cards in succession, wagering your Halos to increase the difficulty for a more lucrative reward. You can search for a random partner online through Quick Match, although this relies on your discovered companion accepting your request to team up, so you’ll have more luck roping in a friend or relying on a CPU partner. It’s immensely satisfying to tackle the game’s monstrous creatures as a duo while competing to deal more damage than one another. See your health deplete, and it will be down to them to quickly save you from being dragged to hell. It works well, and I’ve been lucky to enlist far more skilled Japanese players to join me with no noticeable latency issues.
The Wii U GamePad allows you to enjoy Off-TV Play but also serves to bridge the barrier to entry to what many perceive as a complex genre. Those that wish to do so can opt to use touchscreen controls, tapping to move and jump or sliding to evade. Touching the target of your attacks will automatically unleash a combo, meaning that you don’t have to worry about memorising the numerous button combinations that are placed at your disposal. It’s been carefully implemented and a welcome option, although I’m not sure how widely used it will be.
Bigger, badder, and exquisitely better, Bayonetta 2 knocks its predecessor off its enviable perch to become perhaps the greatest action game of all time. From the word go, it will send your adrenaline into overdrive as you venture on a quest that will take you to the very depths of Hell and back. The plethora of unlockables promises to keep you coming back for more in new and refreshing ways, while Tag Climax suitably extends the experience beyond a purely solo offering in a richly rewarding way. Bayonetta 2 is game of the year material without a doubt and a worthy purchase for any action fan.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nintendo