The original Bayonetta is easily in my Top 10 list of games from the last generation. Even in the third-person action genre, there isn’t any other game that comes close in terms of pure gameplay polish. Thankfully, the sequel lives up pretty well to this pedigree.
I’ll start with the best part of Bayonetta 2: the combat. The fast paced, overly flashy and stylized combat fills nearly every second of gameplay and it is a lot of fun. The basics are simple: one button for the weapon equipped to arms, another for foot weaponry, jump, and dodge. The key here is the dodge. Successfully dodging right before you are hit causes time to slow down for everyone except Bayonetta, allowing you to bring the pain. This dodge also makes the game more accessible while layering on skill and strategy.
However, weapons are the true source of fun in Bayonetta 2. This isn’t your normal action game with just typical swords and guns – here they are done differently, as they can be wielded by Bayonetta’s feet. Sword feet! I mean really, how cool is that? Even a ‘typical’ scythe has three blades. Why stop there when there are chainsaws you can use to skate around the levels? I’ll let that sink in a bit.
Each of these wildly different weapons have their own unique combos and mix well with each other. The ability to switch between two weapon sets during gameplay encourages trying things out as well. Figuring out the best combos and weapons for different scenarios is great and just seeing these weapons in action is an additional treat. The smoothness of the chaotic action is impressive and it manages to stay a solid 60 FPS for the majority of the time.
New this time around is the ‘Umbran Climax’ ability that functions similarly to Devil Trigger from Devil May Cry. While active, Bayonetta slowly recovers health, damage output increases, and moves are augmented with giant demon based summons. Basically it’s more chaos in a game that already has a lot of that going on. The move is a good addition and is pretty much the only change to the battle system from the first game.
There isn’t just fighting though, throughout the levels are hidden chests that contain health or magic upgrades. Also hidden are challenge rooms that force you to take on a group of enemies with a certain condition attached such as: don’t take damage, use only the enemies’ weapons, defeat everything in a certain amount of time, etc.
While I love the outrageous hack and slash gameplay, the story really drags down Bayonetta 2. During the first half of the game, nonsensical story interruptions are far too frequent and add very little. I recall the story being bizarre and silly in the first game but not to the point where it was almost always in the way. I should be worried about enemy encounters, not cut scene triggers.
However, every once in a while there is some awesome action moment or a funny joke to see within these scenes so I never wanted to skip them… But I’d rather just be playing the game.
The first third of Bayonetta 2 was a bit of a drag as none of the weapons, except for the swords, seemed to fit my play style. Not to mention that there is constant story interruption and a forced escort with a new character, whose name I already forgot and accent that is a confusing mix of several different things.Thankfully the pacing issues right themselves for the back thirds. The first Bayonetta jumped around from place to place all the time and almost every single chapter felt different. I was very glad to see Bayonetta 2 continue with this spirit.
After the almost drag of the beginning (the combat is still awesome enough to get through it) the game starts handing out weapons, exploring more interesting environments, and easing up on the story.
Enemy variety is great, although everything does boil down to knowing when to dodge. This is where there is a bit of a shake up for longtime fans. Enemies clearly telegraph their attacks via an obvious visual cue but there are some attacks that don’t initiate right away or attempt to fake out the player. These are welcome, if initially confusing, additions that ensure you don’t just dodge the same way for each and every attack.
What Bayonetta 2 does well is the sheer about of fun there is to be had. What is so hard to express in text is just how much fun it is to string together combos, dodge outlandish attacks, and emerge triumphant. And that is what Bayonetta is all about: fun.
Additionally, playing through the game a second time with the different weapons and various upgrades is fantastic. Even on harder difficulties the game still feels pretty fair. That is to say, if you get hit by something it means you were in the way and didn’t dodge. If you can dodge effectively you will be able to survive all the encounters Bayonetta 2 throws at you.
It’s not perfect and the nostalgia goggles are likely affecting my memories of the first game but Bayonetta 2 is still a great time and better than pretty much any other action game out there.