First Impressions: Bayonetta 2
Posted by Anthony John Agnello
Kiss kiss, bang bang
Really, Bayonetta 2 isn’t that far outside of Nintendo’s wheelhouse. The creators of Nintendogs and Wii Fit may like to play it family-friendly, but come on — there’s always been a playful, almost kinky side to Nintendo, games with just the right amount of dirtiness. Look at ol’ Jimmy T. making it happen in WarioWare, hitting the disco after getting his chest waxed (if that open shirt is anything to go by). How about the GameCube-exclusive Capcom joint from Shinji Mikami, P.N. 03, whose star Vanessa Z. Schneider shakes it like a belly dancer in some crazy chic future? Or perhaps Captain Rainbow? And lest we forget, the faster Samus defeats those space pirates, the more casual her attire. Good! Nintendo fans can deal with a little perversion it would seem, and Bayonetta 2 arrives just in time to kick the kink into the Wii U saddle.
When last we caught up with Hideki Kamiya’s wild witch, she was tearing up angels and doing five minute long dance numbers to celebrate her hard won victory on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. These days, she’s still fighting those angels but a few things have changed, and it’s not just her new Girl, Interrupted haircut. In the little one-level playable demo Nintendo showed at E3, Bayonetta had access to two sets of weapons. Her old guns, Scarborough Fair, are back and fixed to her hands and feet as before. New is a dual-katana and whip combination that lets her strike bad guys in wide, sweeping slashes and arcs. Dodging just before an enemy hits you still sends the action into slow motion, and filling up a meter lets you unleash a series of super moves in quick succession.
Even on Normal Difficulty – offered alongside Easy and Very Easy modes – all of these combos fall into place a little quicker than before. Banging away at the punch and kick buttons with little discipline ended with a combo-finishing killer move, where Bayonetta’s hair forms a giant spectral heel or fist to slam her enemies down. These moves required tight focus and precision in the first Bayonetta, but now the inputs are smoothed out. Dodging is also more forgiving, allowing a wider window for you to slide into slow-mo Witch Time than ever before.
Angel slaughter isn’t the only thing that’s toned down a note. A little kink goes a long way, but developer Platinum Games poured in two more scoops than necessary in the first go round. That game’s camera never missed an opportunity to linger on the main character’s posterior and crotch, and when she did those signature hair attack moves, her cat suit disappeared down to little more than pasties and a thong. Bayonetta 2 doesn’t shy away from showing some skin, but now those manoeuvres leave Bayonetta at least wearing the equivalent of a one-piece bathing suit. The restraint’s appreciated, too: The brazen mugging for the camera was less sexy than it was just tiring. Now, the Bayonetta attitude feels slightly more dignified. Slightly. That helps the action and spectacle of the set pieces shine and draw you in.
And does it ever. If you like that special blend of Platinum Games spices, Bayonetta 2 has it in plenty. Bayonetta crushes angels while standing on the back of a fighter jet as it speeds through a downtown city before meeting up with her erstwhile rival Jean. Then she leaps onto a passing train and fights a monster as it crushes the machine car by car. Some monster knocks Jean’s soul right out of her body then drags it to hell, and Bayonetta sprouts wings to bash the beast as it scales a skyscraper. It’s gaudy, dumb and joyously entrancing in its wash of colour and speed. Take note: Platinum Games is pushing the Wii U hardware to the most interesting visual places. If you want to show a friend that this is a capable machine, show them Bayonetta 2.
Graphics aren't everything, though. All visuals need to do is suit the action and story they’re meant to frame, and Bayonetta 2’s accomplished that masterfully in this fun-size portion of the game.
The question now is whether Platinum Games can keep all these elements in perfect balance and harmony over the course of an entire adventure. Bayonetta was a great title, but it was also too indulgent in its excesses. Too pandering with its sex, too grindingly taxing in combat and just too excessive with its story. Nintendo and Platinum are already promising more, more and more for this game, from multiplayer modes to touch controls and other features.
The sexiest thing about Bayonetta 2 at this point is its comparative restraint. It’s a happy thing that Nintendo’s got its kink back. Now let’s see it stick the landing.