While Wii U has ultimately become little more than a benchmark for Nintendo Switch sales to surpass, the experimental pit stop between Wii and Nintendo’s hybrid handheld still had a handful of must-have games. Bayonetta 2 sits proudly at the top of that list, and now the bold and brazen action-adventure breaks the chains of exclusivity as it hits Switch with a triple somersault, a hail of bullets and an ocean of angelic blood.
And while its platform exclusivity might have limited its audience in 2014, developer Platinum Games certainly didn’t let that curb its desire to improve and evolve the Umbran Witch’s addictive formula. That core experience has ported over beautifully onto Switch, resulting in the best possible take on an already amazing action-platformer that surpasses the first Bayonetta in almost every single way.
Much like its predecessor, Bayonetta 2 takes the beating heart of its gameplay - over-the-top combos that combine magically-powered melee attacks with deliciously brutal gunplay - and layers it into a game that’s even more insane that the original. The story - which follows the antics of the titular witch and her continuing run-ins with the bestial powers of Heaven (or Paradiso as its known in Bayonetta lore) as she hunts for the true Gates Of Hell - is just as inexplicable and downright ridiculous, but that’s part of its enduring charm. It doesn’t matter if its plot makes no cohesive sense because you’re having so much fun killing god-like bosses.
That Devil May Cry formula remains mostly unchanged from the original, but its free-flowing nature empowers you at every turn. Leaping away from enemy attacks (which are now represented by a glow from their weapon, making them a little easier to predict) initiates that familiar burst of slow-mo known as Witch Time, while building up enough combos will enable you to pull of comic book-aping Torture Attacks and battle-ending Umbran Climax moves. The button-mashing modifiers are still there (which ups your score and bank extra halos - the in-game currency of the series), but thankfully those ruinous QTEs have been dropped.
Bayonetta 2 is also a far more inclusive and rewarding experience than its forebear, but it's a double-ended blade that leaves its mark, for better and for worse. There’s no two ways about it - this second instalment in the trilogy is noticeably more forgiving with its difficulty spikes, with a slightly larger window for dodges and the ability to interrupt enemy attacks more often. To its detriment, it does take the bite and challenge out of the battles and boss encounters that make this series so utterly bewitching, but much like the Wii U version, it’s an issue that can be easily negated by simply dialling up the difficulty.
Visually, Bayonetta 2 is one of the best looking games you play on Nintendo Switch right now. It runs at 700p and 60fps (much like the original Bayonetta), but free of the much older and muddier textures of the original, the sequel saunters onto Nintendo’s modern handheld with silky smooth visuals and a performance that never once stutters or suffers from slowdown. The new Mediterranean-style setting of Noatun and Fimbulventr (where most of Bayonetta 2 takes place) takes full advantage of this with its bright and beautiful vistas, and you can explore most of its open-ended locations for various collectibles or just to marvel at how incredible Platinum Games is at level design.
There’s also an invigorating sense of diversity to a game based so firmly around the freeflowing combat of its core design. You’ll get to fight giant angelic dragons while riding inside a typhoon filled with disintegrating buildings. You’ll sprout your hair-powered wings and fight a giant demon, King Kong-style, around a skyscraper. If Bayonetta was the game where Platinum Games nailed the formula that confidently took the baton from DMC, Bayonetta 2 is the game where it embraces the opulent and endlessly satisfying set-pieces that make this such a must-play experience.
Thankfully, the utterly pointless Angel Attack mini-game from the original has been dropped, and in its place we get Muspelheim, a dark realm accessible by portals scattered across Noatun and beyond. Each one contains a challenge with a specific modifier (only defeat enemies with dropped weapons, take no damage, etc) and beating each one unlocks extra special items such as Witch Hearts or Broken Moon Pearls. Each challenge is locked to a specific portal and you can retry each one as often as you like, adding in a side dish of extra challenge as well as providing a means of honing your skills to a fine point.
The brilliant Tag Climax mode - which enables you and a friend to fight six consecutive waves of angelic enemies and bosses - returns in full, with both online and local play once again supported. You can bet halos at the start of the stage, so you more you bet, the tougher the challenge. It’s both competitive and cooperative and just as addictive as it was on Wii U - doubly so now because of how much larger Switch’s install base is for supporting online play. With Verse Cards - which offer access to specific Tag Climax stages - unlocked through completing certain milestones in the story, it’s a simple symbiosis that feeds back into one mode for continued replay value.
As with the Switch port of Bayonetta, Bayonetta 2’s touchscreen controls are far more dextrous and responsive on Nintendo’s new hardware. Dodging and general movement is as accurate as you’d hope for, and while it adds in a platform-specific control scheme, the automatic-nature of the combat ultimately robs the game of its most involving and empowering mechanic. It’s a cute little addition, but nothing beats using the analog sticks to send Bayonetta on a death-dealing chaos spree.
Of course, there is still the issue of just how over-sexualised Bayonetta is a character. The sequel does make some effort to tone down the fact she’s effectively unleashing special attacks with her modesty barely concealed - and the camera doesn’t zoom in on her assets quite as unnecessarily as it did in the original - but it’s still a game that can’t quite decide if its promoting a strong heroine or a teenage boy’s virtual fantasy. The fact that its attempt at innuendo falls flat almost every time probably doesn’t help the argument, but even that borked teenage humour somehow adds to Bayonetta 2’s enduring charm.
Despite being a three-plus-year-old port, Bayonetta 2 shines brightest on Nintendo Switch. It runs without a hitch at 60fps, looks incredible in both TV and tabletop modes and offers an addictive free-flowing combat formula that sprinkles in platforming, light exploration and a ridiculous story to create something that you simply need to experience. If you’ve never played it for before, you’re in for a treat. If you’ve already played it, it’s even more bewitching as a handheld gem.