I thoroughly enjoyed the original Bayonetta back in 2010, but not enough to place it among personal action favorites like Devil May Cry 3 and God of War II. That’s why I was consistently surprised at how much fun I was having while playing its Wii U sequel. “I don’t remember the original one being this great” was a thought that came up numerous times during my time with the game.
It’s not that Bayonetta 2 radically changes anything that made the original popular, it’s the crazy amount of variety and responsiveness seen in the combat system. Every enemy encounter is a fast-paced, visually stunning test of reflexes and creative combos. At the core of combat is the returning Witch Time mechanic, which rewards a last-second evade maneuver with the temporary slowing of time. Harder difficulties basically require players to become extremely familiar with the move, and it’s a blast to lay into foes with combos while they’re unable to defend themselves.
Purchasing new moves and weapons allows you to tailor Bayonetta’s offense to your personal play style, and it’s possible to switch between weapon loadouts on the fly with one button press. My personal favorite was dual swords in my hands and two flamethrowers (which can utilize a separate ice mode) strapped to my feet. It’s thoroughly satisfying to slice up an enemy with a sword combo, launch them into the air, meet them in mid-air with a flying kick, and then hold the kick button to engulf them in flames.
Bayonetta’s vast arsenal of moves and weapons are enough to keep fights interesting on their own, but the variety of enemies ensures you won’t get tired of the frequent melees. The standard encounters feature numerous types of minions, each with their own unique attacks and tells. Almost every chapter tosses at least one insane boss at you, many of which barely fit on the screen. These battles can be intense on harder difficulties, requiring players to recognize patterns and practice perfect evade timing. Most end in dramatic fashion, with Bayonetta’s hair morphing into some gigantic beast that destroys the boss in hilariously over-the-top fashion.
All of Bayonetta’s combat capabilities would be for naught if the game’s controller options weren’t up to par. Thankfully, controlling the action is perfectly crisp and responsive when utilizing the Wii U’s pro controller. Playing with the GamePad is another good option, and full offscreen play is possible. The original Bayonetta featured the one-button Automatic mode, and its spiritual successor this time around is the GamePad’s touch controls. You can unleash combos on enemies by tapping them on the screen, but you’d be robbing yourself of much of the joy of Bayonetta 2 if you boil the razor sharp action down to something so mindless.
I don’t know what kind of maniac plays Bayonetta for the story, but the sequel is just as incoherent as it was the first time around. There’s a lot of talk about Umbra witches and ancient gods and time travel and other confusing nonsense, but it’s all just a silly, fun excuse for Bayonetta to kill a bunch of weird creatures in increasingly crazy ways. If you were a fan of the unexpected detours the first game made (the out-of-nowhere Space Harrier tribute, for example), you'll love the situations seen in the sequel. The narrative shuttles Bayonetta everywhere from traditional city streets to the outer reaches of time and space, and you'll never know where the next mission will take you or what familiar faces you'll see there.
A lot of info about Bayonetta 2’s unlockable goodies has already found its way onto the internet, but I won’t spoil specifics here. I’ll just say that some of the Nintendo-themed goodies are great, and I really liked playing around with them as I accessed them. As the game lends itself well to multiple playthroughs, you should have plenty of time to use unlockables after you initially access them. I only beat the original Bayonetta once, but I’ve decided to play through this one on every difficulty level, something I only do with my favorites in the genre. If you exhaust everything the game has to offer, you can always return to the original game thanks to its inclusion when purchasing Bayonetta 2.
A new Tag Climax mode allows you to wager halos (the game's currency for buying in-store items) against a friend as you battle to see who can slay enemies more effectively, but it’s not really deep enough to serve as much more than a distraction. You can play against an AI opponent if you want another opportunity to earn halos, but there are plenty of ways to do it in the proper story mode that prove to be more entertaining.
Bayonetta 2 doesn’t drastically change the already wacky formula that the first game introduced, but it’s a bigger and more nuanced version of its predecessor. It’s also the best game of its kind in years. If you’ve ever enjoyed this breed of reflex-heavy, hyperactive, ludicrous action game, Bayonetta 2 is a no-brainer.