Bayonetta is my go-to game when talking about the mastery that Platinum Games has shown as a developer. This game sports fluid combat, more combos than you can remember, a super satisfying mechanic when you time your dodge just right and a character that brings enough style and strength to her fights that both Dante and Kratos have to stop and take notice. With the Wii U not getting the time of day from most gamers, Bayonetta 2 was a treasure that I could share with very few people. Now that both games are on Switch, that thankfully changes.
So what is a Bayonetta? This is a hack and slash game that oozes style with an over the top cast. Armed with a gun for each limb, Bayonetta is a deadly weapon that loves to show off. She uses sexuality as a weapon, making sure she doesn’t just dodge an attack, but doing so sexily. At times the sexualisation misses the mark, treading from the empowering of a strong-willed character to seeming more like a perverted lingering camera. Still, it manages to spend a whole lot more time on the former side thankfully and probably won’t bother most people who are fine with most Japanese media.
Armed with a gun for each limb, Bayonetta is a deadly weapon that loves to show off. She uses sexuality as a weapon, making sure she doesn’t just dodge an attack, but doing so sexily.
Bayonetta is a witch without her memory who trades in angel kills to the demons she made a bargain with. All she cares about is finding out who she really is, and is quickly involved in a corporate conspiracy as well as some prophecy of the angels. Armed to the teeth and with hair that acts as both outfit and summoning focus for massive demons, Bayonetta goes on a rampage through the world looking for answers, kicking ass and forgetting to take names, slowly regaining her memories. It is a wild ride, both working out what happened to her and how the game makes use of disjointed memories to paint one picture, then reveal a bit later to completely change the context. This unreliable narrator theme continues all the way into Bayonetta 2.
There are a few places where the age of Bayonetta come into play. While her interaction with monsters and bosses is amazing, her interaction with the world around her leaves a lot to be desired. She doesn’t slow down when running into things and all ground is treated as flat and the control scheme will have you feeling like your right hand is doing all of the hard work, while your left hand is left mostly just to move as you juggle using the face and trigger buttons of the right hand almost constantly. The gaps between killing the last enemy and being allowed to progress are also a bit longer than they have to be, slowing down the pace from blistering to oddly halting.
This doesn’t stop Bayonetta from being an amazing, fun-filled ride. Every boss encounter is a chance to beat up something even bigger and more grotesque (the creature design in this game needs to be seen to be believed), learning how to avoid as much damage as possible while building up to the climax: a summoned demon totally destroying the boss in question. Some fights are crowned by Bayonetta summoning a brand new demon to destroy things in a brand new way, from no-nonsense eating of things to massive arms playing volleyball with an enemy before punching it into a smeared paste. If you want spectacle and style, you have come to the right place.
What I had forgotten about Bayonetta was the difficulty. I remember battling with the first boss many years ago, and while it was easier this time round, I thought having played both games before would have prepped me for this. Some enemies hit really hard and you need to rely on items for any significant health gain. Dodging just before a hit is of paramount importance so that you can use Witch Time to get a combo in or reposition to hit multiple enemies at once. All fights can be beaten without taking a single point of damage, but reaching that point for each enemy type takes concentration and reflexes. Oh and this game has absolutely no issue with making you die when you miss a QTE that briefly flashed up on the screen. Get used to seeing that continue screen and loading at the checkpoint.
Heading from Bayonetta to Bayonetta 2 can be a bit jarring when you realise Bayonetta has a new voice actress but the myriad improvements will make you forget (or at least soften the blow) pretty quickly. A few adjustments to the control scheme makes combat more comfortable as lock on moves from R to ZL, leaving you free to rest whichever finger you prefer hitting ZR with. It also makes special weapons only get used when you hit the ranged attack button, instead of using them instead of normal attacks. This lets you save those limited use weapons for when it really matters, like a powerful mini-boss. Add in smoother movement, faster transitions between fights and moving on to the next area or when picking up new items, and you can feel how much has improved since the first game. Enemies are bigger with more detail, textures are highly improved and the game ramps the action into overdrive right from the start. It also makes those portals to the special arenas in Alfheim a lot easier to track down.
Bayonetta 2 is a faster, sleeker game and is one sequel that doesn’t rob you of all your abilities and gear from the previous one. Some of them are gone, but many of your tricks are ready to go. Within the first fight, you can see how the setpieces and level of detail have improved and increased. The amount of action that can be on screen at once ramps up, with several boss fights having you duke it out against a boss while your summon and their summon fight in the background, sometimes spilling over into your fight. It looks so impressive that you want to watch everything unfold around you, but your foe won’t give you a chance to do that.
Within the first fight, you can see how the setpieces and level of detail have improved and increased.
It seems Bayonetta’s past still haunts her and the balance of power has shifted. After losing control of one of her summons and being attacked by it, she wants answers and that means going to hell. If you thought the angels in this game had some terrifying designs, just wait until you see all of the nasty things inside hell, as well as sometimes what is inside those nasties. Buckle up, because this ride gets bumpy.
Both Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 shine just as brightly as when they were first released and for people who missed these gems, now is your time. Hell, even if you played them before, the magic is still worth reliving. Bayonetta is over the top with crazy moves, sexy flourishes, massive boss fights and level design that will make you wonder if some games are trying at all. Even though I knew the games had some ridiculously good setpieces, playing them again reminded me why I loved them so much and why they had a fond spot in my heart.