Bayonetta’s original outing was heralded for its chaotic action, stylish presentation and its responsive mechanics that were easy enough for the genre’s newcomers, while having more than enough depth to satisfy its veterans.
The game’s protagonist, a bewitching dominatrix who was a collaborated creation between Hideki Kamiya and Mari Shimazaki, was mostly praised for her humour and empowering portrayal.
Four years later and new director Yusuke Hashimoto is at the helm of its sequel, accomplishing the same things its predecessor did without significantly changing any of the fundamentals and adding small tweaks that makes it one of the best experiences that action games can offer.
The basics are simple: the game works similarly to Devil May Cry (which is no coincidence since the original of both franchises share the same director). You string together attacks to defeat a variety of enemies while trying to avoid re-using the same moves to increase your score.
The main difference is the dodge button. Evading at the last moment of an enemy’s attack animation will activate Witch Time, which slows everything down for a brief period, gives you more combo points, lets you stagger the tougher enemies and do more damage.
Players later unlock more ways of using Witch Time but this remains as the key way to activate it and the most obvious reason people find the games appealing. Giving you the ability to slow down the flow of the action gives you a sense of control amidst the fast paced battles. For the sequel, Witch Time is even more important. Many enemies cannot be juggled in the air and barely stagger without it.
However the whole game in general feels a lot less difficult than the original. There are no penalties for using items anymore, including the ones that make you temporarily invincible. You now only get bonus points for not using them.
The original Bayonetta was also infamous for being very punishing, especially for having a difficulty spike early on. The sequel’s difficulty is a lot smoother and consistent. The new hard mode is more comparable to the original’s normal mode.
This doesn’t come off as disappointing since the new fights do exactly what a sequel should. With the exception of the end (which was understandably difficult to top), Bayonetta 2 is much crazier than its incredibly ambitious older sister, and the game somehow contains most of it with a consistent framerate.
The prologue, which has you fighting angels on a jet before crashing it into a train and fighting a dragon crawling up a skyscraper, could warrant as a final boss in any other game, but in Bayonetta that’s where you set the bar.
The majority of the cutscenes are just as dynamic as the gameplay as well. There’s a massive attention to detail in the choreography and the newer, brighter visuals make everything a joy to watch. The actual story in the cutscenes is difficult to care about. Bayonetta is just as quirky as she was in the original.
Loki, the most notable newcomer, has some cute moments interacting with Bayonetta but gets more focus in the story than he deserves. He’s not a bad; he’s still got charm despite being a child character with odd voice acting and an amnesia subplot, but the returning cast needed more attention.
That said, when the gameplay is as good as it is, the story barely matters. Bayonetta 2’s gameplay takes the center stage, giving players a similar experience what they played in 2010, but without being any worse and offering enough changes to justify itself. Learning how to master it by refining your reflexes and combos amidst the hyperactive battles, as well as obtaining the vast amount of unlockables that it has to offer, are ultimately what will keep you coming back.