Every reviewer has one game, possibly one game a year, that we look back on and perhaps feel that the review we gave didn't quite do that game justice. It could be a wildly over-inflated score for a game that proved to be a pile of poo in the long run -- a title perhaps over-hyped at the time, arriving with a groundswell of excitement that proved too loud to ignore. We're human, it happens. Or maybe it was a game that we grew to love over replays, unable to see its qualities in the midst of a hectic release period with deadlines on all sides at the time, but something that made us kick ourselves upon return.
For whatever reason, I gave the original Bayonetta an 8 out of 10. I've gone back and tried to crawl into the headspace of my younger self time and time again to ascertain exactly why that score wasn't higher. The review even reads like a 9 or a 10.
Mind you, maybe it's because I foresaw room for improvement on some level. Maybe it's because somewhere, in the recesses of my mind, I had an inkling of what was to come: that there'd be a sequel, that it would be even more fantastically overblown, that it'd be an exclusive on the Wii's successor. Hahahaha! Sorry...no one could have predicted that last one.
I came staggering out of the Nintendo post-E3 showcase drunk with happiness, a massive grin plastered to my face, and with a burning desire to buy Nintendo's latest console. Every game I played slapped a smile on my face, but none dropped my jaw so utterly and so consistently as Bayonetta 2.
The over-sexualised crotch shots, double entendres, absurd physical contortions, and lines to make you wince are still in there of course. I couldn't decide if Bayonetta herself was meant to be taken seriously or not before, and I certainly don't care now. I was just laughing solidly throughout the twenty minutes I spent with the game. The combat is as dazzling as it's always been, though I reckon the difficulty might have been toned down a little for the demo perhaps. In any case, it still feels incredibly satisfying to defy gravity at the last moment before you get hit with an attack, plunge into Witch Time and dish out some serious damage. If anything, the combat is even more fluid than before, and there's still an impressive degree to which you can muck about and stumble into combos through exploring your options rather than pausing and memorising button presses.
In short, it's Bayonetta just as we remember her. Only better.
Facebuttons dish out heavy and light attacks, along with the ability to pepper Angelic foes with ranged damage. You can switch between weapon sets again in this game, and as well as picking up the odd remnant left behind from our fallena dversaries, we swapped Bayonetta's revolver-clad stillettos for shoes with katanas on the heels. I was amazed that she didn't stab herself in the bum every time she ran anywhere, but this is Bayonetta -- it's not supposed to make sense, it's just supposed to make for splendid, absurdly brilliant combat. Once again, weaving my way into a combo with the bladed heels, it wasn't long before I'd transformed Bayonetta into a spinning, whirling dervish of hellish retribution.
Torture devices are back, splattering groggy enemies to kingdom come thanks to the sick inventions of medieval inquisitors, and Umbran Climax is now accessible during normal battles as well as boss encounters. There's something incredibly satisfying about chaining a bunch of attacks together even as more enemies pile on knowing that any second now you're about to pull demonic limbs out of thin air with every move.
I've long held that power gating is an annoying practice. It's a fairly lazy way of working progression into a game, so it's nice to see Bayonettaimbued with plenty of abilities early on that she might have had to grind for in other series. But you then have to find new ways to challenge the player, and in the third level we played through, itself still fairly early on in the game, we encountered our first Lumen Sage of Bayonetta 2. Not only is the Lumen the equal of Bayonetta in terms of movement, he's also rocking a double-bladed spear in Darth Maul-esque fashion, and has the ability to teleport.
Oh, and he summons a multi-faced, Angelic behemoth to bring the rain.
Thing is, we've faced that behemoth before. Only this time, Bayonetta summons her own Infernal Demon and the two gigantic entities slug it out in the background while we take on this game's equivalent of Dark Link. It's difficult not to be distracted by the wonderfully detailed action going on behind the duel, but the Lumen Sage is not to be trifled with, and we have to bring our A-game. A few dodges here, a spot of Umbran shadow punching there, interrupting the Lumen before he can bring down some serious pain, and kicking his arse. One health bar down and we both launch into the sky, weaving in and out of our fighting giants' blows as if The Matrix Revolutions suddenly invaded a Godzilla flick. By this point I've lost all pretence towards any kind of professional demeanour and am shouting exclamations of pure joy, all the while laughing like a nitrous-addicted hyena. But there's more. Suddenly I'm no longer controlling Bayonetta. Suddenly I'm actually controlling the Infernal Demon and the game is charging me to smack the enormous Angelic boss in its many faces. Guitars are going wild in the background, blood is ringing in my ears, I think I've forgotten to breathe.
I'm not sure I've ever played a demo that I physically applauded after playing, It's rare to have that, especially at a showcase event. You're so incredibly aware that you're in public, far from whatever safe haven of a gaming space you have in your home, that it's easy to detach, to maintain some semblance of professional decorum. But none of that happened with Bayonetta 2. Instead, I transformed into a hysterical, joyous goon for half an hour, went home soon after, and then spent the following three hours searching for the best Wii U deals I could find.
If I'm being totally honest with myself, I'm not sure I've ever actually bought a Nintendo console for a Nintendo title, apart from the Wii. The games that have pushed me over the edge have always been second or third-party exclusives. It was GoldenEye 64 that I craved back in the late Nineties, and it was the gorgeous promise of Rogue Squadron II that really made me covet a GameCube. And now, with the Wii U, it's Platinum's Bayonetta 2. I still think it's one of Nintendo's craziest exclusives, I'm still not sure if it has the broad appeal to really be a system seller en masse, but for me it is. It has.
I've been on the edge for some time, but no longer. I just bought a Wii U because of Bayonetta 2.