Just in case I haven't told you yet, because I've got a sneaky suspicion that there are still some people out there who don't own a Wii U and therefore either haven't heard or fully understood the seriousness of what I'm about to say, I bought a Wii U for Bayonetta 2.
I've already waxed lyrical about the game's dual control systems in a previous preview so I won't repeat myself in that sense here. Having now played a large chunk of the game, I have to say that I'm not particularly fond of the touchscreen input for long periods of play (or indeed at all for that matter), but that's because I adore the way the game handles when you're playing it as you would have the original. The swipe and tap inputs essentially turn Bayonetta 2 into the most bonkers smartphone experience you ever laid eyes on, and although it's perfectly poised in that respect to bring in a new audience who want to enjoy the absurd spectacle, it's not really for me.
But that's the joy of choice. Finally, with the difficulty raised above the Easy setting that they must have been flouting months back at the preview event, the standard control system really comes into its own once more. Pirouetting about the place, cartwheeling out of danger before spinning back in for a flurry of attacks is beautifully balletic and gloriously responsive. It's a near perfect setup, the controller really just an extension of your mind. Everything is so fast and fluid that you're just stepping into combos on the fly, mixing and matching button combinations to see what happens, always with a finger delicately poised over the dodge button to take you out of harm's way.
Zipping in and out of Witch Time as you masterfully evade five concurrent attacks is a delight, and then laying the smackdown in slow motion on multiple enemies is a yelp-inducing treat. There are new weapons for Bayonetta to dispatch her foes with as well, and purgatorial bartender Ronin will retrieve some extra special items if you bring him rare vinyl LPs. It seems that the Angelic officers like hoarding music. The Rakshasa, modelled upon Sosun Pattah (the curved swords of Indian origin), replace the Shuraba of the original game, but there's a key difference: whereas the Shurasa could only be equipped as hand weapons, the Rakshasa can be strapped to Bayonetta's shoes, much like Love Is Blue. This means she struts her stuff with shin-long blades sticking out of the black of her heels, and occasionally clipping through her bum because they're so ridiculously long.
I sort of hope Platinum don't fix that, because it's exactly the sort of nonsensical ridiculousness that I've come to expect from this series.
If they look laughable, there's nothing funny about the damage they dish out. You sacrifice ranged attacks for sweeping, radial blades strikes. Attacking with Rakshasa isn't quite as satisfyingly brutal as the shadowy, emphatic hits you can get out of Love Is Blue, but there's something rather hypnotic about turning into a whirling tornado of pinkish blades, and slicing up your enemies without them ever landing a single hit in. You're a little bit faster, a little bit sharper, and sometimes a change of pace is rather nice.
Also up for grabs in this game is the new bow -- Kafka. The Kafka is a hand-only weapon, and can therefore be used in conjunction with any of the foot-based weapons. It's a simple instrument, firing off poisonous arrows that gradually leech damage from your adversaries, and can be charged up by holding down the X button to unleash extra damage. Best of all, though, when you rattle off some shots with the Kafka during an Umbran Climax, the arrows will turn into enormous demonic dragonflies from Hell, and everything before you will basically just die.
There are other cool new little aspects to the game as well, such as being able to turn into a panther on land or a serpent in water in order to move faster. There are spectral treasure chests that require you to collect their ethereal fragments within a time limit to restore them to a solid state... that can then be plundered. You also can now craft items such as the various lollipops instead of always needing to buy them from Rodin or hoping that one of the many foes you face will have the decency to drop one.
Unfortunately, there's also a new companion, who's annoying as hell and has the worst accent ever. It's a duff mix of cockney intonation projected by what sounds like someone pretending to be an American pretending to be a posh Englishman. It's a voice that's too old for the platinum-braided amnesiac child and it doesn't fit at all. The story appears to be more nonsensical than ever before, but at least there's an obvious impetus for all of the action, with Bayonetta's chum and occasional nemesis Jeanne dragged off to Hell. The cutscenes that don't involve Bayonetta issuing librarian smacktalk to an Angel frankly provide an excellent opportunity to get some tea.
But it's sort of all worth it for the prologue's absurd farce of a cinematic, where Bayonetta is going Christmas shopping, gets ambushed by angels and F-18s, and then Rodin rides in to lend a hand by wall-riding a department store in a Cadillac while dressed as a blaxpoitation Santa.
I don't really have a clue what's going on, but that's okay because later on (but still only in chapter four) there's a one-on-one fight with a Masked Lumen sage that might just be the best fight I've ever had in an action game ever. It starts with you squaring off against an opponent that's your equal in terms of power, who can teleport short distances and fling fireballs your way, and can summon just as many celestial leviathans as you can demonic monstrosities. And then you can have a punching match between the two mega bosses you've both summoned, and then you're flying and dodging and it's the Matrix Revolutions and I've explained this one before in a previous preview too. Read it and weep.
This time, though, I was playing it on a proper difficulty setting. Remember that thrill you got the first time you went up against Dark Link in ocarina? Well this is better. So much better.
And then there's a boss battle where a giant Angelic, Jörmungandr-esque serpent causes a tsunami that you surf down on the wreckage of a city that it's just destroyed.
I need to lie down.