QCF: Bayonetta 2

here are certain games that are fully aware of the audience they’re intended for—the original Bayonetta was such a title.  The impression of vivacious action and the great deal of spectacle its sultry violence spurs on is the kind of experience that indulges in the very unique spirit of expressionism that can only be realized by video games.

And yet ironically, despite the many eccentric nuances exclusive to the culture of gaming that it did celebrate, it’s appeal and accessibility was arguably a bit niche-sized at best, finding a home within the hearts of only the most hardcore of action fans.

Bayonetta 2 rectifies a great deal of that with Nintendo’s influence, and much to the delight of everyone involved or interested for that matter, it doesn’t compromise any of the distinctive dynamics or personality of the Umbra Witch—quite the opposite actually.

The trifecta of Nintendo, Sega, and Platinum collaboration has not only produced title made of everything that a sequel should be, but Bayonetta 2’s subtle improvements help propel the approachability of it adrenaline-soaked quest into a significantly wider spectrum of player skill and interest that’s good enough to land the Wii U on some wish lists for this holiday season.

One of the biggest concerns that came out of the announcement for the third-party exclusive was the platform it was bound to itself, and what kind of concession the trademark adult nature of the series would see in order to keep in line with the Big N’s wholesome image. Getting intimate with the final product though, concession isn’t the right word I’d use for the changes that I did see; the more appropriate word would be is advancement.

Say what you will, but this debate is a hard-pressed one to argue against; all of the sexualization and adulteration of the original leaned more on the tasteless side in the grand scope of its setup. The sexualization and adulteration in Bayonetta 2 however, is delivered with a presentation that’s slightly more classy than it is voyeuristic—enough to where the disposition of the game aligns much close to that of a pulp-fiction driven ambience than the tackily burlesque, B-movie fueled death-match atmosphere of the first entry.

The wave of refinements don’t stop there, all of the familiar inputs and maneuvers of the combative enchantress are back with some minor tweaks and polish, and a wide slew of new tricks and weapons to top off the mayhem.

The hall mark Witch Time feature for instances boasts a much more responsive activation, making it more liberal in how it triggers when it comes to the proximity of the evasion, and will from all projectile attacks versus the few that it could resonate with in the prior conquest.

Speaking of liberal handling, Bayonetta’s initial battle finesse hinged heavily on the grace of precise combinations and inputs with the respective attention to various stances animation frames on screen, the interface and dynamics of her techniques in the latest outing aren’t so stringent and demanding. Gone are the instances of backlash from exploitive vulnerabilities from a committed attack combo that couldn’t be stopped, or nonsensically obstructive fighting commands that hinder the flow of battle more than they actually assist; in place of that, is a more flexible, forgiving system for combat just intuitive as it is complex.

The new Umbran Climax skill creates an opportunity for a trump card that doesn’t punish player performance during the grading process. The power is available after a certain number of magic spheres are collected from successfully combo chains, and when activated, enhance all of Bayonetta’s attacks into crowd-control heavy attacks that capable of being chained into their own combos, and are even more effective when used in boss encounters. The dynamic introduces a new incentive for chaining that goes beyond the puritan principle of playing well for the sake of it, and makes the combat all the more engaging.

The gameplay flow is also much less polarizing in difficulty and challenge this new campaign, with the new manner in which checkpoints are achieved. Instead of simply mapping them to key areas of the stage, the integral spot checks are now made after the end of each exhibition fight that Bayonetta finishes throughout the level. While it may seem like the consequence for failing loses a degree of punishment that made the combat of Platinum’s character action title so tense, the actual reality of the change is that it one that actively promotes player growth towards the intricacies of the system, making the game flow much smoother in the process.

The new cooperative multiplayer in this iteration is what really steals the show in Bayonetta 2, built with a versatility that effectively hearkens back to the golden age of 16-bit party brawlers, without compromising any of the frenetic mechanics and momentum that define the game all at the same time. The technical performance remains consistent between the registry of player action from the gamepad to the big-screen, and visa versa. From all of the emphatic details that comprise the visual fidelity to the consistency of the all too vital framerate that animates all of the mayhem on screen. While bringing a friend doesn’t necessarily enhance the experience that Bayonetta 2 has to offer, but more importantly, it doesn’t take anything away from it either—it’s just stupid fun, and that’s a good thing.

If there was one complaint to be made, it’s the overwhelming insanity of the aerial boss fights and how incomprehensible they can be when it comes to navigating through all of spectacle of combat going on. Everything from jumping, to moving around is a conflictive exercise in properly responding to all of the demanding evasion and opportunities of attack given in contrast to the typical fighting that happens on the ground. It may seem like a criticism that’s a bit too meticulous to make in the grand scheme of the game, but that’s just it—considering how broken they really are, these boss fights occur a little more often than they honestly should.

Still, in spite of all the cynicism of the sequel’s exclusivity, Bayonetta 2 capitalizes on all of the strengths that the Wii U hardware has to offer it, and perseveres on to enhance all of the feverish charisma and stylized combat its predecessor was known for in the process. Any respectable owner of the  Nintendo current console effort would be remiss to exclude this eventual cult classic from their software library—grab it the first chance you get.

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