Review: Bayonetta 2 for Switch

Following the release of the original Bayonetta 2 in 2014 on Wii U, many people missed out on this critically acclaimed hack and slash action game. Although there aren’t many differences between the Switch version and the Wii U version, having this on the go is something fans have been dreaming of. The new portability alone makes it worth picking up for a second time.

Bayonetta 2 wastes no time getting the player right into the action. Bayonetta, the protagonist, is a witch, with guns in her boots and the ability to transform into animals. Right off the bat, the over-the-top, epic nature of this game blasts the player, in an almost comedic way. It’s refreshing to play a game that knows what it is and doesn’t take itself too seriously. This is noticeable, especially in the B-movie style story. It teeters between bad and laughable, but it isn’t out of place.

Shortly following the events of the first game, the plot begins with Bayonetta seeking revenge, after her friend, Jeanne, is presumably killed. Bayonetta’s goal is to retrieve Jeanne’s soul from the Depths of Inferno to restore her. This is a standard way to start, and the story doesn’t grow much more in terms of character development. Despite this, the goal of Bayonetta 2 isn’t to tell an important, groundbreaking story. The purpose is to be a fun, fast, and silly action game, allowing the player to stylishly murder demons and monsters along the way.

The precise, free-flow combat is one of the game’s greatest strengths. Attacks have a sense of weight to them, making it oh-so-satisfying to strike enemies. While the combat system isn’t overly complex, the combos and special moves certainly add depth and keep the player engaged throughout the campaign. Players familiar with God of War or Devil May Cry will have an easier time with this, as the combat is similar. Skill plays a huge factor in Bayonetta 2, with implementation of a rating system at the end of each section. It has an arcade-style feel, where the player is judged based on combos, time, and damage taken. Skilled players will probably want to go for a Pure Platinum rating on each level.

In addition to bragging rights, performing stylishly rewards the player with currency to purchase handy items. The more attacks are chained together, the higher the score multiplier, resulting in more money to spend on goodies. Items include health upgrades, weapons, and temporary buffs. It pays to get good at combat, and even though there is a learning curve, performing well isn’t outside of reach. Mastering combat almost feels like a dance that must be learned, dodging, attacking, and using the Umbran Climax, a special move that enhances damage.

Part of what makes combat so much fun are the numerous combos that can be performed. The button inputs almost feel like fighting game combos, that if preformed successfully deal massive damage. During the loading screens, clever little tutorials appear, showing all the possible combos that can be learned.

It’s no secret that the Bayonetta series depicts the main character in an oversexualized manner. Some people may even consider this to be distasteful. To an extent, that notion isn’t necessarily wrong. However, the way Bayonetta is presented is so cartoonish and silly that it feels like a satire on the oversexualization of women in video games. For example, during the beginning of the game, Bayonetta is seen riding one of the enemies like a horse and the camera pans to her backside. Or how she is often seen sucking on a lollipop. It’s on the nose, yes, but it’s comical and an argument can be made that it’s poking fun at the idea of objectifying women in games.

Moreover, Bayonetta comes across as an empowered woman who chooses to be sexual, herself. She uses her confidence and power to have an edge over enemies.  If the presentation of Bayonetta was slightly more tame, it could come across as unintentional and that’s where (more) people would get offended. So, in a weird way, the fact that she is so oversexualized plays to the game’s strengths, especially from a satirical perspective. At the end of the day, I’d rather see a confident, powerful woman over a weak, damsel in distress.

The main selling point of Bayonetta 2 is its style. Even within the first ten minutes of the game, Bayonetta must fight monsters atop a flying jet (it’s one of those games). The game constantly outdoes itself, especially with the impressive scale of bosses throughout the stages. It’s as if the developers wanted to take mundane video game tropes and add a little spin on them for excitement. In most games, a player can run, but in Bayonetta 2  you turn into a panther and sprint gracefully through the levels. In most games, a player can shoot enemies, but in Bayonetta 2, you shoot enemies with guns from your boots. Everything feels interesting, even down to the interactions between Bayonetta and the shopkeeper. The game treads into Quentin Tarantino territory with its styleand it doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s a game where every minute something new and crazy is happening on-screen, keeping players on their toes.

During fights, if a player has a full magic gauge, a Torture Attack will trigger. These make the player input button combinations to deal massive damage and show a rewarding animation. The animations can be as simple as just beating the monster to a pulp, or as intricate as an enemy being decapitated by a guillotine.

Additionally, the environments contain an abundance of collectibles ranging from currency, item ingredients, health upgrades, and journal entries. If that wasn’t enough, there are challenges embedded within the stages that net rewards, too. Some of them can get tough, requiring certain stipulations or handicaps to defeat enemies within the time limit.

All of these little things amount to a sizable experience. The care and thoughtfulness put into minor, seemingly insignificant aspects of the game just go to show how talented the folks at Platinum Games are.

The art style is a mix of realism with that Japanese touch we’ve all learned to love. It’s not quite anime, but it doesn’t resemble real life either. Regardless, watching Bayonetta spread her butterfly wings to platform across chasms, or hearing the elegant bits of Jazz during character dialogue sections immersed me into this masterfully designed work of art. Sure, all games are art, but there’s something extra special about using Bayonetta’s hair to fight demons in hell to an upbeat soundtrack. The contrast of silliness and brutal violence creates an almost perfect mashup, and a unique experience.

Coming up with negative critiques for this game is difficult, because it nails almost everything it tries to do. That being said, the visuals could benefit from some resolution scaling, considering it runs at 720p. Using our 2018 standards for how games should look, many people consider a game from this generation to be unplayable if it runs at anything less than 1080p. It’s a silly argument but imagining this game with a higher resolution is something that would probably blow peoples’ minds.

Something hardly anyone talks about is the fantastic co-op mode featured in Bayonetta 2. This mode is similar to the challenges within the singleplayer mode, only a second player is involved. Demolishing an onslaught of enemies as a team is thrilling, especially if done correctly. Players can bet money before each level and reap the rewards if they emerge victorious. Interestingly, although this is a cooperative mode, the two players are scored individually and rewarded based on performance.

Few games fall into the realm of style, character, and overall memorability as Bayonetta 2. Despite the questionable hypersexualization, Bayonetta fits the role of an empowered woman, using nearly flawless combat that makes the moment to moment gameplay a blast. Thankfully, it’s on a system people actually own, so I hope more people get a chance to play this gem of a game.

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