I haven't really reviewed a game in years. On my podcast sure, but not in the written form, not in a long while. Bayonetta 2 has inspired me enough to come out of retirement so I can tell you to run out and buy it. Its really as simple as that. I will go on and express the ways that this game has won me over and how I think this will apply to you as well, but if you're one of those people who scrolls to the bottom and looks for whatever score would be typically assigned down at bottom of the review on other sites, I'll save you some time and tell you it gets a BUY out of 10.
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The best thing I can say about Bayonetta 2 is that it kept me smiling and happy almost the entire time from start to end. Not just by doing one thing particularly well and then banging that drum for 10 hours, but by keeping me surprised with the variety of the gameplay, the cheeky humor of Bayonetta's lines, the satisfaction of gaining new weapons or abilities, and the overall frequency of the game outdoing itself as I continued to play. For me, Bayonetta 2 is one of those games where playing it puts me in a good mood and makes me forget what day it is. After I've shut off the Wii U, I'll go about my day with the game's music playing in my head, thinking about Bayonetta doing backflips in slow motion and carving up enemies with flashy combos and powerful flourish maneuvers. It is an experience that just stays with you after you've put it down.
At its core, Bayonetta 2 is a series of well-designed enemy encounters in various arenas, with a good number of these being boss and mini-boss battles. Its about 10 hours of that with great humor, some sexy style, an interesting story , and smart progression of your techniques holding it all together. That's the simple distillation of the formula for you. If you've played the first Bayonetta, this is mechanically very familiar territory but some smart improvements such as "Umbran Climax" serve to set this installment ahead of its predecessor. Umbran Climax uses a meter that fills as you engage in battle and once full, allows Bayonetta to utilize even larger and flashier attacks with longer reach and more destructive power. She's nearly invincible during this period if utilized correctly and it’s a great example of how Bayonetta 2 does everything big, constantly swinging for the fences. While this added power is both welcome and refreshing, that doesn't mean the game is too easy. A great balance has been achieved in the face of such additions and a solid challenge remains present throughout the adventure. The truly dedicated can even replay on higher difficulty levels in order to get the most satisfaction out of mastering the various weapon sets and techniques.
As with the first game, the combat is reminiscent of what you would find in a fighting game. Anyone can mash buttons and do alright, but there is a level of sophistication layered in that rewards those who pay attention and grasp the depth of Bayonetta's full set of skills. Its one thing to hammer the Y button and punch a set of enemies to death with the occasional slow-motion dodge, but its another entirely to do it without taking any hits and building your combo counter to ridiculous heights. You never NEED to know all the intricacies in order to get by, but discovering basics, like using your guns to keep combos going when you're just out of melee range after dodging an attack, make all the difference in fully enjoying what is available here. And the best part is that if you've never been especially adept at fighting games or fast-paced action games, optional side-quest styled challenges help introduce concepts to players one at a time so you ease into your training so gradually that you realize hours later how far you've come without feeling like you ever really had to put aside extra time for practice.
Another thing Bayonetta 2 does well is playing to your love of variety and nostalgia. The game regularly makes references to the original episode, as well as classic Nintendo and Sega titles. Not content to just give Bayonetta a generous wardrobe of cosplay outfits to honor historic properties of the Nintendoverse, you can also enjoy several outfits that pair with specific weapon sets, and complete subchapters of gameplay where you enjoy a shifted perspective, a cool vehicle, or some other way of shaking things up for a bit. Anytime a game tries to do too much at one time, there is always the possibility that the player may feel that the game's identity becomes less focused. Luckily, in Bayonetta 2 these fun excursions tend to be more like little breaks rather than taking center stage.
Having bought my Wii U earlier this summer, one thing I am regularly surprised with is how great the games look. Bayonetta 2 is yet another gorgeous game on this system, with vibrant colors, detailed models, and magnificent locations. Early in the game I found myself standing on a dock with a beautiful blue sky stretched out above me, allowing the sun to shine down on the festive marketplace below. It reminded me of the prettiest games from the Sega Dreamcast launch. I don't want to spoil any of the later locations, so I'll just say that many of them are even more impressive, so much so that I found myself stopping to just look around and take it in.
Finally, before I go, I need to address the soundtrack. It is magnificent. I know I'm using a lot of strong words in this review and it is amounting to a lot of high praise, but magnificent is the correct word for how I feel about the soundtrack. Just as the first game had a great cover of "Fly Me To The Moon", Bayonetta 2 has an awesome cover of "Moon River" as well as a new theme song "Tomorrow Is Mine". These are a couple of what I imagine will be popular favorites among players, but there's also a great deal of orchestrated music and some returning favorites from the first Bayonetta adventure. These songs play a big part in lending to the game's charm and the character of Bayonetta herself. Just like any proper fighting game will have character specific songs, so too does Bayonetta. They're fun, they're well-written and layered, and they have the potential to get stuck in your head for days.
I am of the opinion that Bayonetta 2 is the new reigning champion of the action genre. There isn't a single category in which I feel it needs improvement. Well, that's not entirely true I suppose. There's one character in the story who appears for about 2 minutes in total and I wish he was gone from the series forever, but other than that I have no complaints at all. I strongly feel that Bayonetta 2 stands among gaming's very elite with titles like The Last of Us, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Halo: Combat Evolved, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and a dozen or so of their peers. If you don't own a Wii U, I think Bayonetta 2 is a very strong argument for talking you into it. If you do own a Wii U but you haven't purchased Bayonetta 2 yet and my glowing praise hasn't moved you, try the demo on the eShop. If you like games with frenetic action and a knack for the overstimulation of your senses, this will likely resonate with you greatly.
Final score: Nintendo should acquire the series wholesale and welcome Bayonetta to the Nintendo family permanently. Buy it.