Monday, November 24, 2014

[REVIEW] Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)

Bayonetta 2
Platform: Wii U
Genre: Action, hack 'n' slash
Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Nintendo

The sequel to a much beloved Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 game, Bayonetta 2 arrived as a Wii U exclusive amidst huge expectations. And for good reason, too: fans of hack-and-slash gameplay will undoubtedly be impressed by the title's breathtaking action and unflinching sense of style.

Battling a demigod during a debris storm in hell. You know, usual stuff.
In the game, you play as Umbran witch Cereza, alias Bayonetta, a demon-aided dominatrix who possesses the "left eye". Or something. It's not important, really, as the story is an uninteresting mess of clichés, one-liners and incomprehensible twists. You start playing to rescue a friend who's been dragged to hell, fighting angels and demons along the way, and end up involved in some sort of world-ending affair. There are way too many cutscenes, truth be told, but they're thankfully skippable.

When it comes to combat, that's where things get really interesting. Gameplay consists mostly of sequenced fights, but there's incredible depth to the system. It offers an infinity of possible combos for you to deliver, some slow and powerful, some quick and lighter, and figuring out when to use each is a lot of fun. There are a few easily grasped concepts, too, such as "witch time" (a few seconds of slow-motion enemies, activated right after you dodge an incoming attack right on time) or the all-powerful "Umbran climax". The game does a great job of easing you into each mechanic, and the pristine frame rate adds even more fluidity to an already near perfect combat system.

Yes, spaceships. No, not a different game.

Halos are the game's currency, which can be spent on a store called "The Gates of Hell", accessible from the menu or from red spots scattered around the stages. You can get new weapons, accessories, costumes, moves, and all sort of upgrades; if you're willing to learn the game's intricacies rather than just button-mash your way through, this adds even more richness to the combat.

The Nintendo fan-service is strong in this one.

It has to be said that Bayonetta 2 isn't too kind to players keen on collecting, though. The game does feature loads of secrets, including weapon-unlocking golden vinyls, Umbran crows, and even hidden fight sequences, but there simply isn't an easy way to keep track of everything for backtracking purposes. There's a record screen at the end of each stage, yet no way to review it afterwards (unless you go through the entire stage again). Couple that with artificial means to prevent exploration, such as invisible walls, and you have a game that's really not optimized for those who want to wander around appreciating the details of its setting.

It seems like that's all by design, however. Bayonetta 2 isn't the kind of game that sells itself as a laid-back romp; on the contrary, it's minutiously designed to be exhilarating. Battles are huge, earth-shattering affairs that will get you yearning for more. As a cherry on the top, enemy design is simply stunning: from golden, majestic angels to savage demons, every foe is a sight to behold, and they all share a sense of eeriness that's quite memorable.

Apparently hell is too hot for clothes.

Bayonetta 2 isn't a game that tries to reinvent the wheel; rather, it takes a particular type of wheel and tweaks it to the point of near perfection. It could use a more enticing storyline (or, at least, less of a focus on one), and there are definitely cringe-inducing moments featuring sexualized camera shots and tired innuendo. Still, when it comes to fluid combat with nonstop action, you'll be hard-pressed to do better.

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