The original Bayonetta was touted as “non-stop climax action.” But that tag line fits the sequel even better, as Bayonetta 2 starts with what would be any other game's climax and attempts to continue on at that level for the next eleven hours—even when it probably shouldn't.
Good – Bayonetta Goes to Hell
The plot of Bayonetta 2 is that after Jeanne's soul is dragged to Hell, Bayonetta must find an ancient, physical doorway to Hell, bust her way in, and then kick copious amounts of demon butt to rescue her friend's soul before it is devoured. Frankly, it's a rather straightforward and enjoyable plot told in a very “Bayonetta” (read: insanely over-the-top) way.
What's interesting is that this plot is constantly being derailed by a secondary plot involving a masked Lumin sage and a scrappy young boy who can turn into a squirrel. While initially seeming completely unrelated to the main story, this secondary plot turns out to not only flesh out the Bayonetta world but also tie in to the first Bayonetta in an intricate and personal way. All in all, both are grand fun.
Good – Fast and Fluid Combat
The real highlight of Bayonetta 2 is the combat. It's fast and fluid; and the different enemies you face and their various combinations make for gameplay that never gets stale. There are also many new, crazy weapons you can strap to Bayonetta's arms and legs including a bow, scythe, flame/ice thrower, and pair of thorny whip boots.
However, as with the last game, the key to combat is not attacking but rather dodging—as doing so activates the slow-mo “witch time” for a few seconds. The game provides a great balance when it comes to enemy attacks as they telegraph their moves just enough that you'll have time to dodge into witch time while still allowing for a real possibility of failure for the inattentive player.
Mixed – The Co-op
As I've talked about at length, I love the co-op in Bayonetta 2. It is easily my favorite part of the game. While you can't co-op the main story, there is a large series of co-opable challenge rooms that pit you and a partner against various combinations of the game’s enemies and bosses. This mode is also the best way to make money in the game and unlock its abundance of moves and costumes.
Unfortunately, the hardest thing about the co-op is actually being able to play it. This is because of the terrible matchmaking system that requires you to manually accept anyone who wants to join your game. If a player is playing with a computer partner and doesn't want a real one, there is no way for him or her to communicate this—other than to let you wait 180 seconds until the connection times out. Honestly, I spent more time trying to join people's co-op games than I did actually playing co-op. And for a mode that is so fun, that's unfortunate.
Mixed – Halloween Candy
Bayonetta 2 is wonderfully over-the-top in everything it does. Every set-piece battle and boss fight tries desperately to one up all those before (and after) it. And, impossibly, it manages to do this most of the time. The first chapter of the game—which involves Bayonetta fighting a horde of angels on a fighter jet streaking through a major metropolis then beating down an enormous dragon-like demon perched on top of a skyscraper—does a great job of setting the stage for the game to come. It could have easily been the final climax for any other game; but in Bayonetta 2 it is the opening overture of many similarly epic battles to come.
However, this is also a bit of a problem. When every boss fight and set-piece battle is a climatic struggle, the “epic” becomes less so. Moreover, after a while, you just want some serious downtime to catch your breath. It's a lot like Halloween as a kid if you were one of those kids who came back with a bag full of candy and proceeded to binge eat it—only to get really sick soon after. It's not that the candy tastes bad, it's just that too much of it at once isn't nearly as enjoyable as spreading out your Halloween loot over a week or so as occasional treats.
Bad – All the Little Things That Make No Sense
While I enjoyed the plot of Bayonetta 2, I'll be the first to point out that there are a ton of things that don't make sense (or at the very least are never properly explained). Heck, the entire main plot is Bayonetta going to an ancient portal so she can go to Hell to get Jeanne's soul back. Of course, why Bayonetta—a witch who regularly opens portals to Hell to either let demons out or drag angels in—would need to walk to the physical door to Hell is a mystery. Moreover, the plot seems to totally forget she has a friend who regularly opens a portal to Hell and beats up demons to make weapons out of them for her—I mean, Rodin even pops up to help her after she arrives in Hell!
But the list of things that don't make sense aren't confined to the plot. In game, Bayonetta can strap swords to the heels of her boots to fight with—swords that clearly stab her in the butt with each running step and clip through her legs when she walks. Even the existence of the collectible diaries (which flesh out the backstory) seems impossible as Bayonetta finding them means that Luka has already been to every place that Bayonetta goes—up to and including Hell itself.
And while none of these little issues are deal breakers when it comes to enjoying the game, they do pile up a bit.
I really enjoyed my time with Bayonetta 2 and was basically in a constant state of bemusement over the very over-the-top nature of the game, even as it left me more than a bit mentally exhausted. It plays well and looks great, but suffers from a lot of little polish problems and plot holes—though I suspect fans will easily be able to overlook them. Simply put, Bayonetta 2 is Bayonetta dialed up to 11; so if that sounds great to you, don't hesitate to pick this one up.
Bayonetta 2 was released for the Nintendo Wii U in Japan on September 20, 2014. It will be released in the US and Europe on October 24, 2014.
Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.