Getting drunk on the familiar in Bayonetta 2

Picking up Bayonetta 2 so soon after finishing first game made sense, but it was a little…awkward. It was kind of like getting together with friends you haven’t seen in a long time for Christmas, and then getting together with that same group of people again for New Year’s. What’s left to say during that second meet-up? Has much changed in a week? Everyone’s wearing different clothes, so that’s a thing. What’s that? You made a few gift returns?  Oh, that’s, uh, cool. Um…sure…drinking. Let’s just get drunk.

Because Bayonetta 2 was all about getting drunk on the familiar.

Bayonetta 2 cover art © Nintendo
Bayonetta 2 cover art © Nintendo

You may remember the ruffling of feathers this game cause a few years back because it was only going to be a Wii U exclusive. Not only did the exclusivity traumatize some, but there was concern that it just couldn’t be as good for or look as good on the Wii U. I mean,…the wii U…Nintendo…the original Bayonetta…there was just no way! Right? Well, having seen the original Bayonetta played on the PS3 and then playing the original game for myself on the Wii U, and sometime just using the game pad, I can safely concur with all the critical acclaim that Bayonetta 2 remained as sexy, crisp, and responsive as ever on the li’l ol’ Wii U.

So, you may recall that I like Bayonetta. A LOT. Enough to fiddle around with a second playthrough after the first if only to capture a few juicy little secrets and continue to have a blast with the game’s brilliant combo system. And possibly play as Bayonetta in the Samus costume. Possibly. I played through Bayonetta 2 only once, but I milked that playthrough for all that it was worth.

Don't give me that... no...do. Do give me...that look.
Don’t give me that… no…do. Do give me…that look.

Bayonetta 2 tells the story of Bayonetta, the friend and savoir. During a shopping trip gone awry, she and Jeanne are attacked by a random group of angels — the general thorns in Bayonetta’s sides. While Bayonetta takes them down (in what serves as both a brilliant start to the game and somewhat hidden tutorial for new folks), Jeanne falls, and her soul is transferred to the depths of Inferno. From there, the bulk of you progress involved Bayonetta’s attempt to save Jeanne.

I won’t give away the story…not that I could retell it in a coherent manner. It’s big, it’s complicated, it’s… Frankly, it kinda felt flat for me. In a way, the stories of Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 are analogous to the first Avengers and its Age of Ultron sequel. In the first outings, the stories are layered but concise. A few oddly muddled bits may be thrown in here for there to tease whatever coming next, but they achieved a good balance between storytelling and action. On the other hand, the second ventures are out of balance, bloated, and almost succumb to vanity. In Bayonetta 2, a new character is introduced, a kid named Loki, and and it wasn’t until the very end of the game that I mildly understood his purpose. And by then, I didn’t much care. Luka returns for a few scenes, but his presence is much more muted. And there are references to events that were revealed in the first game and then were further expounded upon. My loss, really, but none of it struck much of a chord.  All I wanted to do was…fight.

Big, brash, and totally badass.
Big, brash, and totally badass.

And fighting is where Bayonetta 2 shines above its predecessor. Again, the mechanics of battle were not terrible in the first game, but some of its ridiculously timed QTEs made boss fights more of a chore than they should have been. In the sequel, we get a more refined fighting scheme. Yes, the QTEs remain, but they are more forgiving and come with a greater sense of accomplishments. Bayonetta has some spectacular combos this time round, and their thrilling awesomeness make you want to perform them over and over and over again.  The game also introduces a new climax system that’s linked to Bayonetta magic gauge. When activated at the right moment, Bayonetta can deal massive damage over any extended time. Other welcome mechanics remain the same, like “witch time” that slows down a battle for a few seconds and allows Bayonnetta to get in a few ripe shots, the torture attacks — horrible in retrospect but wickedly fun in the moment, and the her powerful “wicked weave” attacks that make use of hair like only an Umbran Witch can. Also, the grading system from the first game is also carried over. Complete a level in the best time and get all its special items for a “pure platinum” medal. Or, if you’re like me, settle mostly for silver, bronze, or stone medals and just move on.

In addition to the fantastical fun of fighting, in Bayonetta 2 you can gather up an arsenal of weapons for your sly witch. In the first game, Bayonetta’s primary weapons were her guns — four of them, two for the hand, and two for the boots — and you could purchase upgrades in the game’s store. In Bayonetta 2, you can also buy upgrades, but you can also buy and find other weapons, like bows and arrows, swords, whips, claws, or…flamethrowers! Playing around with all the various weapons was marvelous, as each proved more or less suitable in different environments. And the best part was that you could customize the placement of your weapons. No longer are you stuck with having to use four guns. You could have two guns and two swords. Or two swords and two flamethrowers. I mostly stuck to the guns, and upgraded them as fully as I could, but I found the swords to be a favorite and deadly second.

And I can’t end any discussion of Bayonetta 2 without speaking to my absolute favorite part of the game (besides the fighting) – the atmosphere and the enemies. In the game you traverse cities and mountains and supernatural spaces, and they are all as magical as can be. None of the environments look hokey or feel out of place. The game doesn’t give you a ton of chances to explore, but when you do get a second to stop and look around, the view is a good as it gets. And the same goes for the enemies. As opposed to the first game in which your were primarily fighting angels as the “everyday” bad guys, in the second you face off regularly with both angels and demons. And as you knock them off one by one, their stories are added to your guides. I swear, if Bayonetta was a Pokemon-style fight and capture game, I’d probably never stop playing, because with every new “capture” came a new story. I’d take any available chance to read about the growing mythology that drives the game. Not only does the game treat you to brilliant lore behind the angels, demons, and summons, but you also get stories about the people and places in the game. For me, that’s was really made the experience of playing Bayonetta 2 all that more wonderful.

True, to a high degree, it was all familiar, but that was okay.  Like, it’s okay when you start drinking a great tequila and then switch to spicier, more sultry, and higher quality tequila, because there’s nothing bad about building upon greatness. Bayonetta 2 is a marked improvement upon Bayonetta, but they are both fantastic games that are more than worthy of being part of anyone’s Wii U library. In fact, I think you can still get the package of both games for around $60, as if you needed more reason to play. But however you and your Wii U manage it, do just that. Play Bayonetta 2. The hangover will be totally worth it.

When Bayonetta speaks, we should all listen.
When Bayonetta speaks, we should all listen.

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