Hands-on with ‘Bayonetta 2’: Conditioner goes a long, long way

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The video game world didn’t quite know what to do with itself when, back in September 2012 at Nintendo’s Wii U unveiling, the house of Mario announced that it would publish Bayonetta 2. That’s right. Bayonetta 2, the sequel to Platinum Games Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 brawler that stars a sexpot witch who kills monsters with her own hair. Not exactly the kind of thing you’d expect to share shelf space with Animal Crossing and Nintendogs. Yet there it was and now here it is at Nintendo’s E3 2013 showing. Bayonetta 2 still feels out of place, but it also feels surprisingly good on Nintendo’s awkward touchscreen controller, a welcome breath of hardcore gaming air on a largely breathless console.

Story/Concept

A new do. There was no context for the action in the Bayonetta 2 demo at E3, but the series isn’t known for its ripping narrative. The first game was all style over substance and this one’s the same. In the original, lead character Bayonetta had amnesia and her old friend and rival of the Umbra Witches was trying to help her defeat the witches’ natural enemy, angels. The duo are back fighting angels here, riding on fighter jets and subways as they brawl through some modern city. For those that really care about continuity, know this: Bayonetta’s hair is short now, and her friend Jean’s is long. Intrigue!

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Gameplay

Punch, kick, condition. As with everything made by Platinum Games, the raw play in Bayonetta 2 is the star of the show. The flowing 3D combat, an evolution of creator Hideki Kamiya’s Devil May Cry series, is about threading together massive combinations of punches and kicks. Those combos are spectacularly bizarre, as Bayonetta’s hair transforms into enormous stiletto heels and fists at the end of a particular string of hits with the game’s weapons. (Only two weapon sets were on hand during the demo, her signature hand/feet pistols, and dual swords with a whip. Both felt oddly similar.)

What was new, however, was the game’s difficulty. Perhaps it was just the balancing of the demo, but on the “Normal” difficulty, it was far easier to pull off Bayonetta’s most powerful moves and survive the big boss fights. A concession to Nintendo’s reputation for selling to casual gamers? No way to know until we play the full game.

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Presentation

The tops. BayonettaSingle-handedly the best looking game running on a Wii U. It was was every bit as lush, colorful, and gaudy as the original, and looked especially crisp at E3. It may not push the the GPU in the same way as a game like Xbox One’s Ryse, but who cares when it’s this stylish? It did, however, look quite as nice on the Wii U gamepad’s screen. The vivid colors were washed out on the little touch screen, but the action was still fine.

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Takeaway

After rumors in early 2012 that Sega had passed on funding a sequel to Bayonetta, it’s a pleasant surprise to see the series back and in such fine form, especially on a Nintendo console. It’s not a game that will set the world on fire, and even series fans may find it all too familiar based on this demo, but it’s still a beautiful slice of bombastic video game theatrics. Add it to the list of solid stuff due on Nintendo’s machine next year.

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