Bayonetta 2 and the magic of doing the exact same thing, better

Bayologo

I’ve been playing a lot of Bayonetta 2 recently. I think I’m approaching the final act, having just resolved the main source of conflict and uncovered the big bad. All this in just three days of playing at breakneck speed — pretty crazy, considering I don’t even like the first game all that much.

Sure, the first Bayonetta is good. I can appreciate what it’s going for, what people are praising when they call it the best brawler ever. But it just doesn’t feel right to me. It doesn’t gel. Everything pushes me out of the groove: the story is a bloated mess, end-of-stage grading is overly punishing, and enemy attacks are intrinsically awkward in a way I can’t put my finger on. I shelved the game halfway through.

Bayonetta 2 solves my problems with the first game by just being better. It doesn’t redefine anything, in fact, it’s one of the most by-the-books sequels I’ve ever played. It’s unoriginal — but it works. The set pieces are louder, crazier, more massive in scale. Bayonetta battles a lumen sage while their summoned monsters wage kaiju war in the background, then takes to the sky in a flying battle before (finally!) taking control of her monster to rock-em-sock-em the enemy monster into oblivion. Everything in the game hurtles crazily through space, blows up, cracks apart.

bayokaiju

The game flows. Witch time feels like a proper mechanic instead of a crutch; combat is give-and-take instead of start-and-stop. End of level grades aren’t crippled by environmental hazards, player progress isn’t halted by golden doors, and there are no stupid “gotcha” quicktime events. Plus, the wildly different demon enemies that appear halfway through are way cooler than either game’s porcelain-faced angels.

If there’s one thing Bayonetta 2 doesn’t improve on, it’s the story, which is complete nonsense and as intrusive as ever. That shouldn’t surprise anybody who’s played a Platinum game; their best stories are just strung-together character moments. And Bayonetta 2’s not Platinum’s best story. It’s bloated and only fleetingly fun. Bayonetta the character is awesome. Bayonetta the plotline is not.

But after slogging through that cutscene you reach the next aeon-spanning boss, the next marvellous set piece. You destroy an underwater manta deathray fortress, or slay angels on a Mario Galaxy-esque flying sphere, or take the ultimate joyride in a dodge-dashing mech. That’s worth any dumb storyline. That’s worth playing to the end.

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