Posted Sat Oct 11, 2014 at 04:23 AM PDT by Trevor Ruben
What just happened to me?
It's known, the style of brawler so epitomized by the original 'Bayonetta' is a refining culmination of the classics - 'Devil May Cry,' 'God of War,' 'Ninja Gaiden'. Now, strangely enough, the 'Bayonetta 2' combat feels officially old-school. That's not a bad thing, it just means the recent demo put out on the Wii U eShop impressed me in ways that have nothing to do with stringing combos together and earning top marks for doing so. Platinum Games has a proven knack for this very particular gameplay loop, especially with iterating on it, rather than repeating it, so I got almost exactly what I expected in that very particular department. That's despite my never playing the original 'Bayonetta.'
Expectations are a funny thing. I forgot to expect the rest of the demo. Then again, that would have been completely, utterly, ridiculously impossible to do.
Not exposition nor even a lick of written text eased me into the swift demo. Instead, I was plunged headfirst as the titular Bayonetta atop dueling fighter jets soaring through an unnamed city. Unto a parade of golden-laced enemies my pistol-equipped heels were unloaded, stringing punches, kicks and shots together with highly-sexualized grace. She's not a subtle one, this Bayonetta. Her special attacks, unloaded after filling up a bar in typical brawler fashion, undress what's revealed to be a body clothed in her own hair, releasing summoned beasts from some other realm through her mystical weave.
Eventually, after a black dragon I'd sometimes summon in such a fashion betrays me, I'm following it up a skyscraper, firing off combos as I float and dodge with vigor. Before I can ask why all this might be happening, the gameplay so quick to nestle and focus my attention, I'm transitioned into a semi-cutscene/QTE thing where I summon yet another hair-beast, this time a more demon-like ally, to chomp down on the dragon and end the battle for good. Quick camera cuts, slow motion and anime-inspired super jumps all clash together to create a scene of virtual ecstasy. This is too much, I think.
In spite of myself I am fully engaged. I didn't expect this. I assumed the demo would be a little insane, if previews and such are anything to go by, but I never saw myself, within seconds, taken in completely by the whirlwind. It's a consuming mix of charisma, button-mashing, absurd special attacks, irrational scene-setting and, of course, beating the crap out of people with hair. It doesn't make sense. There's a sweet spot in the combination of these things I never knew existed.
Fans and adorers of the original 'Bayonetta' are nodding their heads softly, eyes shut. Yes, this is what we've all been talking about. This is why the sequel is a thing we care about, despite its Wii U-exclusivity. Because nobody does it like she does. More importantly, nobody's doing it like Platinum Games is doing it these days, keeping this score-centric brawler genre alive on its own. Just in the past few years 'The Wonderful 101' (review here), 'Mad World,' 'Metal Gear Solid: Revengeance' (review here) and even third-person-shooter 'Vanquish' have all shot off in different directions from the same core: high-speed, high-score, high-combos and high-adrenaline. Absolutely dumb stories and characters. It keeps working.
If Platinum Games knows anything, it's speed, not only in the punching and kicking but in the rapidly narcotic presentation. The 'Bayonetta 2' story has something to do with witches, alternate planes and, uh, angels and demons and whatever. Doesn't matter. What does matter though, is that the insanity in the plot is matched by the electrified insanity of its scene, the game passing with frantic efficiency from one battle to another, dipping in and out of cutscene-mode without even the slightest hitch. Jets are blowing up as Bayonetta leaps from one piece of debris to another in slow motion. She takes a moment with her friend, though, to talk about caviar. Why is this happening? I don't care. I like it.
Usually I'm reticent about praising games that can't seem to decide when to let the player to his or her own thing, but the design here is deliberate, if completely bonkers. It's effective at grabbing your face and thrusting it through the screen, forcing you to, all of the sudden, give a crap about what's going on. In direct contrast to the careful and thinned-out writing of your typical AAA contender, 'Bayonetta 2' lays it on thick, fast and loose, zipping by so fast as to deflect you from contemplating much of anything at all, merely inspiring eagerness to figure out what happened to that other witch that's sort of dead, but not really dead, at the end of the demo.
I didn't need to hear a word spoken, only to see the sights, bewildering and surreal, immature and immaculate, pointlessly pointed. There's incredible, efficient, creative craft underneath all that nuttiness. I couldn't muster a single word or phrase to describe it all. I can only say I'm surprised. All of the sudden I'm caring about a sequel to a game I never played, both a part of a genre I've considered a little left in the dust. 'Bayonetta 2' may be old-school, but apparently there's a lot of teaching left to do come release on Oct. 24.
You can find the latest info on 'Bayonetta 2' linked from our Video Game Release Schedule.
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