Game Review: Bayonetta 2–the Witch Comes to Nintendo Switch

Image courtesy PlatinumGames Bayonetta 2 never really got the chance it deserved. It was released on the (even then) languishing Wii U, a beacon of third party development hope by developer PlatinumGames—already known for their over-the-top style, their games Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 don’t hold back in campiness or action. With the recent announcement of Bayonetta 3 and the rerelease of the Bayonetta series  for the Nintendo Switch, I thought I’d take a look at how those two games transitioned from the Wii U to Nintendo’s new popular hybrid console. Image courtesy PlatinumGames In the Bayonetta series you play as an Umbra Witch, one of the last of a group of extremely powerful spellcasters that call upon the dark arts and the “Bullet Arts” to kick ass, and Bayonetta herself is probably the most kickass of them all. Based in a world that relies heavily on Milton-inspired lore, there are three “realities”--Paradiso (heaven-ish), Inferno (kinda like hell), and the human world (with Purgatorio running parallel to it as a sort of invisible layer).  Despite the story being told in an extremely cheeky way, the Bayonetta series manages to have pretty solid lore. Image courtesy PlatinumGames The gameplay itself is possibly closest to the Devil May Cry series in both action and bombastic style, but with an extra push into wacky that is common with developer PlatinumGames. A hack and slash that relies heavily on twitch reflexes and timing, the Bayonettas can be challenging, especially for the uninitiated. You can punch, kick, jump and shoot in wonderfully satisfying combat. Combos unleash huge finishing moves called “wicked weaves” that see Bayonetta literally using her hair to summon creatures from Inferno to crush her often angelic enemies. See, the divine doesn’t take kindly to witches or the dark arts—and it being a world with Milton-like lore, the “divine” is less than angelic. Despite weaving them to her will, Bayonetta is no explicit ally to the denizens of Inferno, either.  Successfully dodging attacks slows down time (what’s called Witch Time) and allows you to move faster than your enemies can react. Often, Bayonetta will casually fight among falling rubble, or inside of a tempest, casually jumping from debris to debris, posing and quipping the whole way. Image courtesy Nintendo The over-the-top sensibilities also work into Bayonetta’s extreme sexuality. Despite being a Nintendo published title, this is definitely not for young children—but it can, on the surface, seem like it’s pandering directly to teenaged boys. Don’t fall for this. First of all, Bayonetta is a very self-aware game—it knows it’s over the top. And second, Bayonetta herself is much more than a long pair of legs to be objectified. Bayonetta is sexy, but only at her discretion—she is extremely capable, and so powerful that I believe no force in heaven or hell could break her.  She is strong enough to casually catch buses one-handed, moves faster than is perceptible to even supernatural beings, and bests any creature an all realities—nothing is her match. Now, I can’t say that Bayonetta doesn’t act gratuitously when it comes to both sex and violence, but she is a powerful character who chooses to act in this manner, and perhaps more importantly, not a damsel-in-distress. Image courtesy PlatinumGames When you get the physical Bayonetta 2 release for Nintendo Switch, you are also given a code to download Bayonetta digitally. Originally a PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 title from way back in 2009, Bayonetta was ported to the Wii U and released for it alongside Bayonetta 2 during that game’s initial release in 2014. This rerelease on the Nintendo Switch is similar to its original Wii U release, keeping along with it all of the extra costumes and other goodies that were exclusive to the Nintendo releases and adding a couple of others. Bayonetta has access to a number of Nintendo-themed costumes that not only change her appearance, but also the gameplay is small amounts. Wearing Link’s outfit, for example, changes Bayonetta’s normal currency of halos into rupees with the sound effects to match. You can also wield the Master Sword. Samus’ outfit allows you to use her arm cannon, and the Peach outfit turns halos into coins, etc. Added for the Switch release is the capability to play Bayonetta 2’s co-op mode wirelessly with another Switch user. It still retains its normal online matchmaking functionality, too. Image courtesy PlatinumGames Now, despite my admiration for these two games, they aren’t perfect. The presentation of the story IS a bit cringe inducing at times, and even Bayonetta’s overt sexuality is the source of some major cheesiness.  The first Bayonetta does show its age a bit graphically, and is less visually appealing overall compared to the more recent Bayonetta 2. Despite their transition to a handheld console, they both run great. But if you already own the Wii U copy, there really isn’t THAT much more to get here. Besides local wireless co-op in Bayonetta 2 and a few more amiibo Easter eggs, you’d be rebuying the game for portability—which may just be worth the price tag. Image courtesy PlatinumGames Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 were always known for their smooth, stylish gameplay and an insanely over-the-top sensibility both in action and in the storytelling. It borders on corny, and even crude, but it has a keen self-awareness and sense of humor that makes me forgive it. Bayonetta herself is hyper-sexualized to the point of ridiculousness—but it seems like part of the tongue-in-cheek shtick. She is a supernaturally over-powered character that revels in her lasciviousness and lives to profane the divine. I mean, she is a witch, after all. Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 are now available on Nintendo Switch.
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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian. He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.