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Friday, 20 March 2015

Bayonetta 2.

Bayonetta 2.

Originally, I was going to do a review for the first Bayonetta today, but the stars have aligned in such a way that I can bring you a review for its sequel instead, and leave off doing the original for now. Because that's how we do things at this blog. Backwards at steady intervals.

Picking up an undisclosed amount of time after Bayonetta, Bayonetta 2 sees Bayonetta journeying to the holy mountain of Fimbulventr (and the city at its base, which resembles nothing so much as Venice), seeking to find a gate to Inferno and rescue her friend Jeanne, whose soul has been taken by a demon. She soon encounters a young boy with mysterious powers, along with a masked Lumen Sage intent on killing him. It quickly becomes obvious that there is something more sinister at play than just Jeanne's kidnapping.

In terms of gameplay, this game is more or less the same as Bayonetta, although it plays a lot smoother. You can attach weapons to your hands and feet, and attack with each using different buttons, and by using well-timed dodges you can enter a slowed time state for a few seconds. There's also a power-up mode that just generally makes you faster and your strikes more potent. Once again, the game is heavy on the QTEs, with Bayonetta finishing most boss battles by summoning a demon to gnosh on her foes, requiring you to mash buttons to build up megatons, gigatons, or infinitons of damage. 

Oh good, they got rid of the hair-hat thing.

It's very smooth gameplay, easy to pick up and quite enjoyable, but there's also not much variation there, so towards the middle of the game you can find yourself growing a little weary of it. The last third of the game tries to mix things up a little, giving you a vehicle section (where you ride on a demon unicorn), a smash-things-in-a-giant-robot section, and a rail shooter section, all of which are pleasantly over-the-top and, unlike some equivalent sections in the first game (it too had a vehicle section and a rail shooter section), aren't so long that they outstay their welcome.

Arguably, the game could have used a section or two where you play as a different character to mix up the action a bit (they have a very short section where you play as card-wielding mysterious boy Loki, but it consists entirely of running in one direction), especially as you can play as different characters in the Tag Climax multiplayer mode. A section in the storyline where you play as the Masked Lumen for a while would not have gone amiss, and would have mixed up the gameplay nicely.

Alternately, I would accept playing as Jeanne, Rosa, Rodin or Loki.

As far as storyline goes, it's - there. The Bayonetta games are much like the Devil May Cry games in their storylines are really just vehicles to get you from one spectacle to another, and I'm fine with that. These games have always been very up front about what they are - over-the-top action games - and never pretended they were great bastions of storytelling. 

The story is coherent, though, which is more than can be said for some games. No plot threads are forgotten, and there's some decent character development for several members of the cast. Bayonetta's hyper-sexualisation has been toned down a bit: She's still an extremely sexual person, and that's a big part of her character - I could do an entire editorial on Mari Shimazaki's intentions when designing Bayonetta, both as a reaction to the very passive, almost childlike (but always sexually available) female characters that are popular in many Japanese video games, and as a power fantasy - but it's no longer as uncomfortably constant and gratuitous as it was in the first game. Gone too is the - hobby horse attack, which took the sexualisation into incredibly unpleasant territory by having female monsters (in fact, female monsters designed to look like Bayonetta) be blindfolded and then ripped from crotch to crown, as if that were even remotely acceptable in a game that purports (with the truest intentions, I think) to be a female power fantasy.

So, those are some changes made, and for the better, I think. 

Also, there's a plant woman, so that's neat.

In the end, Bayonetta 2 is what it has always made clear it is: An over-the-top action adventure game, and Hideki Kamiya's successor to his previous over-the-top action franchise, Devil May Cry, now in the hands of people taking that in a new but interesting direction. And that's fine - Kamiya knows his over-the-top action games, he's refined it into an art form by now, and Bayonetta 2 doesn't disappoint on that front at all.

No sequel has yet been announced, but with good sales figures it's difficult to imagine that a Bayonetta 3 won't be showing up some time soon. Maybe Kamiya will pull the same trick he did with Devil May Cry 3 and give us a younger Bayonetta. Maybe this time she'll be fighting Cthulhu. Maybe she'll have rocket launchers attached to her legs, and we'll get a second playable character in the form of a ten foot tall robot. Maybe all of the above. Who can really say.

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