PlatinumGames’ Bayonetta was a simply fantastic modern scrolling beat-‘em-up experience, but it was anything but simple in its delivery. Bayonetta was a videogame designed for the core audience, flavoured with self-referential commentary and a knowledgeable perspective of the industry. It was, in short, the most niche of products you could expect, as it was built for gamers who had long been a part of the industry and still regularly adopt a constant stream of new content. Of course, then, it makes perfect sense to bring the sequel exclusively to Wii U.
Or rather, it really doesn’t. Ignoring the fact that the Wii U has the smallest installed userbase of any modern console and that its audience could be considered fractured at best, exactly who Bayonetta 2 will appeal to on Nintendo’s first high-definition (HD) format isn’t entirely certain. Day one adopters perhaps, and those who truly loved the first title. However, while the original Bayonetta was a fantastic slice of action gaming it didn’t perform all too well at retail and as such it’s easy to predict that Bayonetta 2 alone will not sell enough consoles to warrant Nintendo’s investment.
Doom and gloom aside, Bayonetta 2 is proving to be exactly what the doctor ordered. It may find itself having limited appeal but to those gamers already clamouring for a sequel it looks set to deliver in spades. The adrenaline rush gameplay and madcap stage design is all present and correct as Electronic Theatre begins this preview build battling upon a jet in mid-flight above a city. It’s a beautiful scene as skyscrapers go rushing by and the clouds dip in-and-out of view, all the while battling hordes of demons that jump into this realm from the ether with the sole intention of cutting Bayonetta down to size. Within seconds we’re back to kicking, flipping, stomping and summoning great fists of weave from another dimension.
As the jet gets destroyed in a chaotic flurry of metal and fire, the action descends onto a train and a mid-level boss presents a new challenge. Bayonetta 2 is filled with brand new techniques for the player to master as well as impressively designed enemies – far greater in their visual quality than anything else currently on Wii U – and here is where Electronic Theatre got a first taste of counterattacking. Before now it had been a case of hit-and-move on repetition, but here we find an enemy capable of landing devastating blows that can break not only a combo, but a movement also. Of course, as an experienced Bayonetta player the solution was obvious and it wasn’t long before the face before us was nothing but dust. But there’s one more challenge yet to face.
The race had already moved from jet to train, and now we see Bayonetta charging up the side of a skyscraper, cracking each pane of glass as she goes. Determined and confident as ever, a giant dragon surrounds the building and our heroine along with it. Continuing the dash to the top a sudden stop and blackflip into the air is all the indication needed to get back into the action. Limbs fly far further than their normal reach would suggest possible in a flurry of blows to the oversized reptile’s head. Pound for pound Bayonetta is beat, but she’s got more than enough skill and aggression to see this beast beaten down to earth. And when she does it’s the biggest spectacle of any videogame on Wii U. This is Bayonetta times one thousand: and Electronic Theatre wouldn’t have it any other way.
While the action translating to the Wii U’s GamePad is one thing, the inclusion of touchscreen controls is another. Designed to make the combat more accessible, Electronic Theatre’s experience was actually the reverse: the distance between input and spatial awareness was great that it rendered the option pointless. Instead, Bayonetta 2 is best tackled as an eccentric take on a familiar modern scrolling beat-‘em-up formula. And with that, the question is not so much whether Bayonetta 2 can deliver on its promise but whether or not there’ll be anyone ready to acknowledge it when it does.