I never played the original Bayonetta and I never really felt a strong desire to, in spite of its reputation as an awesome game. But when Nintendo published the sequel for the Wii U and offered the first game along with it as a free bonus, that seemed like too good a deal not to dive in. My plan was to play through the two games in the proper order, but all the reviews seemed to suggest that Bayonetta 2 was far superior to its predecessor, so I figured I’d play the sequel first and if I enjoyed it, I’d go back to the original.
This approach worked out okay for the most part, I guess. I mean, I didn’t understand the story at all, but it seems like an incredibly stupid story anyway. To the best of my knowledge, it seems to involve some sort of war between demons and angels and witches or some nonsense like that. In that sense, the plot kinda has the vibe of a Vertigo comic book, except much, much dumber. The dialogue in particular is really juvenile and annoying in its constant attempts to be cheeky and “bad ass.” In case you weren’t aware, Bayonetta is the kind of witch you don’t fuck with!
Speaking of Bayonetta – as your main playable character, she is especially ridiculous. To continue the comic book analogy – if the story is like a dumbed-down Vertigo title, then Bayonetta’s character design is straight out of a fucking Aspen comic. In other words, she is half-naked and creepily gyrating almost constantly. Nearly every cutscene goes out of its way to emphasize Bayonetta’s tits and Bayonetta’s ass, as well as not-so-subtly reminding you that there’s probably a vagina around there somewhere too. This approach is never more blatant than the credits sequence which features Bayonetta pole-dancing, ironically, underneath the Nintendo logo:
As for the gameplay, it reminded me a lot of a God of War game, in that it’s extremely linear, extremely reliant on mindless button-mashing, and extremely dull. In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m not a big God of War fan.
The first area you visit in the game is a beautiful, ancient coastal city at the base of a sacred mountain, which you are relatively free to openly explore at first. This gave me high hopes, but the game’s progression almost immediately turns into following linear paths along various series of platforms, button-smashing waves of enemies along the way. Eventually, the story takes you into the pits of Hell, and once again I initially got excited about this new environment, but guess what? Hell is just more platforms.
The one place the gameplay shines is in the boss battles. They are still largely reliant on button-mashing, but they also require observation and precise timing. You have to pay attention to the bosses’ tells and patterns so you can strike at the exact right moment in the exact right way. It actually reminded me quite a bit of Punch-Out!!, believe it or not, which was a pleasant surprise.
So, remember when I said that the first environment you visit is a coastal city at the base of a mountain? That’s because at the beginning of the game, you are told that your goal is to reach the top of that mountain, for some stupid angel-demon-war-related reason. At first I thought the mountaintop would be just the first of many goals, but nope – it turns out that it’s the end-goal of the entire game. Which means that you spend almost the entirety of Bayonetta 2 running around this one environment, slowly progressing up the mountain. This was pretty disappointing, but I was still looking forward to reaching the peak. Probably there’d be nothing up there but a bunch of snowy-ass platforms, but at least that was something to look forward to. When it finally came time to traverse to the mountaintop, however, the game suddenly and unexpectedly switched gears to become a flight-based shooter!
Yup, after building up to the mountaintop the entire game, you finally get there via a lame-ass Star Fox sequence. It is such a goddamn letdown. Then you fight the final boss, a bunch of boring cutscenes happen, and the game ends.
Hooray for me! Anyway, I don’t mean to completely trash this game – if I really despised it, I doubt I would have bothered playing through the whole thing. The button-smashing combat is fairly fun and the difficulty curve keeps you on your toes throughout, so there are definitely moments of satisfaction in there. But ultimately, the gameplay experience is painfully shallow and the story is absolutely cringe-worthy. I’m sorry to say I don’t think I’ll be going back to play Bayonetta 1.
In closing, I will say this though: I had the Bayonetta 2 theme song stuck in my head for weeks: