This will be an interesting one to break down. Seeing as both titles are bundled together, I decided to do a review of both of them at the same time. To compare the two, which one does what better, and if the entire package is worth the time and money. So, let’s get stuck in!
One of the most interesting parts of Bayonetta as a whole, is the world and characters. Not just the design, but the idea of duality, of heaven vs hell, or as the game puts it, Paradiso vs Inferno. Humanity is caught in the middle, including those dedicated to the light or darkness, the Lumen Sages and Umbra Witches.
That oversimplified description might make it sound like you’re on the side of light, fighting against darkness… but funnily enough, it’s mostly the other way around. The first Bayonetta pretty much has you playing as the namesake of the series, fighting against grotesque, angelic enemies with demonic summons. The second game, however, has Bayonetta fighting against both sides.
In terms of storytelling, however, I found the first game to have a much more intriguing and just better told story. You play as Bayonetta while she’s still trying to piece her life and memories together, with a long trek through the ‘holy’ Vigrid to find one of the Eyes of the World.
The second game feels a bit contrived, where you start the game diving into Inferno to save your fellow Umbran Witch, Jeanne. There’s a long trek to get there, with plenty of interruptions that have little to do with your goal, leading to a series of events that just happen which lead to unneeded retconning of the first game. It’s good character and world building, especially for Bayonetta, but it feels inelegant and less fluid than the story telling of the first game.
The gameplay is the real reason I wanted to get stuck into Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2. While I have limited experience with hack and slash games, I’ve always wanted to give one a good shot. With the few games I have played, Bayonetta feels fairly standard in the combat execution. That’s not a bad thing, it makes the game accessible in an ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’ way.
It’s a series built around combos, with a punch and kick button used in a variety of ways to pull of different moves of varying strengths. Dodging attacks at the last second will activate Witch Time, a slow mo mechanic that lets Bayonetta cram more attacks in. The more attacks you string together, the more magic you build up to use for brutal Torture Attacks. Bayonetta 2 also lets you use that magic for an Umbran Climax, which is handier to use against bosses rather than troops.
The games mostly play the same, but over all, Bayonetta 2 has much more refined combat. Witch Time is so much easier to pull off than the first game, and combos aren’t needed quite as much to deal bigger damage, especially with Umbran Climaxes being a thing.
Most of the levels in the game use this combat system, but the bulk of what I enjoyed were the over the top boss battles and set pieces. A lot of the bigger boss fights play around with the regular mechanics while the environments are the most dynamic I’ve ever seen. The opening of each game gives you a taste of these set pieces, but it doesn’t prepare you for some of the events that happen.
I’m very mixed on the art style of Bayonetta. The character designs, of both main characters and enemies, are very detailed and distinct. The angels have distorted cherub designs, giving an impression of false righteousness, including the language the larger ones speak. The demons have a twisted, oil spill inspired colour scheme with the expected, jagged shapes.
While the characters have strong designs, the bland backdrop of a lot of the chapters kinda spoils a lot of it. The first Bayonetta is the bigger offender, definitely looking like a part of the ‘grey is real’ and ‘more bloom’ era of video game graphics. There are still some beautiful areas, in both games actually, which makes the bland levels stand out so much more.
A lot of the end game in both games, is going back and replaying levels and trying to get high scores and platinum trophies. I’ve never been a fan of replaying content, so once I finished the main story of both, the game was pretty much over for me, sadly. But if you’re a fan of grinding for high scores and collectables, then you’ll probably get a lot more out of these than I did. That said, I still got about 20 hours out of both games, so I’m happy with the overall experience.
Now for the tricky part… Overall, I did enjoy my experience with both games. There were some frustrating combat parts in the first game, and story ones in the second, but over all I’m glad I finally made the time to play them both.
Bayonetta probably hasn’t aged well, but if you haven’t played it and want to get into the series, I’d still recommend playing it, at least on easy mode.
Is it worth the money? ($49.95 AUD – Switch eShop)
Is it worth the time?
Bayonetta 2 is the more solid game, mechanically, but it has the weaker story in my opinion. It’s still very much worth playing for how over the top it is, but it doesn’t achieve as much in continuing the franchise and world as I’d like.
Is it worth the money? ($69.95 AUD – Switch eShop)
Is it worth the time?
If you’re going digital, you can get both at a discounted bundle price that’s about the same as retail- which also includes both. I’d only really recommend getting this bundle if you’re new to the franchise, there’s not much new for players coming from the Wii U version. But there’s a great game and world in here that I’d really recommend trying out.
Is it worth the money? ($89.90 AUD – Switch eShop)
Is it worth the time?