SEGAbits at E3 Preview: Bayonetta 2

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E3 is a great event filled to the brim with great games, but there can only be one game of the show. For me, that game is Bayonetta 2. I have been excited for Bayonetta 2 since that wonderful day in September when Nintendo had announced they had saved the game from its long-rumored cancellation. I’m happy to say that if the E3 demo is anything to go by, Bayonetta 2 is not only set to live up to the legacy of the original, it’s set to surpass it.

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The first detail made obvious by the demo is that Bayonetta 2 isn’t out to reinvent the wheel. The good people over at Platinum Games know better than to mess with what already works, instead preferring to simply build new stuff around it. Bayonetta 2’s E3 demo was bigger, badder and sexier than all but the highest of the original’s high points, and if my time at E3 has taught me anything, it’s that demos are typically (for better or for worse) only the tip of the iceberg.

The best way to describe Bayonetta 2 is to probably simply call it “Bayonetta on steroids”. Bayonetta’s frequent, epic action sequences are made even more impressive with the addition of the Umbran Climax, a new power that allows Bayonetta to perform her powerful wicked weaves with every attack. Bows shoot gigantic wasps instead of arrows, a normal sword becomes a massive fifty foot blade and regular attacks summon the massive feet and fists of Madama Butterfly. The Umbran Climax is activated by filling up the magic gauge, the same gauge that also fuels Bayonetta’s signature “torture attacks. These huge attacks are a visual tour de force that add scope to every encounter in the demo, making the regular battles much more visually interesting and satisfying than they were in the original.

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In terms of scope, Bayonetta 2 has some huge action set pieces. In the first area, you fight a massive dragon demon that’s roughly the size of a skyscraper. In the second area you fight a massive angelical flying monster just after it tears apart an entire city block trying to get to you. The demo’s final boss encounter is easily the most impressive boss fight I’ve ever played in a game, period. It starts out as an intimate one on one battle between Bayonetta and the Masked Sage, but as the battle reaches its climax Bayonetta and the Sage find themselves locked in an intense aerial fight as two massive monsters duke it out behind them. It ends with players taking control of Bayonetta’s monster, Madama Butterfly, literally punching the other monster’s face into bits. This battle has superb build up and scope as the game keeps one upping itself in terms of action and scale and it’s something I am going to remember more vividly then 95% of the final bosses of any other game I’ve played. I loved this encounter even more then the final boss of the original game where you (spoiler) literally kick God into the sun. If this is what the demo has to offer, I can only imagine awesomeness the final game will hold. These epic encounters are supported by some gorgeous graphics, which still look great even in the era of PS4 and Xbox One.

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Visually, this game is definitely an improvement over the original and already stands among some of the most visually impressive Wii U action games around. Though it’s still pretty clearly running on last generation hardware, this game seems to be a lot shinier then the original game. There seem to be more effects going on, and everything has a certain level of color and polish that wasn’t in the first game. Though the frame rate did slip on occasion it ran pretty well for an E3 demo, so I would expect the frame rate to be stabilized by the time the game ships in October.

In addition to the big improvements, Bayonetta 2 will also feature a new touch controls scheme for the mobile gaming crowd. While I scoffed at the idea when I first heard about it last year, I must say that the controls work surprisingly well…and seem to function better than they did in the original 2013 demo. For one, the controls are now integrated into the game during regular play, rather than being accessible only through a separate mode. You control all of Bayonetta’s attacks with pointing and vertical and horizontal swipes for jumping, attacking and dodging. It was fairly intuitive if overly simplistic, but should work well for gamers who aren’t all that savvy with buttons. Personally, I prefer the classic control scheme, but it’s good to see this alternate control scheme working as well as it does.

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Finally, the original Bayonetta was also on display. Though I didn’t play it personally, it runs at a crisp 60 FPS at 1080p resolution, a definite graphical improvement over the original, and it features touchscreen controls. Probably the most notable change is the addition of costumes, which do a little more than just change Bayonetta’s appearance. Link’s costume (which looks way better on her then it should) comes with Link’s trademark Master Sword and Princess Peach’s costume summons Bowser instead of Madama Butterfly. Bayonetta will be coming packed in with the retail version of Bayonetta 2 and from the looks of things it will be the definitive version of the game.

When you’re doing battle with a masked man in the skies above a city while massive, skyscraper-sized gods duke it out in the background, you’re going to have a great time. I had a really fun time with this demo, and it even makes me feel a little bad for (privately) being so hard on Nintendo and the Wii U these past few years. This game is at least set to match its predecessor, if not best it outright with bigger attacks, better graphics, larger encounters, and more accessible game play. Anyone who owns a Wii U or loves action games really needs to have this game on their radar, as it’s looking to be one of the best games coming out this year.

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