You can find this review in full at GBAtemp.net:
Originally released in 2009 for the PS3 and Xbox 360, Bayonetta is an action-packed hack and slash game from the now-renowned company PlatinumGames. Having developed for every modern home console since the Xbox 360, Bayonetta + Bayonetta 2 marks their leap to Nintendo’s latest and greatest system; but does the witch belong on the Switch?
Despite being a long-time fan of Devil May Cry, Bayonetta is a series that has long-since eluded me. Having missed its original release, and subsequent Wii U port, the Switch version offers a lifeline; a means of enjoying a game I have heard only wonderful things about. Please keep in mind as you read this I am going into the series fresh; and as such, comparisons to other versions will be limited. I will however be commenting on this game as a new experience; as it may too be for many.
Before so much as reaching the title screen, the game gives us a cutscene, broken and ominous in nature; fragments of Bayonetta’s past thrown at force to show what’s to come. Followed by a simple title screen and a whisper of the game’s title, everything feels old, dated even. Continuing into the menus, the same feeling is only amplified; this clearly isn’t a game from 2018. It doesn’t even feel like a game from 2009. Instead, I’m thrown back to the 90s, timeless releases such as Tomb Raider leaping to the forefront of my mind. It is by no means a bad thing, it’s wonderful in fact. To see a game so beautifully pull off such a bold and dated vibe, whilst not letting it hold it back, truly is a thing to marvel at. It’s as though it aims to impress nobody, wanting to let the content speak for itself—and the content speaks volumes.
Sass and Style
For newcomers and series veterans alike, the opening cutscene is a joy to behold; offering an entirely different experience depending on your expectations going in. Every element in the scene is captivatingly contrary; the dreary graveyard offset by Enzo urinating on the grave of producer Hideki Kamiya; the heavy funeral tone thrown aside as Bayonetta sheds her pure, religious garbs in a fashionable transformation exuding sex appeal and style. Each and every element of the scene pushes a degree of crazy escalation and unnecessarily choreographed combat to present what feels like a dance of death; our jaded heroine bound by no law nor restraint.
The effort gone into an adequate portrayal of this witch’s style shines through in every element of her being; and is shown at every possible opportunity. She doesn’t walk, she struts; she commands the space around her. Don’t expect any scene to be presented halfheartedly. Instead prepare to admire and appreciate each action-packed frame before moving onto the next, the game taking moments to pause, allowing you take everything in with freeze frames and slow motion. Of course, this extends far beyond cutscenes alone, bleeding into both dialogue and combat.
If you’ve ever seen or played a Devil May Cry game, you should know the kind of action to expect. It’s fast, furious, and rather uniquely feminine. It pays homage to the style of Devil May Cry, whilst continuing to forge its own unique identity. With a great deal of variation in its combo attacks, and a plethora of different weapons and fighting styles to choose from, the combat is incredibly easy to pick up and find satisfaction in.
Where Bayonetta finds its niche is in Witch Time; a brief moment of slow motion after narrowly avoiding an attack. Allowing you to get in uninterrupted and powerful combos, Witch Time is something you are constantly pushed towards both in and out of combat. As if to train you for imperative moments in a fight, the game presents training sections where you’re forced to enter Witch Time in order to get past obstacles otherwise insurmountable. It’s a neat idea that makes Witch Time feel like more than a last minute thought crammed into the combat system. The very nature of it forces a different style of play to what I would consider regular hack and slash; encouraging you to watch your enemies intently, waiting for an opening. You could say it goes against the core idea of hack and slash, testing your observation skills over your button mashing; I feel this is definitely to its benefit. If you do however find yourself struggling, the game has various difficulty settings, allowing players of all skill level to find some enjoyment.
Matching perhaps every other aspect of the game, the soundtrack is no disappointment. Featuring an assortment of standard, high octane tracks; as well as the masterfully adapted classic Fly Me to the Moon, you are in for an experience both familiar, and like no other. Combat feels like an overly dramatised style monster unleashing her jet black locks onto unsuspecting forces of light and dark; and the role music plays in this is key. Each element comes together flawlessly to forge the experience that is Bayonetta, an experience I’m grateful to have had the chance to partake in.
Return of the Umbra Witch
The second game of the set packs the same initial punch as the first, smacking you with the same fast paced, overly stylish action right out of the gate. Many of my opinions regarding Bayonetta 2 resonate with the original game; it feels like a clean transition from one to the other, maintaining every aspect I came to love. With this transition comes a new classic song seeing the same treatment as Fly Me to the Moon; the similarly lunar Moon River. My thoughts on Bayonetta 2 specifically will be rather limited in this review, as I truly believe the highlights and flaws are shared with the previous game. If you want a more in-depth look at the second game, check out our official review from 2014.
The plot and general tone of Bayonetta 2 feels strangely detached to the mysterious amnesiac tale of the first. The style, the personality, it’s all there; but now with a reaffirmed sense of arrogance and control that is swiftly shattered in the prologue chapter. Far sooner than the original game, Bayonetta is seen facing a colossal foe in a fight so large scale, the game struggled to keep up. The fight was everything I wanted to see in a sequel, but the game struggling to keep up meant regular drops from the targeted 60 FPS. Honestly, it’s not something I personally noticed as I played the first time—the intensity of the fight completely distracting me—but I understand framerate is a big deal for a lot of people.
A Cut Above
Bayonetta 2 feels like a clear step up from its predecessor, the entire experience feeling more responsive and fast paced. It understands the nuances of the first game and goes to great lengths in recreating the witch’s magic once more. With this in mind, I would definitely advise playing these games in order, so not to feel let down by what is still an incredible experience in the first game.
Of course, the burning question on many a potential buyer’s mind is just how well do these games run on the Switch? I cannot proclaim to be an expert in these matters, but I can tell you both games run at 720p in both docked and handheld mode; and also both target 60 FPS during normal gameplay—staying at a consistent 30 FPS during cutscenes. While I have no experience with previous releases, it appears the games still struggle in the same areas. Bayonetta 2 for example still falls short in the same places as its Wii U predecessor, however performs better in these deviations from 60 FPS. If you go in wanting a consistent 60 FPS, you may end up disappointed. What we have here are games that run beyond the capabilities of the Wii U, and without the tether of a home console. It isn’t perfect, but it also isn’t so bad as to take away from the overall experience. For a more in-depth look at the framerate and performance, check out Digital Foundry’s initial look at Bayonetta 2.