With its recognizable mascots and bloodless violence, Nintendo has the market on games for kids almost cornered. Attracting adults to its flagging Wii U console has proven a little more difficult, which is why 'Bayonetta 2,' a delightfully over-the-top action game, might be just what the system needs.
TechNewsDaily had a chance to go hands-on with the game at E3, and if the rest of the game lives up to the short demo, Nintendo could have a system-seller on its hands. 'Bayonetta 2' follows the continuing adventures of Bayonetta, a leggy witch who takes on the forces of evil with her prehensile hair and a pair of guns strapped to her high heels.
The game belongs to a uniquely Japanese genre colloquially known as "cinematic action." Cinematic action games usually give players two or three primary methods of attack (in this case: fists, feet and guns) and then let them string these moves together into the most stylish combos possible. The games often offer rewards (either in the form of power-ups or extra health) for particularly long or stylish combinations.
The demo begins on a moving platform as Bayonetta has to take on wave after wave of armored centaurs. At first, dodging their lances and pummeling them with fluid combos is quite simple, but as more of them show up, the difficulty increases and the gameplay shines.
A good combo is both damaging to the enemy and incredibly gratifying for the player. Simple punches and kicks, when chained together, can end with huge beams of light launching enemies into the air or a giant high-heeled stiletto smashing down on them from above. Bayonetta can gracefully dodge away from one enemy, launch another into the air, and riddle them both with bullets simultaneously.
The colorful graphics and dazzling animations (particularly the particle effects for explosions, which turn each encounter into a maelstrom of sparkling lights) look even better on the Wii U than the original game did on the PS3 and Xbox 360. The slightly exaggerated human characters and intricately detailed enemies provide plenty of eye candy. [See also: 10 Great Games You're Missing ]
One of the defining factors that set the "Bayonetta" series apart from other games is its representation of female sexuality. It rides a very thin line between male-gaze titillation and feminist empowerment. Bayonetta fills every box on some kind of male fantasy checklist (glasses, lollipops, clothes made of her own hair), but in the context of the game's narrative, does nothing to attract or impress the unimpressive men who surround her.
Bayonetta's clothes fly off every time she so much as hits an enemy, and her special attacks (appropriately enough called "Climaxes") usually involve her stripping naked to allow an enormous monster in her hair to devour enemies whole. The subtext here would take an army of psychoanalysts armed with Freud's entire canon to dissect.
After a fast-paced battle with a giant snake warrior, the demo concludes as Bayonetta sprouts a pair of wings to combat a flying dragon called Gomorrah. As Gomorrah ascends a building, Bayonetta must dodge his attacks while getting close enough to land some blows herself. Aerial combat is a new addition to the series, and flying feels both intuitive and fun.
With its gratuitous blood and sex, it's hard to tell when "Bayonetta 2" takes itself seriously and when it embraces its own over-the-top spectacle. Even so, the game looks gorgeous and plays like a dream. If the entire game can maintain the frenetic pace and bombastic action of the demo, Wii U owners will have something special to look forward to when Platinum Games releases it in 2014.