For all intents, the Bayonetta series filled the void left by the Devil May Cry series between 2005 and 2019. The first game was directed by Hideki Kamiya, who also directed the first Devil May Cry. Bayonetta 2 generally built upon that first installment, which was personally marred by my experience with the atrocious PS3 port.
What Bayonetta 2 may lack in mechanical depths is made up by the simple pleasure of its dodge mechanic. Called Witch Time, a successful dodge will momentarily slow down time and let Bayonetta get in a small combo. There’s a simple grace to the flow of battle. While the best Devil May Cry games have deeper mechanics, their basic enemy designs could be all over the place. In Bayonetta, everything feels tightly built around these simpler ideas. For the average player, Bayonetta 2 is absolutely a top-notch gameplay experience.
Like Devil May Cry, Bayonetta can also be really dumb. Where Dante is an edgy dork, Bayonetta pushes a dominant sexy image to the point of absurdity. A lot of games try and completely fail at being sexy, usually to the point of embarrassment. By being so unabashedly at the center of the presentation, Bayonetta’s take is oddly compelling. The character was designed by a woman, and this feels key to explaining why it works. Her sexy performance comes off less like fanservice and more like a power move. While obviously not successful for everyone, she somehow appeals to the four major corners of human sexuality. Bayonetta is a power fantasy for both lesbian and straight women and a fabulous inspiration to drag queens everywhere – in fact, I believe she might be least appealing to the straight men for whom we usually assume these sorts of characters are designed.
The whole series oozes style. Everything from the basic enemies to the boss battles to the backgrounds remain in constant motion, and the frequent shifting in and out of slow motion builds upon this. Sometimes billed as stylish action games, having such a frenetic energy is key to the experience. The narrative and characters are the exact kind of joyous nonsense you would expect from Devil May Cry, just with a more feminine tone.
Character action games like Bayonetta 2 are some of gaming’s simpler joys. The whole game can be completed in only a few hours, but there’s a ton of variety to draw you back for more. From new weapons and abilities to harder difficulties and an alternate character, this is the type of game that demands being played a few times. With such a stellar combat system, this demand is far from a problem.