Rumour has it that Platinum Games’ brawler sequel was deep into development when it became an early casualty of then-publisher Sega’s well-documented financial woes. As such, it’s perhaps no surprise to find that this is pretty much business as usual for the Umbran Witch, with only a beginner-targeted touch control scheme (the less said about which, the better) and GamePad screen play marking this out as a Nintendo-published Wii U exclusive.
Not that it matters – given our love for the original, we’d have been happy with a direct-to-video sequel – but there are changes here. The most immediately apparent is Bayonetta’s new cropped hairdo, balanced out by Jeanne’s waist-length locks. The first game’s rival is now a firm ally, arriving on the wing of a fighter plane that fires a couple of missiles at a boss we’re fighting on top of a speeding train. The duo team up to finish off the boss, but later in our demo Jeanne’s struck by a demon, her soul knocked loose from her body and dragged down to the inferno below.
There’s a new mechanic, Umbran Climax, whose use is governed by a meter that fills as you land attacks, similar to Dante’s Devil Trigger. There’s no speed or damage boost here, however; instead, standard attacks have greater range, with many leading to unique Wicked Weave attacks. There are new weapons, too, including two whips attached to Bayonetta’s feet, apparently replacing the first game’s handheld Kulshedra, which was an essential tool in lengthy air combos.
The demo’s climactic boss battle against Gomorrah, the demonic dragon who knocked Jeanne into Hell, showcases the new airborne battles. Mechanically, nothing changes – you’re still bound to a fixed, flat plane – but it gives the design team’s already fertile imagination the licence to run even wilder. The encounter is a sight to behold, the scenery twisting around us as we scale the side of a skyscraper and the spire at its peak, requiring little more from us than the usual light-heavy-light combos and graceful cartwheels to safety.
Ah, Witch Time. Bayonetta’s dodge is still one of the most pleasing systems in all of videogames, a perfect balance of risk and reward. We skip away from danger, the screen shrouded in dark blue as time slows to a crawl, giving us a few precious seconds of fetter-free damage-dealing. An all-too-brief demo on a busy show floor is seldom enough to form a rounded impression of a game’s true quality, but that isn’t the case here. Bayonetta 2 is, as the name suggests, more of a good thing. While it may not be a Zelda-level system seller, it’s currently Wii U’s brightest prospect by some distance.