For many industry observers, the Wii U's big 2014 lineup consists of Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. And while those will likely be among the system's best sellers, they may not be the best-reviewed titles on the console this year. That distinction might wind up going to the Wii U-exclusive Bayonetta 2.
Bayonetta 2 stands out among the Wii U library for a handful of reasons. It's a rare Nintendo-published game rated M for Mature. It eschews family friendly fare in favor of an overtly sexualized protagonist who violently dispatches her opposition with a variety of firearms and magic hair (which doubles as her clothing). Where Nintendo's biggest successes of the last decade have come from titles targeted at casual or mainstream gamers, Bayonetta 2 was designed for core audiences by Platinum Games, a studio with a history of critically acclaimed titles that don't always set the sales charts on fire.
"Bayonetta 2 is the perfect action game."Joystiq's Earnest Cavalli
Bayonetta 2 looks to continue the first half of that reputation, as the first wave of reviews has been almost universally positive. As of this writing, the sequel to Platinum Games' critically acclaimed Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 title (released in 2009 in Japan, 2010 globally) is sitting on a 91 Metacritic score, with more than a few perfect scores in the mix.
GameSpot's Mark Walton gave Bayonetta 2 a 10 out of 10, calling it "a masterclass in pure, unadulterated action-game design" with "some of the sharpest, most joyful combat to have ever graced a video game." It is only the eighth time the site has given a game 10 out of 10, and the first time since 2010's Super Mario Galaxy 2. The review acknowledges that much of the fighting system is essentially unchanged from the original, but lauds the sequel's improved pacing, as well as its new online multiplayer mode and abundance of things to keep players busy well beyond the ending credits.
The only potential negatives the GameSpot reviewer mentions (before dismissing) are occasional frame rate drops and some of the content that earned the game an M for Mature rating, like the abundance of crotch shots and blatant innuendos involving the protagonist. However, the reviewer says such decisions do nothing to diminish the game, or the character.
"There are none of the sleazy moments that peppered the likes of Lollipop Chainsaw and Killer Is Dead; the sexualisation here serves to empower, not to belittle," Walton said.
A handful of other sites including Destructoid and Joystiq also gave Bayonetta 2 their highest ratings. Joystiq's Earnest Cavalli gave the game five stars, calling it "a cocky shout of giddy triumph that goes a long way toward erasing all memory of those long, barren months following the Wii U's debut."
"For all its bombast, Bayonetta 2 takes only baby steps, and is cast firmly in the mould of the 2009 original. It's something which works both for better and for worse."Eurogamer's Martin Robinson
"Bayonetta 2 is the perfect action game," Cavalli wrote. "It oozes style and boasts gameplay that's both refined and lacking in excess. The combat is so purely entertaining that it's easy to lose yourself in the almost-zen flow of dodging, countering and kicking enemies to death. Bayonetta 2 rewards a player's drive to look as cool as possible in combat with gameplay designed for exactly that - and with the acrobatic violence of a winking heroine who is as legitimately endearing as she is completely ludicrous."
Edge Magazine is also among the outlets giving Bayonetta 2 top marks. While the magazine's review hasn't hit newsstands yet and isn't available online, the publication's sister site CVG excerpted passages saying Platinum's latest "has just given Wii U its first true classic."
IGN gave Bayonetta a 9.5 out of 10, with reviewer Jose Otero calling it "polished and focused" in all aspects. While he cast the game's ridiculous story in a negative light, Otero suggested the game's pacing and combat do much to offset any problems with its narrative.
"By the end I was convinced: This sequel builds on everything that made the original great, and delivers one of the most satisfying action games I've played," Otero said.
GamesIndustry.biz sister site Eurogamer gave Bayonetta 2 a 9 out of 10, taking exception with just how familiar it feels for those who played the original.
"The camera doesn't look at Bayonetta - it leers at her."Polygon's Arthur Gies
"For all its bombast, Bayonetta 2 takes only baby steps, and is cast firmly in the mould of the 2009 original. It's something which works both for better and for worse," Martin Robinson wrote, adding, "Bayonetta 2's biggest disappointment may be that it's an iterative sequel, but it's not such a problem when it's iterating on genius."
The harshest critique for Bayonetta 2 came from Polygon's Arthur Gies, who acknowledged Platinum's excellence of execution, but took issue with its hypersexualized approach to the main character. After acknowledging Bayonetta 2's action game acumen, Gies lamented, "the deliberate sexualization and objectification on display serves as a jarring distraction from the creativity and design smarts elsewhere."
"There are enough gratuitous ass-shots, cleavage jokes and spread legs to fill an hours long super cut," Gies wrote. "The camera doesn't look at Bayonetta - it leers at her."