Bayonetta 2 is a straightforward and very fast-paced action game and the much anticipated sequel to 2010’s popular title, Bayonetta. Bayonetta 2 also comes with a free copy of Bayonetta, so if you missed out on the first one this is a good opportunity to check it out. However, you may wish to make sure the kids are in bed before you boot this one up as it is clearly designed to be played by adults. It’s rated M (17+) and completely deserves its rating.
A Big Heads-Up for Parents!
Probably the tamest aspect of Bayonetta 2 is the violence. Most of the time, you’re fighting angels and demons who are only vaguely human looking. A lot of them don’t even have faces, and when you beat the tar out of the ones that do thoroughly enough, their human-like face cracks and falls off like a mask, revealing a monstrous visage. Don’t get me wrong, though, it is a very bloody game (and has lots of blood splatter, too). Since I favor the sword, I would regularly cut enemies in half. I’m just saying that the violence isn’t that realistic. When you do fight humans, which is restricted to just three or four boss fights throughout the entire game, they never get treated nearly as roughly as your more supernatural foes.
No, the thing to look out for in the Bayonetta series is the sexual content. The titular character Bayonetta’s personality basically consists of being as seductive as possible to almost literally every other character she comes across. “Don’t make me beg,” she says, folding her arms behind her head and thrusting out her chest when I press the “Taunt” button. This is a game in which the end credits sequence includes the player character pole-dancing for the player and a game in which combo finishers cause most of the player character’s clothes to dematerialize. In addition to being a little too much for younger kids, it feels a little exploitative. It’s been common for female characters in video games to be hyper-sexualized for a very long time, but this is maybe even a step beyond jiggle physics. Bayonetta is so hyper-sexualized that I feel like the term “hyper-sexualized” almost doesn’t cover it. “Ultra-sexualized” maybe? “Mega-sexualized” has a nice ring to it too. Bayonetta’s sexuality is the whole point of her character. There is literally almost nothing else to her. The few times she shows any other emotion, she snaps back into her teasing, flirtatious persona almost immediately (possible spoilers in link).
It’s not like the spoilers will matter all that much, though. Bayonetta 2’s story is almost as shallow as Bayonetta’s personality, but at least it’s more comprehensible than the first game’s plot. Bayonetta’s friend Jeanne is killed during the first chapter. Because she is a witch, her soul is immediately dragged down into hell. Bayonetta goes on a journey to save her and on the way gets mixed up in a power struggle involving heaven, hell, and the human world. The religiously themed side of the story is about as convoluted as the first game’s plot, but the Jeanne aspect of the story at least gives the player some semi-sensible character motivation to cling to this time around.
Oh, and also there is lots of swearing. Mostly “f***” and “s***.” Like I said, they weren’t even trying for a T rating with this game.
But having said all that, Bayonetta 2 is really fun to play. It does almost nothing new or different from the first game, but maybe that’s wise. Bayonetta has always been about near-constant fast-paced action and lots of cool-looking attacks, and there’s not much you can do to improve that. I would consider the game’s core mechanic to be dodging. When you barely dodge an attack (which is most times because enemies in this game tend to swing their weapons rather quickly), time slows way down in a mechanic known as Witch Time. Basically, all the enemies freeze and you get free attacks on them. There is no limit on how often Witch Time can be activated. You can dodge up to five times in quick succession without any kind of penalties. Even when you do hit your five-dodge limit (which happened to me a total of one time throughout my Bayonetta 2 playthrough), it just means you can’t dodge again for maybe three quarters of a second. It makes the gameplay have a lot more to do with reaction time than conscious thought.
You don’t even really have to think about the combos you’re using too carefully. Virtually any combination of attacks will eventually result in at least one of the powerful combo finishers known as Wicked Weaves. In fact, even if you somehow manage to never use Wicked Weaves through combos, that just means you’ll build up magic power even faster for Bayonetta 2’s “Umbran Climax Mode,” during which every one of your attacks is a Wicked Weave. As a result, there is practically no strategy involved in Bayonetta 2. Just lots of fast reactions and pretty colors. And it is a blast.
Bayonetta 2 is really fun to play but its highly sexualized portrayal of the title character and its over-the-top violence make it a game that should probably be just for (much) older teens and adults. However, it might also be a good game to discuss with teens. Try asking whether they think it’s okay to portray female characters this way in video games and why, whether the over-the-top nature of the violence and sexual content makes the game a parody and therefore less objectionable, and whether if they were designing a game they would make it different in some ways.