At the Wonderful Panel at the Penny Arcade Expo this year, Bayonetta creator Hideki Kamiya said that one of the ways his team develops an idea is through a strategy called “crash and build”. He went on to explain that the term refers to building on an idea until something cool comes from it, and then rebuilding that idea until it becomes something even cooler. This process repeats until the development team satisfied with an idea.
I don’t know what the inspiration for Bayonetta 2 was, but it’s clear it went through the “crash and build” process. 1080p clarity clear, in fact. One of the characteristic traits of a Kamiya game is creating a visual spectacle, and Bayonetta 2 doesn’t disappoint—but like with Zelda: Wind Waker HD, it seems that the demo available at PAX Prime this year was the same build from E3. As I’ve learned from my previous hands-on experiences, though, seeing and playing are two completely different experiences.
The first part of the demo stage takes place on top of an F-22 Raptor, where Bayonetta is fighting off some centaur-like enemies. (See what I mean by spectacle?) I was curious how the touch controls worked, so I decided to use that control scheme first. In this scheme, you swipe up to jump, backwards to evade, and tap to attack enemies. Occasionally, you’d build up enough energy to unleash an Umbra Climax, which you could activate by tapping a button that appeared on screen.
Simply put, the touch controls seemed to be built for an audience who would potentially want an easier way to play, without ruining the fluid combat characteristic of a Kamiya game. There was, however, much more satisfaction in the traditional thumbstick and button controls. For example, when you switched to the Whip/Sword combination (Bayonetta’s weapons options were those and a pair of guns, which you switched using the L shoulder button), you could lash out with the whip using X, but then whip the control stick around to pick enemies up and suplex them into the ground behind you.
The L button was also used to activate the Umbra Climax, while the right shoulder button was tied to the evade command. X, B, and A were assigned attacks (Punch, Kick, and Special, respectively, I believe), while Y was reserved for Jump.
For a set amount of time, the Umbra Climax made attacks much, much bigger—and stronger, too. The whip, for example, would span the entirety of the F-22, hitting any enemy that dared approach me. If you managed to launch them into the air, you could quickly switch to your guns and parry them in the air for a bit, in a Devil May Cry-like fashion. All of this happens quickly, but each attack is precise and, thanks to 1080p resolution, doesn’t feel cluttered or give the impression that there’s too much going on on-screen at once.
Witch Time is back and in full force, too, and there’s nothing more satisfying than pulling off an evasive move, only to go into slow motion and smash the enemy with the whip or barrage them with bullets from Bayonetta’s guns. Bayontta’s movements seem choreographed to match the animation of the enemy she’s facing, too, meaning she actually jumps over or ducks under attacks.
Overall, I get the feeling that Bayonetta 2 will be more about experimentation in combat and game play than anything else. What’s the coolest combo you can pull off? How many megatons can you earn to torture an enemy? (Oh, by the way, torture attacks are also back—and sometimes Jeanne will help you!) These are the questions that the Bayonetta 2 demo posed. Eventually, The demo took me from the top of an F-22, to a boss fight on a moving train (which Jeanne helped by shooting missiles from a plane in the background), to a final fight with Gamorrah in the air. Bayonetta 2 is slated for release in 2014 on the Wii U.