Nintendo are looking to keep their foot on the accelerator for the Nintendo Switch’s second year, and with the fan pleasing announcement of Bayonetta 3 back at The Game Awards, it made sense that they would also bring the critically acclaimed original and Wii U exclusive sequel to the Switch. It makes Nintendo’s newest console the definitive place to enjoy one of Platinum Games’ most popular series.
Platinum Games’ mastery of the action hack and slash genre is clear to see here, with combat that’s easy to pick up and mash buttons with, but that rewards precision, skill and mastery. They’re two button brawlers at heart, with combos derived from mixing up chains of these button presses, but then enhanced with the ability to hold and fire Bayonetta’s trademark guns at the end of each of her limbs. Land enough blows and you can draw upon her Umbran Climax to summon attacks and beasts from other planes, or “punish” her gruesomely designed angelic foes with often bizarre finishing moves.
The real key to success, however, is dodging incoming attacks. Get the timing exactly right and you’re rewarded with a few moments of Witch Time that slows enemies and lets you get a few free hits in. Even if you don’t nail the timing on a dodge, avoiding attacks still stops you taking damage and builds your combo, resulting in more special attacks and playing a big part in determining the ranking you get at the end of a particular fight.
The evolution from the first game to the second is clear to see, as Platinum really push the boat out with the sequel’s outlandish style. Both start en media res in the midsts of a titanic battle, but the first game then cuts to a battle in a cemetery that’s daubed in brown hues that are emblematic of the visual style that dominated much of the last generation, whereas Bayonetta 2 takes you to a bright, sunny and colourful city, calling on you to do battle on the back of a fighter jet against an army of angelic beasts.
With so much going on at any one moment and with the precise timing needed to dodge, you really do want to have the 60fps frame rate that Bayonetta aims for. Playing in handheld mode, both games look great, running at 720p and what feels like a nice and high frame rate. Being able to hold these games in your hand and savour their frenetic combat, the much more vibrant and colourful settings of the sequel, and the occasional bared buttock as Bayonetta unleashes attack after magic hair augmented attack.
The same holds true of the game when docked. Exactly the same. It still looks great on TV, but the Switch’s extra graphical power isn’t being tapped into to bump the resolution up to 1080p or even 900p. Instead it sticks to the same 720p resolution, and smooths out some of the performance kinks that appeared in the originals. That’s fine when the gameplay and the smoothness of the frame rate is key for the fast-paced battles, but it’s a little disappointing that we can’t see full HD here.
This means that the original Bayonetta, a game that isn’t far off being 10 years old, will serve you equally well if you play it here or pick up an old Xbox 360 copy. In fact, you could argue that putting the game through the Xbox One’s backward compatibility system and the One X’s universal graphical improvements makes that the definitive version of the game on console, and that’s without considering the PC version that lets even modestly powerful PCs reach for 1080p60 and puts 4K well within the realms of possibility.
It’s clear that these are direct ports of the Wii U games, bringing across the touch controls that were added to the mix for those who wanted to tap at the screen of the Wii U GamePad instead of press buttons. Though not the best way to play the game, it’s actually nice to see some games making use of the Switch’s touchscreen instead of pretending that it doesn’t exist, even if it’s just because all of the hard work had already been done.
Without any real advantages over the Wii U versions of these games – even the online pricing for each game is identical – it will make this release feel a shade disappointing for those who stuck with Nintendo during the last five years. The point isn’t really to try and sell these games to those who already bought them on the last console though – not that there were that many of you, since Bayonetta 2 suffered from a slow launch and might have only sold around a million copies – but to continue to flesh out the Switch’s line up of exclusives and cater to a different audience. Considering that the Switch has already surpassed the Wii U’s lifetime sales, there’s a huge number of Switch owners who definitely have not played Bayonetta 2.
While these might boil down to being relatively straightforward ports from Wii U to Switch, that doesn’t make them any less essential for fans of the action game genre and Platinum Games’ work… unless you’ve already played them both on Wii U. Either way, with Bayonetta 3 in the works, the Switch is now the witch’s new home.