Award: The Game My Mom Liked Best (But Not Your Mom).
What can I say, really? Bayonetta finally gets a sequel, and I think it’s great and you should play it. Even my mom likes it! And it makes most people really uncomfortable, but that’s ok!
To expand a little: it’s always interesting to see the priorities of different video game directors. Clearly, Hideki Kamiya wanted players to control the stage, ramping up the difficulty and forcing them to learn the mechanics themselves. Yusuke Hashimoto, on the other hand, learn from Nintendo’s all-ages appeal, and strikes a precarious balance between accessibility and difficulty. Is either approach better? It comes down to personal preference, really. You can tell scoring and ascending challenge just aren’t in the manifesto this time around; rather, Hashimoto emphasizes the simple joy of controlling Bayonetta, and nailing Nintendo’s inviting atmosphere. It does explain why Bayonetta 2 ended up with so many high ratings from the video game press – just about anyone could enjoy it.
What I can say, without a doubt, is that the people making Bayonetta 2 had a lot of fun making Bayonetta 2. You feel it in the wide variety of absurd weapons, from chainsaw swords and skates to Nintendo’s ubiquitous Chain-Chomp. You see it in the constant dumb and campy jokes, along with a couple costumes that simply made me laugh out loud (Mama Mia, anyone?). You can even tell in the utter craziness of the “story”, which really comes down to a story of friendship and memory loss (in whatever order you prefer). Really, everybody involved wanted to make a video game, for the purpose of entertainment.
That’s all I wanted out of Bayonetta 2, and I got it. The exquisite fighting mechanic returns, the setpieces somehow take things in completely new directions, and I still find it joyful to slowly progress my way up the ladder of skill. The aesthetics contain a dazzling array of bizarre sights, and is this game ever colorful in a sea of grey-brown AAA titles. It is, quite simply, one of the best games in many years, even if close comparison to its predecessor reveals that some elements are simply lacking (the scoring system being especially lenient this time around). Of course, if you happen to buy Bayonetta 2, you end up owning the first game as well, so that basically amounts to a moot point.
All in all, Bayonetta 2 nails the the simple joy of playing video games, and there’s far too little game striving for that same sense of “only in video games” fun that Platinum Games never fails to deliver. And since Christmas is the season of joy, why not spend it with a stylish killer stripper witch?