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Video game review: Nintendo's 'Bayonetta' games are slick, stylish and mature

POSTED March 9, 2018 9:11 a.m.
Sam Bigelow/

"Bayonetta" features multiple creative bosses ...

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While Nintendo generally deals in family-friendly fare, they’ve occasionally tried to publish titles intended solely for their adult audience. “Bayonetta 2,” the most recent port from the Wii U, and its predecessor, "Bayonetta" fit nicely into this category.

As an action title from legendary Japanese developer Hideki Kamiya (of “Resident Evil,” “Devil May Cry” and “Okami” fame), the "Bayonetta" games are fantastic, flashy experiences with a cutting sense of humor. The inclusion of a free copy of the original “Bayonetta” with the new "Bayonetta 2" release is a welcome inclusion for both fans and first-timers. However, the series' stong language, sexual content, violence and portrayal of the main character’s sexuality make it a mature, adult-only game.

"Bayonetta" follows the titular witch as she navigates through a world inspired equally by Dante’s “Inferno” and Scandinavian mythology. Bayonetta is one of the last surviving Umbran Witches, and must save the world from the angelic forces of Paradiso and the Lumen Sages, two groups bent on reshaping the world in their image.

In order to defeat them, Bayonetta uses flashy hand-to-hand combat attacks, myriad weapons and summoned demons. Both "Bayonetta" titles feature fascinating lore and politics stuffed into a fairly convoluted story frame. Somehow, the game’s events still manage to make sense, thanks to the game’s style and variety.

The name of the game in "Bayonetta" is style over substance, a mantra that Kamiya and PlatinumGames have taken to heart. The game is a fast-paced action experience, featuring a freeform combo system and varied level design. Over the course of the series' collective 20 hours, players will punch angels and demons, ride motorbikes and jets and hunt down dozens of treasures. Moment-to-moment gameplay is incredibly diverse, and the game’s pacing ramps up quickly to keep up, resulting in massive boss fights, breathtaking endings and a ton of easter eggs paying homage to PlatinumGames’ legacy.

References to Capcom and Sega games abound, and several costumes allow players to play as Link and Samus of Nintendo fame. Both "Bayonetta" games also encourage replayability through a demanding arcade scoring system, providing a lot of value for $60.

Despite being several years old, both "Bayonetta" games are a visual treat. Both run smoothly, and the resolution is capped at 720p in both handheld and docked modes. While the first “Bayonetta” relies on a darker, more gothic-inspired palette, its sequel features much brighter, varied graphics and visual effects. Enemy and level design is varied across both games, and rides the line between horror, fantasy and sci-fi without feeling boring or out of place.

As indicated by its M-rating, “Bayonetta 2” is a game strictly aimed at adults, despite being funded and published by the usually kid-friendly Nintendo. Strong language, including F-words, fly frequently, and verbal innuendos are equally common.

Bayonetta’s costume is stylish and revealing, but plays into her strength and independence to great effect. Regardless, the game tends to linger too long on her body, and many of her strongest attacks, in which she uses her hair to summon powerful monsters, heavily imply nudity.

Additionally, gameplay generally revolves around performing combos with melee weapons and guns, and light blood tends to spray off of enemies before they burst into a shower of golden rings. In light of recent events, some people may feel uncomfortable playing a game with a heavy focus on violence, despite its stylized nature, while the game’s take on some religious concepts could be considered offensive by some. While both "Bayonetta" games should be fine for any interested adults, parents should keep in mind that this Nintendo game isn’t all that kid-friendly.

"Bayonetta" is one of the flashiest, most stylish action titles on the market, and a great inclusion to the Nintendo Switch library. Both games feature fast-paced action, stylish characters and visuals. The level design is diverse and engaging, and encourages replayability through hidden items and an in-depth scoring system. There’s a lot to like about these games.

Game:Bayonetta 2” and “Bayonetta

Platform: Nintendo Switch

Price: $59.99 physical, $49.99 digital

ESRB Rating: M for blood and gore, intense violence, partial nudity, strong language and suggestive themes.

Note: Physical retail copies of “Bayonetta 2” include a free download of the original “Bayonetta.” Both games are available separately on the Nintendo Switch eshop for a discounted price.

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