Bay­o­netta 2

It’s nearly witch time, and Plat­inum’s Wii U se­quel is in daz­zlingly good shape

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Nin­tendo De­vel­oper Plat­inumGames For­mat Wii U Ori­gin Ja­pan Re­lease Sept 20 (JP), Oct (EU, NA) Pro­ducer Akiko Kuroda

Wii U

The open­ing min­utes of Bay­o­netta 2 evoke the same sense of nos­tal­giatinged fa­mil­iar­ity as Halo: An­niver­sary. Plat­inum’s se­quel looks just like Bay­o­netta did in your mem­ory: fe­ro­ciously colour­ful, minutely de­tailed, and pin sharp. But load up even the HD ver­sion of the first game – which will come bun­dled with Bay­o­netta 2 when it’s re­leased, though whether dig­i­tally or on a phys­i­cal disc de­pends on edi­tion – and you’ll find it muddy and washed-out in com­par­i­son.

Bay­o­netta 2 rep­re­sents an as­tound­ing vis­ual feat, then. Bat­tles come sat­u­rated in magic ef­fects and bloom, while en­e­mies – who now re­act dif­fer­ently de­pend­ing which at­tack you clob­ber them with – are adorned with even more dec­o­ra­tive flour­ishes than be­fore. And while Plat­inum won’t be drawn on a fi­nal res­o­lu­tion, the game glides along at an ef­fort­less 60fps. “When we were de­sign­ing the look of

Bay­o­netta 2, we wanted peo­ple to be able to tell the first and sec­ond games apart with just a glance,” direc­tor Yusuke Hashimoto tells us. “This isn’t just through the colour pal­ette, but also the char­ac­ter de­sign and the way char­ac­ters move, the set­ting, and many other facets of the game.”

Which ex­plains why Bay­o­netta her­self has had a makeover, ditch­ing her long hairdo and warm red ac­cent colour for a short crop and cooler blue ac­ces­sories to match the game’s ‘wa­ter’ theme. This is matched with a more stylised look, trad­ing many of her ex­ag­ger­ated curves for straighter lines and an­gles, though not when it comes to T&A, ob­vi­ously.

The game’s world, mean­while, feels si­mul­ta­ne­ously familiar and fresh. The art team trav­elled around Europe for ar­chi­tec­tural in­spi­ra­tion, tak­ing in Bruges, Florence and Venice. “In Ja­pan, there are places that try to im­i­tate Euro­pean style by sell­ing pre-aged, mul­ti­coloured bricks,” lead en­vi­ron­men­tal artist Hiroki Onishi writes in a blog post on Plat­inum’s web­site. “But af­ter go­ing to Italy, it ter­ri­fies me that Ja­panese peo­ple prob­a­bly don’t un­der­stand how dif­fer­ent the real thing is.” Bay­o­netta 2’ s en­vi­ron­ments are heav­ily stylised, but this re­search shows in its cob­bled roads, age­ing tiled roofs, stained glass win­dows and ex­pan­sive water­ways.

It isn’t just the vi­su­als that have been scaled up. When the game was re­vealed, Plat­inum said it wanted play­ers to feel like they were fight­ing Bay­o­netta’s fi­nal boss from the off. And while this se­quel eases you in a lit­tle more gen­tly than that, the spec­ta­cle of even early en­coun­ters is breath­tak­ing. The ex­plo­sive ac­tion of last year’s E3 demo – which pit­ted Bay­o­netta against all man­ner of an­gels atop the back of a jet air­craft as it

thun­dered around sky­scrapers and azure skies – is matched in the three playable lev­els we see, es­pe­cially dur­ing a fight with a Lu­men Sage that takes place as In­fer­nal Demons do bat­tle in the back­ground.

Bay­o­netta’s moveset has been ramped up as well. Wicked Weaves re­turn – de­spite her new pixie cut – as do Tor­ture At­tacks and Witch Time, all func­tion­ing as you’d ex­pect. But now when you dou­ble jump, your wings will stay ex­tended un­til you float all the way back down to the ground. And if you dou­ble-tap dodge dur­ing the new un­der­wa­ter sec­tions, Bay­o­netta will turn into a sea snake (you’ll still morph into a pan­ther if you in­put the com­mand on dry land), al­low­ing her to tra­verse the game’s large ar­eas more quickly than she ever could in hu­man form. The Um­bra Witch will also be able to aug­ment her abil­i­ties by hop­ping into a pow­er­ful mech at var­i­ous points through­out the game.

“We of­ten con­sulted Mr Kamiya to make sure we were stay­ing true to Bay­o­netta”

The big­gest ad­di­tion of all is Um­bran Cli­max. Fill your magic gauge – which is still used to un­leash Tor­ture At­tacks – and you can squeeze L to sum­mon a suc­ces­sion of Wicked Weave and In­fer­nal De­mon at­tacks, cov­er­ing a huge area. Purists wor­ried that this will make the game less about skill or, worse, dis­rupt the flow of Bay­o­netta’s finely bal­anced com­bat should be able to take so­lace in Hashimoto’s in­sis­tence that the team has thought care­fully about its in­clu­sion.

“We kept in mind ev­ery­thing we learned from the first game when bal­anc­ing the com­bos in the se­quel,” he says. “It took a con­sid­er­able amount of time, to say the least! [The Um­bran Cli­max] sys­tem presents the player with a choice: will I utilise magic to per­form a Tor­ture At­tack and con­cen­trate on a sin­gle en­emy, or will I spread my at­tacks over a group us­ing Um­bran Cli­max? Know­ing when to use which adds an in­ter­est­ing layer to game­play strat­egy.”

De­spite cur­rently be­ing tied up with Xbox One exclusive Scale­bound, the se­ries’ orig­i­nal cre­ator, Hideki Kamiya, was heav­ily in­volved in the de­sign stages of Bay­o­netta 2, too.

“We of­ten con­sulted Mr Kamiya to make sure we were stay­ing true to Bay­o­netta, in­clud­ing the de­sign of the main char­ac­ters,” Hashimoto says. “We re­ceived in­put on the sce­nario from many peo­ple, both in and out­side of the com­pany, but ul­ti­mately Kamiya was in con­trol of putting the script and story to­gether.”

The move to Wii U also raised ques­tions, specif­i­cally over whether such a fast-mov­ing, re­ac­tions-based game could work as well on Nin­tendo’s broad GamePad as it did on 360’s famed con­troller. Bay­o­netta feels sur­pris­ingly in­tu­itive on the tablet-like de­vice, how­ever, both re­spon­sive and fluid. Mus­cle mem­ory still re­turns more eas­ily with a Pro Con­troller, but we were able to achieve Pure Plat­inum re­sults af­ter only a cou­ple of warm-up fights.

“At Plat­inumGames, when you are de­cid­ing how to best make use of a con­troller, you start by ask­ing what kind of game you want the player to ex­pe­ri­ence,” Hashimoto ex­plains. “Bay­o­netta 2 is an ac­tion game, so our num­ber one pri­or­ity was the feel of the game’s con­trols. Shift­ing to Wii U didn’t change this, so we didn’t al­ter the core con­trol scheme for GamePad.”

De­spite the suc­cess­ful trans­la­tion, it’s im­pos­si­ble not to won­der whether Wii U was re­ally the best choice of plat­form for a

Bay­o­netta se­quel, given its sub­ject mat­ter. “From our per­spec­tive as the de­vel­oper, we didn’t so much choose Wii U as Nin­tendo stepped up and chose us, which al­lowed us to de­velop Bay­o­netta 2,” Hashimoto says. “In other words, with­out Nin­tendo, Bay­o­netta 2 couldn’t ex­ist. As a plat­form, Wii U has many ti­tles that ap­peal to play­ers of all ages and skills, and we’re hop­ing a game like

Bay­o­netta, which ap­peals to a spe­cific de­mo­graphic, will stand out as a re­sult.”

Plat­inum has also pro­vided a touch con­trol op­tion, which lets you tap on en­e­mies to at­tack them, swipe the screen to evade at­tacks, and guide Bay­o­netta’s move­ment with a pointer. “The GamePad is part of what makes Wii U spe­cial,” Hashimoto says, “so we tai­lored two ex­pe­ri­ences to GamePad that make it eas­ier for any­one to en­joy

Bay­o­netta – the in­tu­itive touch­screen con­trols and off-TV play. Th­ese aren’t set­tings hid­den in a sub­menu; you can switch in re­al­time when­ever you want. Just take out your sty­lus and start tap­ping.”

While ‘off-TV play’ – which sim­ply means play­ing solely on your GamePad’s screen – is cer­tainly wel­come, the touch­screen con­trols might sound like anath­ema to sea­soned

Bay­o­netta play­ers. Yet they’re un­de­ni­ably effective, pro­vid­ing an on-ramp for those yet to learn all the but­ton com­bos. And be­cause they’re always on, not a se­lectable mode, it proves lit­tle has­sle to grad­u­ate from one con­trol scheme to the other.

But per­haps the best way to learn is by watch­ing a mas­ter, and Bay­o­netta 2’ s new on­line co-op mode, Tag Cli­max, pro­vides that op­por­tu­nity. The mode is struc­tured around un­lock­able Verse Cards, which you flip over to progress to the next stage. There’s a com­pet­i­tive streak, too, with play­ers ranked on their per­for­mances. You’ll be able to wa­ger the ha­los you earn from fight­ing – reap­ing more if you se­lect a harder dif­fi­culty – and if you’re the best player, you’ll walk away with an even greater sum to spend on new moves, weapons and ac­ces­sories in the sin­gle­player game, which can then in turn be used in your next on­line ses­sion. There will also be a se­lec­tion of playable co-op char­ac­ters to choose from, in­clud­ing Jeanne, Bay­o­netta’s for­mer ri­val, who re­turns as an ally dur­ing an­gel bat­tles in the sin­gle­player campaign.

“To mix things up, in Tag Cli­max you can play with char­ac­ters be­sides Bay­o­netta and Jeanne,” Hashimoto says. “We put a lot of work into mak­ing this mode some­thing spe­cial, so I hope peo­ple ex­per­i­ment with all the dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters and have fun play­ing on­line to­gether.”

Fur­ther broad­en­ing the se­quel’s com­bat op­tions, there are more weapons to choose from this time around. We quickly grav­i­tated to the Kafka – a bow that shoots poi­sonous ar­rows – dur­ing boss fights. Other op­tions in­clude the Ch­er­nobog, a gi­ant triple­bladed scythe with a built-in ri­fle, and a pair of katana blades called the Rak­shasa.

“We wanted to de­sign weapon types that weren’t avail­able in the first game and had per­son­al­ity to them,” Hashimoto ex­plains. “Bay­o­netta is the kind of ac­tion game where just hold­ing down a but­ton will evolve an at­tack – for ex­am­ple, hold­ing the punch but­ton will al­low Bay­o­netta to start shoot­ing af­ter a per­form­ing a punch. In Bay­o­netta 2, we wanted to ex­pand on this idea in a way that would show­case the unique fea­tures of each weapon. So with the whip, you can thrash the en­emy with lashes, but by hold­ing down the but­ton, it’s now pos­si­ble to grab the en­emy and slam them to the ground.”

The in­cluded HD up­date of the orig­i­nal game fea­tures its own ad­di­tions, too, in the form of new cos­tumes (see ‘Wicked threads’) and a retrofitting of Bay­o­netta 2’ s touch­screen con­trols. You’ll also be able to use the

Bay­o­netta 2’s great­est suc­cess is mak­ing hands old and new feel in­stantly at home

GamePad gyro in some stages, which should fit rather well with chap­ter IV’s Space Har­rier

in­spired mis­sile ride. It’s a thor­ough over­haul, but Bay­o­netta wasn’t a planned in­clu­sion right from the be­gin­ning of the project. “We made the de­ci­sion soon af­ter Bay­o­netta 2 be­came a Wii U exclusive,” pro­ducer Akiko Kuroda tells us. “Con­sid­er­ing that it has been five years since the first game, and the se­quel is be­ing re­leased on new hard­ware, we fig­ured there are peo­ple in­ter­ested in Bay­o­netta 2 who have never had a chance to play the orig­i­nal. We felt that bring­ing Bay­o­netta to the Wii U would be the best way to in­tro­duce th­ese peo­ple to the se­ries.”

For all the ad­di­tions, Bay­o­netta 2’ s great­est suc­cess is mak­ing hands old and new feel in­stantly at home. It feels as rev­e­la­tory to pick up and play as the first game did back in 2010, and it’s dif­fi­cult not to be left breath­less by the rush of colour, de­tail and spec­ta­cle. Whether it finds the au­di­ence on Wii U to jus­tify a Bay­o­netta 3 seems less im­por­tant in the face of the sheer con­fi­dence of the se­ries’ hop to a new plat­form, but – ir­re­spec­tive of the genre’s per­ceived high en­try re­quire­ments – Plat­inum’s lat­est feels pow­er­ful enough to be­witch a le­gion of fans all over again.

This an­gel is called Valiance, and is one of the game’s more pow­er­ful en­e­mies, func­tion­ing as a mini­boss

Bay­o­netta pos­sessed the cu­ri­ous air of an ’80s Hol­ly­wood sec­re­tary in the first game, and her new hair­cut only serves to heighten that as­so­ci­a­tion

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