You’ll spend parts of Bayonetta 2 fighting with an AI accomplice with a similar moveset to your own. It’s thrilling stuff, enemies exploding in showers of light thanks to attacks you never launched, and their health bars melting away under the combined fury. Your companion is critical to the story, but this is no mere narrative device: it’s a dry run for Tag Climax, a series of online co-op battles whose stages are unlocked in the campaign. You bet halos, the in-game currency, on which of you will finish with the higher combo score; the more you bet, the more generous the payout, and the higher the difficulty. Prepare to die and die again, though downed companions can be revived, ensuring there’s a dash of co-operation to break up the friendly competition. foot-mounted Chain Chomp, or the Chernobog, a scythe formed of three serrated blades and a shotgun. Nintendo-themed costumes change pickups, sound effects and even the tone of stages, and there’s enough unlockable gear for you to wear a different outfit on every new level. There are more playable characters, collectibles leading to new accessories, and multiple hidden battles in every chapter. There are more rewards for completing the game at higher difficulty levels or within a certain time. There’s online co-op (see ‘Climax together’), and the Witch Trials survival challenges. There’s always something new to do, something different to try, a higher mission rank to seek, another reason to ignore the other games on your Wii U Home menu. This is a game that you can complete in ten hours, but play and replay forever.
You never tire of it, but how could you? This is a game that begins with Santa riding a car along the side of a building, continues with you summoning a demon to headbutt a meteor, and ends with the most joyously cathartic climax of any game since, well, Bayonetta. When the pace does dip, there is more than enough charm, wit and heart to take its place. It is a masterclass in combat design, in videogame variety, in the balance between accessibility and depth. Sure, it’s a sequel, but it’s a sequel to what has stood, for almost five years, as the best game of its type ever made. Until now, that is. Sega’s loss is Nintendo’s gain: Bayonetta, twirling away from a gigantic demon’s maw and smacking the highest choir of angels on the nose, has just given Wii U its first true classic.