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.

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