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Bayonetta (Wii U) review

Bayonetta screenshot
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £25
inc VAT

Bayonetta finally struts onto Wii U, but don't be fooled by appearances; this is one of the best action games around


Available formats: Nintendo Wii U

Bayonetta is probably one of the most unlikely poster girls you’ll ever see on a Nintendo console. As the heroine of one of the most salacious, and downright bonkers, action games of the last generation, Platinum Games’ ludicrously proportioned witch is more likely to blow your head off with her endless arsenal of guns than be seen hoisted over the shoulder of the latest Nintendo bad guy. In fact, she’d probably be the one doing the kidnapping given the choice, and she’d give them a good spanking at the end of it, too.

Yes, the intervening years have done little to make the heavy innuendo, crude camera angles and terrible voice-acting any less cringe-worthy than they were in 2010, and if anything, they feel even more out of place on the Wii U than they ever did on the PS3 and Xbox 360. But that’s not really the point of Bayonetta. As with previous Platinum games (Nintendo fans will know them best from The Wonderful 101), Bayonetta is all about punching, kicking, slicing and shooting as many holes in your enemies as physically possible – that, and using your hair to summon your own army of evil demons, but more on that later.

Bayonetta Wii U screenshot^ During boss fights, Bayonetta sheds her catsuit to summon vicious demons

It kind of comes with the territory when you’ve got two giant pistols strapped to your high heels, and anyone who suffered through the laggy PS3 edition will be pleased to know there are no such technical issues here. It’s a shame the game hasn’t been reworked in Full HD, instead running at just 1,280×720, but with its super smooth frame rate and quiick loading times, this is a port that’s easily on par with the excellent Xbox 360 original, and quite possibly the best version of the game so far.

The Wii U version of Bayonetta also has a few extra surprises for Nintendo fans that, depending on how purist you are about Nintendo characters, are either the most unholy of mash-ups or the best stroke of brilliance since Link invaded the Dynasty Warriors series in Hyrule Warriors. For as well as Bayonetta’s notorious catsuit, which is sorcerously weaved from her own hair (yes, really), she can also cosplay as Princess Peach and Princess Daisy from Super Mario (with the added ability to summon scaly Bowser arms during combat), Link from The Legend of Zelda (complete with Master Sword and Hylian Shield arm guard) and Samus from Metroid. This doesn’t let Bayonetta curl up into a morph ball sadly, but she does get her very own arm cannon.

Bayonetta Wii U screenshot01^ When you equip the Hero of Time outfit, Link’s Master Sword replaces Bayonetta’s Shuraba katana

Admittedly, the costumes themselves look like something you’d find off a dodgy eBay store specialising only in ‘sexy’ versions of Nintendo characters, but they all fit seamlessly into Bayonetta’s wider sense of humour and outrageous self-confidence. This isn’t a game that’s afraid to make fun of itself, as Bayonetta’s just as ready to cut short a preachy cutscene with a bullet as we are to tap the skip button. Admittedly, cutscenes can still be a bit tedious at times, but that’s mainly because we’d rather be sinking our teeth into the game’s superb combat system rather than watching it play out in elaborately choreographed fight scenes.

Once the game hands you the reins, it does so unashamedly, reflecting Bayonetta’s ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ personality perfectly. With its linear corridors and fenced off arenas, you can certainly see where The Wonderful 101 got its structure from, but condensing Bayonetta down to such simple terms does a huge disservice to Platinum’s abundant creativity and fertile imagination. For inside those tightly packed corridors, you’ll find light platforming sections, a brilliant segment later on which doubles up as an on-rails shooter, and a superb recreation of Sega’s Out Run as Bayonetta rides a huge motorcycle into the enemy base.

Bosses will often appear multiple times throughout a handful of stages, offering intense showdowns on the back of falling buildings, isolated colonnades and even out on the open sea before slinking back to nurse their wounds, only to reappear again in full force a couple of levels later. Watching their beautifully cherubic character designs gradually disintegrate into oozing meat sacks is also wonderfully satisfying, giving everything a great sense of progression as you hammer out each move.

Bayonetta Wii U screenshot03^ You’ll fight this guy several times before you face him as a proper boss

At first glance, the emphasis on just A and X (punch and kick respectively) makes Bayonetta seem like a simple button-masher, but the sheer number of possible move combinations, some of which involve physically pausing mid-sequence, would make even seasoned fighting games such as Street Fighter and Tekken feel hot under the collar. That’s not to mention the slew of additional techniques, weapons and accessories you can purchase at the end (and sometimes middle) of each stage, so there’s plenty to get stuck in with.

Bayonetta’s biggest secret to success, though, is that, unlike an actual fighting game, it’s underlying simplicity makes it incredibly accessible and all the more enjoyable for it. You’ll no doubt settle into a few favourite combos once you’ve been playing for a few hours, but it shows that Platinum clearly respects its players enough to know they don’t need lengthy tutorials detailing the game’s intricate combat system before they’re let loose into the thick of things. There’s no greater incentive to discovering the combat system’s hidden secrets than actively discouraging the use of your scarce supply of healing items either, as doing so will inflict a heavy penalty on your overall rank.

Of course, choosing to let players just get on with it has its downsides, as the lack of practice space for safe and guided experimentation can sometimes feel like you’re not seeing the game at its full potential. There are brief windows of opportunity to try out new moves and combos on the loading screens, but those only last so long.

Bayonetta Wii U screenshot02^ Add extra power to your Torture Attack and earn extra halos by hammering the right Megaton button

The only move you really need to master, though, is Bayonetta’s dodge. This not only keeps Bayonetta out of trouble, helping you rack up those combo scores and increase your end of level rank, but dodging at the last second will also activate Witch Time. This temporarily slows down the action, allowing Bayonetta to really unleash hell on her unwitting opponents. It’s also the only way you can defeat some opponents, as you’ll occasionally find pairs and sometimes hordes of enemies with elemental shield guards, making it impossible to attack in real time.

Building up combos is crucial to increasing your magic meter and activating Torture Attacks, too, which act as gruesome finishing moves. We wouldn’t want to spoil any of them, but to say they borrow from medieval racks and iron maidens would be putting it lightly. Get hit, though, and your magic meter will plummet. This can be frustrating when particularly tight arenas make the camera an extra enemy to deal with, but most of the time you’ll know it’s your own fault when you take a serious blow. If you’re really a glutton for punishment, you can also taunt your enemies into going berserk, scoring you extra points but increasing the risk of death almost exponentially.

We wouldn’t recommend using the Wii U’s stylus controls, though, as these aren’t half as precise as using the normal GamePad or a Wii U Pro Controller. Here, you can use the stylus to guide Bayonetta round the stage and tap enemies to start attacking them, but you then have to switch back to buttons every time you want to execute a Torture Attack or quick-time-event, which loses you valuable time as you make the transition. Instead, you may as well just stick with the buttons in the first place and play the game as originally intended.

Bayonetta Wii U screenshot04

Considering it’s been four years since her original debut, Bayonetta’s reputation as nothing more than a saucy male power fantasy will no doubt precede her in the vast majority of players’ minds. It certainly did in our case, but to dismiss the game solely on those grounds would be short-sighted. It can be tasteless at times, but underneath its raunchy exterior lies one of the freshest and most enjoyable action games ever conceived.

With its immensely satisfying combat system, arcade-style sensibilities and extra Nintendo nods, this is a great addition to the Wii U’s lineup and most shouldn’t hesitate to buy it. However, its content won’t be everyone, as this and its sequel are both thematic outliers in Nintendo’s line up.

It’s hard to score a game that’s so obviously over-priced as a standalone title (£25 for a four year old game you can pick up for £5 on Xbox 360), but thankfully Nintendo’s also bundled it in with its excellent sequel, Bayonetta 2, as a double-disc pack. This gives you both games for around £40, essentially giving you the first game for free alongside the fully-priced Bayonetta 2. This is superb value, so more adult-minded Wii U owners should definitely choose this version instead of downloading them individually from the eShop. 

Available formatsNintendo Wii U
System Requirements
Price including VAT£25
SupplierNintendo Wii U eShop
Product codeN/A
Hard disk space12GB

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Bayonetta screenshot
Bayonetta (Wii U) review

Bayonetta finally struts onto Wii U, but don't be fooled by appearances; this is one of the best action games around

£25 inc VAT