Bayonetta did not change the face of stylish action games. That’s okay; instead of adding new gimmicks or turning the genre on its head, Platinum Games raised the bar by refining the gameplay and making the action as ridiculous as possible. The intense combat, airtight controls, and over-the-top spectacle captured what I love about this genre. Bayonetta 2 does the same thing (albeit in many of the same ways), but with even more polish and depth.

Fluid and satisfying combat remains the centerpiece of the experience. No matter what you do, Bayonetta 2 makes you look and feel awesome while doing it. Tearing apart angelic juggernauts, demolishing hordes of demons, and sweating through high-precision duels all require different approaches to the combat system. The variety of encounters – and the set-piece moments that separate them – keeps the unpredictable action moving.

Bayonetta still has access to all kinds of magic powers, items, and abilities. Not every player is going to love every option, but the system is flexible enough to let you develop your own style of play – though you are more likely to switch between multiple methods than stick to one. My favorite addition is the Umbran Climax mode, which super-charges all of your attacks for a short span. This simple concept adds spikes of excitement and power into smaller encounters, making them more rewarding.

Even with so many options at your fingertips, Bayonetta 2 is as deep or as simple as you need it to be. If you want to perfect your technique, master dodge offset, and rack up pure platinum medals for every mission, you will continue to discover gameplay layers and wrinkles for hours. If you just want to mash buttons and see the story through, you can do that instead. I don’t know why you would, though; the story is flimsy and obvious, but the combat is expertly tuned and balanced.

One of my few complaints is the feeling of déjà vu. You see many new weapons and enemies in name, but they don’t impact the experience in different ways. Instead of gliding around on ice-infused skates like the first installment, you get fire-infused chainsaws. Wielding two swords feels a lot like wielding one. Many of the optional accessories are also repeated from last time. I appreciate that Platinum Games didn’t want to monkey around with a winning arsenal, but the thrill of experimenting with crazy and inventive weapons was a highlight of the first game. Not everything is a retread, but the general familiarity means that thrill is largely missing from Bayonetta 2.

This review was originally published on October 13, 2014.

One returning feature that I was happy to see is the abundance of post-game content. My first 10 or 12 hours were spent clearing all of the stages and completing the main story. After that, I dove into the additional challenges and unlockables. The array of accessories – like one that helps block incoming attacks, or another that automatically activates Witch Time – are realistically only affordable after you’ve finished the main missions. You can also buy an array of costumes, attempt the difficult Witch Trial bonus stages, and unlock new characters (who play differently and have their own moves and costumes to buy). This gives the action a remarkably long tail; if you love Bayonetta, Platinum Games and Nintendo open the floodgates and don’t hold anything back.

Apart from the other unlockables, an online multiplayer mode lets you play cooperatively with a friend. You choose your characters, set up a series of battles, wager your halos to set the difficulty, and then try to kill the enemies while scoring more points than your friend. Playing alongside a partner is fun, and it’s a great way to build up your cash reserves (any money you earn in multiplayer carries over to the single-player mode). However, the isolated battles can’t match the grandeur of the campaign, and even a broad selection of encounters doesn’t keep them from getting old after a while.

Creating a sequel to an already-polished game is a challenge, but Platinum Games’ approach ultimately succeeds. Bayonetta 2 is rooted in its past while taking steps (but not strides) toward the future. Though I was disappointed by some of the familiarity, I was usually having too much fun to care.

That’s Our Bayonetta
Despite the Nintendo name on Bayonetta 2, the family-friendly company does not appear to have meddled much with the more controversial elements of the formula. Violence and suggestive poses abound, and the language seems even fouler than before. Like its predecessor, Bayonetta 2 does all of this with a smile and a wink, so it feels more playful and fun than crass and gross.