Bayonetta 1 & 2 Review: Naughty But Nice

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Back when the Nintendo Wii U was launched, some fool hurriedly went out and bought one on day one for just one game: Bayonetta 2.

That fool was me, and little did I know that it would take Bayonetta 2 just shy of two years to land on the console. By that point the Wii U was essentially dead to me, having only used it a handful of times, and when my preordered Bayonetta 1 & 2 bundle turned up it got put on a shelf and forgotten about. I wanted to play it – I really did – but it was on the Wii U…. urgh.

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Imagine my delight, then, when it was announced that the Bayonetta 1 & 2 collection was coming to the Nintendo Switch ahead of the release of the third game in the series. I was truly elated. The Wii U could stay in the dusty cupboard forever, and I’d be able to play both Bayonetta 1 & 2 on the main TV and on the go. And now that it’s here I’m glad to say that it doesn’t disappoint. Well actually, no, I can’t say that. But I can say that it only disappoints a very little.

In handheld mode, the Bayonetta 1 & 2 collection is simply glorious. Remaining pretty much untouched from their Wii U releases, both games have great art design that makes up for their now technically dated visuals, and on the Switch’s small 720p screen the colours pop and the aliasing is hardly visible. The framerate holds up well in both releases, too. They may not stick to the coveted 60 FPS, but the action is fluid and free from slowdown and hitches. 90% of the time I play games on the Switch it’s in handheld mode, which means that the Bayonetta 1 & 2 collection is pretty much perfect in my eyes.

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Unfortunately, both games are less impressive when you play them in docked mode. No matter if you play handheld or docked, the resolution appears to be stuck at 720p, which means on your big TV the image quality is rather poor. Both games run a little better, admittedly, but I expected more. The Bayonetta games are high on drama and epic set pieces, but with jagged, shimmering edges and dated textures filling the screen, some of their grandiosity is just lost. Though that’s not to say that both games don’t still sometimes impress on the big screen – they just don’t impress as much as I’d hoped.

The original Bayonetta has a muted colour palette compared to its sequel, and being older it has a little less spectacle. There are some exciting and hair-raising set-pieces to be found within it, but they are a little overshadowed by Bayonetta 2‘s grand battles and ridiculously over-the-top events. Still, I feel it has the better pacing of the two, though playing it once again reminded me of its brutal difficulty at the outset. Unless you like playing games on PC, however, the Switch version is possibly the best place to play it despite its low resolution in docked mode. I booted up the Xbox 360 version of the game on an Xbox One X and they both essentially looked the same. The Switch version perhaps looked a bit softer image-wise but that proves to be an advantage, lessening the jaggies on some edges.

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Obviously no such comparison can be made for Bayonetta 2, though by simply having a better framerate than the Wii U version this Switch release has worth. As a sequel, Bayonetta 2 takes the gameplay of the original title and builds on it. Your combat options are expanded, your enemies are more varied, and the action is flashier and dare I say it… sexier. The story is perhaps more convoluted along with it – with quite a heavy focus on an unlikable character who’s poorly voiced – but the fast-paced, accessible gameplay compensates for any shortcomings. Its pacing may not be on par with its predecessors but it’s still no slouch, wowing you at every twist and turn with its epic battles that more often than not defy gravity.

Being a port of the Wii U version, the Switch version of Bayonetta 2 also has Amiibo support and all the bonus costumes from that version. So yeah, you can still play as Bayonetta dressed as Link, complete with Master Sword et al. It also has the Tag Climax mode so you can team up with a friend to battle, either online or locally they say, although locally in this case doesn’t mean two people playing together on the couch with one Switch, it means two players each with their own Switch and a copy of the game connecting to each other directly. That’s some devious marketing for you.

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With both games featuring a plethora of difficulty modes, a ranking system, hidden challenges and a horde of items to purchase, they have considerable longevity. Bayonetta 2 even more so what with the inclusion of bonus playable characters to unlock and 52 Tag Climax Verse Cards to find. You’re likely to return to them even after you’ve unlocked and seen everything they have to offer, however, thanks to their unparalleled flair and riotous action. There’s simply nothing else out there quite like the Bayonetta games. Even the venerable Devil May Cry series doesn’t come close in my opinion.

Put simply, if you’re a fan of the series, Bayonetta 1 & 2 are essential on the Nintendo Switch, especially if, like me, you only plan to play them in handheld mode. It’s undeniably disappointing that they’re less attractive in docked mode, but nevertheless they’re still wildly enjoyable and engaging, just not as sharp as you’d probably expect. Available separately via the Switch eShop, or bundled together if you buy a physical copy of Bayonetta 2, the Bayonetta games are bold, action-packed and bursting with innuendo, something that you can’t say about many games loitering in the hybrid console’s extensive library.

Bayonetta 1 & 2 are available on Nintendo Switch