Action games are a dime a dozen nowadays, but Bayonetta has always stood out. Compared to the likes of Dante or Kratos, Bayonetta is a much different kind of action game hero entirely — namely, one that has four pistols mounted to her hands and feet, and summons gigantic hair demons to do a good amount of her bidding when it comes to defeating (and punishing) baddies.
If that didn’t sell you on what to expect from playing one of the Bayonetta games, then you can take in the fact that the series is a high mark for character action games within the last decade, and Nintendo Switch owners now have the chance to experience both games in one place. Whether you’re coming to both games for the first time or looking for the chance to relive Bayonetta’s odyssey on-the-go, the re-released pair of action games are truly worth playing, regardless of whether you’ve ever played them before: even better is the fact that their release is perfectly timed with the news that Bayonetta 3 is also on the horizon for the Switch at some point.
With the recent release of Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 on Nintendo Switch, I luckily got the best of both worlds for experiencing these titles from the perspective of old and new. I originally played the first game on Xbox 360 back when it released in 2010, but missed out on Bayonetta 2 entirely due to not having a Wii U to call my own (for better or worse, depending on how you look at it). While Bayonetta has been available on several platforms (even getting a release on PC last year) for a while now, Bayonetta 2 was sadly confined to the now-defunct Wii U, making it a far less accessible game to a vast number of players, until now.
Suffice it to say, I was pretty excited at the fact that the Nintendo Switch would be getting both games ported over, especially as someone that missed out on the incredibly-received Bayonetta 2 (which we gave one of our rare 10.0 scores when it first debuted). While the Switch has been defined in the past year by some exceptional games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, don’t let the fact that these titles are ports steer you away from playing them. Despite each title being several years old at this point, the Bayonetta games represent some of the best action in their genre, and bring a refreshing (and much-needed) pair of adult-oriented fun to the Switch and showing it isn’t entirely a system confined to more PG-rated fare.
Both games follow the exploits of the titular Bayonetta, a gun-toting Umbran Witch who is put in-between facing the forces of Heaven and Hell in increasingly outrageous battles that continually ups the ante after each encounter. The Bayonetta games are far from subtle, but honestly, that’s a large part of their charm. As Bayonetta continually finds herself in the midst of battle against hulking angels and deadly demons, you might think the games are done throwing more outlandish situations at you after a particularly touch battle, yet the next situation that comes up manages to outdo the last spectacularly. They regularly break not only the laws of gravity but pretty much all laws of logic entirely, but I dare you not to crack a smile on your face while watching the outlandish action and style of Bayonetta unfold, especially through the games’ deliciously cinematic cutscenes.
By and large, the storytelling in Bayonetta excels way more at being outrageous and over-the-top than anything else, though in between the dashes of combat and larger-than-life enemy encounters, there are some surprisingly poignant moments that players will find in discovering more of Bayonetta’s backstory. The game’s supporting cast is also very likeable and runs the gamut from comedic — like the bumbling gangster oaf Enzo — to the intriguing and stylish, like the mysterious “little one” Loki and Rodin, the cool-as-ice barkeep of The Gates of Hell that also keeps Bayonetta stocked up with the best weapons, accessories, and items that Hell can offer.
Aside from the over-the-top action and style, the real gem of the Bayonetta games is the combat. Much like other 3D character action games like Devil May Cry or God of War, Bayonetta revolves around a fairly simple setup of using combinations of punches and kicks to lay waste to dozens of angels and demons throughout the game’s environments. However, the initial simplicity of Bayonetta soon gives way to a much deeper level of understanding how to combine the sheer number of abilities and powers at Bayonetta’s disposal (especially as the games go on and you unlock more abilities).
However, the combat all feeds into the game’s most unique and satisfying feature, which is Bayonetta’s Witch Time ability. When players manage to dodge enemy attacks at the right moment, the reaction triggers Bayonetta’s signature “Witch Time” that slows things down to a crawl, letting players lay the smack down on her enemies. Even after all this time from playing the first game previously, “Witch Time” still feels just as satisfying as ever (and even more so in Bayonetta 2) as the Witch Time mechanic encourages a more up-close and aggressive form of combat, but in an incredibly rewarding and stylized way. Of course, that’s also without mentioning Bayonetta’s Torture Attacks and Climax finishing moves which, honestly, need to be seen and would be too tempting to spoil here by describing them.
Players that might be coming to the games after having played them previously, honestly, won’t find a ton of new stuff to enjoy as pretty much all of the features from the previous releases of these two titles are largely intact, though modified a bit to fit the Switch. Specifically, both games feature the ability to use the Switch’s touch-screen for a simplified control set-up (or for players less experienced at intense action games like these), and amiibo support returns for players to unlock a variety of cheeky costumes for Bayonetta to wear based on iconic Nintendo franchises, such as The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., Metroid, Star Fox, and more. Having the corresponding amiibo from those franchises will unlock the costumes instantly, but players also have the option to earn the costumes without the amiibo by simply collecting the in-game “Halos” currency. Likewise, you can also use amiibo to earn currency each day towards the costumes, which makes for a much more flexible way to grab all the costumes without requiring the necessary amiibo to unlock them if you don’t have them.
Most of what the Switch’s Bayonetta double-pack offers has been seen before (including the return of the co-op competitive “Tag Climax” mode in Bayonetta 2), but that isn’t to say that the collection is without a few smaller improvements. The biggest of these improvements are the visuals, and fans will find that the games run like a dream on the Switch. While each game runs in 720p in both docked and undocked mode, the sacrifice in resolution is made up through the games both running at a relatively smooth 60fps: this bump in performance is especially great for Bayonetta 2, given that the game had notorious framerate issues on the Wii U. Visually the games pop a bit more convincingly on the Switch in handheld mode compared to a big-screen TV, but the stylish art direction and larger-than-life visuals still translate as effectively on the big screen, with very minimal frame-rate drops happening in both titles.
Much to my surprise, I also happened to find that the games’ transition to the Switch was much more seamless than I expected as far as their controls and handling. One of my biggest concerns before playing was what the Joy-Cons would play and feel like in an action-intensive game like Bayonetta, and thankfully the games play incredibly well in pretty much any configuration that you decide to play through them with. While I would say that playing with the Pro Controller will arguably be the best option to enjoy them with, the Bayonetta games actually hold up pretty well in the system’s portable mode and should make demon-killing on-the-go that much more enticing, while playing on the couch feels just as good as you might remember from the previous releases.
Even though both games are coming well after players enjoyed them on several other platforms, the Bayonetta games remain near-perfect examples of pure, unfiltered action and spectacle. Both Bayonetta games seamlessly blend escalating action with imaginative design and a combat system that toes the line between accessibility and making you feel like a true badass, and rewarding players with careful timing and experimentation. Bayonetta‘s over-the-top action and style may not be for everyone, but for Switch owners looking for a bit of blood-pumping action to have on-the-go, it’s easy to recommend having Bayonetta show you a good time.