Bayonetta is and always has been a power fantasy, like most games. The difference is that power is hers to share, not mine to command. And what that woman shares, for most of Bayonetta 2, is AMAZING.
When things get far more human and personal however, Bayonetta 2 suffers ever so slightly in comparison to the original only by way that much of the endgame has her restrained from unleashing hell so that other people, usually Loki, the bratty cockney accented kid with dreadlocks who's guiding Bayonetta into hell to begin with, can succeed. There's a two spoilery moments that tread on Metroid Other M territory, but considering who hose two moments are for and why, i'm willing to pass it Barely.
Why is it a problem that Bayonetta needs help, or concedes? Because we've now spent a grand total of 40 hours seeing it's redundant. She is, in her words "the witch you don't fuck with." A little bit of that gets taken from her in 2, and it's a wee bit disheartening. Not one, but two of the big defiant speeches before the final boss are delivered by someone else we've only begun to like two acts prior. It'd be like getting to the end of Lord of the Rings, Aragorn riding out in front of his troops, and the "It is not this day" speech being delivered by his horse. No one cares, and it's certainly not what we came to see.
Not that this matters to a lot of folks. A lot of folks haven't been able to cross the hurdle of, well, Bayonetta herself, judging from how many "I can't play this game in front of my girlfriend" stories I've heard in the lead up to the game's release. And I, as a human being who happens to think the breasts and legs of the women of my species are a wonderful thing, am clearly being catered to to an obscene, ridiculous degree. Why would I ever have a problem with it? I'm not the objectified one here.
And you know what? Absolutely right.
Assign to Bayonetta all the red-facedness you might have trying to buy a copy of Hustler at a grocery store you know your relatives frequent, or leaving your computer unlocked so someone can see all the porn in your browser history. It is a blatantly sexual game starring a brazenly sexual character. The distinction to make is that THIS IS NOT INHERENTLY BAD. Where the dissonance comes is simply in the realization of just how many examples we have where a blatantly sexual choice on the part of a game's director or character designer is mostly meant to present the character as meat in a butcher shop. Sure, the women from Dead or Alive have backstories, and the number of times the game ACTIVELY makes us care about their stories more than their tits can be counted on one hand with enough leftover to flip someone off, hitchhike to Delaware, and pinky promise at the same time.
The dissonance, essentially, comes down to this commercial. You have to invent things in a game like that to care about that AREN'T women's flesh, because there's nothing else there. The Empress has no clothes, and everyone's jack/jilling off to her. It's a problem because that woman is a doll to be manipulated, and says things, and has complete blinders on to why she's dressed that way to begin with. This is what the vast majority of women in games have to deal with, and that's not even going into vague, disturbing territory, like grimgritty Lara Croft from the remake essentially getting tossed around as torture/damsel porn for half the game.
The defense of Bayonetta--acknowledging, of course, that I'm a hetero man who doesn't have to deal with my worth as a human being being determined by my willingness to let people see my nipples--is that there is not a single action she takes that she does not know damn well who's watching. No one touches her without her permission. Bayonetta's rampant flirting is verbally not seen as free access to her body. She may writhe and contort and tease, but her naked body is still not an inalienable right to the player, and anyone's attempts to breach that gets dealt with but harsh. The camera often traverses every curve of her body, in ridiculous ways, and that is the absolute closest you get to her without getting a demon's fist in your face. She spends most of Bayonetta 2's first half telling the brat Loki not to use cutesy names when talking to an adult woman, and the game sticks to its guns on Bayonetta not granting the kid any quarter because he hasn't learned his valuable lessons, even after he helps save her life. The game reinforces, time and time again, that every choice in Bayonetta is HERS, and those choices are all in the name of endless joy. For the time being, Bayonetta's own sense of self is as close as we get to exploring the idea of a sexual being in a game showcasing the full range of consent, where even her most enthusiastic yes, her clothes disappearing into a Wicked Weave, is because it benefits her, not the eye of the player.
And in ANY video game, THAT is power. It is the idea that I can inhabit someone for a short time, and experience the world through them, not FOR my sake. That is overwhelmingly the case for male protagonists, and depressingly rare for women. What Bayonetta does so theatrically in the course of both games is not expressly for the purpose of making me happy, but in being able to experience why SHE IS.
That makes her a god damn hero in my book.