The title that has been teased for a over 2 years now is finally released and it ushers in a new standard for 3D action games so much so that games following in its wake will be hard pressed to surpass. Bayonetta is helmed by director Hideki Kamiya who’s previous works include Resident Evil 2, Viewtiful Joe, Okami & Devil May Cry and PlatinumGames/Sega. The latter being the jumping off point that got this whole 3D action game thing started. It’s in that regard that Bayonetta feels like the same leap forward as the original DMC did to the things before. That’s not to say that Bayonetta completely reinvents the wheel but it does implement some tweaks that do a lot to push the genre forward. More on exactly why in a bit.
Bayonetta is a tale of a tall Sarah Palin esque witch of the Umbra clan who after a 500 year sleep is now back on the prowl and itching to figure just who she is and why the hell she was sealed in a casket at the bottom of a lake. It seems some years ago two opposing factions (The Umbran witches and the Lumin Sages) were wiped out by a score of heavenly host and now Bayonetta is the last remaining member of her clan. The games story serves more as a means for crazy characters and amazingly epic bosses to do some truly and increasingly insane things. Like turning into a panther on a highway of cars then dodging large scale angels wielding massive axes. Then there is the scene where two characters take turns throwing massive missiles back and forth in a game of missile hot potato. Bayonetta also dispatches large foes by using her hair as a conduit to summon large scale hair beasts that devour anything in their path. The cast is forever the Motley Crew. For example, Enzo (the Joe Pesci separated twin) who works to get leads on Bayonetta’s past. Then there is Rodin (pronounced Rodan) who is a blacksmith/nostalgic phrase spewer (what’dya buying!?). Luka a.k.a Chesher serves as the love interest for the Heroine. Je’anne the doppelganger in this battle of insanity called Bayonetta. Finally, there is Cereza this pint sized squirt is the spitting image of Bayonetta. The story involving all these characters in a nonstop assault of impossible scenarios and entertaining set pieces and it does well to fit into the over the top nature of that character of Bayonetta and the style the game presents.
The combat really is where the game shines and in all honestly. It’s this aspect that’s going to make it difficult for gamers of this genre to go back into games like God of War or Devil May Cry (hell even Ninja Gaiden). The combat on its surface looks very similar to DMC but where it differs is that Bayonetta is as much a defensive game as it is a offensive game and this is totally because of the dodge button. I cannot state how having a button assigned to dodge rather than a moving the right analog stick or having to hit a combo of buttons changes up things but it does in a huge way. Also turning combat on its ear is “Witch Time” which activates when a dodge is performed at the last possible moment this slows time to a crawl allowing you to land a large amount of blows to enemies in a short amount of time. This alters gameplay in such a way that you are looking for opening in enemies movements and waiting for just the right moment to time a dodge to activate witch time and bring the pain. Witch time also charges Bayonetta’s magic meter which works to spawn medieval weapons that dispatch foes in a flash from Guillotines to Iron Maidens to spiked wheels, Witch Time allows you to lay down the law in more ways than one. It does take some getting used to, as a DMC vet I walked in expecting to mop the floor with the enemies and for awhile it worked but Bayonetta demands you learn its mechanics to ultimately succeed and towards the end of the game I began to develop an entirely different set of skills unique to Bayonetta. Speaking on the enemies though not varied they are pretty damn relentless but it never feels cheap. The game just begs you to spend a bit more time with it combat in order to get the full experience from the game. It even goes so far as to suggest moves and accessories in the store to use in combat to help you along. The game is just expertly crafted on all fronts and its minor things you may not notice at first. Such as being able to craft health or magic items mid stage without having to wait for a midstage or end stage store. You begin to understand how much time and effort went into this game the more you spend with it.
Visually Bayonetta is pretty stunning the stages stray away from the usual browns and greys that plague other titles nowadays. The characters are done in a way that almost makes them seem cell shaded which makes them pop against the background its a really interesting look and it works well to distinguish the game from others (other than its combat, dialogue and sexed up main character of course). Platinum games really plays up the characters sex appeal from everything to blowing kisses to destroy spells on doors to crouch shots when certain moves are performed. So yeah, Bayonetta is a game that not going to get to much love from parents or girlfriends that character can feel a little gratuitous at times.
It’s not all parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Ever the problem in 3D action games the camera; due mostly to the lock-on system the controls can be finger cramping. Juggling from holding the lock-on button, to the dodge button, to hitting buttons to combo can be a hassle. It’s a minor a gripe but it can frustrate in later levels where near zen like concentration is demanded. Another issue is the game can get cluttered with effects and enemies making dodging attacks a chore but it never overcomes the joy you get from pulling off a combat and watching Bayonetta snap her fingers as a Guillotine slices through an enemies neck.
The year has just started and Bayonetta fires the first shot to usher in a unique and memorable entry of the gaming year.
Developer: Platinum Games (previous work: Madworld)
Genre: 3D action/adventure
Length: Others say 15 hours I finished it in about 10
Gripes: Camera can disorient when things get hairy (not a pun).
Get it for the: Nonstop action and over the top craziness!
Editor note: I played the 360 version so I did not run into the issues the PS3 port suffers