Review: Bayonetta (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Genre: Action
Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 01/05/2010

Platinum Games has a pretty impressive pedigree, there’s no doubt about that. Containing former members of Clover Studios, makers of the Viewtiful Joe series, God Hand and Okami, as well as the folks responsible for Resident Evil and Devil May Cry, their games are pretty much expected to be awesome sight unseen. Madworld, their first game as Platinum Studios, more or less met initial expectations, as it was a good time, though people expecting a massive challenge with deep gameplay seemed to be a bit disappointed with it. Well, Bayonetta looks to be the game God Hand fans were pretty much expecting from Platinum and then some. Looking to be Devil May Cry from the guy who knows how to do it at first glance, the game is an incredibly amusing and entertaining action experience. Between the massive depth and the story that is equally serious and farcical, fans of the genre will certainly love it. Now whether or not you’ll be able to jump into it, well, that’s another story altogether.

So, you play as Bayonetta, the titular (hur hur) leather-clad killing machine with magic powers and an assload of fighting talent. Bayonetta, it seems, is a bounty hunter of sorts for Inferno, this world’s version of Hell. As the story goes, she was sealed away/killed/whatever at some point in the past, only to be resurrected by the agents of Inferno, or so it seems, to murder agents of Paradiso, this world’s version of Heaven. The story in this particular installment of Bayonetta’s saga starts up simply enough: after a basic introduction of the characters, Bayonetta is given a job in the fictional European city of Vigrid by her contact Enzo. It seems that the head of the city was attempting to auction off some gem, “The Right Eye”, that drew a lot of attention but never actually sold due to its insane price requests. Enzo’s contacts managed to figure out that the owner of said gem is the leader of Vigrid before the gem went off the market. Bayonetta opts to see if she can lay claim to the gem, both because the gem is obviously valuable and because Rodin, her contact with Inferno, makes it known that this is something Inferno would like, as it seems Vigrid is a bit too heavenly for their tastes. Upon arriving in the city, of course, everything goes to hell in a matter of minutes, as there are various angels hunting for your head, the city is being ripped asunder, and Bayonetta is being chased by both Luka, a reporter with a grudge against Bayonetta, and Jeanne, a woman with similar powers who seems to be allied with Paradiso and also seems to have a history with Bayonetta that she can’t recall. In other words: shit is about to get real.

If the above made the game sound like your typical serious action story, I apologize, but Bayonetta is not that. Like God Hand before it, Bayonetta is equal parts serious and satirical. It is because of this that the story not only works well, but works at all. The serious aspects of the story, IE Bayonetta’s past, the history of the game world, the character backstories and so on are certainly acceptable, if nothing great, but the enjoyable aspects of the story come in when the game starts being a jerk. Bayonetta herself mocks everyone and thing she meets, usually unmercifully, and the game is at its best when it’s cracking jokes and being silly. Numerous references to past games made by members of Platinum Games are made, including Okami, Madworld, Devil May Cry, Resident Evil and others. These moments where the game seems to wink and nod at the player knowingly are about the best moments the game has to offer, aside from moments spent interacting with the game, of course. THAT SAID, Bayonetta is probably going to put off some players, primarily because Bayonetta herself is a super-powered stripper with a mild obsession with dirty talk while fighting the minions of Heaven. While the game’s preoccupation with sex is absolutely meant to be a HUGE part of the joke, if that sort of things offends you, well, Bayonetta will probably not be a game you enjoy. If you can accept this thing, or if you’re like me and you openly welcome it, you’ll laugh a lot more than you’d expect playing the game, so have at it.

Bayonetta looks and sounds absolutely fantastic, which is unsurprising given the people behind it, but welcome all the same. Bayonetta herself is animated masterfully, and moves in a manner that is both graceful and impressive, especially when smashing the faces of her angelic foes. The enemies themselves are impressive, and designed in a fashion that is both beautiful and horrible that works in favor of the artistic design of the game. Bosses, in particular, are incredibly horrifying, both in design and in sheer size, making fighting them spectacular all around. The special effects are fantastic as well, between the massive screen-filling attacks from enemies and bosses and the massive amounts of flair from Bayonetta’s own attacks and Witch Time, which we’ll get to later. The music mostly consists of upbeat dance tracks that are fun to kick ass to. While none of them are super memorable in the strictest sense of the term, the techno remix of “Fly Me to the Moon” that accompanies certain battles CERTAINLY is, because it’s really a fun track that just fits the game. There are also some surprising appearances of remixed Sega arcade tunes in a couple of stages, including “Splash Wave” from Outrun and the title themes from both Afterburner and Space Harrier, which are awesome for multiple reasons. The voice acting is spot-on across the board as well. From Bayonetta’s ambivalent and sarcastic bad girl speech to Luka’s overeager and often angry tone, the casting here is outstanding and sets the tone masterfully. The sound effects consist of shooting things or stabbing things in various different ways, and as such, are arranged very well, giving life to the various unholy asskickings you will lay down on your opponents.

If you’ve played Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden, or any of the similar games on the market that do what these games do, you’ll have a rough idea how Bayonetta works. Bayonetta has three attack buttons available to her, which allow her to punch, kick and shoot with her guns as needed. Shooting is basically its own thing, though punches and kicks can be chained together into various combos, both on the ground and in the air, for massive damage. She also has a jump, which can be doubled if the need merits it, which allows you to work in some air juggle combos and clear gaps as needed. You also have a dodge mapped to the right trigger which allows you to vault out of the way of an incoming attack, allowing you to potentially avoid damage in battle if you’re quick enough. This being a Devil May Cry style game, many of the elements from similar action games also appear in Bayonetta. These include the ability to equip various different weapons as you find them, the ability to find cash of some sort (in this case, Halos) to buy new stuff, and items that you can use to heal yourself and boost your magic, among other fun effects. Fans of the genre should be able to jump in and figure out the core mechanics in minutes, as this isn’t a complete reinvention of the action genre in the least.

Devil May Cry came out around nine years ago at this point, and each game that has followed has added its own unique elements to the mix. Bayonetta also adds its own unique elements to the equation. The most notable addition to the game is Witch Time. Basically, when enemies attack you, if you dodge the attack at the last second, Bayonetta enters Witch Time, and the world slows down dramatically, allowing you to unleash massive damage combos on your slowed enemies. Bayonetta is also capable of unleashing Torture Attacks and Climaxes (hur hur) on enemies, which are stylish attacks usually meant to finish off your foes. Torture Attacks burn several bars of magic energy, which is accumulated by attacking and killing enemies without taking damage. The attacks themselves are often ridiculous, over the top assaults on foes featuring iron maidens, guillotines, and other ridiculous devices that abuse and destroy your foes for big point bonuses. Climax attacks are specifically unleashed on bosses and some mid-bosses, and feature Bayonetta unleashing her hair as a living weapon. Bayonetta performs a Sailor Moon-esque dance pose as her clothes, which are apparently also her hair, rip off and turn into a giant monstrosity of some sort, which then proceeds to pound the hell out of the enemy you’re facing for huge damage and bonus points. These scenes are primarily Active Time Events, though they involve spamming a button more than pressing a button at the right time, and as such are a good bit more tolerable than regular ATE’s. Regular ATE’s DO show up in the game here and there, although these are thankfully uncommon and not too hard to deal with.

In another interesting twist, Bayonetta need not simply acquire her own curatives, but can also manufacture them from items she finds in the game world. In most games, curatives and stat-boosting items are either acquired by wresting them from your slain foes, from treasure boxes in the game world, or by purchasing them from whatever sort of mystical vendor you meet in your travels. Bayonetta offers the player these methods of item acquisition, but it also allows the player to acquire items by combining items found throughout the environment. You’ll find consumables in red, green and yellow varieties that can be converted into various different items, thus allowing you to make whatever item you might need at the time from the list of available options. You can also equip different items to Bayonetta’s hands and feet, allowing you to vary up her combination attacks as the situation merits. This means that you can equip, say, a whip to your hands and rockets to your feet to pull in enemies and then rocket-jump off of them, or lightning claws to your hands and ice skates (as in, they make ice when you mode and attack) to your feet for multiple elemental attack damage, among other things. You can also set two separate weapon combinations that you can switch between with a press of the left trigger, allowing you to switch between different combinations as needed, in case you have different ideal weapons for different scenarios. This is great for the player who doesn’t feel like jumping back and forth to the inventory every ten minutes. It also allows for some interesting mix-up combos, like the “broken” Durga-Kilgore combo: equip Durga to hands and feet on one set and Kilgore to the feet of the other set, initiate a Punch Punch Punch Punch Kick combo with Durga, and as the kicks initiate, switch to Kilgore and launch a hundred rockets at the enemy. This is only one of a number of combos a crafty player can come up with, and if that doesn’t sound awesome to you, you might have a problem.

The game itself takes between ten to twelve hours to complete in a straight shot, but OH MAN, is there a ton of extra content to play around with to keep you coming back for more. The five different difficulty levels, ranging from, “Your small child could beat the game if you’d let him play it,” to, “OH MY GOD, WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?!?” in scale, give you plenty of reasons to come back on their own. There are multiple weapons, playable characters and costumes to unlock, each with its own challenging and time consuming requirements to fulfill for the player who has to have it all. Combine this with “The Lost Chapter”, a seriously painful fight to the finish against waves of enemies of increasing difficulty, the Alfheims, which are challenge stages to complete that task you with different activities that test your skill and capabilities, and a game experience itself that’s out-and-out fun no matter how many times you play it, and you’ll be hooked on the game. Anyone who counts themselves as a fan of the genre will lose countless hours to the game as they try to best their stage scores, unlock all of the hidden content, earn all of the achievements, and everything else you can accomplish as you play through the game over and over again, making it a game that genre fans will absolutely devour.

There are minor problems with the game, to be certain, but most of them are so minute as to be non-existent to most players. The camera has some issues at times, and while it’s not as bad as the camera in Ninja Gaiden, you might get killed by it a time or two. The game occasionally has a big problem telling you what’s expected of you, either by displaying ATE commands late or by making you be in a certain position to activate them, which can ALSO get you killed if you’re not ready for them. These issues are frustrating, but they occur infrequently enough that the amount of time you spend frustrated is dwarfed by the amount of time you spend shredding enemies. The BIGGEST issue with Bayonetta comes not from the mechanics, but from the execution of the game. Bayonetta is, simply put, a super-powered stripper with a dirty mouth and no shame whatsoever, and the game is equal parts straight action game and cheesecake mania, which is bound to cause some issues if this sort of thing bothers you. The plot is blasphemous, sex is everywhere, and five minutes of the ending cinematic is literally Bayonetta dancing for her dinner, as Mr. J. Rose described it, in a fashion that can be described as, “artistically sleazy”. If this bothers you, or if you found Oneechanbara, Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 and Rumble Roses XX to be a bit too tastelessly cheesecake-filled for your tastes, well, Bayonetta is likely to put you off, and it’s best that you know that now.

If you’re like me, on the other hand, and you can laugh at the joke and appreciate the game in spite of or because of its over-sexed presentation, you’ll find Bayonetta to be a hoot and a half. The story is hilarious when it’s joking and enjoyable enough when its being serious, the graphics are high quality and well animated, the audio is fun and well implemented, and the game is fun. Killing enemies is satisfying, both because of how many ways you can do it and because of how well the game plays, and things like Torture Attacks and Climaxes play to the artistic strengths of the game while keeping the experience moving. There are a good amount of interesting concepts in the game, and between these concepts and the metric ton of replay value, you’re guaranteed to get your money’s worth from the game. The camera could use some tweaking and the game can get you killed sometimes because it isn’t clear on what it expects of you, and the game might well offend your sensibilities if you’re the sort of person who finds gratuitous sexuality or blasphemy offensive, but for most of us, I imagine this isn’t a problem. If you’re a fan of action games, smiting everything you see or getting your money’s worth, Bayonetta is an easy game to recommend, and if you don’t own it already, you probably should.

The Scores:
Story: GREAT
Graphics: CLASSIC
Control/Gameplay: CLASSIC
Replayability: UNPARALLELED
Originality: GOOD
Addictiveness: CLASSIC
Miscellaneous: UNPARALLELED

Short Attention Span Summary:
Bayonetta is pretty much the action game Devil May Cry 4 should have been, and it’s a fantastic second effort from Platinum Games that no fan of the genre should be without. The story is acceptable when it’s serious and awesome when it’s not, the graphics are equal parts artistically brilliant and technically stunning, the audio is outstanding on all fronts. Quite simply, the game is awesome to play. The gameplay is simple to pick up but offers plenty of detailed nuances for players to learn and enjoy, and between the variety of weapons, the ton of unlockable goodies in the game, and the strong amount of depth to the product overall, Bayonetta is a game that justifies its asking price and then some. There are some mild camera issues here and there, and the game occasionally has a problem with giving you proper directions, but these are mild and infrequent issues. The game is also not going to please everyone, as it’s very up-front about its sexuality and anyone who disapproves of killing angels because they’re dicks might have an issue or three with the game overall. That said, if you can deal with the blasphemous and overly sexual nature of the game, or even ENJOY it, Bayonetta is easily one of the best games to grace the genre in years, and no fan should be without it.



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6 responses to “Review: Bayonetta (Microsoft Xbox 360)”

  1. […] classic where RPG fans will shake their fist at how Sega’s other January 2010 release, Bayonetta overshadowed it, or did Sega know this game wasn’t going to be a critical or financial […]

  2. […] Infinite Line back then). As I dug deeper, I found out it was an RPG made by Platinum games, of Bayonetta and Madworld fame, and since those guys have a pretty good track record, I was optimistic about […]

  3. […] is not a technically proficient game in a lot of respects, and compared to something slick like Bayonetta or God of War III, it’s not even in the same league. That said, there are two major issues […]

  4. […] and stylish action game with more focus on style than substance, but it did its job just fine. Bayonetta, released earlier this year, was a straight up Devil May Cry clone with a ton of fantastic action, […]

  5. […] into existence, of not really quite paying off the potential the company was thought to have. While Bayonetta was an excellent (if derivative) experience, Madworld and Vanquish were largely aesthetically […]

  6. […] Emblem: Awakening, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Black Knight Sword, Bleach: Soul Resurreccion, Bayonetta, Dead Space 3, Omerta: City of Gangsters, DmC: Devil May Cry) 01:36:43 – News/Discussion […]

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