Bayonetta

It’s rare for a game to overcome the kind of horrible first impression a bad demo can bring. After I tried the Bayonetta demo, I spit venom on the podcast and said it was the most inane, over-sexualized crap I’d ever seen. That would normally have sealed it for me, but when resoundingly positive reviews started pouring in, I was thrown for a loop. I hedged and rented it, wondering if reviewers with Japanese fetishes were about to lead me astray.

At first I was sure they had. Bayonetta opens with the sort of overwrought, nearly-impossible-to-understand cutscene that became popular when game developers began to exploit the processing power of the PS2. The story's opening is mainly about establishing a stylish main character with as much subtlety as a sledgehammer to the face. Bayonetta standing at a grave, disguised as a nun with bell-bottom dress pants and pearly white vestments. When the angels descend from heaven she launches herself into the sky and becomes a gun-firing whirlwind of destruction. Blood and feathers everywhere. Eventually her costume is ripped, revealing the leather-clad bombshell that has proved to be so controversial since the game came out.

I was both flummoxed and intrigued, I decided to give it a few hours and see where it took me. I’m glad I did.

It’s not because she’s a sexy witch with impossibly long legs and a costume that reveals flashes of bikini-level nudity when you attack. That all plays into the identity of the character of Bayonetta, but it’s not something she seems to identify strongly with. She moves with confidence, but she’s never trying to use her sexual wiles to get anything done. Her response to nearly every situation would actually be considered typical of a male action hero.

When a boss enemy launches into a monologue, Bayonetta will often say something along the lines of “Shut up and get to fighting already, you boorish prick.” But because it’s a woman wrapped up in skin tight leather which is not altogether that different from how Dante is portrayed in Devil May Cry, the rules are different. I’m not really equipped to talk about gender roles -- I've got only one, and I'm just getting by with it as it is --but I’m not too surprised that a female with a similar ethos garners such attention. We all have our own backgrounds and beliefs when it comes to portrayals of lead characters.

For example: A local gay friend of mine described this pizza deep throat scene in Devil May Cry 3 as "incredibly gay." Can't say it occurred to me at the time, but perspectives vary so much, who am I to judge? It IS kind of suggestive, now that you mention it.

If you’re lucky enough to get past the so-called hurdle the in the game’s presentation, what you’re left with is one of the most inventive action games in this generation. My wife pointed out that the combat reminded her of SoulCalibur because it’s easy to pick up a controller and quickly do a lot of cool moves without needing to get super technical with the combos. Because Bayonetta's attacks work primarily with two buttons, you can do all kinds of fun stuff just changing your timing a little. Throw in multiple melee weapons and some pretty ridiculous guns and it’s quite the achievement that they’ve managed to balance in so much complexity while still making the combat fun and approachable.

That's not to say the game is without nuance. Dodging is actually critical later in the game as it’s your primary form of defense, but it also sets you up for your best chance at pulling off longer attacks when you dodge at the right moment. A near miss from your enemy means you enter a brief spot of slow motion where you move at normal speeds and your enemies slow down. Turning defense into a launching point for more offence is a subtle, but important tweak to the formula. You’re never sitting in a corner with your defenses up while a crowd of bad guys wail on you.

Surprisingly, as much as I enjoyed the combat, the stuff in between the battles was what kept me intrigued. The different ways Platinum Games managed to top themselves on level design all the way up to the final credits was astonishing. Every time I thought I’d reached the height of what they were doing and expected them to rinse, wash, repeat, they threw something new at me. A motorcycle sequence, riding a giant bomb as it skims the ocean waters and running along ribbons of light in animal form are just a few examples. I’m delighted by the imagination on display with each successive level.

Bayonetta was just a joy to play. It was wonderfully inventive and somehow managed to maintain a strong design consistency through some incredibly daring and off the wall directions. Most importantly, I grew to like the Bayonetta character. There’s a lot we still don’t know about her, but she’s no one-dimensional sexpot. She has a Loki-like quality about her actions that amuses me and it’s clear the people behind the curtain are fond of their creation too. With any luck, we’ll continue to see more from her in the future, she has a style that cannot be denied.

Comments

Switchbreak wrote:
doubtingthomas396 wrote:

Then there's the whole "one handed mode" thing that Rob mentioned. I'm sure someone will correct me if it's not true, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was.

There's no one-handed mode. If you play in Very Easy with the combos on Automatic you can pretty much just hit punch, just like in Devil May Cry 4.

which you can do one handed.

Gaald wrote:
Switchbreak wrote:
doubtingthomas396 wrote:

Then there's the whole "one handed mode" thing that Rob mentioned. I'm sure someone will correct me if it's not true, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was.

There's no one-handed mode. If you play in Very Easy with the combos on Automatic you can pretty much just hit punch, just like in Devil May Cry 4.

which you can do one handed.

That sounds like a lot of work compared to just surfing porn on the internet. I hear you can watch porn 0 handed. Much easier.

Switchbreak wrote:
doubtingthomas396 wrote:

Then there's the whole "one handed mode" thing that Rob mentioned. I'm sure someone will correct me if it's not true, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was.

There's no one-handed mode. If you play in Very Easy with the combos on Automatic you can pretty much just hit punch, just like in Devil May Cry 4.

I'd heard that touted as a huge leap forward for accessibility in Japanese game design. I'm willing to believe that.

I got to the first timed mission and realized this game may not be for me. How many more of these timed missions are there?

DSGamer wrote:

I got to the first timed mission and realized this game may not be for me. How many more of these timed missions are there?

I feel like there are very few. There are a couple of timed "jump sequences", but I remember them being more than generous with the time alloted.

I played this, and I thought it was horrible, I can never trust you again Certis.

Mex wrote:

I played this, and I thought it was horrible, I can never trust you again Certis.

Only NOW you realize can never trust me? Slow on the uptake, you've had YEARS to figure that one out.

THIS GAME IS AWESOME! Love it. One of my fave games this year.

I tried the demo when it came out and I didn't like it. It was gorgeous and fluid and the mechanics felt satisfying, but it felt like a strange Japanese button masher to me.

Anyway, the game can be had for really cheap now, so I decided to give it another shot. I have played a few big franchise sequels lately and felt very disappointed with them. I knew Bayonetta, though not the kind of game I usually play, was a well-designed game, with great performance, beautiful art design, and solid mechanics.

So, I popped the game in last night, after a disappointing round of Black Ops, and I have to give it to Platinum, they are an exemplar in the industry right now. It is very refreshing to play a game that feels like the developers put everything they had into the game without compromising anything and it makes a lot of the recent AAA releases seem mediocre in comparison.

I have only just started the game, but it really perked up my spirits and has me hooked. Just when I think the industry is going down the tubes, you pick up a game like this and it reminds you that, if you search a little and stray from your comfort zone, you find these little gems.

Bayonetta is not for everyone, it certainly isn't my type of game, but it is so well designed and crafted, that it transcends that personal bias. If anyone has the chance to play, they really should, just to see the level of craftsmanship on display in this game. In all honesty, it really does warm my heart. Platinum's other game, Vanquish, is now at the top of my games wishlist.

Certis...thanks for talking up this game and Platinum. They really are a studio to keep an eye on and from what I have seen so far, they deserve all the accolades you have laid upon them.

Glad it's clicking for you. I think a well designed game in any genre has a chance to surprise and delight if you can keep an open mind.

heavyfeul wrote:

I popped the game in last night, after a disappointing round of Black Ops

If you were disappointed by Black Ops, maybe you should look at Vanquish, which is Platinum's take on the third person shooter. It's like a cross between Bayonetta and Gears of War. Not quite an FPS, but it might scratch your shooter itch.

beeporama wrote:
heavyfeul wrote:

I popped the game in last night, after a disappointing round of Black Ops

If you were disappointed by Black Ops, maybe you should look at Vanquish, which is Platinum's take on the third person shooter. It's like a cross between Bayonetta and Gears of War. Not quite an FPS, but it might scratch your shooter itch.

Way ahead of ya' brother.

heavyfeul wrote:

If anyone has the chance to play, they really should, just to see the level of craftsmanship on display in this game. In all honesty, it really does warm my heart. Platinum's other game, Vanquish, is now at the top of my games wishlist...

Like heavyfeul, Vanquish shot to the top of my buy list after I finished Bayonetta. Even now, I'm considering trading my brand new copy of Fable III for it.

heavyfeul wrote:
beeporama wrote:
heavyfeul wrote:

I popped the game in last night, after a disappointing round of Black Ops

If you were disappointed by Black Ops, maybe you should look at Vanquish, which is Platinum's take on the third person shooter. It's like a cross between Bayonetta and Gears of War. Not quite an FPS, but it might scratch your shooter itch.

Way ahead of ya' brother.

heavyfeul wrote:

If anyone has the chance to play, they really should, just to see the level of craftsmanship on display in this game. In all honesty, it really does warm my heart. Platinum's other game, Vanquish, is now at the top of my games wishlist...

Dur. I kan reed gud.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

...I'm considering trading my brand new copy of Fable III for it.

My copy is already on eBay.