Let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the game- Bayonetta‘s eponymous Bayonetta is meant to be sexy. Reading the developer blogs and looking at the concept art, it’s clear that Platinum Games knew exactly what they were doing by creating a femme fatale with long legs and nude attacks, and they use it to their advantage.
Now, whether or not you consider Bayonetta to be nothing more than a portrayal of an oversexualized female meant to excite the male gamer crowd, there’s still a game behind her- a game full of weapons, witches, and way too many chapters.
But is Bayonetta worth your money? With games like Bioshock 2, Mass Effect 2, and God of War 3 coming down the pipeline, is there any reason you should check out Bayonetta? Hit the jump for my spoiler-free review.
From the very first second you pop the DVD into your disc tray, you get the idea Bayonetta is trying to be an action movie. You even get a credit sequence when the game officially begins, and most of the cutscenes are told within film reels. The gameplay doesn’t feel that way, but the flashbacks, quick time events, and cutscenes all make it feel like a high-budget action film. Despite what we saw about the game before its launch, Bayonetta has a plot. As a matter of fact, it has a very involved plot, and it’s pretty damn confusing.
Bayonetta, born from a relationship between the two opposing factions of dark and light, was cast into the sea in order to keep her from the dark arts forever, but when things run amok, she’s called forth (from a casket at the bottom of the sea, no less) to keep the order. The rest of the “plot” is uncovered in the 6th chapter, and it’s pretty unexpected, but in the end, I felt like the plot was secondary to the button-mashing/platforming aspect of the game. If the only hint of a plot the game had was that Bayonetta was a witch, it’d still feel the same. One of the game’s more interesting aspects is that you play within one of two dimensions in a single world, where you can see the faint outlines of humans, but not the humans themselves, and the humans can’t see you at all. Bayonetta also has the opportunity to transfer between dimensions on a whim, but rarely makes use of this ability.
The game offers normal, easy, and very easy difficulties from the start, along with unlockable Hard and Non-Stop Climax difficulties. When you start the game, you and Jeanne (who is discovered to be your enemy) are fighting angels as they attack you upon a clocktower that is plummeting towards the ground. It’s hard to play this part without any knowledge of the controls, so mashing at buttons until you get the hang of it is your only alternative to reading the game’s manual- something I haven’t had to do in quite some time. Throughout the introductory segment, you’re treated to a narration, describing the two opposing factions of dark and light (the Umbra Witches and the Lumen Sage), Bayonetta being part of the former. The narration offers a nice introduction to the game’s confusing plot, and contributes nicely to the game’s action film feel.
While it’s easy to rack up a combo in combat, near the end of a fight, you’re given the ability to execute a torture attack, used to inflict as much pain upon the angels as possible. The fight sequences are told in verses, and each verse is graded with a medal. Depending on the damage you take, the time it takes to complete a sequences, and the amount and type of attacks you execute, you can get a pure platinum, platinum, gold, silver, or bronze medal. In a similar fashion, each chapter is graded with awards, by similar criteria. After each chapter, you get a chance to play Angel Attack, a basic shooter where your only goal is to use your arcade bullets to rack up points by killing angels. You can use the points from Angel Attack to purchase cheap items, or you can convert them into Halos, Bayonetta‘s currency of choice (which I can only assume is a nod at Sega’s Sonic series.)
At different intervals within the game, you also get a chance to descend to The Gates Of Hell, a bar/shop managed by Rodin, a counterpart that proves valuable once you get enough halos to purchase anything. Rodin also provides weapons in exchange for the Angelic LPs you receive when new enemies are defeated- a fact I didn’t learn until I had a lot of LPs. Imagine my surprise when I made my second trip down to The Gates of Hell and waited for Rodin to craft new weapons, one by one. The trip was worth it though- new weapons add another dimension to the gameplay that make me want to replay some of the past levels. To be honest with you, the weapon variety combined with other things you unlock as the levels progress is what made Bayonetta really fun for me. It’s clear that Platinum Games poured their heart and soul into this one, just like they did with MadWorld.
The game is incredibly enjoyable, but one of the things that can get in the way of the enjoyment is the wonky camera system. It’s hard not to compare the game to the Devil May Cry series, especially when the games share a lead designer, but I’d be crazy if I didn’t mention that the game had some similarities. The fast paced combat, the aerial attacks and of course, the whole Heaven & Hell theme. The fixed camera system (although rotatable) is hard to manage in combat, and often gets in the way of the combat itself. It’s a small thing, but having to wait for Bayonetta to kiss open magic seals is surprisingly annoying for a game as fast-paced as it is- but not annoying to the point where I’d at all count it against the game.
For a game as linear as Bayonetta is, it has a surprising amount of enemy variety. Sega themselves describes the game as an arcade-style button masher, and that’s probably the most spot on description of Bayonetta‘s genre that you’ll find. While the game influences you to use combos (there are hundreds shown during the loading screens, where you can also test the combos out) in the end, you’ll just start pressing Y & B in the hopes that your enemies will die soon enough.
The biggest gripe I had about Bayonetta was the cheesiness of the dialogue and how much I began to hate Bayonetta herself as the game progressed. I didn’t hate her because she was a bitch or anything, but her dialogue, combined with constant sexual pandering (although some awesome attacks come out of it) make me really wish I didn’t have to hear her talk. I did not see a single cutscene where we weren’t treated to an ass, crotch, or boob shot or a “subtle” sexual advance. While her taunts (classic phrases such as “You want to touch me?” as she gyrates and “Come on” as she sits on the floor spreading her legs) might entrance some gamers, I consider them to pass the line from “sexy” to “Yes, Yes, I get it already.”
In short, Bayonetta is a phenomenal action game. The poor camera system and cheesy dialogue don’t take much away from the experience, but the weapon and enemy varieties definitely add to it. At about 16 hours across 19 chapters, you not only get a great deal for your money, but plenty of replay value if you decide to go for all of the items. (estimated to take about 40 hours) If you’re ever given a chance to play Bayonetta, take it- it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.