“I’ve got an idea! What if we put rocket launchers on her feet!”
“What if she could transform into a panther and a bird!?”
“What if her clothes was made out of hair and can transform into giant fists, spiders and monsters?”
Platinum Games went hog wild with the design of Bayonetta. You can get away with all sorts of shenanigans when your protagonist is 500 year old witch and not an established demon slayer.
It was clear who the target audience was for this game. The references to classic games like Afterburner, Resident Evil and Sonic the Hedgehog were strewn all over. These developers loved games and their work and it shows. If you know Hideki Kamiya by name and appreciate his works, you’ll feel right at home with Bayonetta.
For as sexualized as Bayonetta may seem, it’s not particularly offensive or embarrassing. There wasn’t a shred of God of War nudity or Dead or Alive bounciness to be seen, but there was an abundance of fully clothed crotch shots and seductive poses. Instead feeling uneasy, I laughed at the ridiculous imagery.
But it’s not the aesthetic, tone or story which caught my attention and left me wanting more: it was the combat. In my mind — and the mind of many others — this is the real Devil May Cry 4. The dual wielding weapons concept expanded to dual wielding legs and arms. The combination of weaponry were numerous and varied. My favorite setup consisted of sword and ice blades. Not only was the sword play fast and swift, but now I was able to kick and slice these angels with renewed ferocity. I wasn’t able to figure out how to transition from enemy to enemy like in God of War III, but it’s a small concern in an otherwise outstanding battle system.
On defense, Kamiya and gang remained on the anti-blocking side of the fence. Dodging was amped up with a “Witch Time” risk reward system which I was completely addicted to. Timing the perfect dodge gave a small burst of slow motion where free combos can be dealt with minimal fuss. I was so infatuated by it, I suffered from withdrawals when they took it away for dodges. Thankfully, an item could be equipped which enabled parrying. Yes, parrying — just like Street Fighter III’s parry system, but it didn’t just repel attacks, it also enabled “Witch Time” when timed perfectly as well. Needless to say: I tried to master that as soon as possible.
Bayonetta’s pacing was rather swift and filled with new gameplay surprises within nearly every level. What I didn’t appreciate were the random quick time events. I didn’t know why it was present in one series of jumps and leaps, but was absent in another series of actions. They should have just left them out. Just like much of the incomprehensible gibberish which spewed out of the angels.
Classic design choices were employed to great effect in Bayonetta. Very few games repeat musical scores anymore. They’re usually forgettable orchestral numbers which no one could hum from memory. From the opening chapter, the melodies of Bayonetta slowly ingrained themselves into my brain. Now I have a newfound association for “Fly Me To The Moon” — ass kicking witches now joins into that memory of mechs and blue haired girls.
Bayonetta was sculpted with a lot of love and care (maybe too much). Similar attention was paid to the rest of the characters and enemies. The rest of the game was a notch or two below that. It didn’t result in an ugly game, but it was noticeable. The tech held together at 60 FPS, but with noticeable screen tearing which was — fortunately — only noticeable during cutscenes.
“What if she could summon medieval torture devices to help dispose of enemies?”
“How about we gave her the ability to run on walls and water?”
Bayonetta’s potential seems limitless and out of control., Somehow all these crazy ideas somehow came together and worked. I love this kind of game and fans of a more than capable fighting system will feel the same. If you’re looking for an epic tale of witches fighting Gods, you may want lower your expectations for that and focus on the fun of being a witch that can do just about anything.
I hope you do an encore, Platinum Games.
For more information on Bayonetta, visit the official site.