ok, finally got to play the copies of bayonetta and darksiders that have been sitting next to my 360. i’ll start with bayonetta today, and get to darksiders later.
i’ll admit, i’m a little biased on this one – i am a HUGE fan of the devil may cry series and bayonetta carries a lot of those same qualities of stylish action. as it’s directed by DMC’s hideki kamiya and scored by masami ueda, that’s really no big surprise. there was some controversy around this one though, mainly about the lead protagonist being just short of a dominatrix, and that the character design was just a standard trick to lure the industry’s target market into buying in. i don’t think that’s entirely true (at least it’s not why i got it). if you look at it from a different perspective, and look at the “traditional” female role in games – the princess to be rescued, the secondary character that has less speed and skill as the main hero, or a love interest of some sort, this is a far cry from it. while there is some obvious sex appeal to our heroine, bayonetta pretty much shatters the age-old formula – she’s cool, confident, highly skilled, extremely powerful, doesn’t play second fiddle to anyone, and nothing’s going to stand in her search for the truth.
you’re thrown into the action as title heroine, last of the ancient clan of umbra witches, battling against angels and the lumen sages, the umbra witches’ opposing faction. this kind of description may have you thinking you’re playing the part of the evil bad girl, but that’s not wholly the case. the game introduces the two factions – representing darkness and light, inferno and paradiso respectively, as two parts of a whole that share a deep bond of mutual respect, where both halves must exist in balance to maintain order. in that sense you’re not killing the holy, flaying the innocent, or anything evil like that, you’re just… doing your part. as if being the last of your kind isn’t enough, you have a couple of huge gaps in your memory explaining your origin and true fate. overall sounds good as a storyline, but there are some negatives – the story’s shifty in a few places and doesn’t always “come together” as well as other games of the genre do.
bayonetta’s gameplay is simply put, fun as hell. like starting with dante’s twin pistols ebony and ivory, bayonetta’s first real weapons are a set of four pistols called scarborough fair (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme of course). in addition to a pistol in either hand, she has the other two strapped to her feet, and is able to fire off crazy sets of acrobatic multi-target shooting with them. this is in concert with the myriad of melee combos that can be executed – with hands, feet, and a collection of badass weaponry. not enough for you? still feel like you can’t inflict quite enough pain? worry not, there’s a set of torture moves – special finishers to go along with bayonetta’s standard offerings of agony and strife. these are very fun to watch, and while
borderline sadomasochistic, flow together extremely well when dispatching multiple foes (think a flurry of punches and kicks, taking an enemy airborne and putting them in a giant guillotine, then moving on to the next). what really brings it all together though is witch time – a period of slow mo where you move incredibly fast and can pop off more attacks than usual. as opposed to the system in devil may cry and other similar games where this kind of thing has to be triggered, bayonetta weaves it in seamlessly by automatically triggering it when you dodge an attack at just the right second. chain a few well timed dodges together, and the melee fun factor increases tenfold. a game where button mashers fail, casual players can learn, and veterans can own, has succeeded in gameplay design.
the game itself is also visually stunning. i’ve heard some bad things about the playstation3 port, but as far as i can tell on my 360, minimal load times, the animation is fluid, absolutely zero tear and choppiness, the textures are great, and the special effects for basic combat and the torture combos are easy to watch over and over again. there’s one thing that kind of upset me though, visually – the cutscenes. instead of putting this powerful engine to work and presenting FMV of grand scale between scenes, they opted for filmstrip-style cutscenes (if you’ve ever played “wet,” kind of like that but less grainy) and i felt a little bit cheated. the music is pretty different than the deep electronic thrash chords ueda put together for devil may cry, and is instead a little lighter, and gives battles more of an “all in a day’s work” kind of feel, which fits our heroine perfectly.
overall, great game. people can draw a lot of parallels between this and devil may cry, but bayonetta succeeds in keeping its own identity. style, substance, and a hellish good time.
overall: 9/10. excellent.