Hideki Kamiya, creator of Devil May Cry, has moved on from the days of demon slaying with Dante and the crew. He now works at Platinum Games and has been harboring a new vision for what the action game genre needs. That new vision has come to us in the form of Bayonetta, a slick fast paced action game with heaps of the unique Japanese flair and madness we have come to know and love. The big question is, has Hideki managed to surpass what he created seven years ago with Devil May Cry? or should we go back to playing Devil May Cry?.
The story in Bayonetta could only have come from the mind of a person like Hideki Kamiya. You are Bayonetta, an Umbra Witch who has spent about 500 years sitting trapped at the bottom of a lake after a battle on a cliff face sends her plummeting to the depths. Being out of action for so long has, as you would expect, brought on about of amnesia. All she can remember is that her enemies are the Lumen Sages aka Angels and, for an unknown reason, must die at all costs. As she travels through the 16 or so chapters trying to find the truth about herself she battles tons of enemies and bosses in various areas including dream worlds, old made up European cites, and a busy highway. The action is broken up with several cutscenes and conversations with a host of characters, some of these characters include Jeanne, another Umbra Witch, who knows the real identity of Bayonetta and what happened to her. Rodin, the owner of a club called Gates of Hell and your local neighborhood gun dealer. Enzo, a highly annoying informant who has more than a brief similarity to everybody’s favorite mini made man Joe Pesci and then there’s the journalist Luka, I began to find this guy really annoying. His entire role in the game is to pester Bayonetta about things she had done in the past including, supposedly killing his parents.
My experience with the story of Bayonetta was, how can I say it, confusing at best. I don’t know if it was the translation from Japanese to English, but I never seemed to get involved in the story as much as I though I would. The only thing that I remember from the main story was the reference Sonic at the start of the game. Everything else was just all over the place and the still motion/film reel cut-scenes really never helped. But like, other games of this genre the story is not the end of the world, the action and combat can make the difference up.
The gameplay in Bayonetta is what really stands out. Think too yourself, what if Devil May Cry went to a club, got drunk, and took tons of drugs. That’s where the action in Bayonetta begins. Everything is so fast paced and frantic, I sometimes found it difficult to keep track of where my character was on screen. Combine that with a combo list as long as both of your arms and you have a game that will test even the most skilled gamer. Platinum Games have also added something unique to the game that helps it stand out from the crowd, that thing is the ability to strap weapons to your legs. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal but take it from me it is. This addition totally changes the way you play the game by adding more ways to attack or even defend. You also have the ability to customize the weapon slots on your arms and legs, individually, with any weapons you collect through the game. But I found this area lacking a feature I thought would have been obvious to the developer. That feature is that you can only have one set of weapons on both of your arms and one set on both of your legs. I would have liked to have had the ability to map weapons to each individual limb but I guess we can’t have everything.
Another feature I would like to mention is Bayonetta’s “Witch Time”. It sounds similar to the good old bullet time and infact it is pretty similar in someways but the way you enable it is totally different. Gone, are the options to turn it on willy nilly ,instead you have to use a little piece of skill to get it going. The way you do this is to hit the right trigger at the very last moment of an enemy attack. I know this sounds pretty easy to do in theory but with the fast paced, frantic action going on at times, I found it difficult to even see the perfect moment to evade. However once you get into Witch Time everything slows down (yes i know you already knew that) but this becomes really useful when fighting some of the quicker bosses and at times where there are tons of enemies attacking you at once. Later in the game the skill of getting into Witch Time becomes really important, as you often get faced off with two or three really quick enemies.
Later on in the game you unlock the ability to transform into animals. The animal forms range from a super quick panther with a crazy jump distance, to a crow that lets you fly for a short time. These animals become a big part of the gameplay later in the chapters because they are required for certain puzzles and help you get to areas that you could not get to before. I also found the Panther to be a big help while in battles because it allows you to evade attacks quickly and move to a better position on the battlefield for using health or doing a special attack.
Speaking of special attacks, those come in the form of Weave Attacks and as the name suggests, they use Bayonetta’s hair to form giant fists or heels. The way you enable the Weave Attack is pretty simple, all you have to do is hit a combination of punch and kick, for example if you hit punch, kick, punch you will notice Bayonetta’s hair begin to sparkle with purple. This lets you know that she is ready to perform a Weave Attack then all you have to do is hit punch and you will unleash a giant fist into the face of your enemy. There are a vast amount of Weave Attacks and they change depending on which weapon setup you have equipped. The best and easiest combo of weapons and Weave Attacks has to be the Katana on your hands with the pistols on your legs, this combo lets you perform a sweeping Katana swipe with the button combination I used in my example.
If all that stuff still isn’t enough moves for you, Platinum Games have also included two additional move sets. These sets are called Torture Attacks and Climax Attacks which as you can guess either involve torturing your enemies or finishing them off once and for all aka taking them to Climax. All you have to do to enable these attacks is build up your magic meter by attacking enemies and evading enemy attacks, if you get hit by an enemy your meter will go back down so try not to get hit much. Once you have your meter full you will see an on screen prompt telling you to press two buttons to unleash the attack. These attacks are like the finishers in Mortal Kombat, once you perform one there’s more than a good chance that the enemy will be no more. However, that’s not always the case as some of the larger enemies have so much health it sometimes takes a couple of these to finish them off. The Climax attacks are much the same as the Torture Attacks but are on a much bigger scale and only seem to be enabled for the larger enemies and bosses in the game.
Graphically Bayonetta is a real looker, the character detail is really top class even the way Bayonetta’s hair moves and transforms is really something to marvel at. The environments are also really well detailed and have a certain historical value to them that makes you believe that the places you visit could exist in the real world, that’s excluding the crazy dream worlds and stuff. I also found the lighting and other visual effects added an extra layer to the game that you may not see in other titles. Things like flowers blowing around in the wind to the details in animations and particle effects really add to the visual fidelity.
The camera in this particular genre of game has always comes in for some criticism and in Bayonetta its much the same story, overall Platinum Games have done a good job. The camera manages to keep up with all the action but every so ofter you find it gets stuck in position and sometimes it becomes hard to see who you are fighting. But fear not there is an option to reset the camera with a click of the right analogue stick which should fix any camera related problems you encounter. Now I know frame rate plays a big part in this particular genre of game and I am happy to report that during my gaming sessions with Bayonetta I never encountered any significant problems with slowdown or anything of that nature, the frame rate stayed pretty solid throughout the entire game but I did however notice some slight screen tearing during fast paced scenes but its really nothing to get in a big fuss over, its nowhere near as bad as Darksiders on Xbox 360.
As for the sound, its as you would expect it to be. The backing score is full of the typical Japanese pop music found in these type of games, which Im not a big fans of but it seems to fit into the mood of the game very well. The Vocal work was also really good, I think the decision to make Bayonetta speak the Queens English was a smart move, I don’t know if it would have worked as well if she spoke with an American accent but Iam glad they went for the English accent . There is one thing I would like to point out about the sound effects in Bayonetta particulary the vocals, that point is be careful where you play this game because at times it can sound like you are watching some sort of Lesbian porn movie, yes I know everyone loves a lesbian but I felt the amount of moans and groans got a little over the top at times, I even had a small incident while watching a cut-scene where someone walked into my room thinking I was actually watching a porn movie, which i never do. Honest.
Overall Bayonetta is a fantastic action game that takes what Hideki Kamiya created with Devil May Cry to a faster, sexier and more action packed level. The combat system is probably one of the best in any action game to date, its deep enough for the pro players to get exited about and simple enough for noobs to pick up and play. Replayability is also quite high as there are tons of things to collect and buy. The only downsides I can see with the game are the story and the amount of cut-scenes in the game but don’t let that put you off as you can always skip those and head right back into the action.