This has been a long time coming. If you frequent my articles then you know there is hardly a bigger fan of Platinum Games’ action masterpiece Bayonetta on the face of this earth. The game received glowing critical reception when it released back in January of 2010, but unfortunately the commercial reception wasn’t as positive – the developer has admitted that the title sold far less than expected. Nowadays you can pick up a new copy of Bayonetta for $20, and if you haven’t played this game yet then that’s exactly what you need to do and fast.
I can aim praise at practically every facet of Bayonetta. The game’s low points would probably be its hard to follow narrative and questionable performance on the PS3. Otherwise, it is absolutely amazing. While the graphics aren’t on par with any of the big console exclusive games, the game’s visual design is a thing of beauty. It features some of the gothic cathedrals that genre staples like Devil May Cry and Castevania have popularized, but it also features lush green fields filled with flowers and cities brimming with European architectural style.
The character and enemy designs are all commendable. All of the enemies are angels and thus sport a distinct divine motif. They glitter with golden halos, weapons and trimmings, and this creates an interesting visual dynamic when the crimson blood starts spilling left and right.
While it lacks the graphical swagger of some bigger titles, Bayonetta sports one of the most beautiful soundtracks I’ve ever heard in a game. The up-tempo tracks get the blood pumping and the pulse racing. Even the multiple vocal versions of “Fly Me to the Moon” fit in perfectly with the game’s overall theme and vibe. Like pre-DmC Dante, Bayonetta herself is tacky, funny, bossy and on the whole difficult to dislike.
We can talk about the story, graphics and music all day, but the crowning jewel of Bayonetta is none other than the exquisite game-play – most importantly, the combat. The game demonstrates pure mastery of the concepts behind the “hack n’ slash” action genre. Fighting feels natural, smooth and invigorating. Within the confines of just two attack buttons, Bayonetta’s developers have opened a window to near limitless combo potential.
The first word that comes to mind when describing combat in Bayonetta is depth. When you first grab control of the infamous hair witch she’ll only have a few punch and kick combinations in her arsenal. However, as you unlock new weapons and attack techniques, her utility skyrockets. Unlike many newer action games, Bayonetta comes with plenty of unique weapons right out of the box. The most impressive thing about this is that they each feel completely different and offer an entirely new way to play the game.
Furthering the already rich suite of weapons and techniques are the accessories, which give the witch even more frightening powers. For example, the Moon of Mahaa-Kalaa opens up a powerful advanced parrying technique and the Gaze of Despair instantly infuriates every enemy you come across, making battles more challenging but also more rewarding.
Further expanding Bayonetta’s already technically sound combat is Witch Time, a slow motion mechanic initiated by timely dodging. Evade an enemy’s attack at just the right moment and you’ll slow all of your enemies to a crawl, creating an opening for some devastating combos. The final highlight of Bayonetta’s combat are the flashy torture attacks. Beat on an enemy long enough and you’ll be prompted to eradicate him, her or it with a wonderfully gruesome finisher.
The feeling that comes over you when deliver a nasty combo to one enemy, dodge another enemy’s assault just in time for Witch Time and then counter with a bloody torture attack can only be described as euphoria. So while you can simply button mash your way to the end credits – and the game’s super easy “Mommy Mode” will allow you to do just that – you may miss out on the brilliant depth of the game’s combat.
Setting the stages for Bayonetta’s brutally epic battles is the campaign. It isn’t incredibly long, but all the stages are unique and exciting. The game offers lots of reprieves from its irresistible combat. You can collect items throughout the stages, which you can use to brew useful items. Some of the stages demonstrate the old school arcade influences of the game’s developers. For example, one chapter is played out entirely on a motorcycle and you’ll have to avoid obstacles and clear gaps while shooting down enemies. Another has Bayo riding a missile and firing at flying enemies like an arcade shooter.
As you defeat enemies and progress through the game you’ll accumulate halos (the game’s currency) which are used to unlock the additional attacks and techniques. There is a huge variety of enemies in the game and you’ll need to implement different tactics to defeat most of them. Each boss fight is memorable and grand. After you defeat a boss for the first time, you may see it simply thrown into a regular skirmish just to keep things spicy.
The level design in the game is so impressive. No matter how many times I cleared those chapters, I never tired of replaying them on the harder difficulties. To top all of this off, the devs through in a mountain of bonus content. You can unlock multiple costumes, playable characters (although one of them is a gag character), a full art gallery, bonus movies, a detailed bestiary and much more. It is simply a rich game, in every sense of the word.
Essentially, what Bayonetta’s collection of weapons, accessories, stages and enemies actually offers is a toy box. Seeing all the possibilities of the different weapons and combination makes the game fun to play through one time or a hundred times. Bayonetta is superb, impeccable and a master class of action game concepts. Since its release Bayonetta has become the standard to which other action games are compared, and rightfully so.
It saddens me that the game will never reach Call of Duty levels of sales success (but then, very few deserving games do), but that’s okay. It’s an instant classic. I could praise the game for several paragraphs more, I really could, but I think you get the idea. Bayonetta 2 is a system seller for me and you’ll realize why once you drop $20 for Bayonetta.