Gaining attention with some very early first rate reviews, Bayonetta has built up a lot of hype over a small period of time. So after the long wait for a Western version it is finally here, and it certainly has much to prove.
The storyline progression is very difficult to keep track of and even understand throughout the game. However, it can take refuge in the fact that due to its heavily action packed gameplay it, arguably, does not lend itself well in keeping to a firm narrative. The title character, Bayonetta, is one of the last witches, fighting various angelic creatures in order to restore her memories.
Bayonetta is a highly sexually charged game. The gameplay, animation, design of Bayonetta herself and even some cocky voice work all demonstrate a penchant for the risque. Cutscenes are very long for such a vague storyline, but keeps engagement with some comic book style scenes and moments that require input from the controller.
Arguably the biggest problem in the game is its indecision in having a serious or comical overall presentation, as the two do not mix well at all. The artistic, often gothic, architecture, spatial areas and gargantuan enemies come together to present a resolute, cool environment, up until the point at which Bayonetta enters the frame with an out-of-place statement, accompanying truly horrid Japanese pop music.
Gameplay features the usual action aspects with a simple attack, heavy attack, dodge, and combination to produce complicated techniques. The complex battle scenarios are simply a work of art. When the difficulty is right the frequent set pieces – whether it’s against a group of ‘angels’ or one of the vast bosses – are fantastic, frantic, pure fast-paced action.
Some battles have objectives, such as perform three high damage ‘torture kills’, achieved when successful dodges fill a meter. Dodging enemies also engages ‘witch time’, a function which slows down everything apart from Bayonetta, allowing her to dish out more combos. The placement of the dodge manoeuvre on the right trigger is ingenious, matching with the analogue stick and button for rolls and jumps, making the system flawless. The combat adds yet more to the character of Bayonetta with more sexual reference. Bayonetta has no outfit, but her hair is used to morph into latex bike gear she wears until she pulls off one of her special moves – one that requires her to strip off the costume to become totally naked. This, along with voice work and some lollipop references, makes this game one of the most overbearing, stereotypical Japanese titles imaginable.
As well as combat, there are a few small puzzles in the game involving versions of time manipulation, including witch time. The game makes use of a two dimensional concept, both a light and dark contrast between two time periods. Some puzzles require the collection of time pieces between the two worlds in order to reform the area and progress. These puzzles offer light and infrequent breaks from the constant fighting, but are refreshing nonetheless. The loading screens comprise of an area for practicing combos, with a list of the available executions along side the screen. This is especially useful when preparing the right move for the fights, which require a certain combo criteria to complete.
The difficulty of the game is spread across 5 different settings, from very easy to very hard. Unlocks include new weapons and accessories, which carry on with each new game and the difficulty ties into this – as the character becomes stronger the difficulty increases. For those looking to start the game on normal (as the title suggests it should be neither too easy nor too hard), Bayonetta has the most enraging and demoralising difficulty setting. The constant stream of set piece battles does not blend well with these hard difficulty settings, especially when the normal difficulty is far more challenging that expected. Until the strategy for each is perfected, each of the bosses in the game will result in many, many deaths, and only then will it reveal that there is another fight right around the corner.
The health restore system does come at seemingly random points in the chapters. The items that can be collected can be conjured to give a boost, but most of the opposition can deal that damage and more in one of their moves. In addition, there are not nearly enough checkpoints for the amount of damage that each opponent can actually take, and when constantly restarting each scenario, the standard battle music is essentially on a loop. The frustration is mind-blowing.
Despite its difficult flaws, there has clearly been a lot of effort put into the combat which translates into an engaging and thrilling experience. However, the sudden switch between truly epic experiences to a comical mix happens one too many times in Bayonetta. Though the heavily induced Japanese style can be as simple as the individual’s taste. It is still a great game nonetheless.