Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Review: Bayonetta

Japanese and US covers
System: Xbox 360, PS3

Players: 1

Rating: Mature (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes)

Reviewed on: PS3

Bayonetta was on my radar screen for a while, though I had never taken the time to pick it up and play it.  Boy, was that a bad idea!  This little gem from Platinum Games deserves a look, if you haven't already.

The story centers around a witch named, you guessed it, Bayonetta.  She's searching for this jewel, the second half of a set she's attempting to build.  Her hunt leads her to a secluded town called Vigrid, a coastal city with obvious European influences.  While searching, she finds out that the angels of heaven, or "Paradiso," don't exactly want her there.  So she slaughters them in increasingly over-the-top ways.  What could go wrong?

Wicked Weave in action
The first thing most gamers will notice is how much this game plays like Devil May Cry from Capcom.  Combat employs a similar juggling technique, currency unlocks new skills or weapons, and the exploration of levels seems ripped right out of Dante's adventures.  But that's only where Bayonetta copies its predecessor.  As Bayonetta chains combos together, she employs something called "wicked weave," attacks that summon giant high-heeled boots or fists out of thin air.  Well, not entirely.  Her hair serves as the fuel/conduit for the wicked weave attacks.  Coincidentally, her hair also serves as her clothing.  Something's always gotta give, and wicked weave attacks leave Bayonetta partially naked on a semi-regular basis.  That must be what Platinum Games meant by "non-stop climax action."  Yay, fanservice!

Oh yeah, he'll totally survive that...
Combat in Bayonetta is fluid, occasionally frenetic, and always visually crazy.  Angels will frequently attack in groups, which makes it much easier to chain combos together.  In addition to the wicked weave, Bayonetta can employ "torture attacks" that will one hit kill most enemies.  Torture attacks range from an iron maiden or guillotine to an iron horse that screams fetishism in all the weirdest ways.  It can make for some awkward moments, especially in certain mixed company.  You have been warned!

For boss fights, standard torture attacks aren't going to work.  It's kind of obvious when the boss is big enough that you can walk on his arm like a small planet.  At that point, it's time to implement a "climax attack"  If you thought the torture attacks were crazy, just wait until a giant bird made of hair flies in out of nowhere and starts eating the boss.  The climaxes are a moment of frenetic button mashing that will give your controllers the stress test they've been missing out on.  They're fun to watch, though, and an entertaining way to end off a level.

As players progress, they can visit the merchant shop, known as "The Gates of Hell."  It's a swanky, 1930's era bar with some classy jazz music going in the background.  There, Bayonetta can buy items and techniques from Rodin.  Rodin is essentially the merchant of the game.  The main currency he trades in is Halos, though he will occasionally barter "Angelic LPs" for weapons.  He has some hilarious comments that show up, making reference to MADWORLD, Resident Evil 4, space marines, and various other games.  It's kind of fascinating how many in-jokes and references there are in this game.  The developers must play a lot of games in their spare time...

One of the other things that separates Bayonetta from Devil May Cry is its difficulty.  The normal difficulty setting in Bayonetta is challenging but not punishing.  It's definitely passable, and clearing the game with a little bit of prior gaming experience is definitely within reach.  For those who find the normal difficulty too challenging, Platinum included easy and very easy difficulties.  There are great, especially for those that have difficulty with the "uber-punishing" games.  That said, the normal and hard difficulties make a great case for rewarding devotion and dedication to figuring out enemy patterns/strategies.  Its unforgiving nature urges players to get better, and makes the torture attacks all the more rewarding.

All in all, Bayonetta is an action packed adventure with a lot going for it.  Fans of the Devil May Cry series will love this game, and anyone looking for a fun romp for at least 10 hours will find plenty in here to enjoy, too.  Go check this game out, you won't regret it.

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