Bayonetta Xbox 360, PS3 Review

As I play through each stage of Bayonetta I find myself thinking ahead, anxiously wondering what could be next. In most games, if I find myself doing such an act it is because I am getting bored, and I start to ponder what could be ahead in hope the game will haul back my attention from the recesses. But for Bayonetta this forethought is done out of sheer curiosity, as I wonder what bewitchingly brilliant acts will top what I just saw. This is undoubtedly what the game does best, providing visual treat after visual treat, with little time to take a breath in between.

I ought to explain what Bayonetta is first, before I heap praise on it though – although explaining Bayonetta is a task in itself. Bayonetta is a lot of things. It is epic over-the-topness en masse, full of crotch close-ups, zany bat and panther morphing, lollipop sucking, and torturous head chopping. Its endless slow-mo scenes impress, as do the huge range of exhilarating, physics-defying moves, old European-style locals, multi-tiered fights, and damage intensive climax attacks against huge, screen-filling bosses. More controversially, the game skirts a somewhat uneasy sense of female exploitation, but thankfully that is broken up with an equalising feeling of female empowerment portrayed by the presumptuous main character. More so, Bayonetta boasts and a quite mammoth lack of any sort of subtlety.

All of that zaniness is great of course, but Bayonetta‘s primary focus is on combat. It is all very much like Devil May Cry in its design, with the same focus on gun and blade attacks, although this time the overall execution seems better, with a much more varied range of moves, weapon upgrades, and equipables. However it is the combo system teamed with moves called “weave attacks” that really push things forward. A simple punch, kick, punch combo is the easiest you can do, resulting in a magical giant fist hitting your foe and knocking them back. Another button combination sees that same fist shooting up from below and knocking your foe into the air, while another sees a giant foot squashing the enemy into the ground.

These combos can get much more complicated, with different results depending on if you make a slight pause between button presses, or if you hold down the last button in a sequence. Furthermore, each combo can then be teamed with another to do even more damage. It does not end there though, as there is of course the much vaunted “witch time” aspect. This kicks in when you evade a move at the last possible second, making gameplay slow down around you. You then have a few seconds of free rein around the battle field to wreak havoc as you wish. Additionally, a bit later in the game, there is also the option to equip two sets of different weapons, which can also be in turn switched on-the-fly.

Add all of the above together and you get a game that can be quite complex for those looking for a challenge. However, whilst still keeping its hardcore edge, the game is also willing to make little exceptions for people brand new to the genre. Two easy modes are the most obvious aide to let newcomers have access to the fun. These modes take away some of the layers of complexity from combos, meaning there is no need for precise timing when the hordes are coming to get you. Another nicety is that the game’s most eye-catching moves – climax attacks and torture attacks – are done by a simple timed button press, which is great at making you feel like you are kicking some serious ass even if you are not thoroughly efficient at combos.

Bayonetta was most certainly built with replay value in mind, as you are rated on every chapter, and also every battle you partake in. These ratings encompass the score you get whilst fighting (which is multiplied the more combos you perform), how much damage you take, and the time taken to dispatch your foe. You need to do well in all these areas simultaneously to get a Platinum, or Pure Platinum medal. Furthermore, some items won’t unlock in the in-game shop until you perform specific tasks, such as complete 100 chapters, or reach a million Halos – which is the game’s angelic currency. More so, getting all the achievements/trophies takes no less than three full playthroughs on three separate difficulties.

Speaking of that, the game’s Hard Mode most certainly lives up to its name by not only making enemy attacks more powerful, but also changing where and when different enemy types appear. In hard mode, even the very first chapter now sees late game nuisances make an appearance, coupled with AI that now boasts a much meaner streak to make your life hell. I will happily admit to having not played Non-Stop Climax (very hard) mode, as I have not unlocked it yet. You have to finish hard mode to do that, and it alone is still kicking my ass right now. If I was to wait, then I don’t think this review would ever get written, and I don’t want to have Ben message me after a six month-long wait for a review again.

The game does have a few low points though, which for anonymity sake we will refer to as chapter 8. In similar vein, chapter 14 also goes on a bit too long, but it is also the chapter that will put one huge smile on the face of many an old-school Sega fan – so that one can be let slide. On the other hand, item management is a more annoying grievance, as compared to the free-flowing nature of the rest of the game it feels very fiddly to use – popping in and out of menus to equip and use items. Also, somewhat annoying replays of boss battles are on show in the latter stages of the game – you’d expect from Kamiya anyway if you played the likes of Devil May Cry or Viewtiful Joe before. It can be somewhat forgiven this time round, as the battles are not exact copies of what came before, with bosses boasting much lower health bars, and a different attack style.

Whilst most big budget games these days seem intent on aping ideas from Hollywood, and then transforming them into a playable experience, Bayonetta instead celebrates the medium of gaming. It applauds titles of the past, from Sega, Clover and beyond, and pokes a little fun at the likes of Gears of War and Resident Evil amongst others. Above all, Bayonetta is a fantastic effort to offer gamers something unique, and thankfully it seems to pay off.

Bayonetta is a completely OTT game with singular vision, containing ideas that make sense only in the mind of Hideki Kamiya – the game’s creator. It’s an insight into what he thinks games should be about, and a love letter to the uniqueness of the medium he works in – with no misgivings to end-users that do not share his mindset. Some people may be put off by that, others won’t completely understand everything that is happening on-screen, but for those that are ready and willing to be dragged into his world for a few hours, then you are truly in for a rollercoaster ride.

9 out of 10