When a name like Hideki Kamiya is thrown behind a brand new IP and relatively new studio, you can’t help but be curious. The famous Devil May Cry creator revealed Bayonetta to the world and while some fans started salivating, others branded it a DMC knock off.
I was sceptical at first. The outrageous, over sexualised, Sarah Palin lookalike in Bayonetta’s design did nothing for me in the initial stages of promotion. Along with the whole hair-suit setup and chances of seeing Bayonetta in a buff, I was worried that it was going to be nothing more than a button bashing, nonsensical action title, destined to be played once to try and never touched again. What arrived was a deep, polished, flamboyant action game that not only surprised but thoroughly entertained me.
What is so special about Bayonetta then? Surely it still is a Devil May Cry rip off. You would be right to an extent. The game has been developed and directed by the same team that brought you DMC in the past, they don’t even attempt to hide that fact with Team Little Devils, the team behind DMC, being changed to Team Little Angels in the opening credits.
The insane and ludicrous story that follows alongside Bayonetta in cut scenes doesn’t attempt stifle the similarities. There is one major difference between Bayonetta and DMC and that is accessibility. While Capcom’s well established franchise has managed to scare off new comers with each release, Bayonetta has opened up the action world to the masses.
From the get go you are presented with three difficulty settings: Very Easy, Easy and Normal. Both very easy and easy modes are automatic, which means you can happily bash a few buttons and pull off some rather spectacular moves. You later unlock Hard and Non Stop Infinite Climax modes and while Hard mode won’t provide too much of a challenge for competent players, infinite climax mode should offer an adequate enough challenge.
Bayonetta throws you straight into the action during a short prologue. Flying around on a broken off clock tower, the sheer grandeur is apparent and the game just gets more impressive as you follow on. The heavily European styled environments are beautifully constructed, all furnished with large scale set pieces that contribute to masterly scripted battle sequences and boss fights.
Being an action game, combat must be the most rewarding and deep aspect. This is no exception in Bayonetta, with a large selection of combos and weapons to choose from. The A and X buttons are reserved for jumping and default shooting, but you will be spending most of your time hammering Y and B in all sorts of sequences. Hitting the back button during loading screens gives you a good chance to familiarise yourself with combinations and the tutorial mode is a perfect base for novice gamers to get an idea of the basics.
Pulling off specific combos result in Bayonetta’s hair to lift up from her body and transform into a giant shoe or fist which attacks the enemy for a delightfully entertaining finish. This is where you get a good sneak peak of Bayonetta’s assets, as out of proportion as they are. You might be disappointed to hear that all the ‘important’ bits are covered up, if only barely.
Combos can range and timing is essential in the non-automatic modes. Dodging is one of the more important features of combat seeing that you can activate ‘Witch Time’ if a dodge is pulled off at the last possible moment. This turns the screen purple and a timer is popped up at the top, giving you chance to punch some quick combos in or move out of the way from an incoming attack.
Some weapons can change the result of each combo and making sure you have the right thing equipped to your hands and feet can really change the result of each battle. I found myself using different weapon sets for different bosses, some of which I needed long ranged moves with a whip and others I needed the raw power of a close up Shuraba (Katana) to beat them down.
There are around eleven weapons to collect altogether; some are unlocked during the story while others are unlocked by collecting broken records which are dropped by bosses, hidden in Umbran Witch resting places (aka treasure chests) or by completing the game on certain difficulty settings. Combine those with specific accessories that automatically taunt, push attacks away, activate witch time when hit or even summon tiny demons to fight alongside you. You can only imagine how varied gameplay becomes.
This doesn’t include climaxing or torture sequences which are activated after special requirements are met. Torture moves are executed after building up magic power. A notification will pop up and after pressing the appropriate buttons; Bayonetta unleashes one of several enemy specific attacks which require you to hammer down a button to unleash a gigaton of damage. Yes, you did read the word ‘gigaton’. Her climax moves usually kick in at the end of bosses to finish them off in super style. The camera giving you some rather unique angels to watch as hair undresses her body and floats up to the sky. Giant hair monsters appear and after a sequence begin to beat the bosses to a pulp.
Like most action games of this genre, backtracking is a bit part of the experience, rewarding players who traverse back with new Verses (Battles) and Alfheims. Alfheims open after specific requisites have been met, such as destroying a trash can or returning to a certain area. The Alfheims are small arenas that have certain conditions you must fight under to pass. For example, some battles just have a timer and you must defeat the attacking angels in the appointed time. Others restrict how many times you may use your hands and feet to attack and even witch time is removed.
With twenty one Alfheims to complete, collectable crows to find, weapons, accessories, treasure chests and even unlockable characters and an arena mode, Bayonetta seems to have everything going for it. So what is holding this sexy new kid-on-the-block back? Well, not much. My main issue is screen tearing which tends to take part in the more residential areas of the game. While I only experienced noticeable tearing about five times during my playthrough, it was enough to dampen my enjoyment. The normal mode didn’t offer too much of a challenge and the leaderboards have already been dominated by users abusing a rocket glitch in the game. Add the fact that the storyline really isn’t that gripping of a tale, leaving a few subjects left unexplained.
Even with the few complaints I have, they have not stopped me from pumping over sixty hours into the game already. It is just too addictive. A general playthrough will total around ten hours of your time, plus replaying to overcome friend’s combo and time scores as well as collecting items you might have missed along the way make Bayonetta an easily replayable game. It might be too early to say it, but Bayonetta is already looking to be one of the best for 2010. It certainly is one of the best action titles to release for a long time.