Monday, July 11, 2011


It would be hard for a video game to be more ridiculous than Bayonetta without becoming intolerable. Plenty of games have gone in a similar direction with over-the-top action sequences and absurd stories and presentation, but I can't recall seeing one take it all as far as this game. It helps a lot that the game knows very well that it is ridiculous, and is sort of winking the entire time. Bayonetta is sort of the typical sexy bombshell protagonist that sometimes gets exploited, but her feminine proportions and the camera angles she's shot at are so insane that it's obvious her entire existence is tongue-in-cheek. It helps that she has such a delightfully wicked personality. But anyway, she's far from the only wacky thing in the game. The whole premise is that three different realities live on top of each other; basically Earth, heaven, and hell. Witches and sages serve the dark and the light, and they can travel between the realities. Bayonetta is a witch, and she kills the hell out of angels through the entire game in order to prevent someone from resurrecting God. The plot isn't that strange for a Japanese game, but the panache with which the world is brought to life and then repeatedly exploded is pretty exceptional.

I guess it speaks to how much I like God of War that I often like these kinds of stylish action games best when they remind me of it. I've had plenty of fun with the kinetic, desperate action of Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden, but that action is about all there is to them besides some silly cut scenes serving a boring plot. A lot of what I really like about God of War is how it invests you in all of the mayhem you cause by getting you on Kratos' side, and making the setting seem like it exists beyond the hallways and arenas you're fighting in. Both of those are definitely present in Bayonetta, along with the simple platforming sections and gigantic boss fights. All it's really missing are the interesting puzzle elements, with those bits usually boiling down to finding the right object to smash. It's still a game that focuses mostly on the combat, which is fine when it's as crazy and enjoyable as everything else about the game.

They do a good job of slowly expanding your options in battle - Bayonetta starts with a fluid and entertaining two-button combo system, an arsenal of fire four guns (two are strapped to her heels), the ability to slow down time for everyone else with a well-timed dodge (the complete absence of a block button means the combat is always fast paced and intense), and a magic meter that lets her use her hair for especially damaging blows or execute torture attacks, which are the baseline for the absurd brutality she puts her foes through. As the games goes on you pick up some new moves and weapons that expand your choices and keep things fresh. Unfortunately, the game was a bit too hard for me on normal after a certain point, and rather than replaying levels to pay for upgrades and items I opted to switch to easy mode. The game was still a lot of fun the rest of the way, but I felt like I was missing something - I didn't manage to find any new weapons after a certain point, and the way some things became automatic in that mode made it seem like I wasn't getting the full experience. Still, I appreciated the depth and smoothness of the combat, even if I didn't fully master it myself.

The regular fighting makes up most of the gameplay, but Bayonetta does find occasion to mix things up. The light platforming elements did the job of giving you a break from the insanity to observe the strange world the game takes place in, and there are a few opportunities to use vehicles in specific sequences that are their own brand of out of their mind. It's a tight eight hour experience, only really dragging towards the end when it seems like the game should have ended already and just won't. If an overly long denouement is the only real mistake caused by the game's everything-including-the-kitchen-sink approach, then the project is a remarkable success. The PS3 version of the game is famous for its technical inefficiencies, but I guess it's been patched enough to where it really isn't a major problem at this point. The loading times were generally fine, and while I did notice some slowdown, it only seriously impacted the gameplay in a single (large) room late in the game. Considering how much stuff was crammed in the game, I thought it was fine. It looks pretty nice too, though the use of mostly-still frames in certain cut scenes felt kind of cheap. The voice acting is marginal but Bayonetta herself is great, and the music works even if it's a bit repetitive. There also seems to be plenty of stuff in the game to extend its life beyond the initial play-through, especially if you're skilled enough to unlock it. At the price you can find it for now, Bayonetta is definitely one of this generation's best pure action games.

1 comment:

micro sd said...

A fighting game that enables beautiful and graceful imagination loose, and winks before slapping Dante, Kristos and all the other heroes back to the drawing board.