The Witching Hour!
Prior to release, much had been made of Bayonetta’s titular hero. From her ridiculous proportions to the guns on her feet, gamers either loved or hated her instantly as soon as they set eyes on her. However, Bayonetta the game is much more than its main character. With plenty of gunslinging action, crazy character designs, and a vast world to explore, there is plenty to love about Bayonetta.
Bayonetta does a great job of giving you that instant rush of excitement that has become synonymous with the action genre. Although most games start off with an extensive back-story, filled with character introductions and setting details, Bayonetta does not. Instead, you’ll be dropped head first into a battle on top of a falling clock tower. Initially, there’s no tutorial and no interspersed cutscenes, just you, some baddies, and your button mashing. Like most action games of its ilk, Bayonetta has an intuitive battle system that relies on mashing buttons in a certain pattern, and by throwing you straight into the thick of battle.
But fear not, because eventually there will be a tutorial mode where you’ll learn the finer points of controlling our heroine. Although the control scheme purports to be quite simple, with a singular button tied to hands, another for feet, and a third for guns, the devil, so to speak, is in the details. Simply put, Bayonetta is a woman with many weapons, not to mention magic, which means that the battle system is quite complex. In order to utilize all of your arsenal to its fullest potential, you’ll have to master a large list of combos, which grows as Bayonetta’s powers increase.
Speaking of magic, let’s talk about Bayonetta’s flair for the dark arts. In the world of the game, witches are born as mortals who have extraordinary spiritual ability. This spiritual ability leads to a pact with demons, which witches use to give them their power over the supernatural. Bayonetta’s witch powers are a central part of the combat, and are accessible mainly through combo moves and finishers. Weak magic attacks, such as the hair-based Wicked Weave attacks are fairly easy to perform and require a few combo button presses to initiate. However, finishing and strong magic attacks will require you to build up spiritual energy in a power meter. Unfortunately, these larger attacks are a little inconvenient to engage, and are only really useful at the end of a boss battle. Still, just knowing that you have an attack in your arsenal that can summon iron maidens, guillotines, and hair-based dragons out of thin air is pretty freakin’ cool.
Of course, there’s the thing that ties the whole combat system together: Witch Time. Witch Time is a component of the battle system that allows you to dodge incoming attacks at just the right moment for a special bonus that will slow down time. This allows you to move out of the way of a crushing blow and charge up a devastating attack or unleash a brutal combo while the enemy stands fixed in time. The Witch Time system really is the cornerstone of the battle system, and it will help you pull off the most complex six-and-seven button combos with grace and style.
Even though I could go on for days about how awesome the combat is in Bayonetta (it really is superb), I have to say that it isn’t my favorite component of the game. That honor actually belongs to the game’s creative design, which is nothing short of spectacular. Everything here, from the fiery depths of Inferno to the flowery fields of Paradiso, is incredibly rendered with lush detail, texturing, and animation. The character designs, particularly those of the angels and demons, are also amazingly creative and come to life with just the right amount of vitality. Animations never look awkward, and even though most of the creatures are of mythic lore, they move around just as you would expect them to. Bayonetta is a very smooth-looking game, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the creative team put just as much effort into the world around Bayonetta as they did Bayonetta herself.
Suprisingly, the only area I wasn’t completely enamored with in Bayonetta was the story. It seems like the effort was made to make Bayonetta a film-noir-meets-supernatural-whodunit, but it just doesn’t work all that well. In a nutshell, Bayonetta is the last of a super clan of witches who were eradicated centuries ago. She, herself, was a victim of the witch hunts, and was sealed inside a coffin for hundreds of years at the bottom of a lake. But, now she has reawakened (taking some poor kid’s dad down in the process), and though most of her memory is gone, she knows she needs to find the “Eyes of the World,” and she’s willing to fight Heaven, Earth, and Hell to do so.
In between intense playable action sequences filled with screeching angels, explosions, and lava flows, I just couldn’t find myself caring too much about Bayonetta’s personal battles or her relationship with the boy who’s father she inadvertently murdered (oops!). It may sound insensitive, but the story here just seems like an afterthought to the action, and I found myself impatient for the cutscenes to end so I could get back to kicking some angelic (and demonic) butt.
As far as the audio is concerned, Bayonetta is a mixed bag. The voiceover is great, and the sound effects are quite lifelike. However, the music is mediocre and forgettable. While some of the characters do have their own catchy theme music, nothing really stands out as “epic” in the sound department.
Bayonetta is an action-packed game, and if you consider yourself a fan of games like Devil May Cry or God of War, you owe it to yourself to check this one out. The gameplay really is excellent, and though the story leaves much to be desired, the excellent combat more than makes up for this shortcoming. Between epic boss battles, beautiful environments, and one badass heroine, Bayonetta is definitely the first knock-out action game of the new year and is a great title to shake off those winter blues.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.9 Graphics
Visually stunning in every aspect from the character designs to the animation. 4.1 Control
Controls are simple to learn, and though combos can be difficult to master, the game provides plenty of opportunity for practice. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Sound effects and voice over are great, but the music is a little on the forgettable side 3.5 Play Value
The game is a little on the short side, and even though you can collect new weapons and unlock new difficulty levels, for most, one playthrough will be enough. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.