Sega and Platinum Games
To watch the video supplement, click here.
Bayonetta was developed by Platinum Games, composed of ex-members of Capcom’s “Team Clover”, and published by Sega. Bayonetta’s director and creator, Hideki Kamiya, happens to be the director and creator of the first Devil May Cry title.
Devil May Cry defined the twitch-based action game for the Playstation 2 generation, and set the bar that all other action games of the generation would strive for.
Bayonetta is Hideki Kamiya’s return to the 3D action game, and he makes a hell of a comeback. Bayonetta uses elements from many of Team Clover’s games to evolve the action genre for the new generation. No, it doesn’t quite re-define the genre like Devil May Cry did, but it sets a new bar regardless for polish, depth, and sheer sense of scale.
Bayonetta‘s combat is fast-paced and beautifully fluid. Her combos lists are massive, and she possesses a huge list of special attacks and finishers that can be strung together at any point in any combo, in addition to her ability to switch weapon sets on the fly. On top of that all, she can charge any attack in a combo as well. We’re talking a monstrously robust move-list, limited only by your creativity. This is the beauty of Bayonetta‘s combat system; mixing the “free form” attack style that made Devil May Cry and instant classic, the structured combo system that made Ninja Gaiden an action powerhouse, and the grapple and Quick-Time events of God Hand and God of War that lend the game an incredible sense of scale and power.
In addition to this all, the enemies are literally designed around Bayonetta‘s abilities, being both challenging and fair, which gives the game an edge over the other action titles. Sure, Bayonetta has a massive movelist. However, this amounts to absolutely nothing without good defense, and Bayonetta shines here as well. Epitomizing the “easy to perform, but hard to master” phrase that action games should strive for, the only thing that keeps Bayonetta safe from enemy attack is her dodge move. Performed by tapping the Right Trigger (or R2) Bayonetta backflips out of any attack, avoiding any damage while doing so. This simple technique is the keystone of combat. Every enemy attack has a specific wind-up and attack frame, and despite having such varied attacks and timing (some of which can be incredibly tight), everything in the game can be avoided. It’s up to the player to recognize when.
Dodging right before Bayonetta gets hit triggers “Witch Time” a much more aggressive defensive maneuver that slows down her enemies and allows her to dish out massive counter-attack damage. Because interrupting enemies can be difficult, (a double-edged sword, really), dodging becomes crucial to gameplay.
Bayonetta ranks players based on their combo score, time taken during a fight, and damage taken. Bayonetta encourages players to play for a “High Score” because you are ranked at the end of every fight, and at the end of every chapter. Of course, you could pigeon-hole yourself and mash buttons to scrape by, but you’d be missing the entire point of the game by doing so.
On top of great combat, the game boasts an interesting mix of J-Pop and Jazz sounds absurd but fits nicely with the game. Add to that fantastic visuals (really, some incredible fantasy settings and monster designs), boss fights so massive in scale that they God of War‘s bosses look like insects, and the fact that the game never takes itself seriously (yes, the games over-the-top silliness works in it’s favor), and you have AAA game material. What’s more, figuring out and mastering the nuances of the gameplay take some time; nuances like the Dodge offset, which allows players to continue combos even after dodging an attack. The game also boasts two higher difficulties (Hard and Non-Stop Infinite Climax) which means you will be playing the game for quite a while.
Is it flawless? Not quite.
- I wont’ spoil story-events for you, but it could have used a bit of clearing up. I am also not very fond of the film-reel style cutscenes, and think they really should have been reserved only for flashbacks.
- Like Devil May Cry, Bayonetta features mini-game-esque fights. The motorcycle segment and the missile mission are both relatively fun, but utilize a completely different play-style, meaning players need to re-adjust how to play for these parts. The fact that you’re ranked for these missions feels somewhat unfair.
- Like God of War, Bayonetta has a few instant-death situations, (only a few, mind you). Ironically, because God of War doesn’t rank you or even care that you die during these sequences, they are annoying but acceptable. Bayonetta does rank you, and using continues heavily compromises your end-of chapter rank. Putting players in a situation where if they fail they die and are forced to use a continue to re-do the section is an unfortunate game-design flaw.
- Next comes platforming. Bayonetta is an action game, and does action right. Platforming should be left to platformers. It is nice that screwing up a jump is (usually) only penalized with minor damage and a re-start from where you fell off (like Okami or Zelda). It is still annoying though, when some chapters are platform-heavy.
- Finally, a word about the PS3 version. Sega is responsible for the port. The colors are a bit washed out, the frame-rate stutters a bit more, the game runs at a lower frame-rate in general, there is no Install option, and the loading times are noticeably longer. If you have the option, play the game on the Xbox 360. Failing that, though, the action is still just as good, but the game is less polished on the PS3.
Even despite these flaws, Bayonetta is a rock-solid action title that any action gamer owes to themselves to experience.
To watch the video supplement of this review, click here.
NY Console Games Examiner articles ©2010 by Gabriel Zamora; reposts permitted with link back to original article. All other rights reserved.