Originally Published: 9 March 2010
On Sunday, I finished up my playthrough of Bayonetta. The game initially caught my attention when I found out that it was the most recent game to score prefectly in Famitsu. I picked it up after Christmas, but I had been distracted by Dragon Age, Bioshock 2, and Mass Effect 2 and so hadn’t played more than just a bit of it. I finally started playing again in earnest last week.
The game itself plays very much like Devil May Cry which should make sense due to the fact that they share a director. The game is thus made of fast combat, huge combos, and rapid action. I would classify the game as more forgiving the Devil May Cry, however, due to its inclusion of a “dodge” button. Although the DMC games include the ability to dodge, it tends to be more finicky and can fail. In Bayonetta, a successfully engaged dodge always works, and if timed properly, grants a bonus in the form of “witch time”–a sort of bullet time. Regardless, most of the DMC skills will transfer over successfully.
The term “hyper-sexualized” seems to float about when describing this game and perhaps not without warrant. The main character speaks almost always provocatively and almost all of her attacks emphasize her sexuality–at least one even ends with her in a pose and the game performing a “camera shot” by producing a shutter sound and a quick shutter graphical effect. The deapth of it doesn’t really sink in until you realize that the character is essentially always naked. It seems to be implied quite heavily that Bayonetta’s outfit is just her hair being strategically arranged via magical powers.
Storywise, the game also overlaps with Devil May Cry. There exists two groups–sages and witches–which previously kept some sort of balance and watched over history. Eventually, a witch and a sage had a child against all of the rules of their orders and led to the ultimate near destruction of both sides. Skip ahead a few hundred years and we have Bayonetta waking up from a coffin at the bottom of a lake. She is, of course, the cross-breed, but seems uninterested in dealing with any of the old problems. Instead, she starts taking jobs fighting angels. The exact reasons for this aren’t really clear nor important, but the various “holy” types are mostly just jerks who are more than willing to wantonly destroy part of the human world to reach their objectives. Your character eventually gets ambushed by a more concerted pack than usual and decides to figure out what’s going on. That’s where the plot more or less starts.
I think the game makes a lot of good decisions in design. For instance, at the beginning of the game, there is a long explanatory cutscene where they explain the back story of the witches and sages. Most games would simply subject you to it, but Bayonetta instead has the dialog playing in the background while you take the role of a fully powered character with infinite health fighting enemies in a huge battle. In the closing of the game, after the final boss, they roll credits with various little scenes playing in the background. Two of those scenes zoom in and become player-controlled battles. They didn’t even want the credits to be boring. It’s that sort of care that sorts the great games and the good games apart.
There is one other thing that is worth noting: the game makes very heavy use of the song “Fly Me to the Moon“. In a sense, it is the game’s theme song. It shows up several times as battle music complete with lyrics, several of the battle themes are direct remixes, and even the other songs will occasionally throw in just enough notes in a row to evoke some part of the song. The reasons for this are never made terribly clear, but the continual use of the song does provide some level of unity to the entire audio score.
Overall, I’d say the game is quite good. In a sense, it is better at being Devil May Cry than Devil May Cry is. I picked it up at MSRP and don’t really consider that to be a bad thing. I should note that I played the XBox 360 version rather than the PS3 version. Supposedly, the PS3 version had framerate issues, but I have no first-hand evidence on that. Either way, where else are you going to find a game that allows you to weild a katana while wearing ice skates or lets you simultaneously use four rocket launchers?