Game Review: Bayonetta

Publisher: Sega

Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3

Game Rating: M-Mature

Review Rating: 8 out of 10; BUY

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsAJ0EaTi4E]

(Game trailer courtesy of Viso Games [YouTube User, Games])

Lately, I have given my PS3 all the attention. Bayonetta provided the perfect opportunity to show some love to the old 360. “To the GameStop, Alfred!” After opening the eyes of a young clerk to the reality of female gamers, Bayonetta was mine. Now, I have heard raving reviews of this stylized game. I even played the PS3 demo and knew I had to play this game. With all the hype surrounding Bayonetta one has to wonder . . . is that all it is? My answer – Yes and No.

Who could help being drawn to the female lead? Sega was reaching directly into the stereotypical male fantasy here. Sexy librarian in a skin-tight catsuit anyone? Bayonetta was raised by, but set apart from, Umbran witches. Magical powers – check. Umbran withes represent the dark or evil in the world. Along with their counterparts, Luman Sages which represent light and all things good, they possess the “Eyes of the World” which act to maintain balance in the world and create history. Danger of world domination – check. The biggest problem Bayonetta faces is her amnesia. That is right folks, the woman cannot remember who she is and she is looking for answers. Mysterious – check. What she does best, is kill. She is a hired gun that makes her living disposing of a whole host of angelic forces. Violent tendencies – absolutely.

On to the looks. Bayonetta is a raven-haired beauty who dons a catsuit, made of her own hair, that hugs in all the right places. She is of the magical persuasion and uses her hair to summon demons to aid in dispatching heavenly creatures in battle. Freaky and a little kinky – double-check. Rocking out the outfit are the most fantastic set of boots to make this gamer drool. Seriously, what angel does a gal need to kill to get some of her own 5″ boots equipped with auto-firing gun holsters? Add a lovely pair of glasses, a british accent and a few innuendos and there you have Bayonetta. Oh, did I mention the stripper pole?

About those magical powers . . . I’ve already told you about the hair demons and that truly is the most awesome of her magical powers. Right from the intro cut scene you learn Bayonetta has the power to open portals to alternate dimensions which she uses to communicate with people in the “real world” and call demons from Hell. She does have a few more tricks up her sleeve, like the ability to change form;  make her jump and she morphs into a butterfly. Soon you discover she can release her “beast within” and become a panther, providing essential speed and agility. When she evades an enemy just before it attacks, she engages “Witch Time” which allows her to freeze time to finish off her enemies or walk on water. In the moonlight, Bayonetta can engage “Witch’s Walk” to walk up walls, in some environments.

As for the supporting characters, there are few. The developers have created just enough extraneous characters to tell the story and that is it. There are few extras here. Even as you travel through the world, everyday people are mere shadows of those walking around in an alternate dimension. Here’s a quick summary of the supporting cast, without giving away too much plot:

Rodin – a large black man, Rodin is owner of the night club, Gates of Hell. He is also a gun-runner with a personal portal to the underworld, where he makes or procures Bayonetta’s weaponry, and lollipops, of course.

Enzo – a short portly italian man, Enzo is a rat. He is loud and obnoxious, moreover he looks out only for himself.

Jeanne – a tall blond with an affinity for motorcycles, Jeanne is a sister Umbran witch. In this game, she is the proverbial cat with 9 lives. Jeanne knows Bayonetta and she knows what is in her past. She has the answers Bayonetta needs. If Jeanne is a sister witch, why is she always fighting you? Is she a friend or foe?

Luka – a charming ladies man and journalist, Luka has been chasing after Bayonetta almost his whole life. At an early age, he saw Bayonetta murder his father. A great part of him would like to bring about her demise and see justice done, yet he is afraid of her, or is he overwhelmingly attracted to her?

Cereza – a small girl, wandering alone in the town of Vigrid, Cereza believes Bayonetta is her mother. She does resemble Bayonetta quite a bit, but it is hard to envision the gun-toting heroine as a mom. Along with her knit stuffed kitty, Cheshire, Cereza is the key to Bayonetta’s future. The true question is what can she reveal about Bayonetta’s past.

Gameplay is good and actions are fluid. There is not a lot to master in this game and it does not require any great skill. I am actually excited about this. I am not a huge fan of massive kill moves that need strings of commands. Bayonetta does not require a 15 button code to execute a single move. That is not to say there are no combo commands – there are. There are many combo sequences to try and I highly suggest you do. They are not necessary; however, it is what makes the game so much fun. Get on a combo kick and watch the hair fly. Aside from utilizing her own weapons, Bayonetta can take advantage of the weaponry her fallen enemies leave after their death. Firing a gun is fun, but wielding a battle-ax is great too.

The graphics are gorgeous. Characters are bright and vibrant. The developers took full advantage of the light and dark concept. After this game, you will never think of heavenly entities the same way. Archangels look like relatives of pterodactyls in colorful robes, some even carrying musical instruments as weapons. Bosses are truly twisted incarnations of cherubin children. The Demonic hellbeasts of hair are creative and differ with each angelic host they are called to defeat.

The world you travel through is in decay after hundreds of years of destruction. Most “real-world” locations are in some level of ruin, or are actively being destroyed. There is a blending of old world styling with new world convention. Most locations are set among cobblestone roads and antique brick buildings. Meanwhile, there is a modern-day air base, highway and a glittering metropolis on an island in the sea. The locations throughout the world and dimensions are well done, if sparse. Do not travel far from your appointed task, you will not get far. I can appreciate the limited environment. Too often developers create a vast environment with little purpose. In these cases, the world looks great, but gamers can spend the better part of an hour wandering an empty village, breaking jars to collect magical coins to find they were 20 paces from the Boss at the beginning of the level. That is not to say games that encourage exploration are not good; however, that is not why I picked up this game.

The storyline is interesting and amnesia as a device to encourage our desire to know more was a good idea. What was more curious was how the information is revealed throughout the game. The basics of the plot can be gleaned early on; however, there is a bigger story being told and you will find more than a few WTF moments, wondering how it all ties together. The dialogue, particularly in the early chapters, is dreadful. Thankfully, as the game continues there is less trying to make us laugh and more of a wish to progress with the story. That being said, the dialogue sequences can get lengthy in the latter chapters. The biggest mystery has to do with the cut scenes. In my opinion, cut scenes are just as important to some games as the gameplay. Unfortunately, this is where the game let me down. The cut scenes are flashbacks, that is not the problem. The majority of the cut scenes consist of stills, presented as scenes from a film. This is a mistake on the part of the developers, particularly with a game being praised for its slick cinematic feel. Something I loved about this game is the camera control, or lack of. I will admit, I dislike games that require gamers to control the characters actions and perspective. I find it annoying and unnecessary. Bayonetta allows you to control camera perspective; however, you will not miss a thing if you never change the angle.

All in all, Bayonetta was a great way to spend a day for this hack-and-slash lover. The brilliant graphics, easy gameplay and a bevy of attack options (especially the hair demons) made this an excellent game. To my dismay, I ended the game with a general sense the developers did just enough to make the game. The sparse locations, still photography cut scenes and inspired button-mashing do get tedious and the game loses some of its momentum.

If you still aren’t sure you want to lay down the $59.99 to buy Bayonetta, download the demo available on Xbox 360 and PS3. For more information, visit the official game website.