Bayonetta Review
by A_FlyingMegaKiwi

Basic Information:
Developers: Platinum Games, Sega
Publisher: Sega
Date of North American Release: January 5, 2010
Date of European Release: January 8, 2010
Date of Asian Release: October 29, 2009
Trophies: Yes

Think back through all of the video-games you've played, both recent and non-recent. Think of the greatest male characters from those games. Kratos may spring to mind, as might Master Chief, Snake, Mario, Link, Nathan Drake, and so on. Now, in your mind, pit these characters against each other in a spectacular royal rumble. Allow the group to be narrowed down until it contains only the manliest of the manly; the characters who epitomize bad-assery and downright “I-took-a-blow-to-the-nuts-and-didn’t-even-blink” strength. The kind of guys who can get the girl, save the world, and feed the dog – all at the same time. You’ve probably lost about half of the Final Fantasy crew, but who is actually left standing? Kratos? Duke Nukem? Snake? Although they are, arguably, the best of the best, none of them would stand a chance against Bayonetta. She's one deadly chick with a gun... Err, make that four guns.

Bayonetta is an over the top action game, directed by the same man who created Viewtiful Joe and Devil May Cry - Hideki Kameya. Set in the fictional European city of Vigrid, the game centers on its beautiful titular character, Bayonetta (a witch who uses a combination of melee, pistols, and magical attacks to defeat her enemies), after she awakens from a 500 year sleep with no memories of who or what she is and attempts to rediscover her past.

From what I've said so far, what we’ve got is a wacky mixture of Devil May Cry’s gun-slinging action, God of War’s blood-splattering melee, and a very sexy slice of the female variety. That combination doesn’t really bode well for a unique game though, so something else must be added to the mix. Hideki Kameya knows this, and definitely had his thinking hat on when he thought of the missing ingredient.

What sets Bayonetta apart from its once brilliant, but now generic, action-game rivals is this: Our heroine can perform magical attacks with her hair. Yes, you read that right. Not only does Bayonetta’s hair cover her head, but it also acts as a tight, erotic one-piece suit that can morph into whips, fists, and kicks, amongst other forms of attack.

As previously mentioned, Bayonetta doesn't just settle for the usual one or two guns either, instead she has a gun for each hand, as well as one for each foot. Stowed in their holsters and disguised as her stilettos, these puppies can be used to stun enemies and add a bit of extra flair to your combo by holding down either square or triangle for the hands, or circle for the feet. Players have the ability to switch things up if they wish; shotguns can be used on Bayonetta's feet, and a sword in her hands, for example. The R2 button is used for dodging hits, and also activates Witch-Time (a flashy name for bullet-time) when pressed at the right moment.

Note the two guns holstered in Bayonetta's stilettos.
I know, I'm aroused too.

One of the highlights of Bayonetta's gameplay is the amount of mad combos you can pull off. Even those who have no idea what they're doing will get somewhere - albeit, they may have to resort to button mashing. Lowering the difficulty level to Easy or Very Easy also allows you to enable the automatic mode, where beginners (or lazy gamers) can play through the game using only one hand and a single button (for the attacks).

In my opinion, the only noticeable downside to Bayonetta's gameplay is the constant loading. Pause the game during combat or a cut-scene, wait for it to load, pause menu is displayed. Scroll down a couple of bars on the menu, watch it load, rinse and repeat. Hell, even if you just want to view your save-files you're gonna have to endure a longer-than-average wait. They're not bad enough to mar the gameplay to the extent that it isn't fun, but in longer sessions you will find yourself waiting more and more often. For a game that prides itself on quick action, the load-times did leave me a tad bedazzled.

Story-wise, there's not much to praise in Bayonetta. At heart, the game is a tale about the traditional balance between light and darkness. Long ago, two clans - the Lumen Sages and Umbran Witches - maintained the balance between the opposing forces. The Lumen, aligned with the god of Paradiso, controlled the power of light, while the Umbra, funneling power from the demons of Inferno, watched over the darkness. Both clans showed respect for each other, but a tragic event caused them to enter into a terrible war. At the end, only one Umbra Witch remained: Bayonetta.

As you play through the game, you'll no doubt get lost in the script; it's absolutely bonkers, and tends to leave a lot of things unexplained. Have no fear though, for everything comes together... Eventually.

I don't know what's going on here either,
but the gigantic boot and the semi-naked witch have my attention!

Two things I particularly liked about playing through Bayonetta were the overall silliness of the game, and the boss fights. Our heroine will come up against foes that are her own size, as well as much greater enemies. The battles are great because they culminate into Bayonetta's fantastic finishing moves where she actually summons demons from Inferno to end the conflict. Thankfully the game doesn't take itself seriously, and manages to make fun of other games a few times along the way. From Rodin, the arms dealer, quipping “Hey, check this out ‘Whadya buyin’?! I heard that in a game once”, to the amount of sexually arousing poses Bayonetta does, this game is great for a chuckle (or an instant erection).

Like with many other singleplayer titles, there are reasons to play through Bayonetta multiple times. Earning halos is an excellent excuse to replay the missions over and over, as there's plenty to buy in the game. Rodin, a fierce demonic arms dealer and bartender (I told you the game was crazy) runs the Gates of Hell, a grimy saloon that doubles as Bayonetta's main supplier of items and weapons. Here, players can purchase restorative lollipops to use mid-battle (again: crazy) and accessories which augment Bayonetta's normal abilities. Players can also spend halos on additional techniques found outside the normal set of combos, like one of my personal favorites: a break dancing move that ends in a seductive pose and camera shutter. Brilliant.

Put simply, the game looks great. Nothing you haven't witnessed before - aside from the sheer beauty of our heroine - but it's still great nonetheless. There are a select few gorgeous looking levels where you may find yourself looking around at the creativity on display, and the bosses are also quite magnificent. Platinum Games have done a great job of filling Bayonetta with the types of monsters that would be big enough and bad enough to play the role of final boss for most other games.

Look at that butt... Erm! I mean, look at the amount of background detail!

The music of Bayonetta is just right, an irresistible mix of upbeat jazz with intensely serious choirs. There are times during the more intense battles that you can actually feel overwhelmed by the score, with the orchestra seeming to be as big as the bosses you face. I found the voice acting to be a bit on the rough side, but still as good as other games in this genre.

Bayonetta's technical experience is dampened somewhat by slowdown. During certain scenes of high action, the frame-rate can drop dramatically, enough to affect the gameplay experience. Most people can usually tolerate that sort of issue to an extent, but, in this game, sometimes it gets out of hand.

Gameplay: 9/10 - Brilliant
Mad combos and wacky weapon pairing make for great gaming. Witch-time is great, and so is the one-button mode for beginners to play. Misses out on top marks because of the unnecessary loading.

Singleplayer: 8/10 - Superb
The meat and bones of the game! The crazy story doesn't make much sense until the end, but don't let that sway you. Bayonetta's campaign is still enjoyable thanks to its wackiness and sweet boss fights.

Technical: 8/10 - Superb
Great score. Great artistic direction and enemy design. Fairly bad case of slowdown. You can get lucky and avoid it for a while, but it will eventually catch up to you (how ironic that the slowdown catches up).

Overall: 8.3/10

Bayonetta could have completely changed the way we look at action games, and, in some ways, it has. Things like the one-button control scheme, the crazy combos, hair attacks, and the foot controlled guns are all new to the genre, even though some do bare a slight resemblance to what we've seen in games like Devil May Cry. Nevertheless, Bayonetta is a great game, and is definitely worth looking into. Unfortunately, it falls short of true greatness due to problematic loading, a confusing plot, and frame-rate issues.