Wednesday, 13 May 2015


Post-Launch Review
Bayonetta (Wii U)
Developer: Platinum Games
Released: October 2009 and January 2010 (Wii) / late 2014 (WiiU rerelease)
Played: story complete in 11h:13min


Recently awoken from a 500-year sleep, the witch Bayonetta sets out to recover her memories and her past. As she fights her way through hordes of angels that seem to take an unusual interest in her, Bayonetta begins to uncover the secrets of the Umbra witches and the Lumen sages, and the hints that someone very powerful wants something from her...

At Launch

The XBox 360 version received average scores of 90%, with the PS3 a few points behind due to lower visual quality and frame rate. Reviewers loved the deep yet accessible combat, the epic scale, and the unique, stylized tone and story. Some critics felt that the story didn't make any sense until the ending, and a few thought the over-the-top camp went too far.

Post Launch

Bayonetta was re-released on the WiiU as a bonus disc included with Bayonetta 2. The update improves the visuals (I think), delivers a rock-steady 60FPS frame rate, and adds four costumes inspired by Nintendo characters with unique combat mechanics.

Right from the beginning, Bayonetta just gushes cheesy fun. The combat cutscenes are phenomenal with insane speed and precision. Many of the attack animations and special moves are so over-the-top that they make me grin like an idiot - for example, spinning and kicking to shoot at enemies with the pistols on her heels while doing a handstand, or spanking an angel for being naughty. And the punchy piano-and-saxophone music really helps set the mood.

When the game started talking about angels and demons and light and dark early on, I worried it would be a generic biblical-occult story. And when a little girl is introduced who calls Bayonetta "mummy", I was worried there would be a lame cheesy motherhood plot. But things turned out much better than that - the story is pretty fun, and the little girl is not what I expected.

Creature design is fantastic. The standard angels aren't too impressive - a little more bird-like than normal but otherwise unexceptional. Just about everything else, though, is crazy. Winged creatures made of white stone with gross flesh underneath and upside-down faces with arms coming out of their mouths, for example. Or a two-headed dragon whose body is a child's head. It's bananas, and they're really cool to see in action.

One design that did bug me, though, is Bayonetta's character model. Her proportions are unusual - very long limbs, small head - but that in itself isn't a big deal, even if it does look weird sometimes. The issue arises when she interacts with stuff in the environment. In order to make her fit into, say, a chair, the chair looks enormous - so much so that she sometimes looks small, despite seeming way taller than a normal human, and despite sitting in a supposedly human-sized chair. The proportions and giant objects bother me much more than anything else about her.

Apparently some people were upset with Bayonetta's over-the-top sexy act, but oddly enough, it doesn't feel sexualized to me. As in, it doesn't seem like she's doing it to turn me (the player/viewer) on, but rather because she's having fun with it. Despite the gyrating and posing and camera angles and skin, it feels much more innocent and fun than I would have expected, which is an intriguing tone to come out of that kind of sexy character.

Boss battles are great. Many of them initially seem overwhelming with the number of health bars and the sheer size of the creatures, but once I got going I found each one had a rhythm to it. The crazy creature designs along with the constantly over-the-top feel make the big bosses really great and a lot of fun to figure out and destroy.

But regular fights aren't as fun. I'm not really into that kind of combo-based gameplay - I tend to mash the dodge, basic combos, and maybe one or two high-efficiency combos (punch-kick-punch Wicked Weave) because I often feel there's little point to memorizing dozens of chains when they aren't different enough to matter. And most of the smaller fights just feel like filler, something to do so I don't beat the game too fast.

In the end, I think I would have preferred Bayonetta as a movie or miniseries rather than a game. Or maybe a series of cutscenes punctuated by boss fights and the more ridiculous action bits (like riding on missile or motorcycling up a rocket in flight). The crazy bits were crazy awesome, and the slower bits fleshed out the story and character and gave me a break to recover for the next crazy awesome bit. Oh, and it ends with (highlight for spoiler) PUNCHING GOD INTO THE SUN, which is pretty cool. Much of the gameplay felt like filler between plot points (especially the two "relive the past you just lived an hour ago" levels), so as a story I think it would be stronger without the filler. But overall, still fun, with a particularly unique feel.

Recommendation: play it.

P.S.: incidentally, there is a movie - Bayonetta: Bloody Fate. It's pretty good, but it's more serious and sexualized than the game, which kind of dampens the camp appeal.

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