All of the ridiculous hijinks reserved for over-the-top cutscenes in most games are right at your fingertips during every moment of Bayonetta. Breakdancing and firing off a flurry of bullets, teleport-kicking your enemies from a magic portal, and summoning enormous lethal devices from thin air are just a few of the moves in your standard arsenal – and that’s before things get really crazy. However, don’t let all of the game’s showboating fool you into thinking that it is devoid of substance; with a fluid combat system and incredibly responsive controls, Bayonetta delivers improbable action with unprecedented style.
You may be slightly overwhelmed at first. With foes coming at you from all directions and magically charged attacks firing off everywhere, it can be challenging to make sense of the chaos. Once you master the intricacies of battle, however, you’ll be conducting the flow of destruction like a symphony. Perform a well-timed dodge to initiate a few seconds of slo-mo, lay into the nearest creature using your sword and boot-mounted shotguns, then finish it off by conjuring a medieval torture device. Not only are these combos visually stunning and endlessly entertaining, they’re a breeze to execute thanks to the precise controls.
|There is no contest between the two versions of Bayonetta. If you have the option, play it on Xbox 360. When compared side-by-side, the PS3 release clearly falls short in visuals, framerate, and loading times. These technical hiccups don’t degrade the experience so badly that it feels like a different game, but there’s no reason to put up with them if you don’t have to.
Anyone familiar with the Devil May Cry series will feel right at home with Bayonetta’s control scheme. That shouldn’t be a surprise; Bayonetta director Hideki Kamiya created Devil May Cry while working at Capcom. Now with Platinum Games, Kamiya has refined the genre he helped invent by pushing it to the limit, giving players a ludicrous amount of power and flexibility, and making each stage a playground to showcase their prowess. Each enemy type requires different tactics to defeat, which gets especially interesting when they start appearing in mixed groups in enclosed spaces. Most of the bosses – which are amazing in both scale and detail – require quick reactions and your undivided attention to take down. Providing you don’t set the difficulty to easy automatic mode (which can literally be played with one hand), you’re in for a satisfying challenge, though it certainly isn’t as unforgiving as the likes of Ninja Gaiden or Devil May Cry 3.
Though you can expect a lot from the combat in Bayonetta, the same cannot be said of the story. The game’s nonsense plot is only important insofar as it occasionally pits Bayonetta against her nemesis and fellow witch, Jeanne. Along the way, Bayonetta struts her stuff and spouts various tawdry and suggestive phrases. Thankfully, the sexuality is so comically overblown that it never takes on the creepy voyeuristic qualities of games like Dead or Alive. This title is conscious of its own silliness, and treats its leading lady and her exploits with an appropriate tongue-in-cheek tone.
Not every high-heeled step of the way is a right one; the weakest points of Bayonetta are the handful of one-off sequences that replace the normally taut battles with shoddy and repetitive novelty gameplay. Driving a motorcycle or blasting flying enemies while riding a missile may change up the routine, but the segments last too long for how poorly they control. People will play Bayonetta because they want a particular brand of action, and that doesn’t include lame and simplistic turret gunning. The sequences aren’t numerous enough to kill the mood, but they are back-loaded; parts of the final chapters – where you should be exercising the full extent of your power – are bound to these mediocre events instead of the combat the game does so well.
When you’re chaining combos together, switching between weapons, and punishing otherworldly opponents, Bayonetta is the epitome of its breed. It isn’t so much an evolution of the genre as a well-tuned and highly polished culmination of its history. From this point forward, something about stylish action games will need to change, because I have trouble imagining how a developer could use the tried-and-true formula to create anything more delightfully excessive than Bayonetta.