A Love Letter To Action Game Fans
Action videogames seemed like they were somewhat on the wane. There were still a great many of them coming out (and there are many still to come) but the thrills they offered were becoming derivative and, worst yet, repetitive. When Bayonetta was first announced, skepticism abounded. It seemed destined for the obscurity that came with being a Devil May Cry clone these days (the fact that the creator of that series was attached gave little solace). Then the demo came out. And opinion began to shift. Incredible graphics, stellar monster design, wild combos, an actual dodge system, it seemed like there was something to Bayonetta. Coming away from beating it, I have to say this game absolutely floored me.
The title comes from the protagonist who you'll control (all eight feet of her): The Amazon-like Bayonetta, a dark witch with incredible powers and the ability to shift dimensions in order to hunt and kill angels. Don't ask me to describe the plot any more than that, we'll come to that later. Bayonetta has four guns (two in her hands and two mounted on her stilettos of course) but can also fight with her bare hands and her hair, which serves both as physical forms for the massive demons she commands and also clothing. Which means as she begins to do more and more advanced moves, she loses more and more clothing. This isn't as big a deal as it seems, as Bayonetta flaunts her sexuality and clearly isn't trying to impress anyone, simply having a good time. And you'll have one as well because this game controls immaculately.
Combat uses a combo-system that, rather than the rigid systems of Devil May Cry or God of War, allows for a vast amount of customization. The melee buttons can be used in almost any combination to create different combos, so rather than having to memorize them, you can improvise them and this creates a tremendous sense of flow that is helped by the dodge system. Dodging at the last possible second activates Witch Time, in which enemies slow to a crawl, Bayonetta becomes nearly invincible, and massive damage is possible. This also creates a system that rewards you for experimentation and timing and makes all the battles actually seem very fair, but rarely easy.
The battles take place against strange, twisted angels, almost all of which are unique, but the bosses deserve extra mention. Most of them are massive, and they only get bigger as the game goes on, but there were a few the battles are almost never simply point and shoot or swing. They span immense battlefields, often involve Quick-Time Events, and always culminate with Bayonetta summoning one of her demons to dispatch them in a hilariously graphic method.
I was ready to give the game five stars, but I couldn't bring myself to because of a combination of a couple of segments I felt weren't quite done well, but mostly due to the COMPLETELY incomprehensible plot. The characters are all excellently voiced and deliver their lines with absolute confidence, but I couldn't tell you what they were talking about. It's fairly standard Japanese-style boilerplate about the coming of a new god, the chosen ones, and amnesia.
This doesn't detract much from a game that had more genuine thrills than any I've played in a long time. That's what I took away from this game: it had more genuine "OH-MY-GOOOOOOD!" moments than maybe any game I've ever played. And that is what's going to keep me coming back to it and that is what stood out the most.