Giant Bomb Review

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Bayonetta Review

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  • X360

There's an intensity and a lack of compromise to Bayonetta that some might find overwhelming, but those who can stomach it are in for an audacious and singular experience.

There are a lot of words that could be used to describe Bayonetta, the new action game from PlatinumGames, but the phrase I keep finding myself going back to is “fucking ridiculous.” Before you call the expletive unnecessary, consider the titular lead character. Bayonetta is a roughly 10-foot-tall amazonian librarian-slash-dominatrix with a posh, saucy English accent dressed in a skintight outfit made of her own hair. She spends most of her time luring angels out of heaven so she can murder them using her sexy stripper dance moves and her guns, two of which are attached to the back of her stiletto heels. Imagine Ulala with a mean streak in skintight black leather, and you're almost there. There's a permeating hypersexuality here that could be derided as being deeply misogynistic just as easily as it could be hailed as a beacon of post-feminist self-actualization, except that the absurdity in Bayonetta is so bone-deep that it doesn't really matter one way or another. What matters is that Bayonetta is an action game bursting at the seams with enthusiasm, a game that celebrates Japanese game conventions--with ample nods to both Sega's and Capcom's back-catalogs in particular--and then pushes them to their breaking point. Even if you don't like what it's doing, you kind of have to respect the way it does it.
 

 Bayonetta: The Real Bullet Witch. Also, The Real Roxanne.
The action in Bayonetta takes the baton from games like Devil May Cry. It then hurls that baton off a cliff, tears off all its clothes, and then jumps after the baton, laughing maniacally the entire time. Primarily using a punch and a kick button, with the occasional swirl of the analog stick for more advanced moves, you'll produce a nearly infinite string of consistently outlandish combos, the best of which turn Bayonetta's hair-suit into gigantic fists, feet, or monsters that reduce your enemies to red paste. These moves also temporarily remove strategic bits of Bayonetta's outfit, furthering the game's peculiar stripper theme. Your guns are good for ranged attacks and generally just add to the fun, much like the torturous finishing moves you can perform that manifest iron maidens and guillotines for you to punish your foes with. Also key to the experience is Witch Time, which activates automatically when you dodge an enemy's attack at the last possible moment, and momentarily slows everything else in the world to a crawl. Usually Witch Time just serves to give you the advantage in a fight, though you'll occasionally need it to progress past certain obstacles. There are also a few fights that take place entirely in Witch Time, which add another layer of slow-motion chaos to the already overwhelming action.
 
Despite how manic the fights can get, Bayonetta is surprisingly approachable, though don't take that as a euphemism for “easy.” As similar as it is to your Devil May Crys or your Ninja Gaidens, Bayonetta rewards good timing more than it does rote combo memorization, making it a less technically demanding experience without shorting you on the difficulty. It definitely scolds you for dying, putting a permanent mark on your record that has an adverse effect on your overall score, but it also gives you the tools to avoid it. You'll gain access to additional weapons like a katana and alternate guns as you progress, and you'll also collect halos (which look suspiciously like the kinds of rings Sonic the Hedgehog can't seem to get enough of) that you can spend on new moves and various lollipops that restore health, make you temporarily invincible, or give your attacks more punch. Yup, Bayonetta's health item is a lollipop. Deal with it. Additionally, each chapter wraps up with a weird little shooting gallery game where you can earn more items and halos. You'll also gather colored regents that you can combine into the same stuff that you find in the shop, though I found this stuff to be relatively rare, and the menu interface for the whole process is kind of confusing.
 
 It's a terrible screenshot, but trust me, this part is nuts.
The game breaks up the rhythms of group fights and multi-life-bar-bearing boss encounters with big, amped-up homages to Sega arcade classics like Hang-On and Space Harrier. They're both awesome sequences, some of the game's most memorable, but they're just the most obvious examples of Bayonetta's almost subconscious reverence for classic Japanese game culture. Mostly, though, Bayonetta keeps you on your toes by constantly pushing just how over-the-top everything about it is. You're just as likely to fight a freaky two-headed dragon while half-naked on the side of a church that's spinning through space as you are on terra firma. When that's your standard, it's possible for just about anything to happen, and in Bayonetta, it usually does.
 
Visually, Bayonetta is defined by a constant state of information overload. In the rare moments that the camera's not voyeuristically twirling around Bayonetta's suggestively gyrating figure as she smashes a cherub-faced angel-monster, you can actually appreciate the incredible detail on Bayonetta herself, the dizzying complexity of the intricately choreographed dance-fight sequences, the unsettling enemy designs that graft familiar angelic imagery and bits of Renaissance marble onto a menagerie of hideously meaty bird-creatures and golems. There's a lot of craft in Bayonetta's whole rococo steampunk aesthetic, but it's just as impressive that the game performs so well when it's awash in layer upon layer of crazy effects, while all of it moves at just below the speed of light. It can be a transcendental experience, if it doesn't give you a splitting headache.
 
There's a big, crazy, reality-threatening story in Bayonetta, but it's so inscrutable that it's really not worth trying to sum up here. That doesn't stop the game from spending an inordinate amount of time dwelling on prophecies, the agents of heaven and hell, forgotten identities, parallel planes of existence, misplaced revenge fantasies, and epoch-spanning conspiracies. I'd admonish Bayonetta for its lengthy, corny, dialog-heavy cutscenes, but it kind of emphasizes just how Japanese this game is. Plus, the oddly staged dialog scenes are consistently paired with some of the most outrageous cinematics I've seen in any game, the kinds of unbelievable moments that whip right past awesome on their way to hilarity. There are plenty of occasions where you'll have to quick-time your way through a cinematic, but often they're so intense that you'll be grateful when you can focus your energies on keeping up with just what in the holy hot hell is going on.
 
 Bayonetta is the rare game that can make you grin and grit your teeth at the same time.
Bayonetta even sounds crazy. Giant Bomb's own Jeff Gerstmann rather adroitly described Bayonetta's sound design as akin to being on the chaotic floor at the Tokyo Game Show--just a cacophony of battle cries, gunshots, and weapon clashes with a layer of Japanese vocal pop idol music, soaring orchestral chanting, and synthy sushi-bar jazz underneath. While the words they are saying are borderline gibberish, the voice work is actually pretty good, with Bayonetta in particular benefiting from the assertiveness of her speech.
 
Unfortunately, most of the kind words I have for Bayonetta are reserved for the Xbox 360 version, as the PlayStation 3 version suffers from crippling performance issues. Load times are bad, even popping up when you're simply cycling through options on your inventory menus, but what really kills it is the way the game stutters and chops through the action, dropping frames and bogging down at an almost constant rate. In another, significantly less intense game, it's something I might be able to let slide. But Bayonetta's gameplay, and even its cinematics, put such a premium on speed and precision that the experience on the PlayStation 3 is thoroughly compromised. Let me be totally clear here: if you have the option between the two consoles, consider the PlayStation 3 version to be nonexistent. If the PS3 is your only option, well, proceed with significant caution, or hitch your hopes on the notion that Sega might, someday, release a patch to address these issues.
 
For as many different games as Bayonetta specifically recalls, there's really nothing quite like it. It carries a certain amount of the same technical appeal as Devil May Cry, while marrying it with the deliberate quirk of something like No More Heroes. It's definitely going to be a divisive game for many, but whether you like it or not, I have a feeling that the developers made exactly the game they wanted to.
81 Comments
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Posted by Globox82

Props for a good review. Unlike with most of the sites that overhype and overrate this game, 4 stars seem realistic and fair

Posted by TheLawnWrangler

huzzah!

Posted by zombie2011

Nice i might pick this up deciding on this or darksiders.

Posted by Trilogy

Definitely on my must play list.

Posted by FunExplosions

Glad to see the PS3 differences were addressed. Definitely a rent for me, though.

Posted by Gorikka

I wish I could pick this up, but Mass Effect 2 is going to be using up my time and money this month.

Posted by handlas

looks like the gameplay could be fun.  I've seen some vids of the enormous boss fights.  Too bad I find the art style so off putting.

Posted by stinky

i thought the game looked nice, loved the crazy character design but the demo alone filled me up. 

Posted by Vision
@zombie2011 said:
" Nice i might pick this up deciding on this or darksiders. "
I decided to pick up Darksiders and am returning it today in favor of Bayonetta. >.< 
Posted by spiceninja

It's telling that I hate Devil May Cry but really like this game. It's good.

Posted by alConn

The art style is cool and I love how Japanese the game is (every time Fly Me to the Moon starts playing I think of Evangelion, which is a plus), but it really is uncompromising with the precise timing and can be difficult at times, even on Normal.  Still, I am finding it entertaining for the majority of the time and only frustrating every once in a while.  Excellent review.

Posted by dhuff

I'm totally done with Devil May Cry but the demo of this game made me realize that this frantic style of game play is still interesting to me.
 
Can't wait.

Edited by Godlyawesomeguy

I hate the music and when her suit comes off, it just so happens to cover "offensive" areas. Too much censorship, in todays times. 
Posted by Jackel2072

I do love this game vary vary much!

Posted by Octaslash
@Globox82 said:
" Props for a good review. Unlike with most of the sites that overhype and overrate this game, 4 stars seem realistic and fair "
I think the praise is well deserved. Care to explain why any of those sites are unfair?
Posted by yindotrunks

Great review, but  reading the text of the review makes me confused at the score.  It reads like a 5 star review but I can clearly see only 4 up at the top.  Regardless, looking forward to checking this out.

Edited by BagSquad

This game rules so much, but seriously, fuck Grace and Glory.
 
(also, if you are deciding between Bayonetta and Darksiders, get Bayonetta. Darksiders is kinda of a bummer, but it's got some charm. Try renting before buying. But buy Bayonetta.)

Posted by spazmaster666

Great review for a great game. I just wish the game's story wasn't so uninteresting.

Posted by Turbo_Toaster

As much as it isn't my thang, I do appreciate a lot of the artistic stylings and just the amount of shit on screen at all times is intense. I might end up giving it another shot before long, I'm sure.

Posted by MasterChiefLopez

This game is amazing.  It doesn't look like much at first glance but once you start, your not gonna stop.  I'm really interested to see how GOW is gonna compete with it.  I already like this game better than GOW II and DMC 4 and its on par with Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 but Ninja Gaiden is harder.  But not by much.  Start this game off on Hard and you'll be in for quite a ride.  
What I enjoyed the most was the setting.  Killing angels and all the heavenly pretty things in this game gives action gamers a breath of fresh air.  And the female protagonist is fun to play as (and shes f___ing hot!).  
The action is button mashy fun and very satisifying.  And the "Climaxes" never get old and are very brutal.  
 
I give it 5 stars all the way for all the original, fun things that are packed into this game.

Posted by Xeiphyer
@Octaslash said:
" @Globox82 said:
" Props for a good review. Unlike with most of the sites that overhype and overrate this game, 4 stars seem realistic and fair "
I think the praise is well deserved. Care to explain why any of those sites are unfair? "
I wouldn't say bayonetta is a 5star game. The camera has a tendency to go directly behind a tree, making it impossible to see, or similar to ninja gaiden, you often get hit by enemies that are far out of the screen and can't be seen even though the camera is quite zoomed out, getting hit by an enemy often results in you losing around 20% of your HP, and usually you will end up getting hit at least once more after that. 
 
The trees should be going transparent as in other games to allow you to see through them, and it should be automatically panning and tilting so that all enemies are within view. Since the combat is so intense and fast, controlling the camera is impossible.
 
 My other big concern with the game is the lack of explination on some aspects of the game, especially some of the harder parts, but they go into lengthy detail explaining very basic and obvious things. 
 
As Ryan mentioned, there are some 'puzzles' where you need to use Witch Time to continue. For example, there are golden wall type things that react to you hitting them, each hit lights it up and once full something happens, such as opening up to allow you to pass or becoming a bridge. There are statues that you can activate that shoot a bolt of lightning at you so you can dodge and activate witch time. What they don't tell you is that after activating the statue, you have up to 10 seconds before you press X again to summon the lightning on yourself. This resulted in much frusteration because the statues are fairly far from the golden walls, so trying to run to them and combo them onlu to have witch time run out was very annoying.
 
Anyways, Bayonetta is an amazing game, but I think other videogame sites hand out perfect scores way too easily to please their fans. Everyone wants to see their favorite games get 5/5's and it makes people like the website more when they do it. Giantbomb gives accurate reviews.
Posted by Zereta

Yup, a game I might consider buying next time. 

Posted by BD_Mr_Bubbles

Yeah its great , shame about the PS3 version though, glad I did my research beforehand.
Posted by Geno

I read the whole review and can't understand why Ryan gave it 4 stars instead of 5. No significant complaints (about the 360 version) and he seemed very enthusiastic about it overall. 

Posted by bybeach

 I understand why ryan gave this 4 stars.  Noting FunEplosions post, I hope they were addressed. speaking of problems on the PS3
 
Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff

I beat this game earlier tonight. It is fucking fantastic. I rarely play through action games again, but I am going to this time!

Posted by xanavi

Ryan, this is awesome copy. I thought what I loved about the game couldn't be put into words but you did it. Good shit.
 
My only gripe would be that it reads like a 5 star review but score is of little consequence to me. I fucking love this game so much.

Posted by JJOR64

Great review.

Posted by aButton

I'm not sure if it's a good or bad thing that there's so much going on in the game that the review barely touched on how fluid and fantastic the combat is.

Posted by George_Hukas
@Trilogy said:
" Definitely on my must play list. "
This is most definitely true. 
 
And the Ryan 4* picture is amazing.. dare I say my favorite.
Posted by Nettacki

wonder if the reason behind the PS3 issues is due to somewhat lazy developers?

Posted by Rowr

im going to go ahead an secretly add half a star, just like i do with all of ryans reviews.

Posted by MythDarK

" Bayonetta is a roughly 10-foot-tall amazonian librarian -slash-dominatrix with a posh, saucy English accent dressed in a skintight outfit made of her own hair."
SOLD!

Posted by PapaLazarou

I can't get past the sexual bullshit this game throws at you, it is just so cheesy 

Posted by Kohe321

Great review, but I have no interest for this game. :/

Posted by Oni

Ryan I love reading your reviews, I think you're one of the best writers in the field. Seriously man, they're a joy to read. Keep it up.

Posted by Venatio

Damn I want this game

Posted by Baal_Sagoth

Bayonetta is really not my type of game, generally speaking. But this sounds and looks so damn cool & fun, I absolutely want to play it - especially since I came very close to bying DMC4. After I read the review I just want my damn PC version now. If that happens I'll most likely purcvhase it!

Posted by ahoodedfigure

Ryan, I get the feeling this review was fun to write :)
 
I really admire the over-the-top attitude with the design here.  Trying to surprise instead of to pander.  Cool.

Posted by Death_Burnout

Aside from the game deciding im shit for using an item, i love it, and i love the depth of the combat

Posted by Carlos

Sold, just need to find money under a rock.

Edited by Max_Hydrogen

Fantastic review! Ryan displays his love of language yet again. From the first moment I saw the Quicklook, I knew I would love this game. I'm greatly disappointed upon hearing of the PS3's inferior quality; I hope Sega addresses this problem.
 
Go Bomb!

Posted by SuperSecretAgenda
@Geno: It's good. It's not that good.
Posted by raidingkvatch

I'm a little surprised at the 4 star score, from the tone of the review it seemed like a 5 to me, either way Byonetta isn't something I'm going to pick right away, but maybe if I see it pre-owned in a few months I'll give it a go

Edited by Linkyshinks
 
@Xeiphyer: 

@Xeiphyer said:

" @Octaslash said:

" @Globox82 said:

" Props for a good review. Unlike with most of the sites that overhype and overrate this game, 4 stars seem realistic and fair "

I think the praise is well deserved. Care to explain why any of those sites are unfair? "
I wouldn't say bayonetta is a 5star game. The camera has a tendency to go directly behind a tree, making it impossible to see, or similar to ninja gaiden, you often get hit by enemies that are far out of the screen and can't be seen even though the camera is quite zoomed out, getting hit by an enemy often results in you losing around 20% of your HP, and usually you will end up getting hit at least once more after that.   The trees should be going transparent as in other games to allow you to see through them, and it should be automatically panning and tilting so that all enemies are within view. Since the combat is so intense and fast, controlling the camera is impossible.   My other big concern with the game is the lack of explination on some aspects of the game, especially some of the harder parts, but they go into lengthy detail explaining very basic and obvious things.   As Ryan mentioned, there are some 'puzzles' where you need to use Witch Time to continue. For example, there are golden wall type things that react to you hitting them, each hit lights it up and once full something happens, such as opening up to allow you to pass or becoming a bridge. There are statues that you can activate that shoot a bolt of lightning at you so you can dodge and activate witch time. What they don't tell you is that after activating the statue, you have up to 10 seconds before you press X again to summon the lightning on yourself. This resulted in much frusteration because the statues are fairly far from the golden walls, so trying to run to them and combo them onlu to have witch time run out was very annoying.  Anyways, Bayonetta is an amazing game, but I think other videogame sites hand out perfect scores way too easily to please their fans. Everyone wants to see their favorite games get 5/5's and it makes people like the website more when they do it. Giantbomb gives accurate reviews. "
 
Eh, there's counter indicating how much time you have once you activate a statue.
 
Try moving left or right and clicking the right stick to centre the camera, it always works for me, it also goes transparent ... maybe this transparency effect takes longer to kick in on PS3. The fact is I've never had any camera issue while playing on the 360 version, transparency goes instantaneously up.
 
 I think good spatial awareness and tactics are needed, I don't have a issues with NPC's off screen, I know exactly where they are most of the time and evade out and target with guns, approach and kill. 
 
 
 
   @yindotrunks said: 

" Great review, but  reading the text of the review makes me confused at the score.  It reads like a 5 star review but I can clearly see only 4 up at the top.  Regardless, looking forward to checking this out. "

  
  
 @raidingkvatch said: 

" I'm a little surprised at the 4 star score, from the tone of the review it seemed like a 5 to me, either way Byonetta isn't something I'm going to pick right away, but maybe if I see it pre-owned in a few months I'll give it a go "



 
 My thoughts exactly, it reads like a 5 star game review.  
Posted by lilarchie232
@Oni said:
" Ryan I love reading your reviews, I think you're one of the best writers in the field. Seriously man, they're a joy to read. Keep it up. "
yup.
Posted by Mezmero

Great review Ryan.  I enjoy your writing a great deal both in typed and video form.  I was already planning to give this game a try (if I can manage to overcome being at the bottom of the rental food-chain) because of its action-game insanity and it's reassuring to know that the craziness that I expect to experience will be done in spades.  Might be a hell of a year in gaming.
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Posted by Mezmero

Great review Ryan.  I enjoy your writing a great deal both in typed and video form.  I was already planning to give this game a try (if I can manage to overcome being at the bottom of the rental food-chain) because of its action-game insanity and it's reassuring to know that the craziness that I expect to experience will be done in spades.  Might be a hell of a year in gaming.    
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Posted by fooflighter737
@MasterChiefLopez said:

 And the female protagonist is fun to play as (and shes f___ing hot!).  

Yeah if you're into 40 somethings that look like Sarah Palin...barf 
 
No thanks, pure Japanese garbage, even Hideki Kamiya's interview in GameInformer is elusive and strange
Posted by Yummylee

The ps3 version even got a seperate review? its just that much inferior :(
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