Trick rather than Treat
(Played in Handheld mode with Japanese text and voice. So, no comment on the English recast fiasco. Since this is kind of tear-them-a-new-one review, beware of the spoilers.)
This is a story about how an impulse purchase on Halloween bit someone in the ass. On October, 31st, 2022, yours truly decided to participate in some seasonal consumerism. They went to a video game store, paid about 39 us dollars for a physical copy of Bayonetta 3 and found it to be a wicked witch’s trick rather than Halloween treat. I am just glad it did not cost me the “full price”. Neither did it took up storage space and data plan.
This is not a scored repeat of feminist disappointment in reviews on Polygon and Verge. Since the reviewers of those outlets did not start to loathe this game until the third act, while yours truly found something rotten about this game within their first hour with it. The cut scenes are way too long. One would think having played two pretty long visual novels earlier this year would make one tolerate long cut scenes, but no. As the Switch screen went dim not once but twice during an earlier cut scene, bad omen emerged. Yours truly set the console to never go to sleep while idle for crying out loud.
What followed was a middling action game that this industry in large had been way too kind to. From bad graphic to a broadline hostile camera, Bayonetta 3 is a game inferior to everything else Platinum put on Switch. Who would think a game built from the ground for one piece of hardware can turn out this bad?
Bayonetta 3 is not a pleasant game to look at. Partly it’s due to the too busy for its own good design. The other part being the Switch’s limits. Guess the 3 years between it and Astral Chain, or between Fire Emblem Three Houses and Three Hopes for that matter, had made Switch hardware no longer good enough for software developers’ so-called ambition. And boy isn’t Bayonetta 3 so baffling ambitious for a Switch exclusive.
The first thing one can notice is the “realistic texture”, from the different clothes Bayonetta wears to her face. While Astral Chain or NieR Automata went for the “plastic” look for the characters’ faces, this game’s obsession to make the main characters’ face looking real, aka textured backfired and does not add a thing to the game. Then there are no-holding-back amount of particle effect. Astral Chain does have more than its fair share of particles flyig, but Bayonetta 3 still throw them on the screen like there is no tomorrow to the point that they have became miasma. Maybe the particles are mean to serve as fog of war?
One wonder if Platinum and Sega meant this game to be released on more powerful like say Personal Computer, but could not due to Nintendo being the only one willing to pay for the development.
"To be continued in a new generation" are the final words this game left player before it is done with them. One cannot help but take “new generation” as “new hardware” even though the game does not mean it.
Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?
These are not philosophizing but the 3 questions one would keep asking themselves while playing Bayonetta 3, especially in those so-called “Epic” boss fights. They represent problems of this game that cannot be fixed with more powerful hardware.
For “Who am I”, the question comes in two fold.
First, just like Astral Chain, Platinum seemed hellbound to make an action game with JOJO stands. Pull and hold the left trigger, then Bayonetta and that other player character would summon a so-called Demon Slave that can do bigger damage to enemies. The problem is that doing this would leave Bayonetta and that other player character more vulnerable to enemy attack and that’s never fun. Plus, when you want to use those big guns for the bosses, the bosses usually have tricks up their sleeves to kill those giant monsters in one hit. Charming.
Second, there is “that other player character” named Viola. (Fuck you for doing Miyuki Sawashiro dirty here, Platinum.) This new girl with punk look drops in a few chapters out of 14 to do battle. Her signature being parrying on the command of right bumper can trigger the slow-mo Witch Time like Bayonetta dodge on the command of right trigger can. Switching between those 2 can be confusing as in should one pull right bumper or trigger to pull a slo-mo.
To summarize both, Platinum added new features to this game that would make for better marketing but not necessarily better final product. And don’t get me started on “Jeanne’s Spy Action”, that’s some Grasshopper horseshit without self-awareness.
If that’s all then this game does not sound half-bad, huh? Well, then there are questions “Where did I come from?” and “Where am I going?”. Introducing your worst enemy in the whole game: the camera.
Yours truly once thought only first-person has the problem of not letting player not knowing where to dodge or dash. This is a problem the way-too-long DOOM Eternal and the way-long-short Bright Memory Infinite share. But guess I was naive to not see how fouled up third-person camera can be. As pointed out the image above, fighting giant boss includes a “Where is Wille” game on its own. Then when those ladies fight someone more of their size, things are not better. When cornered, they are just doomed, with not knowing how to dodge out of the corner.
Guess there is a story here
Since Grasshopper is mentioned, I might as well talk about the story. It’s bad like Grasshopper product but without the self-awareness to make it charming. Take things like No More Heroes. It’s nonsense, it does not make any sense other than players are still fighting. But it carries itself with the nod to “Yeah, we know all those are bullshit, but ain it cool to look at”. None of such self-awareness is here.
You are roped into saving multiverse, then see your player character pretending to care about her dying doublegangers. It’s all very self-serious. The series Hideki Kamiya is credited to give “Story Scenario” and it’s far cry from the comedy gold filled Okami. And who the fuck in their right make the final boss as mid-credits stinger?
In some ways, “Platinum is the gold standard of action game” is a myth busted long ago. With indie darling lie Dead Cell to be held as the new golden standard and all. Yours truly would take how those ninja commandoes move in MGSV over Platinum products any day personally. I guess with Bayonetta 3, the myth a wicked witch once cooked up, should be put to rest.
Yours truly had played the previous 2 Bayonetta and enjoyed in their “original” form, the first one on Xbox 360 then the second on Wii U. Platinum still pretending they are playing with state-of-the-art hardware in 3 coupled with some people’s illusion that the developer is still on top make this game such a disappointment. One of them have to wake up from their dream sometime.