The recent announcement that Bayonetta 2 would be an WiiU exclusive generated one of the most furious backlashes in recent gaming history. It wasn’t exactly a top seller, so one might wonder what the big deal is. Bayonetta is one of the best hack’n’slash games of this generation, and a memorable experience.
The game follows the tale of a witch, who has been dormant for centuries, and wakes up with a case of amnesia. As she tries to recover her lost memory, she is hunted by hordes of angels. The story stands as the game’s most obvious flaw. It doesn’t take itself seriously and, like everything else in this game, the story is way over the top. There are only a handful of relevant characters, an while some of them are memorable, and the character development is good, it does little to hold together a story that just doesn’t make much sense. The major plot twist borders on the absurd.
The game follows a mission based structure in which fighting will be your main activity. Barriers will stop your progress until you’ve killed everything in sight. There is also some light platforming and some extremely simple puzzles. Each mission has hidden treasures, and hidden portals with challenges that reward you upon completion. Each mission also grants you a rank at the end, adding to the replayability. The enemies drop halos which can be used to purchase items and abilities. If the design sounds exactly like Devil May Cry’s, that’s because it is. The only difference is that the environments for the missions are completely independent. Even so, it’s hard to criticize the game for “copying”, considering the creator of Bayonetta is also the creator of Devil May Cry.
In a game, a lot can be forgiven if it has rock solid gameplay, and Bayonetta is perhaps the best example of this. Traversal gets a nice twist with Bayonetta’s powers. She can transform into a panther to run faster and jump large distances, or into a crow to fly for a short period of time. Each transformation also comes with its own attacks. She can also change gravity, to navigate vertical surfaces, but it’s up to the game to enable it.
However, the core of the game is the combat, and this is where Bayonetta delivers in spades. You can equip one weapon to your arms, and one to your legs, creating a set. Then you can switch between two sets on the fly. There are multiple weapons allowing for even more combinations. The combat also shares many elements with Devil May Cry, but adds mixed button combos along with timing combos. One button uses the weapon your hands, another uses the weapon in your feet, and another shoots a pistol. The movelist is easily the biggest in any action game to date. One drawback is that some of the weapons feel basically the same, and the sets tend to share most of the moves between them. That’s not entirely bad, because, believe me, you won’t want to memorize a combo list for every set you create. If there's one nitpick is that the shooting feels underdeveloped and not as refined as Devil May Cry.
Lots of other elements make Bayonetta’s combat set itself apart. If you time your dodge just right, Bayonetta enters “witch time” slowing down time around you during a few seconds, allowing you to unleash your fury. Also, the game has a system called “dodge offset”, which allows you to resume a combo after a dodge. These features blur the line between offence and defense, making them equally important.
The game also has a magic system that charges with combos and dodges. Some abilities use small fractions of the meter, but you can spend great amounts to unleash extremely powerful “torture attacks” These use QTEs like hammering buttons and rotating sticks for extra damage, and they can be a pain (to your thumbs).
Even with so much power at Bayonetta’s disposal, the enemies put up a great fight, especially on the higher difficulties. The battles can get extremely chaotic. On the very hard setting, witch time is disabled, dramatically changing the required approach. To top it off, the game delivers some of the best boss battles of this gen, with multi-part battles against towering enemies.
The presentation is a mixed bad. The games graphics are good, and the animation is stellar. The art is at its best when you visit Paradiso, and platforming over jets streams of water stopped by witch time is an interesting sight. The sound effects are good, and the voice acting does a good job. However, the pop music that plays during fights due to the female protagonist doesn’t fit the bloody action and just becomes annoying. Also, the constant ovesexualization of the main character makes it hard to not be embarrassed to play this in front of anyone.
In the end, Bayonetta delivers one experience that raises the bar for combat in future hack'n'slash games. If you enjoy that kind of game, you cant go wrong with Bayonetta. Just make sure no one is around when you play it.