Platinum Games is a company built by Clover studio directors and members based on the idea of making high quality games. The company’s first game was Madworld for the Wii, an ultraviolent hack-and-slash video game. The game was critically praised, but didn’t fair too well in sales, and was followed by Infinite Space in Japan(with the intended release later this year in the EU and US). Bayonetta is the company’s Third game, published by Sega, directed by Hideki Kayima, who directed Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe, for the Xbox 360 and PS3.
This game is of considerable note to me for one main reason, the director. Devil May Cry was, then wasn’t, then is again, my favorite video game series. Despite it’s hiccup in the second installment, it has been a great series that has, for me, helped start a series of great hack-and-slash games that don’t follow the Dynasty Warriors train of thought. Bayonetta IS Devil May Cry in so many words.
That’s not to say it’s a rip off, but the game teems with trademarks Devil May Cry has utilized for so many years, even going so far that the development team shares a name similar to the original game’s development team. However the game differentiates itself in many ways. Apart from the obvious sexual differentiation of the main characters, elements of the game feel very familiar to Devil May Cry, yet are so incredibly new.
One of the best parts of playing a game developed by Platinum Games and the former Clover Studios is the art design. Viewtiful Joe, Okami, Godhand, Madworld, all games with really distinct appearances. Bayonetta is no exception. While some elements could very well take place in another game, the core focus of the game is rather distinct. The enemies, Bayonetta and much of the main cast are quite distinct, and all are exquisitely designed and modeled. The scale of the bosses fights in the game are where this fine level of detail really shine.
The game’s graphics, while excellent, are not really what make the appearance of the game so impressive to me. A lot of Bayonetta’s outfit has to do with fluidity. Her hair and the ribbons in her hair are loose, and so they need to flow with the wind. The game does just that to a rather astounding degree. during every cutscene you see her hair ebb and flow with the wind. It’s a rather amazing level of technical degree that the game utilizes well.
The gameplay for Bayonetta is not unlike Devil May Cry, but is quite distinct in several respects. While the game does use a lot of dodging as the main means of defense, the timing of the dodges quickly become the core focus of many fights due to the introduction of a feature called “witch time” which is, in large, bullet time. Timing your dodges just before the enemy’s attack activates witch time, which slows everything down allowing for you to wail on the enemies with wild abandon for a few seconds. This ability to use this just offensively, but also defensively by whittling down the numbers little by little is a brilliant move that really helps to differentiate the game from other similar titles.
What helps this even more is the amount of weapons and combinations. A number of the weapons you get in the game can be used on either Bayonetta’s hands or feet, or a combination of both. The amount of combinations you can choose because of this means that you have a large number of different combos to utilize in combat. It allows for a lot of variety in what you can choose to fight in the game, but doesn’t make the game so convoluted that you lose control and end up just spamming the X button.
The most impressive part of the game would have to be the big boss fights. While some of the smaller bosses are often the quicker and harder fights, the battles where you’re fighting monstrous creatures are incredibly entertaining. What makes them more impressive is the game’s playful toying with the laws of gravity. At times in the game you’re given the ability to run up walls and other surfaces, and this feature used the best with in the boss fights. Fighting the bosses while you’re running on their stomachs creates a really entertaining atmosphere in the battles that’s similar to what some other games have done, but also astoundingly original and well done at the same time.
Beyond the numerous combinations of weapons, the hundreds of combos with in those combinations of weapons, and their utility in combat, the game features a great deal of replay value. A single play through of the game on normal is about 15 hours, less if you rush it. However, the game features a number of extra unlockables, like harder difficulties, more weapons only unlocked after beating the game, and two other playable characters, and costumes for them as well. There’s tons to do after you’ve beaten the game, making that initial play-through only a portion of the actual content, more so with the achievements to unlock.?
The game’s major flaw lies within it’s story. While the story is not entirely unoriginal, much the story plays out like an anime. There are tons of references in the game for people who followed Platinum games from Capcom, with references to past Clover games as well as some other iconic Capcom games, and even references to other games outside of just Clover and Capcom. The sheer amount of sexual focus in the game screams of fan service. None of this is necessarily bad, but when it’s set against the more serious storyline it seems like a bit too campy at times.
The story itself focuses on a war between heaven and hell, with elements from Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy pulled here and there, not unlike Devil May Cry. Much of this comes from Bayonetta’s clouded past, created by an amnesiac episode. It’s all not very original, but is played out well thanks to some of the humor in the game. What becomes really annoying is how weird the story becomes at the end of the game, making the game feel like an episode Neon Genesis Evangelion.
While probably not a big issue for hardcore gamers, the game does present a challenge on the normal setting, which is the highest you get when playing the game for the first time. I would imagine this is remedied in the easier difficulties, which can go as far as to allow players to just hit one button to pull off impressive combos, but it would seem to me that takes away a great deal of the game’s attraction. The game is difficult on Normal, but still incredibly fun.
Bayonetta is a sexy game, both in the design and use of the graphics, but the appearance is just the icing on the cake. The combat is extensive and incredibly fun, with the smart usage of bullet time as a form of countering as a great incentive for defensive playing. The boss fights from beginning to end are entertaining, with tons of replay value once you get to the finish. The game’s story gets convoluted at times, with a slightly bizarre ending, but at it’s very base this is a love note to gamers. The camp and fan-service can feel off target at times, but doesn’t make this any worse of a game. This is a beautifully stylish game, doubly so if you love the studio’s past games as well as the genre.
Note: I reviewed this game on the Xbox 360. While the PS3 game was reported to have some performance issues on the Japanese version, Sony was said to have helped Sega with these issues. I cannot speak if the performance of the games is identical, but I would have to imagine they are nearly so.