My game intake has gone down a bit lately, as I patiently wait for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood to come out. I’ve been taking this small break to catch up on some slightly older games. I tried Super Mario Galaxy 2 but man was that game boring. Suddenly all those 9.5+ reviews, even as a 1st-party, flagship Mario game, seem like a whole lotta fluff. But that’s me.

Anyway, I’ve had the demo for Bayonetta sitting on my PS3 since it first came up for download back in..January, was it? Why? Because I enjoyed it.

Do I still enjoy it now that I have the whole game..?
Eh. Not as much as I thought. But that’s not to say it’s bad.

First of all, Bayonetta is a very odd game. It is an action game in the same vein as Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry, but it’s wrapped around a number of quirky design choices, unique game elements, and a story that’s more trouble to follow than it’s probably worth.

Let’s start with the main character, depicted on the box art. Bayonetta is a witch. The last of her kind, in fact. The game takes place in a psuedo-real world setting. The background is this: a long, long time ago there were two factions: the Umbra Witches and the Lumen Sages (essentially witches and angels). These two factions warred with each other, and the Umbra Witches nearly won, if not for the interference of the humans, who worshipped the Lumen Sages. Thus began the notorious witch hunts, which ended with that faction being near-obliterated.

Back to Bayonetta. She’s a pretty eccentric person. Her outfit, though modest under normal circumstances, is made up mostly of her hair, which she uses when casting powerful spells. Thus, the more Bayonetta fights, the more of her hair she uses, and the more..ah, revealing her outfit becomes. At full power she’s pretty much nekkid, with convenient swirls blocking view of the delicates (sorta like Naruto’s sexy jutsu). Nearly everything Bayonetta does tends have some sexual connotations, from her love for lollipops, to her posture and style of movement (hoo boy), even to her choice of words, both in and out of battle. “Do you want to touch me?” she says during one of her taunts.

Somehow, this doesn’t really translate to awkward moments for the player; just amusement and sometimes downright hilarity. Like for example, when Bayonetta meets an enemy pretending to be her doppelganger, what’s her first reaction? A dance-off, complete with minor pyrotechnics, and camera angles where they probably shouldn’t be. Ohhh, yes. I have to say, Bayonetta’s probably one of the funnest characters I’ve seen in a while. It’s a little like playing as, say, Viewtiful Joe. But even Joe ain’t got nothing on Bayonetta when it comes to pure style and personality.

Though you’ll be able to pick up a handful of other weapons as you play through the game, Bayonetta’s armaments of choice are a set of four pistols. One for each hand, and one strapped to each heel. Using her feet as weapons, you know her fighting style is going to have an acrobatic flair to it. That’s not all, though. Her eccentricity translates into her attacks, such the move “Breakdance”, which has her rolling into a Windmill dance move, while continuously firing her feet guns.

Now let’s talk more about the combat system. Whatever your thoughts may be regarding the story, characters, or presentation, this is where the meat of the game is. There’s a tiny bit of puzzles and platforming, but in pretty much every new area you walk into, you can expect a fight. Enemies that used to be bosses become commonplace, often bringing their buddies with them, and often you’ll find yourself wondering “where the heck did all the mooks go?”. These guys are the mooks.

Though the combat elements are easy enough to understand, this is can be a pretty technical game if you want it to be. You have three attack buttons. Square is your guns. You can hold it down to shoot enemies from afar (this is a lot like how you could whip out your gun in DMC games to preserve combos). Triangle and Circle are your standard and slow attacks, respectively. I’ll be the first to say I’m really not that great at this game, so often my attacks just devolve into random button mashing. But for the seasoned there’s some options. You can finish out any combo with a hale of gunfire just by holding down the button you’re attacking with at the moment, and of course there are a vast number of combo strings available to you. Otherwise, Bayonetta finishes most combos by summoning a giant limb from Madame Butterfly (her demon sponsor..?) to smack enemies around. Come to think of it, it’s almost like having to memorize strings in a fighter! You can also buy more techniques from the ingame shop.

Bayonetta can’t block attacks, but she can dodge them. R2 is your dodge button. If you dodge an attack right before it hits you, you can activate Witch Time for a few moments, which slows down your enemies. When you pull it off consecutively, it feels great. Unfortunately, as you progress in the game, you’ll encounter enemies packing moves that won’t grant you Witch Time even if dodged (though you’ll still get a split-second of slow mo) correctly.

Like in any action game worth its salt, most enemies can also be finished off in a very cinematic fashion. For bosses this happens automatically once they reach a certain threshold. Usually it involves Bayonetta using her hair to summon demonic forces from the netherworld to beat the stuffing out of the weakened foe before dragging them to hell, or reducing them to chunks of meat. For everyone else, you have Torture Attacks, which can be executed with a full magic bar, gained from attacking enemies without getting hurt. Torture attacks are exactly what you might think they are. Bayonetta summons a medieval torture machine such as a guillotine or iron maiden, forces the enemy into the machine, and leaves it there for massive damage. One such attack is used on her afore-mentioned doppelganger. Bayonetta summons a giant wooden horse, and a whip, chains up the enemy in a rather..erotic fashion, plops her onto the horse, and slowly presses the poor gal into the horse with her heel before dealing the final blow. It’s great.

Unfortunately, the game isn’t very good looking, and suffers from laggy menus and frequent loading screens. I’ve heard this is pretty much exclusive to the PS3 version, and it was even worse before the patch which lets you install the game to ease the problem. Fortunately, at least the load screens are fully playable, letting you practice your moves.

Audio in this game is actually pretty good. The soundtrack is mostly composed of jazzy tunes you’d expect to maybe hear in a Sly Cooper game or something. The dialogue is amusing, to say the least, even when it doesn’t appear to make much sense.

Furthermore, this is a hard game. I’ve been playing through on normal, and the point I’m at I tend to die pretty much at every other boss battle. For casuals (like myself), there’s Easy and even Very Easy, both of which have varying amounts of automatic gameplay involved, and also supposedly some higher difficulties (I wouldn’t know, I haven’t beaten the game yet).

I’m not sure I explicitly mentioned it, but this game is over the top, and random at times. From the prologue, which begins with two women making a last stand against a hoard of angels, on top of a chunk of falling stone as it plummets to the bottom of a canyon, to such things as one character running from pursuing authorities, only to stop and flirt with a girl, fall over in the process, get up, continue flirting, and then run away, and another instance where Bayonetta escapes a raging wave of a lava by grabbing a nearby angel and surfing on top of it. And then there’s the random biking segment. Like I said, this is a pretty odd game.

Replay value is probably off the charts if you’re the sort who’s patient enough to sit down and really get to know the game’s combat system. This is a pretty long game, and you get a ranking not only at the end of each chapter, but at the end of nearly every fight. Plus there’s multiple difficulties, and a lot of unlockables. Again, it’s sorta like a fighting game, where the replay value is definitely there, but only for those who really enjoy this sort of thing.

Overall, a 7.5/10

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