For the record, I’ve been waiting for Bayonetta ever since I heard early details and saw a few screenshots well over a year ago. Although I find sadistically difficult games to be more of a chore than enjoyable entertainment, I have still overcome some of the stiffer action challenges in the past few generations. I’ve taken down every Devil May Cry (including DMC3 before the Special Edition arrived and they fixed the difficulty), and I also beat Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox, so I’ve cut my teeth on some severely punishing titles. Still, I prefer games like God of War because I believe that challenge isn’t everything; I believe we play games to escape, to feel powerful, to perform the impossible. Kratos is perfect for this; his adventures aren’t necessarily easy, but they’re still a blast to play and you almost never feel overmatched. All this being said, the style and attitude found in a game like Bayonetta has always appealed to me, so…
First of all, people will complain about the cheesiness of the dialogue and what some may describe as shameless or adolescent posturing in regards to scantily clad females and various forms of innuendo. But I think context subtlety is lost on far too many people these days (try reading a book, please) and that most don't understand what lies on the surface is merely an artistic covering. Basically, it’s supposed to embrace cheesiness; the developers aren’t striving for realistic dialogue or heroes and heroines we’d meet next door. If you still have difficulty differentiating, here’s a little hint: when the heroine blows a kiss at foes she just eliminated by wielding a weapon twice her size and using torturous magic attacks, we’re supposed to grin. We’re not supposed to scoff and go, “oh, that’s just ridiculous.” No, you’re ridiculous because you missed the very obvious pun. So do me a favor and don’t run Bayonetta through the shredder just because she’s part witch, part stripper. She’s supposed to be, genius, and by the way, the entire thing is partly - or mostly - tongue-in-cheek. You have to realize that such presentations are designed to be parodies of themselves, in some capacity. I just wanted to clear this up.
As for the gameplay, I’d first like to say that some reports are coming in saying the PS3 demo found in North America is actually better than the Japanese demo. After all, we’ve been hearing about how Sega plans to clean up the lesser version as much as humanly possible for its January 5 launch, and some of that work may be on display in this demo. I don’t know because I didn’t play the one on the Japan’s PSN; if any of you have, feel free to let me know if you notice any differences. Based on what I see here, though, I can understand why everyone is getting so excited for the game. Two things jump right out at you: the sheer number of options you have in combat, and the overall speed of battle. The latter is almost blinding and is about on par with the speed you might find in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2. This may sound intimidating but I noticed that if you play longer, the game starts to slow down and you can really start to see things better. This didn’t happen when I played NG; it only happened to me in this demo…not sure why.
It’s just the onslaught of insanity that makes Bayonetta shine. For several consecutive minutes, I continually saw new things from that slim acrobat that made me go, “WTF was that?” Her torture moves when the magic meter is full are out of control, her combo attacks are beautifully designed and wonderfully effective, and successfully tying in the evade (R2) button with your slaughter makes Bayonetta appear invincible for brief stretches of time. Dodging at the last second will enable “Witch Time,” which allows the heroine to continue to move at full speed while her foes are stuck in slo-mo for a bit. Yeah, you can deal some serious damage right then. If you had to break down each animation, you’d be impressed with the amount of effort that went into producing each one, and perhaps above all else, the game will indeed reward patience and skill. If it was just plain lame; if the game was getting in cheap shots and the enemies clearly had the advantage regardless of what you do (something I downright abhor), that’d be a different story.
I couldn’t pick up on any significant frame rate hitches and I played through the demo three times. In all honesty, the amount of sh** that’s happening on screen at once makes it tough to notice much of anything that isn’t directly linked to the fighting, but I’m sure I’d notice if the frame rate was a detriment to the gameplay. I’m not overly impressed with the visuals and I’m relatively certain they’re still a little better in the 360 version, but it’s not like they’re bad. They remind me a lot of DMC4, actually, and in some ways, there’s a certain flair and colorfulness you don’t normally find in brutal action games like this. Battling boss after boss after boss is a little nuts and something I hope I don’t have to suffer through too often in the final game, but each boss is so crazy, it’s almost a pleasure to suffer. In the end, I won’t care what kind of medal I get after each level; I just want to be able to finish it, provided my controller can withstand the attack. The game is super ridiculous fun to play, but I’m not quite sure I understand the perfect scores it has received...
That camera just isn’t right all the time, and don’t tell me it’s any different in the 360 version because I’m sure it isn’t. The speed of the game is enough to throw the camera view for a loop and moving the camera manually is surprisingly sluggish, especially in comparison to the speed at which things happen on the screen. Furthermore, I’m not convinced the “Witch Time” is 100% accurate; I’ve dodged something that was nowhere near me and still activiated Witch Time. I’m not complaining, per se, but it’s one of a few little erratic issues I found. 10 out of 10? I doubt it. But I’m now convinced it’s a game I need to at least attempt, and I can’t help but be impressed with the artistic and design efforts; what you’re looking at during intense combat is an absolute visual feast. There’s just so much going on. And being able to pick up all those diverse weapons really adds another dose of flavor to an already deep mechanic.
Oh, and one last thing: while Chloe still has the best ass in games, I think she now has some competition. Bayonetta’s curves are just…lovely.
12/5/2009 Ben Dutka