Bayonetta is an over-the-top action game and the latest from developer Platinum Games. Publisher Sega has tread carefully with Bayonetta by moving it out of the way of the holiday 2009 steamroller (Modern Warfare 2, Uncharted 2, etc.). Now, as part of the first wave of 2010 games, it has a chance to pick up new fans and maybe even soak up some of those electronics retailer gift cards that have become a popular generic gift item.
We've been seeing the game pretty regularly and have had the retail version for some time now. Here are our final thoughts:
Odds are you won't play anything like Bayonetta all year. While that may seem like a bold claim just one week into 2010, Bayonetta is by far one of the most bizarre, over-the-top, challenging, and entertaining games we've played in a while. Some may find the title's action similar to that of the Devil May Cry series (which isn't a bad thing), but Bayonetta feels more accessible. Though at times the game can be frustrating, it's designed mercifully enough to allow for difficulty adjustments and its checkpoint system is fair.
The story in Bayonetta isn't the most coherent we've come across, so this may not be the game for those looking for such a detail. But for what it lacks in comprehensiveness, Bayonetta makes up for with its gorgeous visuals and tight controls. Very rarely does the title dip below a smooth frame rate and the variety and creativity behind some of the game's bosses are just mind-boggling.
It's tough to fully explain a game like Bayonetta to a mainstream gamer. With its heavy Japanese influence and formulaic gameplay structure, the game may not appeal to every type of player. That said, Bayonetta is unique enough that we'd recommend it for fans outside of the action genre just as a means to experience something truly artistic and imaginative.
Thank god for Platinum Games. Formerly the team behind Capcom's funky Clover, they're the equivalent of Terry Gilliam or David Lynch to movies--indie, bizarre, fantastic. While their work may not be for everybody, I'd personally rather have a world filled with titles like Bayonetta than the endless one-off list of genre sequels we receive every year.
In short, as a game, Bayonetta is like Devil May Cry but with a far stranger and very Japanese devils-versus-angels storyline, injected with absurdly over-the-top violence and dialogue. On an Xbox 360, the arcade-influenced fighting moves are lightning-fast, and the boss battles are packed full of weird monsters, gravity-defying moves, and cheeseball music.
I love Bayonetta for personal reasons: I am an indie film lover and a fan of absurdism, and grew up on Sega consoles. Back in the days of the Genesis, Saturn and Dreamcast, it seemed like Sega made games like Bayonetta quite frequently--off the beaten path, action-filled, and odd. Sega's drifted from this legacy, but with Bayonetta it's a fine return to form. Don't hesitate if you love a great single-player action game, Japanese/Western cultural oddities, or are a Sega fetishist. I've discovered my new source of entertainment once football season closes.
Bayonetta feels like a mix between the frenetic action of Devil May Cry and the extended nonsensical cut scenes of Metal Gear Solid. Long sections of button-mashing and demon-fighting are intercut with even longer dialog scenes.
While it seems like there must be a missing prequel novel lying around somewhere that introduces all the characters and backstory, it's still pretty easy to pick up the basic theme--beat up everything in sight. The over-the-top fighting moves are fun to pull off--especially the ones that summon creatures from our heroine's own magical hair, and the settings change often enough to keep things visually interesting.
But, we can't help but feel that the game's non-stop weirdness comes off as somewhat forced after a while, as if a focus group of corporate marketing types were trying their hardest to create a game in the "weird Japanese beat-em-up" genre.