Laura – Bayonetta is not a game I should like for so many reasons: the story (which is as generic as it is incomprehensible), the excessive gore, the obscenely oversexualized heroine. Plus, I never finished it the first time because the angels were starting to show up in my nightmares.
But I just love this game so much.
I wanted Chip to play this game because he needed to understand why Bayonetta holds such a tender place in my heart. And because we have two copies of Okami and nothing to play them on, so this was the next best thing.
Chip – Among the list of video game series that never really held my attention, God of War is the most surprising of the bunch. It has everything that I should enjoy: the entire pantheon of Greek mythology, over-the-top action, and a heavy metal-inspired soundtrack that gets the blood boiling (and dripping as well). But try as I might, I simply could not warm to the series protagonist, Kratos, mainly due to his permanently dower demeanor. He just never, ever seems to be having a good time. Granted, the entire plot of God of War revolves around Kratos avenging the death of his wife and child, which hardly makes for a light-hearted tale. But one would think that a man who once reveled in battle and the slaughter of his enemies would at least wear a smirk while performing the brutal (albeit elegant) killing of dozens upon dozens of monsters. Instead, Kratos just grimaces and grunts an always-angry path of revenge towards Mount Olympus.
For some time now, I have longed for an action hero who actually takes pleasure in dispatching their foes. A character who relishes each moment of combat, turning every battle into another chance to show off and have fun. Maybe an anti-hero who brandishes inventive weapons and a devil-may-care attitude. Someone like… (pause for dramatic effect and glasses flourish) Bayonetta.
Developed by Platinum Games and released in 2010, Bayonetta could be considered a spiritual successor to Devil May Cry. The director, Hideki Kamiya, certainly said as much in a Gamespot interview: “… it’s been eight years since [the first Devil May Cry (DMC)], so of course I wouldn’t create a game that hadn’t progressed from those days! Of course, if there hadn’t have been DMC, there wouldn’t be Bayonetta, which has evolved from DMC.” Thankfully, Kamiya did not just settle into making yet another Devil May Cry sequel starring a white-haired, half-demon, twenty-something slacker. Instead, the director gave his character designer three simple rules for creating the titular Bayonetta. First, the game must feature a female lead, which was already a huge departure from most action titles of the age. Keeping with anti-hero fashions of the day, Kamiya insisted that the main character be a sort of modern witch. It was the final caveat that helped to establish the gameplay that would set Bayonetta apart from the archaic light-medium-heavy weapon conventions of action games: the heroine must use four guns.
Take a moment to consider the sort of character you would personally design from these restrictions. Oh sure, the first two are rather simple to implement, but what about the four guns rule? Where would you put the other two guns? Would the character use all four firearms at once, or only two at a time? Lead character designer, Mari Shimazaki, had her own vision for this quad-weapon style: Bayonetta would use the other two guns as the heels of her boots. This design choice was nothing short of brilliance, as Bayonetta could now break-dance fight her way to victory. Every battle in Bayonetta is so entertaining and full of delightful flourishes that I never felt like I had to slog through the combat to find the fun in this game.
Much of the joy in combat also comes from a wide array of weapon types. Over the course of the game, I fought with shotgun-endowed high heels, a cursed katana, a demonic cobra-whip, and even a pair of magical ice skates, which deliver frosty spin kicks as Bayonetta glides around her foes. Platinum Games ensures that each weapon gets its time in the spotlight, as there is no sort of level-up system for weapons. Since the player does not have to choose one weapon to strengthen over the course of the game, he/she has the option to utilize any tool of destruction during each moment of play.
Outside of battle, Bayonetta is as strong and stylish as each of her weapons. She is not the sort of woman to be relegated to the role of sidekick or kidnapped-love-interest. While some of her personality and character can be described as blatant fan-service, her flirtatious nature and over-the-top sexuality are never displayed as weakness, rather as a source of empowerment against those who would bring her harm. Bayonetta has a coy grin on her face through most of the game, and this delight in her actions translates so well to keeping a player engaged and happy right along with her.
Alongside all of these features are plenty of inside jokes and references at which we game connoisseurs may have a boisterous laugh. The currency of Bayonetta is angel halos, but these golden rings look suspiciously familiar to anyone who played Sonic the Hedgehog. There are levels in the game which are throwbacks to the Sega classics Super Hang-On, Fantasy Zone, and Space Harrier (each of which feature retro tunes as the soundtrack). And there are plenty of references to the games previously developed by Hideki Kamiya, which include Resident Evil, Viewtiful Joe, and Okami. So whether you are relatively new to gaming, or an old soul such as myself, Bayonetta has got you covered.
I could go on and on about the things I loved about Bayonetta, but in the end, all of my enjoyment of this game comes down to the sheer fun I had while playing. While so many other action games seem to have some section where I say, “Well, here is the crappy part of the game, time to get a sandwich” I never had to say that about Bayonetta. Just like its heroine, I kept a smile on my face, kicked some ass, and just danced to the music.