Bayonetta Hands-On Impressions

Yes it has been a long time coming, but I finally have something to say about Bayonetta.  After 3D Dot Game Heroes, and the God of War Collection, I went head first into Bayonetta. I have quite a bit to say about the 4.5 hours I’ve spent with the game thus far, so let’s jump right in.

To start off with, if you’re thinking of buying the PS3 version, you might as well go ahead and do so right now.  The game scans your PS3 the minute you boot it up and if it sees you have a North American system.  After that, it changes all the voice acting, text, etc to English.  Talk about a nice feature!  If all the imports we played had that feature, we’d import far more games ;)

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I suppose I should start off with the story.  I don’t want to get into too many details because that’s what the review is for.  Needless to say, this is one of the more original tales out there, even though it doesn’t seem like it at first.  You see Bayonetta has amnesia, and has no clue where she came from.  All we’re told is that there are multiple dimensions and for some reason or another Bayonetta can travel between these dimensions.  She’s also killing angels left and right, because they have something to do with keeping her between dimensions.   As time goes on we slowly start to learn more about Bayonetta and her connection to these other dimensions, and these characters in general.  There’s another female vixen, Jeanne, that has a very important role to play, but I haven’t quite figured out exactly where she stands in the greater scheme of things.  Is she a friend of foe?  Time will tell, I suppose.

Bayonetta may not know her past, but she sure knows her present.  She’s a witch that travels between various dimensions taking out all the angelic creatures she can.  Certain shady characters pay her large sums of money to make sure these angels are taken care of.  What’s kind of cool is that us, humans, don’t have the ability to see these angelic creatures, but we can sort of feel their presence.   When you travel to a city, humans are displayed in a weird see-through sort of fuzz.  It’s the same way people see Bayonetta.  It’s actually a pretty cool effect and makes for some rather humorous situations.

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Bayonetta has two important friends that accompany her during the early portions of the game.  One is an Italian mobster named Enzo.  He’s a regular human, just like you and I.  He can’t see what’s going on around him, but when the angelic creatures start grabbing him, he can sure feel it.  He sounds a little like Joe Pesci, and is the game’s comic relief.   The other character who plays an even more important role is Rodin, he’s a demon that creates new weapons for you and sells you items and accessories when you go to the bar in hell.  Yes, like I said, the story is messed up.

Outside of this, Bayonetta is simply trying to kill off every angelic creature out there, find out who she is, and look damn sexy while doing it.  That’s Bayonetta in a nutshell.  Crazy, no?  That’s just the way we like it though!

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In terms of gameplay, it’s extremely obvious that one of the main men behind Devil May Cry is behind this game as well.  It plays very much the same, and is extremely difficult as well.  Being an action game, you can expect a TON of combos.  What’s so great about these combos is that they’re right there in front of you during all the loading screens.  You can see a master list and practice as the game loads in new stages, death screens, etc.  That was a great touch.  Combinations are as simple as triangle, triangle, triangle and as complex as six to eight button presses.  What floored me was just how smooth the combos work.  It’s wonderful being able to be in mid-combo, flip the R2 trigger and then change to another combo.  Bayonetta seamlessly moves from one style to the next without every stopping.  The number of animations she has is rather staggering, and I think you’re all going to be floored once you see this in motion.  Honestly, it’s extremely impressive.  Oh and hold the R1 button for a few seconds for a hilarious taunt move she does.  You will appreciate it once you do it, trust me.

Bayonetta has four guns by default, but you can swap in and out new weapons as you find LPs or buy weapons from Rodin.  Currency takes the form of angel halos, but given the difficulty of the game I haven’t really been able to buy anything except for healing items.  What’s kind of neat with this game is that Bayonetta can hold larger weapons in her two hands, but also can equip lighter weapons on her feet.  So when I said she has four guns, I meant it.  She can hold one gun in each hand and attach one on each foot.  The combinations also come into play based on the weapon Bayonetta is using.  If you’re using a sword in your left hand, a gun in your right hand and two guns on your feet her moves change drastically compared to having just swords on your two hands and guns on your two feet.

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Given Bayonetta is a witch; she also has the ability to control time, space and the dimensions themselves.  I’ve transformed into a wolf-like creature to jump from one pillar to the next, as the dimension I was in was literally falling apart.  Next I was able to summon a monster by using my hair, which then went forward and ate the huge boss character I was fighting.  She even has the ability to dodge enemy attacks, slow down time and use witch traps to completely obliterate her enemies.  Add all of these things together and you have yourself one messed up game, that’s completely addicting and awesome.

Chapters are broken down into verses, with some chapters comprised of only a handful of verses, and others featuring twelve.  Then there are other chapters that are nothing more than an exaggerated boss fight.  Once chapters are over with a fun little mini-game pops up where players have to shoot objects in order to unlock prizes.  It feels like a circus game or something.  It’s wild and fits the tone of the game perfectly.

Another element that’s extremely important to master is the lollipop system.  Based on which colored lollipop you conjure, Bayonetta can use them for different abilities.  Yellow lollipops are used for shields, red for strength enhancements, and green for health.  As for the magic system, small little circular orbs under the health meter fill up as you defeat enemies.  The more you have, the more weaving you can perform.  Weaving is anything involving your hair.  Apparently magic is directly tied to her hair.  If you have a full magic meter, you’re able to create death traps of varying magnitude.  What makes magical attacks so difficult is that every time you take damage, one of your magic orbs disappears.  In other words, you have to play the game damn near perfectly in order to use magic effectively.

So that’s Bayonetta.  You unlock a chapter; make your way from point A to point B killing everything in your path.  There are a few puzzles here and there, but for the most part, it’s fighting, fighting, and more fighting.   The great news is that given the great amount of variety I’ve seen thus far, I’ve yet to get bored.  I mean fighting off a giant upside-down baby-face, then transforming into a wolf to escape an entire dimension being destroyed is something else.  Yes there’s a lot of fighting, but I’ve yet to get tired of how the game throws enemies at you.  If the game remains this creative, I have a feel we could be looking at one of the surprise action hits of the year.

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One of the most vocal areas I’ve heard about has been the game’s graphics.  It’s true that the PS3 version has an insane amount of loading.  Sega really needs to release some kind of patch to fix this up ASAP.  There really should have been a mandatory install with this game because when you press the select button to see the sub-menu, you have to wait about five seconds before anything pops up.  Then when you switch from the weapon page to the item page, you have to wait again.  Press the select button to go back to the game, and yup, more waiting.  It’s insane!  I’ve also noticed a few instances where the framerate has dropped, but nothing too bad thus far.  I have only experienced five chapters thus far, so I still have quite a ways to go before I finish this bad boy.  Now for the positive, the art design is out of this world.  It also features some of the best level designs I’ve seen this generation.  There are some scenes where you don’t even realize you’re the one playing the game.  I’ll go into more detail with the full review, but for now, take note that this is one fine looking game, and if the Xbox 360 version has a better framerate, than wow, it should be something else.

The voice acting is cheesy as hell, but I was expecting that given subject material.  Everything else is incredible though, from the weapon sound effects to the killer soundtrack.  When the demo hits North America, be sure to give it a go and see exactly what I mean.

Bayonetta is a sexy, smooth and incredibly fun action game that I wasn’t sure would appeal to me.  It turns out that I’m having a blast with it even though I completely suck at these types of games.  You can always tell a great videogame when it’s challenging, I suck at it, and yet I go back for more.  Keep in mind this is no DMC4, but it is indeed a challenge.  Fear not though, if you find Normal a breeze, there are two higher difficulty settings you can try out.  To end off, make sure you check this game out once it hits North America because I’m sure you haven’t played an action game this diverse and wild in a very long time.

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