Review: Welcome to my fantasy zone... well no, not mine ? Bayonetta's.
Action games have long been the domain of the rough & tumble male stereotypes, be it badass ninjas like Ryu Hayabusa, the pretty boy wisecrackers like Dante, or the just plain angry dudes such as Kratos. Bayonetta doesn't just enter the Boys Club... she summons a hair demon to break the door down and send everyone running for their lives and steals some of their gimmicks along the way. The second project from the ex-Clover employees at Platinum Games, Bayonetta is the next evolution of the balls-on action game; almost twenty chapters of non-stop combat, crazy characters, insane sequences, and of course the titular main character herself who basically shatters everything you knew about female game characters. Bayonetta gets a great many things right ? it will appeal to the die-hard action gamer who masters every combo, and thanks to both forgiving checkpoints and a couple ?easy? difficulty levels, it can be considered one of the most accessible games in its genre. If you're here for a plot that makes sense, you won't find it, but you will find one of the finest action games of the past few years.
The story of Bayonetta begins with a witch and a Joe Pesci-esque mobster standing over a grave. Suddenly angels attack, the witch turns out to be Bayonetta, and the dude in the grave suddenly comes back to life and becomes your merchandise dealer. This is Bayonetta in a nutshell; a ridiculous plot that breaks up the action sequences. There's something about two gems called ?Eyes of the World? that will bring balance between the warring Umbra Witches and Lumen Sages, but it's not explained and instead you get the strange relationship between Bayonetta, a young girl named Cereza, and a real dork who goes by Luka, chasing Bayonetta around the city of Vigrid, where the game takes place. All the while, Bayonetta is being pursued by Jeanne, who has knowledge of Bayonetta's missing past but is more interested in killing her, apparently out of some sort of revenge. This is what you'll come to expect ? a lot of ?I guess? and ?I suppose so? when trying to make sense of the plot. In other words, don't worry about it, and instead play the ?how many Sega references can you find? game ? it won't give you a migraine.
Or just concentrate on the outstanding combat that makes up the core of Bayonetta. Oddly enough, the game is a beat 'em up at its core, given how strong Bayonetta is with fists. Like Devil May Cry, you can also use a sword or guns, but much of the good stuff comes from using fists, which eventually can be upgraded to something more powerful. Upon first playing the game, you might be overwhelmed ? the action on the screen can become hectic and oftentimes difficult to get under control, but eventually the game settles down a bit and you kind of learn how to handle it. The core mechanic of the game is ?witch time? which triggers when you successfully dodge an attack... at the very last second. Nailing it will slow down time to get more hits in, and it's a technique one must really have a mastery of to play the game well... especially if you want a lot of torture attacks. Without it (and the highest difficulty does take it away), some fights become a war of attrition, taking out enemy HP before they take out Bayonetta. Though the game is very forgiving in that it autosaves after completing a verse (the combat sequences), and if you die you restart from the beginning of the next verse, it still expects some skill if you're playing on Normal and above, otherwise you can expect to see a lot of Stone Awards until you put it all together... trust me, I know. Sigh.
It's not that the AI is revolutionary or highly intelligent ? it's just that they hit hard and can trap you if they get good shots in. It's really easy to get juggled in mid-air and get half your health bar taken off. Frustrating. There aren't a lot of enemy types, but there's enough that each have their own tactics to annoy Bayonetta and make it difficult to escape. You'll understand the first time you meet Grace & Glory, or even worse, battle three Joys at once. Boss battles are multi-part monstrosities that require mastering any kind of pattern they may or may not show and careful dodging of anything. There's only a handful of ?major? boss fights, as the game instead tosses lots of sub-bosses and later in the game, repeats of old major bosses that are thankfully nerfed compared to the originals. To help out newer or less skilled players, Bayonetta has Easy and Very Easy difficulty levels, both with ?automatic? combos by default. The accessory can be removed to make the game manual again, but on Easy Automatic, the game basically plays itself... which is pretty lame. Because the controls are tight and easy to grasp, there's really no reason to play anything on Automatic; even newbies should be able to execute some good button strings without much effort. Again ? mastery of Witch Time will make the game bow to you.