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Review: Bayonetta on the PS3

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This will be a deeper look into Bayonetta, a second look if you will. If you want a quick gist of what the game is about, I suggest you read the original posting for Bayonetta on our blog. You can find it here.

I was looking forward to reviewing this for a while, considering the entire PR around it and the fact it featured a strong heroin character filling the same shoes as Dante from Devil May Cry. Not that her being a woman really changes anything besides it’s rare to actually see a strong female main character that didn’t need any saving nor is she shaking at the knees at the sight of another man she loves. Although how she is portrayed in the game and themes behind it may lead some to think otherwise.

In Bayonetta, you learn the main character of the same name, was found at the bottom of a lake within a casket, suffers some kind of amnesia besides her knowing she’s a witch and has super powers. With the help of a man named Enzo, she’s seeking whatever lead she could find that could relate to her forgotten past; while in turn, help’s Enzo with his shady dealings so he could have enough funds to do the research necessary as well as keep them afloat. A possible side story they could make a game of, but this game will be focusing on the first part where they are trying to find out more about Bayonetta’s past.

I know I have done reviews similar to how IGN does it with a break down in parts but it feels a bit archaic and even IGN does a large body of an review before the basic break downs so I will attempt to follow suit.

Personally, I was lured to the game by it’s over-the-top action and battle mechanics. Since I was a real fan of Devil May Cry 3, and this was under the same director, it seemed like a no brainer that I should get this game. Just so you folks know, my review will be based on my experience playing ridiculous beat’em ups such as Devil may Cry 3 and God Hand. Speaking of God Hand, since Clover was disbanded, much of that staff created Platinum Games which made Bayonetta, as well as God Hand when they were still known by their formal studio name. The game is littered with references from the history of Sega, Capcom, as well as Clover’s line of video games. While there are a few many would recognize such as when Rodin says this line “’what da’ya buyin? I heard that in a game once.” A reference to the merchant in Resident Evil 4, there are some much less obvious like when Bayonetta draws the markings on Amatersu from Okami upon Luka’s face. There is also what I thought was a Viewtiful Joe reference, the After Burner Kick being to the Red Hot Kick, I learned it was actually after the game After Burner, a game akin to Ace Combat.

The game has very deep and rich combat system where the flow and effectiveness of it will reflect that of the player, rather than just mashing buttons.  The game ranks you after every fight, based on time, combo score, and damage taken. While weak combo’s can give you higher combo score for little effort, you will burn more time trying to kill enemies so your time ranking will make you suffer. In contrast, if you kill the enemies extremely quickly but you barely combo nor did you maintain the combo multiplier, you will suffer in combo score ranking, dragging the overall ranking down. There are many ways to accomplish all these goals at the same time where as long as you use the elements given to you, you will earn your Platinum rankings like a pro.

The game gives you some pretty basic commands. Punch, Kick, Shoot, Jump, Lock on, and Dodge.  Punching and kicking in different combinations is the foundation of the game’s combo system. Shooting will auto target an enemy, doing minimal damage but it helps maintain the combo multiplier in case you don’t think you can’t get to an enemy in time. One of the game’s unique features is Witch Time, when you successfully dodge an enemies attack with the dodge button, you will enter a state in which you enemies will be slowed down to a crawl while your attacks double in effectiveness, such as damage and ability to knock down foes you normally wouldn’t, and your attacks will also rack up the combo score multiplier significantly faster. This feature is the key to defeating certain enemies while it outright improves the gameplay overall, giving you the breathing room to control a crowd, the power to manage the more resilient enemies, obtaining the Platinum rankings, as well as shorting the time it takes to bring down bosses. You can even reflect projectiles using witch time, so while there is a time and place for difference combos and weapons, it’s always time for witch time. The onother thing that’s major about Bayonetta though, was that you can equip weapons on both her hands and her feet. This adds a little spin to her move set and can dramatically change the way you play.

Now what would be the player’s incentive for trying to get good rankings, or good combo scores when they could honestly just get through each fight simply doing the bare minimum? Halos. The rings, bearing absolute resemblance to the rings in Sonic the Hedgehog, are this game’s form of money. You will use halos to purchase new moves, items, weapons, costumes, and accessories.  All of which, besides the costumes, will make the game much easier to play since you will have more options, so you would do well to earn some of those halos if you don’t want to get frustrated with the game since it will be more and more brutal as the game continues on from level to level.  There is no level up system, there is no open world to explore, it is a classic from level to level action game. You will be able to choose which levels you want to play so return trips are not only possible, but encouraged to find any hidden items you may have missed the first time.

Despite the game type, it does try to cater to everyone besides children. If you’re a hardcore action game fan, you will find a very rewarding combat system with all the oomph and pizzazz you would come to expect from action games nowadays, while for those who simply like action games but was never the type to try to string anything longer than three moves together, you will find a place in Bayonetta all the same where the very easy and easy modes have a automated combat feature where so long as you’re pressing a button, the game will string combos and maneuvers for you until you can do them yourself.

Now the themes, probably what has brought as many people in to the game as a there are many people it turned away. There is no holding back when it comes to game’s use of sensual themes short of an adult film. You will frequently see Bayonetta strip down to her birthday suit while all the naughty bits are cleverly censored, this will be while she’s summoning demons from the bowels of hell or when she’s performing her ridiculous combos. You will also notice that much of how Bayonetta does things always involves some kind of curvaceous dance much like that of a belly dancer; not surprising since a belly dancer was whom Platinum hired to model Bayonetta’s movements.  Even when she’s pulling a lever, she will wrap her legs around it in a sensual matter. This doesn’t really take away from anything since the theme was very well put together throughout the game’s design making what would seemingly be out of place anywhere else, right at home. The game features a heaven versus hell motif among these themes, while the angels uses divine axes and trumpets that propel holy energy at you, Bayonetta uses dark medieval times style torture devices via Torture Attacks, finishing moves you can do when you have the appropriate magic power, from Iron Maidens, guillotines , spiked wheels, and even a very risqué finisher using a wooden horse with a spiked back.

Lets talk about what I didn’t like about Bayonetta now…

There really isn’t that much that I didn’t like about Bayonetta, most of it has to do with how the game was ported from the XB360 version. There are many times when the frame rate suffers because there is just so much going on a lot of times, at least that’s what I wanted to think before in the later parts of the game when there is even more insanity but actually runs at a very smooth pace so I don’t know what’s going on with when the slowdowns actually do happen.  The biggest gripe is probably the cut scenes they have in the game. For one thing, there are A LOT of them.  I spend just as much time playing the game as I am watching it, as if that wasn’t bad enough, there are also quick time events put in throughout a small percentage of these cut scenes, where if you aren’t careful, you will get a death marked up onto the board, penalizing your ranking as well. I was never a fan of the “press X to not die” mechanic since it doesn’t do anything more but annoy the player. There is no skill aspect, nor does it contribute to the experience, it just exists for the sole purpose of pissing you off. While the story may have plot holes as large as the grand canyon, it was forgivable due to the already ridiculous nature of the game, it would’ve been nice if they actually animated most of the cutscenes. The story is told through a mix of flipping film strips and in game sequences. While the characters do as they always do in the in-game sequences, the film strip style didn’t actually have any real animation. None of this is actually prerendered, they are actual 3D models put in semi still life. I say semi because things like their hair, scarves, and grass are still blowing in the wind but the character themselves don’t have moving lips nor are they doing any actual moving at all. I’m sure this was intentional, but with the way it was done it felt like they just ran out of time animating and just slapped it together to save money and time. It’s a very minor annoyance since it does have a certain level of style I can appreciate.

What isn’t very forgivable though is the screen tearing and frame rate drops during all the cut scenes. Nearly forty percent of the time, there is large frame rate drops and sometimes screen tearing can last as long as four seconds. Sure, it’s not enough to last the scene, but it’s long enough for you to go “What the hell was that?” These issues could’ve been easily solved with v-sync or simply doing a better job at porting it. Apparently Platinum Games didn’t even plan on putting it on PS3, it was Sega’s decision to bring the game over. While I thank Sega for bringing it over, they also could’ve done a better job, if necessary, just delay the game and work out these issues. There was also the issue of load times occurring in mid cut scenes and while picking up items before a patch was released. Can they patch up Bayonetta to improve it? They sure can as proven by their Install to HDD” feature provided by their patch. From what I’ve read, some features in the PS3 can also improve on the aesthetics  for the game, which thankfully I did have on. Would Sega actually do it though? It’s up in the air, because they sure didn’t mention making the patch that they did, and they could very well be working on it now, but it’s wishful thinking and I only see what stands in front of me and that is a great game bogged down by poor porting.

So what would the final verdict be on this game? Besides some technical issues involving the porting, the game is a blast from beginning to end, where the story only outdoes itself with every chapter you go through. The characters a tad cliché but you won’t be forgetting Bayonetta for a long time. Game play is solid and just as any good game should, has very high replay value as you will want to unlock the rest of the weapons, constumes, replay levels and work on your combos. Heck I might give Bayonetta a spin just beat down some angels. While the gameplay mechanics would only lure the hardcore, the visuals and insane boss battles will bring in the rest. Could use a few less cut scenes though…

If you’re a fan of games like Devil May Cry or even God of War, you will enjoy this game and you probably didn’t need me to tell you that. For anyone on the fence, you should at least give it a rental or heck, borrow it from a friend who will likely own it because they know what a good game is.

Story:  Cheesy, although you won’t forget characters like Bayonetta anytime soon.

Graphics: Very Pretty. The details and the designs of the enemies are not only unique from each other but there is a large variety so there is much to see on top of Bayonetta’s own flashy course of destruction. The levels are nice to look at but you’re mostly in this to beat up the baddies.

Game Play: Phenomenal. Battle mechanics are spot on without the frame rate getting in the way.The game is feature rich in adding on to your fights so they don’t have to be the same everytime. Bosses are practically a chapter on their own due to the ridiculous amount of health on top of intense choreography and battle sequences.

Sound: For some reason the choice of BGM for most of your fights is their own rendition of “Fly Me to The Moon” among the many tracks of gothic hymms. The voice acting is actually quite good but the main attraction is of course Bayonetta herself.

Replayability: You’ll unlock more difficulties on top of more items and even characters as you play after the initial completion of the story. Even if this is all done, it’s fun just to mess with the variety of attacks that are given to you, or even try to beat the insane people on the leader boards.

Game finished on Normal Mode with mostly stone statues…don’t judge me! Game was patched with the latest version.

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Written by vigorot

March 18, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Posted in Game reviews

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