This Year, I fell in love with Bayonetta. It’s not a perfect game. In fact, it’s not even close. But regardless, my game of the year is Bayonetta quite simply because it was the game last year that left the biggest impact on me personally. This was a game that delivered on its promise of being an over the top action game featuring a strong female lead. It was a game that was unique and way out of left field, but despite my lack of interest in its genre, I had a great time with and the epic ending left me drooling for more. To be more specific, Bayonetta is my game of year because of its tight gameplay, excellent lead character, and stunning production. These three main concepts are what pushed Bayonetta into the limelight as my personal game of the year.
I’m going to very honest; I was not initially interested in Bayonetta. Character action games such as Devil May Cry or God of War are generally not my cup of tea. But, Bayonetta was different. One of the first things that caught my eye about the game was the controls which are a master stroke of game design. Bayonetta operates off a simple two button control scheme for light and heavy attacks along with a jump button, a button for firing the guns attached to all four of Bayonetta’s limbs and finally a dodge button. Sound simple? Well that’s the point. Bayonetta offered a clear no bullshit look at action game design and it works. I always felt like I was in control of what was going on, and when I wanted to pull off a move, I could do it without messing up. The game also finds many unique ways to add more and more moves to Bayonetta’s arsenal allowing for many ways to approach a battle. I never felt the midgame doldrums that many character action games face as moves get repetitive and enemies get boring to fight.
But, the genius in Bayonetta’s gameplay comes from one key element: the dodge system. The game makes enemy attacks blatantly obvious to the player; to allow them to use a special slow motion mechanic called “witch time”, where when a dodge is successfully landed at the last minute, the player is thrust into slow motion allowing a few seconds for the player to hack away at enemies. This final system puts the bow on Bayonetta’s gameplay giving it its own flavour and spice that is unique from anything else. What truly sums up Bayonetta’s excellent gameplay is the simple fact that it works well. Really well. I never felt like I was dying for unexpected reasons beyond my control. Every time I failed, I knew it was my fault and not the game’s, which is a powerful thing.
Although Bayonetta’s gameplay is great, the true bread and butter of the game is in the game’s enigmatic lead character Bayonetta herself. Bayonetta is a seven foot tall witch who has guns attached to both her feet and legs as well as long hair which she uses to cover herself. As Bayonetta fights, she uses her hair as vessel to summon monsters from hell to do her bidding for her, all while losing some of her body coverage that is provided by her hair. On top of that, she is always strutting like a model when she walks and sucks lolly pops while speaking in a British accent. Sound like a mouthful? Well it is.
Bayonetta’s overwhelming personality is a true high point for the game. Bayonetta’s developer, Platinum Games, stated on many occasions that their intention with Bayonetta’s character was to create a strong female lead that was overly full of sexual tension and innuendo. Her good looks and personality are so overwhelming to a male or female player that she is able to transcend their lustful desires. And the honest truth is, the same happened to me. Even as Bayonetta becomes more scantily clad during a heavy fight as her hair is being used to summon demons, I never really felt attracted to her. If this is all sounding sort of confusing, that’s because the feelings Platinum Games has made gamers feel towards her are hard to describe and it is simply something that needs to be experienced. This sort of emotional ambiguity is one of my absolute favourite parts of her character and is something that would take a lot of work to replicate again in a different game.
Bayonetta herself is truly the best part of the game, but what seals the deal and makes it my personal game of the year is everything surrounding her. Bayonetta has some of the most stunning and unique presentation I have ever seen in a video game. The game’s unbelievable level design is a great point of discussion for this. Every chapter provides players with lush unique environments that have a sort of futuristic European vibe that suits the game very well. If it isn’t the part where you are battling on a clock tower that is falling towards the ground at a breakneck speed, it’s the part where you are hopping across a series of floating concrete platforms towards a monster the size of a few New York City blocks.
More so, the game’s excellent music also contributes to the amazing presentation. The game’s take on Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon” was stuck in my head for weeks after playing the game and makes the regular rounds on my iTunes playlists. Bayonetta truly thrives on “did you just see that?” moments that deliver every time and for long-time fans of Sega’s work, there is plethora of Easter eggs and references to old Sega games that will make any older gamer smile.
The finale of the game really is the best for once in a video game. In the final moments of the game after defeating the final boss, Bayonetta is out in deep space and her arch nemesis is millions of kilometers away near the sun. It’s at this moment that Bayonetta whips out a red lip stick tube, puts it on her lips and then sticks the lip stick tube in her gun and then shoots it. The player then takes control of the “bullet” guiding it across the solar system dodging planets before finally hitting the villain in the forehead and cutting to the credits. This was quite possibly the best ending to anything. Ever.
I originally rented Bayonetta expecting a solid game that would be good weekend romp. What I got was one of the best games I have ever played. Even after finishing the game during the rental, I still bought myself a copy because I knew that Bayonetta was something special to me. I haven’t played the game since late January and I am still able to recall so many of the major events in the game. This sort of resonance almost a year later is an impressive feat given how many other great games I have played since. Yes games like Red Dead Redemtion and Mass Effect 2 are amazing, but in all honesty, what they accomplish best can be just as easily accomplished in movie. Bayonetta is a video game through and through. The experience it provides simply cannot be accomplished through any other media and that is something special.