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“Long erased from the records of time, there once existed two European clans who served as overseers of history to the power at be: the Umbra Witches, dwellers of darkness, and the Lumen Sages, controllers of light…”, This is just one example that the world of Bayonetta is incredibly hard to explain. Crossing the planes of existence, ranging from Paradiso, an implied heaven, Inferno, a stylish rendition of hell, the human world, and Purgatorio, a ghostly realm that bridges the realms together. The game takes place in a fictional European city-state of Vigrid, the closest city to Paradiso, where the titular character, Bayonetta, awakens after twenty years, from under a lake with amnesia.
Bayonetta spends most of her time in the realm of Purgatorio, which stands alongside the human realm but connects to Paradiso and Inferno. Comforted by the magical entities she can control though a veil to the ethereal realms, the witch can move around the human world unopposed by their affairs. As she wonders, faint humanly shades scurry about their business unaware of Bayonetta’s existence, though not completely oblivious. Every action she does has some effect on the human world, though mostly cosmetic, causing hilarious antics to ensue. Firing her pistol in Purgatorio, causes an echo that disturbs the nearby citizens in the human world. As you destroy various benches, signs and other objects around the environment for various treasures, the citizens of Vigrid cower and run scared from the strange phenomenon they witness around them. It’s pretty fun to chase the citizens and watch them scamper away frightened of the forces around them.
At its core a tale about an apocalyptic rebirth of the universe, Bayonetta doesn’t try very hard to explain its story, nor does it rush to tell its tale. Leaving the last third of the game to pile on the outlandish story, the lack of any real development in the beginning forces you to ponder the mystery behind the the amnesiac Bayonetta. With subtle cutscenes that lightly hint at Bayonetta’s past, there’s little to invest in her as a character besides the strong, charismatic, eye candy that she initially appears to be. Some motherhood themes are tossed in midway through, which begins to alter the titular character, but are never fully developed and seem quite out of place with Bayonetta’s typically scantly clad demeanor. By the time things began to wrap up, I had already checked out, leaning on the gameplay to pull me through the latter portions.
The reason to push forward in Bayonetta is easy it’s combat, it’s simple to grasp, yet challenging and difficult to master. Similar to Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden, Bayonetta’s combat is build on the foundation of a hack-and-slasher, but in terms of combat depth, could easy rival a fighting game. Given a weapon in each limb, Bayonetta is a deadly vixen. Ranging from large revolvers to rocket launchers, whips to katanas to ice skates, there is full array of weaponry that encompasses Bayonetta’s repertoire. Each with their own set of attacks, there is a near endless amount of depth to the technique list, requiring you to have a fighter’s level of concentration to unlock its full potential. Allowed two weapon presets at a time, Bayonetta can switch between them on the fly, increasing the potential from the combo system. Memorizing the combat list is encouraged but not mandatory, allowing you to pass by on button mashing if you don’t want to spend the time encoding the button presses into your memory. Filling the small sections of time your not actually doing something, loading screens are also filled with a small training mode, complete with a full list of possible attacks to the side, to help practice. This helpful trainer is a great way to learn combos without having to dedicate hours upon hours just learning how to efficiently fight.
The oil behind the cog, ‘Witch Time’ is a time altering mechanic weaved into the combat. When you wait until the last second to dodge an enemy attack, Bayonetta activates Witch Time to slow time around her, giving her an upper edge on her foes. Trying to activate Witch time begs you to pay attention to each of your enemies. As you search for the next attacker about to strike, you’ll dash around trying to put yourself in danger to get close enough to an attacking swipe hoping to trigger the time altering mode.
At the end of each level, you are graded based on your performance; Judged upon your knowledge of the combo system, how much damage you attained, and how long you took to vanquish your foes. Accumulating the scores from the various amounts of fights contained in each level determines your overall score. The performance scale tries to keep you fresh and on your toes by dominating your opponents fast and fluently, its a system that keeps you trying new techniques, and hunting for hidden battles you may have missed that attribute to each level’s overall completion. Bayonetta lets you replay each unlocked mission at any point in case you reach a tough spot and need to power up, or just want to experience a piece of the story over again, or to hunt for better scores, since often the best content is tucked behind the scenes.
Scattered throughout the levels are gates to hell, from which Bayonetta is able to trade haloes to purchase apothecary items, to learn fighting techniques or other goodies to help her along, and keep you from boredom. Accessories available grant Bayonetta additional abilities, like regenerating health by taunting enemies, or summon minions to aid in the fight. Certain accessories also aid the player if they need it a extra hand, like triggering the time slowing witch time mechanic automatically, but can also add extra challenge, like enraging enemies, increasing their ferocity for a greater reward upon defeat. In addition to the items initially on display, after meeting certain conditions upon subsequent playthroughs, unlockable bonus items features come into grasp including characters, weapons, and alternate costumes. Requiring a large time and halo investment, there isn’t much reward behind attaining said items besides bragging rights, there’s little calling you to obtain these hidden items.
Bayonetta is erupting with style and subtle animations throughout its package. Every weapon she uses alters the way she moves; with her default pistols, she struts each step, when wielding a demonic katana, she carefully treads along reminiscent to Kill Bill. Freeing the inner skater with a pair of skates infused with an ancient witch, Bayonetta skis around in olympic style leaving a frozen trail in her wake.Dodge several times without triggering witch time and Bayonetta will pose at the end of the animation. The giant butterfly wings of Bayonetta’s spirit flutter in the shadows beneath her. Characters are constant shouting one-liners, particularly the innuendo-infused tongue on Bayonetta. It’s nice seeing the amount of care put into even the largely ignored things, giving sense to a cohesive world. Many of references are left by the developer, not afraid to use from former works in their pedigree, giving those in the know a telling wink, granting a smile in nostalgia. The upbeat hypnotic pop tunes highlight every moment, knowing exactly how to get your blood pumping when it’s time to get excited. The menus are serenaded by piano to calm your nerves and reserve your energy for the eccentric battles that await you.
Bayonetta is a good game, by any stretch of the word. The story manages to sequence each fight and new location cohesively without getting in the way, despite never really making sense. Its manic combat will likely not disappoint anyone, unless hack-and-slash beat-em-ups just aren’t your style. At the very least the Witch Time mechanic should be experimented with more, in order to explore a potential path for the genre. There’s plenty around to collect and unlock after the initial playthrough to keep you coming back if your unsatisfied. For some reason or another, I became tired midway through the game, merely continuing to witness just how things concludes. There’s plenty of items to shoot for and use as achievement milestones along your journey, but most unlockables are available early on, which does well to initially impress, but doesn’t give you much endorphin rich joy from new things being steadily introduced through the package to keep you completely devoted. I would find myself repeating early levels to earn enough cash to purchase all the content meaningful to me, then running through the game fully equipped, expecting more to be slowly implemented later on. Though no fault of the actual experience, by the time the story was finished, I had little interest in pulling through to unlock the myriad of post-credits content, because the long lull of items or mechanics introduced throughout the gut of the game left me desensitized. Bayonetta is worth your time, for it’s entertainment value, to witness the bubbling style enriched into everything , the gravitas of its combat, and at very least to explore Witch Time’s potential. How much time it deserves is dependent on you.
A sequel was just announced exclusively for the Nintendo Wii U
Did you agree or disagree, have a positive or negative review, anything to add let me know in the comment, I would love any constructive criticism.