Bayonetta (Xbox 360) review
"More like BAE-onetta. Haha! Please shoot me."
I'm not going to sugar coat this: Bayonetta is basically male gaze condensed to an action game. I'm not going to pretend this isn't a title starring a hypersexualized witch who partially disrobes to destroy her foes. At the same time, I'm not going to deny that this offering provides buckets of campy entertainment and action-packed battles against armies of angels. In a way, this game is an anti-Devil May Cry experience, where we have a snarky female protagonist fighting the forces of light and obviously having a good time while doing so. It's hard not to see the charm behind this Sega offering as the sly heroine belts out a solid one-liner while transforming her freakishly long hair into a dragon, then using it to devour her divine opponents.
As you can tell, this adventure parallels Capcom's aforementioned classic in a lot of ways. By combining a variety of strikes and blasts from her guns, you weave together sinister blends of punishment that not only crush the opposition, but look awesome in the process. Let's not stop there: you also get a fair array of weapons to choose. Why stick to standard kicks when you can hack up your foes with a katana, whip them to ribbons like a Belmont, or rend them asunder ice skates?
Yes, ice skates. She also has guns in her boots. Did I mention she kills things with her hair? I'm sure I did. Also, her hair is her clothing. Bless this ridiculous game...
Right off, I'm making this title sound like a button masher. In some ways it is admittedly a bit mashy, but mindless button pressing will only get you so far (and it won't look even half as cool). Learning to string together combos is where it's at. Experimenting with combination attacks--not only to discover their effect and power, but to behold the sheer brutality of each attack--is a mission in itself.
Why stop there? This odd game's already on a roll, so let's make it even more ludicrous. Landing consecutive blows nets you magic points used to conjure torture devices for instant enemy destruction. You can bat around a basic opponent, then kick its sorry rear into an iron maiden for good measure. Vindication like this never felt so good after taking a pummeling from a holy beast, especially when the exchange ends with a large spiked wheel landing on the poor creature and grinding it to heavenly jelly.
There is an art form to Bayonetta. You get precious little time between each action, as the battles progressively grow in intensity. As stages advance, the difficulty jumps up into hyper mode along with the game's speed. You'll no longer take a pot shot here, undertake a careless basic combo there. You'll leap over sweeping attacks, blast enemies from afar with a raid of bullets, dodge an oncoming fireball, and rush forward to unleash a flurry of blows in a matter of seconds. The game may sound overly challenging, but the difficulty raises progressively enough to teach you to deal with its burgeoning madness.
Great combatants not only survive, they receive rewards. Each battle ends with a rating, with faster victories and little life loss resulting in higher scores and a wealth of rings for combat and costume upgrades. Even while fighting you receive instant gratification. By dodging an attack right before it hits, you'll enter into Witch Time mode where action slows, allowing you to pulverize the pure with less fear of damage.
Like all great games, Bayonetta needs something to break the repetition and give it (more) flavor. Escaping a flow of lava or leaping from one levitating platform to another isn't enough. You'll walk on walls while battling baddies and leap from disappearing platforms in the hopes of not plummeting to your death. Special scenes like these can even inhabit whole levels. You'll tear down a freeway on a motorcycle while taking out hallowed vehicles, and soar in the skies riding a giant missile and blasting enemies with obvious nods to both Fantasy Zone and Space Harrier.
References never cease, though some are quite subtle. Rather than thrusting them in your face, the developers left it up to the audience to recognize them. Many are homages to older Sega games, but others are a little less recognizable. Is it me, or does the bonus game Angel Attack sound awfully similar to the Atari 2600 game Demon Attack?
What Bayonetta brings to the table is nothing new, yet it still has its own identity. Sure, it plays like Devil May Cry, but its details and style elevate it beyond simple "clonedom". Its playful demeanor, balls-to-the-wall action, and ferocious gameplay combined with tons of tiny references make it a great experience to undertake. It's the kind of title that wants first and foremost for you to have fun and not linger on aspects like plausibility. It will challenge you, it will excite you, and it will reward you.
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (August 17, 2022)
Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.
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