Originally published at YourHealthisLow
It’s All About the Timing
A look at Bayonetta.
Sega’s action title, Bayonetta, released in North America in January of 2010 for the 360 an PS3, made it’s way to consoles everywhere after a thorough and effective marketing campaign. Made increasingly popular by her appearance at major events in ’09, our glasses toting heroine seemed to exemplify the sex appeal necessary to grab the attention of, well, everyone. Intrigued by this new work from Devil May Cry designers, the title was a hit with early reviewers, furthering the hype.
Bayonetta, however, had this black haired glasses toting reviewer reflecting upon her time with this witch with some conflicting inner emotions.
The largest obstacle to overcome in this sega game was by and large Bayonetta herself. Not only is the design of the character so extreme, taking proportions to entirely new levels, her smug personality seemed to waver between tired and sad. Throughout the plot Bayonetta is subject to flashbacks, used to help merge the two converging story lines of past and present, as we try to determine how it relates to the good vs evil plot and why our protagonist seems to be caught somewhere in the middle. The flashbacks make an attempt to reveal a small portion of the story in each and every segment, and often leave our character stunned, like a deer in headlights, giving her a moment of intellectual emptiness while her attempts at humor are usually misinterpreted as arrogance.
All of the elements needed for a strong female lead are present. The *potential* for a really stylistically kickin’ character is there, but in this player’s opinion Bayonetta is so over the top that the abundance of T&A can not save from the frustrations that is Bayonetta herself, and can not keep me from the desire to hurl her into a pit of fiery lava. Yes, I may have done so a few times. On purpose.
The controls of the game are loose and easy to learn with only the minor inconvenience of awkward camera movements and imposing objects that altogether block the view of any given battle. Attack combinations are fluid and can be as precise, or not, as the gamer implementing them. While the attack combos are easy and sometimes astoundding, often times some old fashioned button mashing can be just as successful, removing some of the legitimacy of taking the time to learn the combos in the first place.
As you play through the game you are faced with the ability to ‘buy’ new moves, each with an increased amount of usefulness as you face stronger and larger enemies. Your basic kick punch combinations are easy combat staples and the interchangeability of them allow for varying degrees of skill and fun. Dodging and counter attacks are effective in ground and air battle and as you gain more magic, you are better able to control the use of these attacks. The combat is compelling and there are some fantastic weapon elements that keep the combat fun and intense. Enemies can prove to be challenging but as with all the challenging elements of this game, it’s all about the timing.
Throughout Bayonetta, there is a rhythm to each world and character and discovery of this rhythm is what often determines your successful interaction with them. From well timed motorcycle jumps, to dodging enemy fireballs, to the utilization of your witch power to sprint across water or release the beast within, every aspect of the game can be solved rhythmically. The rhythm of the game is part of what propels the player forward.
The story of Bayonetta is presented in a quirky and heavily stylized way; giving the feel that you are playing a comic book. Story summaries and plot progression is presented in a combination of cut scenes and still frames. Some cut scenes included no movement of character, but used slight zooms and pans while images remain static. Each segment of story telling was given great attention to composition; dynamic lighting and angles which furthered the graphic novel feel of this game. The unfortunate side effect of introducing still frames and comic book like cut scenes is the director’s use of the “film strip” graphic. Used as a border and as a point of transition, the intended humor behind the use of this graphic element was distracting at times, but quickly gives way as you find yourself ready to fend off a “Joy” and your frustrations are redirected.
Bayonetta faces a myriad of enemies throughout the game, and boy, are they cool! From the ‘Beloved’ to ‘Harmony’ and right to the ‘Temperantia’ the design of these characters is well executed and engaging. This is where the game holds its merit. Bayonetta is a nice looking game. The graphics are great! The color is rich and vivid, the light is interactive and the styles are appropriate as the character changes from place to place. There are contrasting environments which change the drama and pace of the game as well as the story telling; building upon suspense or departing from it as is appropriate. In some chapters of the game your character, our heroine, is not bound by universal laws of gravity and by exploring this we are able to see just how much of the environment has been rendered. The environments are so inviting at times as to lure one towards some of the many invisible walls.
The inventory system is also well placed, with items easily obtained and kept. By travelling through the gates of hell Bayonetta is able to purchase weapons, items, moves and other requirements. Purchases are made by the use of ‘halos’ as currency. Eerily similar in appearance to that of some Sega ‘rings’ you may have collected in the past, the halos are dispensed from enemies as they meet their ultimate demise. There are many options to collect special items which make for special weapon trades once through the gates of hell. Bullets collected throughout the environments allow for some extended mini game fun while your next chapter loads.
The music makes an attempt to reiterate the underlying sense of humor that the game portrays and often acts as comic relief during some intense moments of battle. While the mood seems somewhat forced throughout most of the game, the level of bother this causes diminishes as you become more engaged in the game play, plot development, and your enemies; only to be reminded on occasion during the slower paced areas of the game. The sound effects are appropriate and believable given the context and the voice acting is as would be expected. The characters are represented in a dramatic over the top way and but are done well and the actors surely are not first time voice actors. Bayonetta is portrayed by actress Helena Taylor, Luka by Yuri Lowenthal and Cereza by Stephanie Sheh.
Bayonetta, has some very compelling qualities. The game is beautiful, it has mainly enjoyable combat, the enemy and environment design are intriguing and the acting is satisfying. Where the game falls short is in an unimaginative plot line, forced humor, and sometimes inappropriate use of music. Where the game ceases to impress is in its overt sexuality; not adding to the empowerment of our female protagonist but instead setting her, and female leads after her, backward. If you enjoy this game the first time around, it will lend itself to great replay value. But for me, this glasses toting heroine is going to keep searching for a game with a satisfying female lead experience.