This is easily the most difficult review I’ve had to write so far. I’ve primarily played RPGs for almost 20 years, and my skills with other genres are not as developed as they are with role playing games. That being said, Bayonetta was my pick of the month for January because it seemed like a fun, over-the-top action game, and at times it was, but at times it could get incredibly frustrating.

Bayonetta made her North American debut on January 5th on PS3 and XBox 360. The title was developed by Platinum Games for the 360 and Sega handled porting it over to the PS3. It was created by Hideki Kamiya, the creator of the original Devil May Cry and you can feel the influence from DMC all over Bayonetta. Kamiya adjusted the fighting style of Devil May Cry to work with a witch and made the story and dialogue even more ridiculous, to the point that you can tell the game doesn’t try to take itself too seriously at all.

She's no angel...

Bayonetta is a third-person action title featuring a woman of the same name. She is dressed in what seems to be skin-tight black leather but is really her own hair; she also sports a British accent, a pair of black-rimmed glasses that never seem to fall off in the middle of all of her flips and jumps…oh, and guns attached to the backs of her high-heeled boots which allow Bayonetta to kick and shoot at the same time. She gets a variety of hand weapons to fight with, too, including more guns, swords, a whip and a set of finishing moves called “Torture Attacks” that include an Iron Maiden and a Guillotine. Bayonetta sprouts a pair of butterfly wings when she double jumps and also transforms into animals like a panther or crow. She can also attack with “Wicked Weaves,” done with her hair, which while plentiful, is still limited so that much of her clothing disappears while they are used. These Wicked Weaves are also used during “Climax” scenes against bosses, meaning that she’s nearly nude by the time you beat  a boss, which lead to my friend’s wife calling her “Madame Slutterfly” for the rest of the game. She can also enter “Witch Time” which slows down action around her similar to Max Payne’s “Bullet Time” or the Matrix special effects by dodging enemy attacks at the last minute.

Mix her with other over the top personalities like Enzo, who sounds like Joe Pesci and curses every third word, Rodin, proprietor of the “Gates of Hell” where you buy items and learn skills for Bayonetta, then add a dash of ridiculous action sequences with people riding 30 story buildings to the ground or catching missiles out of midair and throwing them at each other, and you get a good dose of “B-grade action movie.” All it was missing was a cameo by Bruce Campbell.

The silliness does help take some of the edge off of a story that could otherwise be almost as offensive as Dante’s Inferno, though it was pretty predictable with no major surprises in any of the plot twists offered. As Bayonetta, you play an “Umbra Witch” who fights “angels,” but they’re not like any angels that I’ve ever seen depicted. You collect their halos as currency to spend in Rodin’s shop, making it’s name even more blasphemous. The story starts with Rodin and Enzo faking a funeral of Bayonetta to draw the angels down into a battle. As the game progresses, you find out that Bayonetta had been “asleep” for 500 years. 20 years ago, she was awakened by Luka’s father, who was prompltly killed. Luka, now a journalist, has tracked her ever since, convinced that she was the one who killed his father that day. The two eventually are entrusted with protecting Cereza, a mysterious young girl who is very reminiscent of Bayonetta herself and calls her “Mummy.” There are even action sequences where you have to pick up and put down Cereza in the middle of a fight to protect her from being attacked by the angels. All this goes on while Bayonetta is trying to track down the people who locked her away for so long, the foil to the Umbra Witches, the Lumen Sages. The Lumen Sages are seeking her out as well, as they need her to resurrect the creator to restart the universe.

...but that thing is?

Continuing the religious references, Bayonetta’s journey is broken up into “chapters,” and each chapter contains multiple “verses” during which Bayonetta must fight off hordes of lower angels or towering bosses. There are some small respites between some of the verses where you can break pots and benches and search for materials that allow Bayonetta to create support items, all of which are curiously lollipops. Because nothing says healing like the imagery of a porno librarian with a lollipop. The enemies can swarm you if you’re not careful; so, your skill with activating Witch Time is vital to your survival in Bayonetta. However, the game is forgiving of ineptitude by offering unlimited continues at the cost of a reduced bonus at the completion of the chapter, but it’s better than the alternative of not finishing the chapter at all. The unlimited continues come in handy when you think you’re watching a cutscene only to find out that it was really a setup for a Quick-Time Event and you miss your chance to press the appropriate button combinations and automatically die. I played through the game on the “Normal” difficulty and it took me a little under 11 hours of game time to complete it. By completing the game on normal, you unlock hard mode, and by completing hard, you unlock “Non-stop Infinite Climax.” Which may or may not be as fun as it sounds, depending on how much of a masochist you are.

The fighting goes at a decently fast, but mostly manageable, pace outside of Witch Time, unless you run into lag, which should never happen on a console game. While I haven’t had the chance to compare it to the 360 version, everything I have heard indicates that this is a problem exclusive to the PS3. It only happened during a few areas of the game, but it was quite annoying. Not as annoying as the extensive load times that the game has, something else that seems to be a PS3 exclusive. As such, if you want to pick up this game and have the chance to choose between systems, I have to advocate picking up the XBox 360 version of Bayonetta.

The graphics for the game are quite nice. Both the settings and character designs show that a lot of time was spent making the game look nice. There is a definitely intentional sensuality to Bayonetta’s character design, but she’s not the only sexualized character in the game. One of the angels, “Joy” is introduced in a manner that almost looks like it is masturbating, and when a torture attack is executed on it, Joy seems to die by orgasm. Small wonder why the game earned a mature rating. I also have to wonder about some of the cutscenes, too. While some of the cutscenes are filled with action, others use a scrolling border effect to make some of the scenes look like they are on film; however, the characters don’t move at all. Even during dialogue, the mouths don’t move, and when juxtaposed with so much action, it’s a bit disappointing. That’s really the only gripe I have with the game visually, though.

The soundtrack; however, could have used a bit more variety. As much as I enjoy the song “Fly Me to the Moon,” I was definitely starting to get sick of hearing it by the end of the game. The other music is definitely upbeat and makes for good, energetic fighting, but seemed to get a little repetitive by the end, though.

In the end, if you love high-flying beat-em-up action titles, Bayonetta is right up your alley, but it won’t make very many new fans of the genre. Beyond the technical issues on the PS3, it’s a great game for what it is, if you enjoy what it is. However, given the choice, I would play it on the XBox 360.

Graphics: ★★★★★★★★★★
Story: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆
Gameplay: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆
Balance: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Intangibles: ★★★★★★★★★☆
Overall: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

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