I’ll have to admit that Bayonetta popped up on my gaming radar quite by coincidence. I haphazardly saw an advertisement for it on Steam while browsing for some games to review the other day, and noticed how intriguing the design of the titular character, Bayonetta, was. As a fan of all things anime (well, except for that exceptionally girly/cutesy stuff) I was drawn to the game’s store page, and was blown away at the rave reviews that gamers were heaping upon it. So, I decided to request a copy in order to see what all of the rigmarole was about.
After receiving my copy, I fired it up somewhat apprehensively. Why? Because I am usually very suspicious of games that have people ranting and raving about, especially things such as the style and sexiness of it as opposed to the nuts and bolts of it. There seemed to be an inordinate amount of fanboys gushing over Bayonetta without really discussing anything which contained anything resembling the actual substance of the game.
Another reason (actually a two-parter) is that Bayonetta is in fact a console port, and also seemed to be quite the button-masher. Console ports can be very iffy. Some ports have turned what were considered awesome games on consoles, into shambling messes when it came to experiencing them on the PC, ruining many beloved titles (and series’) in the process. Sometimes ports can suffer from terrible input lag issues, framerate jitters, or crummy controls. Would Bayonetta be just another title to add to the list of horrid console ports?
When it comes to being apprehensive about button-mashers, understand that I used to be a fighting game fanatic back in the 1990s when they were still experiencing a huge boom. However, I was always one to plan my chosen character’s attacks well, and utilize timing and strategy as opposed to feverishly smashing down on punch, kick, and throw buttons. I’d tried a couple of character action titles that were comparable to Bayonetta, namely Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and any of the Devil May Cry titles, but they didn’t really do anything for me. However, as with those games and many Japanese video games in general, Bayonetta’s backstory and plot is convoluted, sometimes contradictory in places, and frequently hilarious.
For those not in the know, Bayonetta stars as the titular anti-heroine. She’s what’s called an Umbra Witch—a sorceress of sorts who can cast a wide array of magical spells based on the powers of darkness. While she’s an adept magic-caster, her bread and butter as far as combat goes relies on melee moves such as punches, kicks, and other strikes, as well as some seriously wicked gunplay. The latter aspect is what you’d expect from any bullet ballet, fusing over-the-top moves with extremely stylized shooting maneuvers. Think any of John Woo’s epic shoot-em-ups such as The Killer or Hard Boiled.
Then you have the antagonists of the game, mainly in the form of angels. Well, not the typical angels that you’d expect from the Christian mythos. These angels look like Bizarro-world versions of your usual saintly and pure ones, with freakish looking faces and warped and deformed physical proportions. You’ll also run into some equally strange looking bosses at the end of each stage, such as a gigantic upside-down head with dragon wings which just so happens to want to devour you.
But Bayonetta is surely not only capable of fending off these perverted versions of God’s disciples herself, she also has her own backup. Mainly in the form of a foul-mouthed African American gentleman who spouts explicatives at nearly every turn. In typical Japanese gaming fashion, the game opened with Bayonetta praying at some shrine nestled within a dreary graveyard, ripping her robes off in order to reveal her amply-proportioned physique, and then a nearby gravesite ruptured and a coffin emerged from which the sidekick pops out of. He then proceeded to throw a bunch of pistols at her as a group of angels descended upon her, which she begins blasting away at them with. She even strapped pistols onto her feet in order to garner additional firepower. If you want goofy, you’re at the right place.
The game mechanics themselves mainly revolve around stringing along a series of strikes in order to perform combos. You can also chain some ranged attacks with your guns into your combos for some extra variety, and I have to say, not only are these fun and flashy when you pull them off, they can actually become pretty intuitive with time. In fact, the more playtime I invested into Bayonetta, the more the moves became easier to pull off. Fortunately (for me at least), Bayonetta is far less of a button mashing extravaganza than I had anticipated, and has to be the best character action experience I’ve played so far.
Bayonetta’s graphics are really exceptional for its age. I played it on my souped-up gaming laptop and showed it off to some friends and they were thoroughly impressed. The game’s environments, character and weapon models, and special effects are very well done, and fit the anime-like theme perfectly. You could have told me that Bayonetta came out just a week ago and I’d have believed you—it’s that much of a looker.
In all, Bayonetta is a stylish, fun, and highly humorous romp through a cleverly designed, anime-inspired environment. I would however like to note that anyone who is against seeing a different style of traditionally-thought of angelic beings, may want to steer clear of Bayonetta, since its unique take on things is part of its unusual charm. Otherwise, you really can’t go wrong with a hidden PC gem like Bayonetta.
Bayonetta is packed with some excellent visuals that suit its anime-inspired theme well. However, you have to have a fast gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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