Bayonetta is action hack-and-slash video game developed by Platinum games and published by Sega in 2009. Compared to this generation the hack-and-slash games were alive and well, with games like God of War 3, Devil May Cry 4, and a plethora of Warriors / Musou games for the Xbox 360 and PS3. So, while it is rare to see this genre of game in today’s releases, as the Souls type gameplay is now dominating the market for action-adventure, it was the opposite for the 7th generation of consoles. The game is directed by the Hideki Kamiya and developed from his team called “Team Little Angels”, who are all known for known for developing the first Devil May Cry game (Capcom’s famous action-adventure non-Resident Evil game). While the game is completely original, Kamiya has stated he got some inspiration from Scandinavian Mythology and playing “half of Devil May Cry 4.”
The theme of this game is not just about being a badass in the set world, but that of sexiness and being fashionable. Mari Shimazaki, the game’s character designer, and Kamiya spent over a year trying to get the perfect design for Bayonetta as it was integral to what the game was: a modern female witch. Fun fact, although Bayonetta is designed as Kamiya’s “dream girl”, Kamiya and most of the staff’s favorite character turned out to be Jeanne, the other Umbra witch in the game.
Personally, I didn’t like this game when it first launched, I always thought of it as a wannabe Devil May Cry. Why would I play this when I can play an already established series with a cool protagonist? I did try the demo on PS3 back in the day, but it never awed me. However, I do admit I was, and I still am not the greatest action hack-and-slash gamer out there, so that may have influenced my opinion of the game. I bought my PS3 for Ratchet and Clank and Final Fantasy, not God of War and Devil May Cry. But tastes change and after seeing Nintendo not only save this franchise but announce a Bayonetta 3, I think now is the perfect time for me to try and get into this game.
Intro and Plot:
The game starts you off with a flashback and a bunch of mysterious cutscenes that the player will clearly not understand at first to add a sense of mystery and foreboding to the start of your game. While the narrator spouts on about the past, the game gives you full control of Bayonetta so that you can get familiar with your character as you learn about the world. While it is nice to get a feel for your character, it is a bit unnecessary as you have to go through a tutorial-based fight right after this anyway and I feel it detracts from the purpose of learning a bit about the plot. Once the prologue is complete, we are introduced to our titular character Bayonetta, disguising herself as a nun in a graveyard and from here, we see the games common-type enemy: The Angels. They use this first battle as a true tutorial teaching you not only how to chain punches and kicks together, but that of extending combos with your guns as well as the infamous Witch Time. From here we are introduced to most of our main cast: Rodin, the weapon smith of the game, Enzo, who really isn’t in the game all too much but is comedic-relief, and a mysterious rival witch Jeanne. The story and the rest of the game will take place in a fictional city located in Europe, named Vigrid: a holy land where once the Lumen Sages and Umbra Witches were said to have co-existed 500 years ago. From here it up to us to learn about Bayonetta, uncover her mysterious past, learn what happened 500 years ago, and the connection she has to Jeanne, Vigrid, and the games McGuffin: The Eyes of the World.
The gameplay formula is a basic action hack-and-slash adventure from its time: you go through linear levels that involve some light platforming, fight various types of enemies with difficulty ramps, and of course chain combos together. Bayonetta attacks with three different buttons: a punch, a kick, and rapid fire from her pistol. You can also combine your pistol with your punches or kicks by holding down the button therefore after you punch an angel in the face you can “bust a cap in his ass…”well face. While it may not sound like much, boy oh boy, Bayonetta can chain the two main attack buttons into huge combos and do an assortment of special unique moves. Although this sounds similar to Devil May Cry as she also has delayed and directional based attacks, what makes this game unique from other hack-and-slash games is her Wicked Weave attacks and her dodges. When you perform certain combos Bayonetta can finish with a giant fist or foot appearing out of a void to put that extra oomph in a combo finisher. I mean what’s more awesome than finishing a bad guy? Oh yeah using your hair witch powers to summon a giant demon foot to stomp on an enemy. The game also is a bit more beginner friendly compared to that of Devil May Cry, whereas in that game you were told “Dull” or “Okay” for spamming the same combos in that game, Bayonetta is a bit more open and inviting where it expects the player to experiment with the move sets since the payoff for some of those wicked weave combos is huge, it creates a sense of curiosity: Like what if I kicked after doing 4 punches etc.
Another move I want to mention, though it isn’t really used much past the beginning is this dedicated “shoot” mode where the camera zooms on Bayonetta is you spin while doing a kick or punch. From there Bayonetta will only fire shots off from her gun hitting enemies in front of her, it’s a cool move I used a few times, but it only really works on the weakest enemy in the game.
Her dedicated dodge button is also what makes her unique, with dodge you can obviously avoid incoming damage. However, as you get better and you dodge right before an enemy hits you, you can activate Witch Time, a special feature that slows time for everyone around Bayonetta. While witch time is an amazing ability, some enemies are impervious to Witch Time and other times I found myself dodging projectiles and the enemies too far away to really make any use of Witch Time.
It’s this simplicity that makes this game so advanced at the same time, it just feels like you can discover more and more to do with Bayonetta as you keep progressing, and that’s an amazing feeling. I love the idea of a game indirectly influencing you to learn more about it, that’s how you know you truly like something, when you want to get better at it and explore more!
Besides having so many combos that it would be a longer video than the entire game review, Bayonetta has more than just her pistols and limbs as her weapons. As you collect halos, this games currency, and Angelic Hymn Gold LPs, special CDs that make these weapons appear in the shop, Rodin will offer you an entire new style to fight Angels with. From a sword, to new guns, to even ice skates, all these weapons feel just as good in Bayonetta’s hands as the starting weapons do. Bayonetta can keep 2 sets of weapons active at all times for a quick change in the overworld and while each weapon comes with their own attributes and combos as well, so no one weapon feels the same. To be honest I didn’t even know half of these weapons existed until I watched some more gameplay after I played through both Bayonetta’s and man I was jealous seeing some of them! If you aren’t a big fan of perma-items, well don’t worry Angels also drop their equipment items too so you can temporarily use a spear, claws, or even a trumpet.
Last, but certainly not least, for Bayonetta are her torture attacks. These are special high damage attacks or finishers you can use on enemies or mini bosses where you use action commands that prompt on the screen. Mostly they require you to spam a certain button screen, however sometimes they do have stick rotations, though not on Mario Party 1’s level. I enjoy action commands like this, and they were actually even used in some of the boss fights, as they keep you on your toes especially if you get lazy and you’re just spamming dodge or attack. I did have a problem with some of the “run away in Witch Time and jump ones” as they required you to be in a specific spot sometimes and it felt like the window was a bit tight for them.
While I did mention the enemies, I forgot to mention this game has a lot of bosses and don’t you worry after you deal with them once…well get ready to see them as a common enemy type because this game reuses assets a lot, but not in a bad way. Those epic moments when you finally beat a boss in an early chapter, only to see 2 or 3 of them return and fight you simultaneously later on. I’ve always liked this concept because it shows not only how your character has improved, but how your skills have as well throughout the game. I will say though none of the fights are that memorable and since you fight them later on it’s nothing noteworthy like a Kingdom Hearts boss.
Before I fully get into the plot, I do want to say that this is probably the weakest aspect of this game. The cutscenes weren’t a problem as I did like the characters and presentation of them. The game also has these film strip stills as cutscenes, which honestly are a really cool presentation for shorter scenes in the game. However, it was more of the world around it and some of the cutscenes later that pulled me out; if you want to know more of X make sure you read the scattered journals around. And it’s not only that, you have to actually open your menus and go find the new page that you didn’t read and on top of that, if you miss one entry page you skip important information about whatever it is you are reading about. I get the game is about curves, sexiness, and badass(ness) but repeated cutscenes and a story that is a bit all over the place with a weak ending doesn’t do it any favors. Anyway, SKIP HERE TO AVOID SPOILERS, as you travel around Vigrid you run into best character and potential love interest Luka, a journalist who is tracking Bayonetta because he believed she killed his father. During this time, The angels, who are working with the Lumen Sage, and Jeanne, the only other Umbra Witch, seem to be working together to awaken Bayonetta, who we come to learn has the Left Eye of the World hidden inside her. Bayonetta runs into a little girl named Cereza who can strangely see her and starts calling her “Mummy”. Feeling a strange sense of attachment to the little girl, Bayonetta protects her as she makes her way to the capital. As you finally reach the capital, Jeanne attacks Bayonetta for one final battle and is promptly defeated. After defeat, she talks about the gem located on Bayonetta’s chest and how she protected her; this finally cures Bayonetta’s amnesia, but Jeanne, still on the ground wounded, is suddenly blown up. She remembers that she is Cereza, and that she was friends with Jeanne 500 years ago. She also recalls that she is forbidden child born from an Umbra Witch and Lumen Sage and that Jeanne sealed her away to protect her. Once she reaches the top of the capital, she meets Balder, the last Lumen Sage, and also revealed to be her father. Balder reveals his plan to resurrect Jubileus, the creator, using the two eyes and that is why Cereza (child) was brought from the past to present day to help Bayonetta awaken her memories. The game tries to pull you into thinking that you’re her mother but it was literally just past you all along! After defeating Balder, returning Cereza to the past, and saving Luka, Bayonetta collapses as the Left Eye is awoken and Balder reappears and takes her to start the resurrection of Julius. Here you get to play briefly as Jeanne as she is revealed to still be alive, rides her motorcycle up the statue of Julius, saves Bayonetta as Jubileus consumes Balder and they promptly fight and win. The last scene mirrors the start of the game and it ends with Jeanne and Bayonetta fighting Angels.
Music and Design / Graphics:
The music in this game is fantastic I mean seriously if you have a chance listen to the whole OST. My favorite track has to be the battle theme you would hear for most of it “The Mysterious Destiny”, something about that track was pumping and…well mysterious. I would also say Let’s Hit the Climax for when you’re pulling off that epic finisher on a boss is also a great one. The soundtrack is so fun when it needs to be and also serious to fit the theme of Vigrid and defining moments.
For designs in the game, I think this is another homerun, Bayonetta’s design is fantastic of course but so are Rodin’s and all the weapons. While the modeling and graphics are a bit dated as it is a game that is over 10+ years old, I do have to say it holds up pretty well and the talented voice cast they have really brought life to the characters. The weapon designs are also really unique and memorable as the Scarborough Fair is such a sleek design and really fits Bayonetta’s character well.
The enemies are a bit…generic, not to take anything away from their design it just feels like a mix of seen it before and sameness. Most of the angels are based off these statues of saints and usually baby face design to show innocence and I guess holiness. They all have halos and marble-like skin with gold-ivory armor. However, as you damage the statue you just realize they are a mask to hide these grotesque creatures that honestly look akin to demons. Maybe this is some type of way to show that angels and demons are two sides of the same coin, it just depends on how we look at them, but I’m not sure. They honestly reminded me of the bad guys in Shadow the Hedgehog when you started to peel their saintly statue look.
Well, I feel like I didn’t even cover everything and that there is still more to talk about but overall, I really loved my time with Bayonetta. It’s a game I can confidently recommend to anyone, even past me and all the Haterade I had. This game has good replayability, it’s easy to get into, and accessible to nearly anyone as it is available on almost every system from the Xbox 360 and PS3 all the way to Steam or Switch. I played the Wii U and Switch versions of the game, which are just ports of the Xbox 360 version, though I heard the PC port is the best one and that is the one that is available to play on the PS4 and X1. Honestly, after reading up some extra information on the game and seeing all the unlockables I missed really does make me want to go back and play more of this game. I like to think of myself as a pretty good gamer having platinum trophies in all the Kingdom Hearts games and speedrunning many others, but I’m still not the greatest at this game or the action hack-and-slash genre overall. I got a lot of Stone Rank statues in this game, as I said before this game is easy to complete and hard to master, but I had fun the whole time doing it and that is what is most important. While the story left me a bit dry, I can definitely say Bayonetta is a damn good game.
Next, I’ll be looking at the NOT cancelled Bayonetta 2, as Nintendo picked up and saved the franchise that SEGA left out to dry. Will I like it as much as Bayo 1?