If there’s anyone out there who isn’t already familiar with Bayonetta, here’s the high concept: A girl with an English accent who looks like the Baroness fights Angels to the tune of a poppy Japanese cover of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon,” strapping guns on her feet so that she can kick them in the face and shoot them at the same time. She has an arch-rival (and if I’m reading the subtext correctly, love interest) who Tokyo drifts angels to death on a magic motorcycle that can ride on walls, but that doesn’t stop her from doing things like fighting a gigantic four-legged shark monster with wings while surfing. And after you beat the game, you can unlock additional costumes so that she can do all of these things while wearing a cheerleader outfit.
What I’m trying to say here is that I’m pretty sure Bayonetta was made specifically for me, and anyone else getting enjoyment out of it is incidental at best.
I’d been interested in the game since I first heard about the foot-guns last year, but I was initially going to hold off on actually purchasing it until it hit a price drop. Then pal Andrew told me that there was breakdance fighting. I’m not made of stone, and when you combine windmills with footguns, you’ve got yourself a customer.
It is unquestionably the most over-the-top thing I have ever seen in my life, and considering I’m the guy who wrote the comic about a half-vampire skateboard champion private detective who is also a wizard and has welded magic wands to his guns, that’s probably saying a lot. I could sit here all night listing the gloriously OTT elements of the game and not even get away from Bayonetta herself, who–what with the fact that she poledances enemies to death, appears to subsist entirely on lollipops, and finishes off combos by turning her clothes (which are also her hair) into hell monsters–loops past exploitation and into parody, and keeps going until it hits a level that I’m not even sure I’ve got words for. And that’s all clearly established before you’re surfing the body of an angel down a lava flow. The only thing that even comes close to it is No More Heroes, a game about an aspiring assassin that I once died in because a guy I’d just cut in half with a lightsaber shot out so much blood that I couldn’t see what I was doing, but even that pales in comparison. Although I will say that if there’s one thing Bayonetta lacks, it’s suplexes.
Of course, all the over-the-top exploitation in the world can’t make a bad game good, but as far as gameplay goes, it’s more than solid. The developers, Platinum Studios, were formed out of the team that made Devil May Cry, and there’s an awful lot of similarity there. Mostly this applies to combat, and the fact that there is a giant lava spider involved (because why not, that’s why), but it also comes through in the fact that yes, in the tradition of DMC suddenly losing its mind and becoming Gradius for ten minutes at the end, Bayonetta will occasionally turn into a completely different game.
Specifically, it becomes Afterburner and Space Harrier, complete with remixed music:
Even so, I liked these parts, although I’ll admit that what with the barrel rolls that roated the entire screen rather than just Bayonetta (who was riding a missile at the time) made me dizzy as all hell. But that might just be because I’m a sucker for the way the developers tied it into old Sega games, which also gave the “Halos” Bayonetta collected from dead angels–which bear a strong resemblance in both appearance and noise to Sonic the Hedgehog’s rings–a whole new connotation.
Another similarity to Devil May Cry comes in the weapons. Like Dante, Bayonetta’s guns are named after a song–her four guns being “Scarborough Fair” (Parsely, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme) in place of his two, Ebony & Ivory–and like Dante, those and a sword are about all she’ll ever really use. Which isn’t to say that I don’t like the other weapons; the whip (of course there’s a whip) has its uses and I’m actually very fond of the demonic ice skates that allow you to perform the deadliest layback spin ever, but there’s just not that much use for them compared to what you start with. You’d think a set of tonfas that were also rocket launchers would be a bigger deal.
All told, in both concept and execution it’s one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever played, and while I don’t want to spoil the ending, I will say that the final level is essentially Silver Age Superman as written by Slayer, and that’s something that I didn’t know my life was missing until I finally had it. It’s incredibly fun, and it’s one of the rare games that I can see myself playing through again again to get the high-score achievements.
Well, until Mass Effect 2 comes out, anyway.