Considering that this game came out in 2009 for the PlayStation 3 originally, I wasn’t going to make that distant leap to review what technically is a nine-year-old game. This game is older than most of the PSVG’s children, for goodness sakes. However, after being asked about it by PSVG’s Amanda and then snoring about halfway through my explanation, I felt that I had no choice but to release onto the masses about what it was like for me to experience Sega’s wonky adventure on the Switch platform.
Before I continue, however, I do want to warn that this article will contain adult themes. Children, shield your eyes and run to your parents. Adults, turn away from your work computers and wait til the dark of night. It’s not going to be vulgar (despite it being one of the most swear friendly games since Conker’s Bad Fur Day) but there will be some special snowflake-unfriendly topics that will discuss sexualization specifically. Please, if you’re not in the mood for that kind of talk- run, run far away, Simba, and never return to this review again.
So for those in a similar boat as myself, Bayonetta is one of Sega’s cult classic games that went unappreciated by most but not all, captivating a fairly decent cliche of people who were lured by the charm of this game. As such, Sega tries to recapture this about once every four years to cash in on some free money, and now that the cycle continues on the Nintendo Switch I took the chance to see what the heck is going on.
Having seen Bayonetta only on Super Smash Brothers and mentioned only in closeted conversation, I had no idea what to expect. Some friend (who I don’t even remember the name of but clearly isn’t a friend any more thanks to this scenario) had mentioned that I would LOVE this game and that it was about empowering women by having a strong protagonist lady take the stage and mess up anyone she damn pleases. While this is loosely correct, I feel like the person had done what I did and simply stared at the game art and said “Wowee! This girl kicks butt!”
And then I played the game, and now I understand what Bayonetta is.
Bayonetta is a masterful artwork that has so many gaping holes in the painting that it is nearly impossible to get the appreciation it should deserve if it actually spent more time developing the story than creating more detailed dancing scenes and porting the freaking game. When the game shines, it shines like the brightest flame of WTFness that I have seen in a very long time, but it is quickly bogged down by horrifying moments of lagging gameplay and story progression.
Let’s take it from the top and work our way down though, shall we? It starts off with a wild epic moment where you’re testing out the chaotic fighting nature of the game where our heroine is duking out with another character amongst a small plethora of angelic enemies, where your weaponry consist of guns, gun equipped heels, and both hair, suit, and shadow based demonic entities shaped in things like fists and high heel boots. You’ve seen the pictures, people; she’s fighting like a lethal acrobat where every blow is deliberate from her head to her toes, with hell at her fingertips and bullets coming any which way she pleases. Oh, there was some serious story plot of foreshadowing that I didn’t get to take in because of intense fighting and low narrator volume. Immediately afterward, we get a five-minute slapstick comedy scene introducing the initial characters meant to be the cool guy, the comic relief, and the superstar all in one swoop. All in contract with the forces of hell in some shape or form, they really love killing the game’s equivalent of angel bad-guys and trying to find out why Bayonetta has plot-convenient amnesia.
The entire plot of the story? Figure out Bayonetta’s past (and if you ever heard of the Sega’s other amnesia driven game, Shadow the Hedgehog, you would cringe at the thought that this is the premise) as well as figure out why everyone wants her dead (or alive specifically). She doesn’t show much stress about her predicament, given she doesn’t show a negative emotion beyond annoyance for most of the game and she appears content murdering anything with a halo on it.
Seriously though, that is the plot. This goes on for hours with loosely tied characters saying “heh heh you’ll understand later in the game” and she responds with “lol ok I’m just going to travel the world and kill stuff until someone says otherwise” and it is infuriating. The first “Bayonetta” game and “developed storyline” cannot be contained truthfully in a single sentence without losing journalistic integrity and it was a major blow to my hopes for this game when people talked so great about it.
What helps redeem it, however, is the combat and the different methods of execution given to me for both waves of enemies and bosses alike. Having to learn how to slow time to a crawl by perfect dodging a vicious attack and memorizing the right button to mash when pulling off a finisher on a particular enemy left me satisfied. While often sadistic in her methods of taking out angels, she is comical about the way she fancies each and every creature’s demise. One enemy can be finished by the wooden horse torture rig fitted with steel, spikes, and chains, whereas another can be kicked into an iron maiden. Hell, sometimes it feels like she’s toying with a boss during the actual fight before she does some overly intricate dance and using her suit/hair to create a demonic aberration to finish off the foe. Her method of dispatching the final boss was so hilarious that it made me forgive the past hour of annoying platforming and tedious dialogue.
Unfortunately, I can’t say that the combat is perfect, either. More often than not I was left dumbfounded because, after ten minutes of uninterrupted cutscene, I am suddenly tasked with a button prompt that I swiftly fail and instantly die. It’ll happen in the most random moments of discussion or battle that immediately ends the battle no matter how well I was doing and it was hair rippingly bad. What made things worse was the icon to show the button prompt would show the direction and button to push (for example, up and B) but the picture of the controller would show a different button on the controller to press (Up and X). Combined with the need to be precise on the timing, it would take me several times to figure what the heck I was doing wrong. The game is kind enough to tally your deaths up to five times on the game over screen, and the most often phrase heard in the game is some old granny seer shouting “The Shadow Remains Cast!” every time I select to continue. It sucked.
Sometimes Platinum Games (which I would honestly give full credit to as the developers as they made the damn game) would decide that the combat was getting too tedious and they needed to buffer the gameplay length with… extra activities. Mostly arcade driving simulators, whether it be cars, motorbikes, or rockets. Just fifteen minute long drives of the same track of the level where your goal is to not die and shoot the same enemies over and over again. My personal least favorite, however, is Angel Attack. Oh man, I love how just hearing that title makes me grit my teeth. Who would have thought a ten-second game you’re forced to play after every single level could be so annoying? Being told to shoot at targets for prizes that are crap, for over a dozen times, made me blow all my shots in a second or quit the game so I can get on with my life.
I think there are only about five memorable songs in this whole game, but they’re placed at the most opportune times and I quickly dismiss the repetition and enjoy the atmosphere it creates.
Lastly, I wanted to express concern about Bayonetta’s taste in… style. As someone who might want to remain anonymous has told me, this game is ‘a Japanese boy’s wet dream’. Our woman Bayo wears a skin-tight suit that often evaporates to become the super demon thing, leaving her as exposed as the Mature rating can allow. She portrays her attacks in cutscenes often by crop shots of her pubic region or bosom colliding with an enemy before she gratifies herself while defeating foes. She does things to a strawberry flavored sucker that would make your local church pastor drop his jaw. She does not give two craps how sexual she acts during her time in the game and amazingly enough, only one person seems to act perverted towards her. Perhaps due to the lack of characters, the developers can create a separate, perfect reality where what she does is perfectly acceptable and it is shameful of me to express distaste. However, this game is not a real alternative world and I’ll be damned if a Japanese video game company, under the jurisdiction of the same publisher that made Yakuza no less, can convince me that they made a next level empowered feminist and I should ignore that she is mentally pleasure humping three-quarters of the bad guys in this game.
Unfortunately, if I kept writing about my love-hate relationship with Bayonetta it would be on course for a book with more detail than the whole game’s plot, and so I’m going to call it here with another summary of some sort. Did I like the game? Definitely, but I felt I spent more time playing in hopes of finding something fun than actually taking in the game itself. Beating it felt like a sigh of relief rather than a triumphant victory screech, but I respect that the game offers wonderful entertainment when it wants to. As I have just started Bayonetta 2, I sincerely hope they improve on how they deliver the entirety of the game to us (again, considering it came out years ago on the Wii U) and I hope to one day understand why people love this game.
Also, I technically got this for free with Bayonetta 2 so my opinions are freely based on this. If I had paid sixty dollars for a port of this, I would be just a taaaaaaad more aggressive. Just a tad.