There’s no telling how high my expectations were while I was waiting to get my hands on Bayonetta. All I can say was that I expected a lot. Being a PS3 owner, and no 360 yet in sight, not due to lack of games or budget, but mostly time and space. I became worried when news came in that the PS3 port was lagging behind and was suffering from not getting any direct attention from Platinum Games.
I kept an optimistic look to all of it, since Kamiya would have surely at least step in if the port would really be unplayable. No matter how you look at it, he didn’t. This one will be a long read if you do care to actually read it. So I’ll get this out of the way first. There’s no denying it. The PS3 port is inferior to the 360 version. I haven’t personally tested the 360 version, but I plan on doing a comparison sometime in the near future. But according to a lot of testimonials from people in Japan and people that have imported both versions, on almost every single case, they claim there’s a noticeable difference between both versions in favor of the Xbox 360.
You might also have seen the Digital Foundry comparison video. I don’t know what they did with their setup, but that’s partly a skewed recording at least on the PS3 version. Not counting the fact that they slowed down the whole thing to fit it under 30 fps, which is a weird way to compare both versions, considering this isn’t a condition the players will encounter while playing, but mostly the fact that the colors aren’t anywhere near as washed-out, at least on my television set as what it looks like on that video. Believe me, if it looked like this on my TV, I’d be pissed.
And while this gave you a chance to see the scale difference between both versions, this only showed you the worst parts of the game. While I’ll acknowledge that this is an important factor to present, it isn’t representing of 99% of the game. So nonetheless, if you don’t have any issues with the 360 controller, I encourage you to get that version. Nevertheless, if you don’t mind technical issues that doesn’t affect gameplay 99% of the time, you’ll still get a solid experience. Well that’s if you’re actually considering getting the game at all after reading up reviews, etc. But enough of this, let’s jump to the meat of the review.
While the game doesn’t take itself seriously, there is an underlying plot in Bayonetta that is worth mentioning. While it’s on the level of the average blockbuster title and doesn’t bring any new concepts in storytelling, it’s good enough that it’ll keep you going through your first play-through. Basically, Bayonetta woke up under a lake 20 years ago after sleeping for about 500 years with no memories of her past. While she’s looking for clues related to her lost memories and a jewel stone part of a pair that is supposed to be really important, she gets help from Rodin, a fallen-angel running the Gates of Hell, a bar as well as a hidden weapon shop, Enzo, some middle-age man who’s practically a joke character most likely based on the character mentioned in DMC1’s manual as Dante’s associate and seen in DMC3 as a small fat man.
Along the way, she meets Luka, a journalist, who’s tailing Bayonetta because she killed his father 20 years ago. Or so he believes. She also meets Cereza, a small girl calling Bayonetta her mommy. Is she really her daughter? That’s for you to find out. I won’t go any deeper in the story, as the rest is pretty much spoilers. But I want to explain something. A lot of deal as been made about Bayonetta’s proportions. If you pay real attention to information given to you by the game, you’ll notice that this protagonist made a pact with Madama Butterfly to gain most of her witch powers. If you look up close to a butterfly, you’ll notice that part of their body’s features are long limbs and a small head. Well that’s pretty much it. So if it grossed you out already, you now know why. If it didn’t? Well now it should.
This is also partly the reason why you’re fighting angels. As doing otherwise will pay Bayonetta a nice trip to Hell. There’s more to it, but it’s on spoiler radar. A lot of details have gone in the game that would pass over your head unless you really stop to read or think about it. For example, the reason for her to wear glasses is there, but it’s not spelled out for you. Another one would be the language the angels talks in and in what Bayonetta summons demons with is actually a real language that dates back from before the tower of Babel epoch. (That one was pointed out recently in Platinum’s blog).
And no, her demon summons aren’t MADE of hair. Her hair are used as the catalyst to call and hold them. The same goes for her clothes. The story in itself is pretty simple, but the whole world you interact with is wonderful. Bayonetta’s world lies in 4 different dimensions. The first three are Inferno, Paradisio and the Human world. Doesn’t that ring a bell? Yeah, Dante’s Inferno, etc. But it’s used very differently here. They’re all at the same place at the same time and impacts one another.
In-between these three lies Purgatorio (again Dante’s Inferno, etc), where you spend much of the game in. Sometimes Inferno’s or Paradisio’s influence though will be stronger on this dimension and this will have effects on your environment. If you love cheesy/campy movies, you should adore it, although it does raise the bar of cheesiness. If you’re one to look for seriousness in a story, you’ll probably want to stab your ears or eyes, as this is not the story for you. But this is an action game, you should be looking for gameplay, not story in this game. If you played the demo. You know about what to expect. There was a small gap between the JP demo and the JP full game that fixed some issues. Seriously, the game is beautiful (beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, ok?) in about a dozen moments. But lacks the technical prowess and higher texture resolution of games like Uncharted 2 or what we’ve seen in the demo of Dante’s Inferno and the game runs on much lower frame-rate than the latter.
Most of the time, I’d agree that this lower frame-rate affects gameplay, but really, in this case it doesn’t. The game’s reaction time when you start attacking or dodging is point on when you expect them to happen, which is right away. That’s the case for about 98% of the game. A few times the game will actually slow down where it gets problematic. Well it really only becomes a problem in chapter 15 for two boss fights. And really, unless you’re doing a quick-run, it’s not that much of a problem. The gameplay goes really fast otherwise and your movements will be much more precises than in any other 3D action games with barely any effort. That’s counting Devil May Cry, God of War, Dante’s Inferno, Ninja Gaiden, etc. I reckon NG and DMC can get really precise, but it requires much more practice and mastering next to Bayonetta.
If you’re planning to play the game once on normal and call it a day, no technical problems should (but it could) bother you. That’s even with the longer than average loadings, which might be (or not) fixed by release date outside Japan with a patch. They do become annoying once you start with endgame content, which includes beating the two higher difficulty levels, speed-running chapters or going for platinums overalls in every chapter in one difficulty.
The loading when acquiring an item for the first time and when you pause the game is unforgivable too. And the menus for equipment, items and informations are as slow to navigate as a DVD menu, which is annoying too. Sometimes it’s so slow that you’ll go back to the game and your weapon switch won’t take effect. There’s screen tearing (apparently), but I’ve never really noticed it. The gameplay is mostly fast and you mostly have to worry about dodging and attacking that you don’t really have time to notice such things in fights.
Finally, the washed-out colors on PS3 mentioned by Digital Foundry are not an issue on every TV. And it seems to depend on whether Full RGB or Limited RGB is better with your HDMI cable/TV set. I guess it’s a shame that the issue is existing though. One final note about frame-rates. Yes your eyes can notice the differences, but if you look at what developers (like Ratchet and Clank’s Insomniac) have been saying recently that they’re mostly rethinking the need to go that high in performance and are thinking of locking back to 30fps over 60fps.
Some will love every second of this game’s music and sound effects. Others will like the winks to SEGA’s days of old and others will just despise the bubble gum jazz music of the game. In my mind, the game’s music is nothing short of fantastic. Yes, I loved Devil may Cry’s heavier music and it was great to get in the mood for fighting demons. But Bayonetta’s pace is totally different, and it’s well represented by the game’s main two themes, Fly me to the moon (Evangelion’s ED theme) and a remix version of the previous with original lyrics, Mysterious Destiny along with a few other songs fits the jumpy gameplay so well.
The voice acting is fitting of any campy movie too. It’s really skillful “bad acting”. The lines are so cheesy, but they’re well delivered by the cast. Rodin deserves a special shout-out here with his quirky lines when you visit him. You might have been led to believe that this game was a new take on the Devil May Cry series, but with a girl. That’d be wrong. While the demo might have included Shuruba, the katana, which offers somewhat controls similar to what you found in Devil May Cry 3, most of the game should be associated with Viewtiful Joe and God Hand. Kamiya took a lot of influences from a lot of things. Part of it were from his previous work. You’ll find a lot of Viewtiful Joe, some doses of Devil May Cry and a wink at Okami with Beast Within, an ability that transforms you into a panther, giving you fast mobility and longer jumps. More influences can be found in the man most often associated with Kamiya, Shinji Mikami. P.N.03 and God Hand were obviously big influences in the gameplay design too.
Add to that the main competition being God of War’s epic fights with QTEs and Ninja Gaiden’s fast paced combat and yes, I’m going there, you’ll find even some Kingdom Hearts and some Super Mario Galaxy in there on the exploration/platforming side of the game. Finally, add a lot of winks to old school SEGA games like Outrun, Afterburner and Space Harrier.
While not much in Bayonetta is new in itself, it all blends so well that you can’t help but praise the given result, which in itself is original. There’s a good variety of weapons in the game, and you won’t unlock them all in your first play through, so perfectionist will need to give the game multiple play-through. But while the loading is indeed annoying, I’ve rarely been so enthusiastic into playing a game after beating it as I was with Bayonetta. Anyway, weapons goes from handguns, shotguns and katana to a snake-whip, elemental claws and dual-tonfas that are also bazookas, and then some more.
The game breaks the mold of how one should use weapons in action games. While it’s pretty much a (mind you, really good) gimmick, you set up one set of weapons for your arms and one for your legs. Instead of switching between every weapon with the buttons, you set up two different combinations of your choice for your arms and legs and can switch between those two on the fly. These can be changed mid-combos too and opens up, among others, a really devastating move that most playing the game considers an exploit/glitch. Some weapons are limited to hands only (ie: whip and katana) and others are limited to feet only (ice skates), but others, you can buy replicas to equip on both hands and legs at the same time. So you can equip two Lt. Kilgore at the same time (each one is the dual-tonfas bazooka), meaning you have four bazookas equipped at the same time. What’s over the top if this isn’t?
Finally, you can use weapons dropped by some angels as well, but they break after a few devastating hits. While the automatic mode of Easy and Very Easy kills the ability to really control what you’re doing, in other modes, the control are the most responsive I’ve ever seen in an action game. The dodge with R2 was weird when I first tried the demo to get my head around. I was used to the R1 + Jump (x) + direction since it was relative to what I was lock-ed on. But when I got used to it, it became a second nature. It just works so well, i dodge and end up exactly where I want, just like landing on a dime.
Once you unlock the panther and crow transformation though, you’ll want to be careful not to spam R2, because double-tapping R2 triggers those and might make you go too far or stay in the air longer than what you were anticipating. Most of the time, the camera makes itself invisible. Like it’s never a bother. That’s not true for the whole of the game though. Sometimes I found myself having a hard time in smaller areas because the camera was too close.
Speaking of which, if you thought the camera was too far in the demo, don’t worry too much, that’s mostly not the case for the whole of the game. Actually, sometimes it was way too close. At the base, fighting is done by mixing up fists and feet attacks into some fun combos. If you chose the right ones, you’ll be ending a combo with a Wicked Weave, which are the big punches and high heels summoned with your hair. Those do some important damages, but it doesn’t stop there.
You can learn techniques you buy from Rodin, which will be available no matter which weapon you have equipped. Those add more depth in combat options, and you’ll need it, as what works for one angel, doesn’t mean it will for another one. The other important part of the combat of course is dodging. When you time it with the enemies’ attack, you’ll trigger witch time, a slow motion mode (except you’re not affected) that let’s you punish your enemies. For some enemies, at some points in the game, it’ll be your only option to kill them. Oh and time it right when you get hit and you’ll trigger Bats Within (assuming you bought the ability), you’ll trigger a longer Witch Time and the damage you should have taken gets nullified.
Another fun thing is that on many occasions, you’ll be fighting all over the place, and that means on walls, and upside down on roofs and that’s just the tip of it all. Really, I could talk more about this, but I think I’ll let it up to you to discover. You’ll also fight different set of enemies depending on the difficulty you’re playing on. While I can easily get through the Prologue on Normal difficulty… Hard was another story, one part had me fighting one of the two worst type of common angels in a specific situation, which gave me a much harder time. It’s not just about giving the enemies a better AI, defense and strength in this game.
While there’s a few puzzles in Bayonetta, they’re so obvious that it’s not even worth mentioning more than this, they’re mostly there to introduce mechanics for upcoming fights. The platforming though, is well-executed and mind-blowing at some points, which gives you a nice break from all the fighting. A lot of it reminded me of Kingdom Hearts (1)’s platforming and exploration. While most of the time, the path may seem linear, don’t kid yourself and doubt your eyes. There’s secrets paths in Bayonetta all over the place. I really loved that part of the game, and I’m still searching for one or two more treasure boxes (they’re actually Witches tombs). There’s also places hidden far off that you need to glide to in Crow form. Alike KH’s Dalmatians’ search, in Bayonetta you’re searching for crows that have blood tears you need to recover for some unlockable I haven’t gotten yet (you need a platinum trophy/all the achievements done too to get it) .
And the game doesn’t lack in non-pure combat action. The motorcycle parts are mind blowing. The old school outrun music and the fast speed reminiscent of Road Rash 3D is purely fun-tastic. Oh and another level has a part that plays like Afterburner. One of the main reason you’re gathering halos is to buy accessories. You can equip two at once, and those greatly affect the gameplay. The angels are too tame for you? Equip one of those and you’ll piss off every angels around you and make them more aggressive and harder to kill.
Dodging isn’t your thing? Use one of the accessories that let’s you parry or counter enemy attacks by tapping your movement stick toward the attack and you’ll do just that. This one is pretty much like Street Fighter III’s parry system. There’s a lot more, but I won’t spoil them, as they’re yours to discover. But they’re really a key point of the game you don’t want to miss on, buy whatever sounds good to you as soon as you can.
One thing to highlight is the game’s re-playability. The game is filled with rewards for going the extra mile. While you can farm halos to buy extra costumes, as interesting as it can change the look of Bayonetta’s look, there’s much more to look forward to. Beat the game in very easy or easy and unlock the Immortal Marionette, which is pretty much the accessory that let’s you do automatic mode. A mode where mashing buttons will result in the same way a skillful player would play. So dodges are automatic and the game chooses which attack you’re doing according to the context. Of course this comes at the price of gaining less combo points.
Beat normal or harder and you receive a different weapon for each difficulty beaten. But it doesn’t stop there. Beat normal or harder under three hours (my first run added to between 10 and 15) and you’ll be unlocking access to another accessory in the shop. You don’t have to start a new game for this too. When you re-complete a chapter, you have the choice to update your time and rankings (always together though) toward your new total time. So you can shave off time like this. That’s what I did and it should be do-able by the average gamer. Worth noting also is the reward for completing every level in one difficulty with platinum ranking, which let’s you play with a different character, which have different perks than Bayonetta.
There’s more, but you can either find out yourself, or look it up online. Just for random trivia, I played for about 34 hours in normal difficulty before even wanting to start playing Hard mode, as I was busy doing extra stuff. And I could have easily put another 10-15 hours there if I wanted. Last thing I’m going to talk about is the bosses. While the demos omitted any boss fights to the exception of the first fight with Jeanne, which is more of a Witch Walk tutorial, you can get small hint of how it’ll be with how the fight on the bridge goes against applauds (and no, that wasn’t a boss and barely makes the cut as a mini-boss).
Those fights are on an epic scale most of the time, especially against the higher ranked angels and the epilogue fights. It’s really hard to talk about those without spoiling anything, so all I’ll say is that all of those bigger bosses are, just like in DMC4, met on a few occasions, but each time it’s a completely different fight and it’s still fresh every single times, at least on your first play-through. Well, this got out of hands, so I’ll make this part short. Bayonetta on PS3 is an awesome game, but a bad port. There’s no denying. Should you pass on the game for that? I wouldn’t.
It’s been said by a lot of other reviewers already. If you have the choice, get it on 360. I’m not kidding here, even with controller preferences, I think you’re better off with the 360 version. But if your only option is PS3, unless you think that you’ll make a point by passing on it to tell Sega that you don’t want to pay for a bad port, get it on PS3 anyway. It’s still worth it. Just prepare a small dose of patience, as the loading is omnipresent. If we’re lucky there’ll be a patch to fix this by January when it is released to the public in North America and Europe officially (there’s been street dates broken already).
The game is still my favorite (and in my opinion the best) action game ever. And this being my favorite genre of game, would sort of make it one of my favorite video game ever.
Many thanks to our friends at thesavepoints.com and especially to the author David for this review.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Super fast gameplay, awesome combat, challenging boss fights
Story sometimes goes for a toss, PlayStation 3 version is inferior.
With Bayonetta, Hideki Kamiya invites you to revisit his previous games, as well as games from SEGA’s past, with enough new tricks to keep you going on and on in this new IP.