“Let’s dance boys!”
Before the release hype for Bayonetta 2, I had been unaware of the Bayonetta series. The trailer for the game piqued my interest in the series, so getting the combo of the original and the sequel for the Wii U was a fantastic deal. Bayonetta is far different from most other games released for Nintendo hardware. The tone is darker and holds a more mature image and theme than almost any other game released for the Wii U.
In most stories out there, if there is a witch or an angel involved then odds are the angel is good while the witch is evil, but not in Bayonetta. 500 years ago there were two factions, the umbra witches, and the lumen sages who were meant to balance each other out in darkness and light. Each of the two factions were given a piece of ‘The Eyes of the World’ to watch over time. A disaster occurred that caused Bayonetta to be sealed for 500 years and the witches and sages therefore disappeared. When our protagonist awakens 20 years before the start of the game all she remembers is that she is a witch.
This makes her a target for angels that, if she does not fight back, will take her to the afterlife. However, she has the means to fight them off with her strength, guns, and demonic summons. Thankfully, demons she has contracts with are just as eager to kill the angels that pursue her. Already possessing one piece of the Eyes of the World, she is in pursuit of finding the other half. She’ll have to fight through angels, face off against another witch, and protect a mysterious child on her journey, and by extension your own journey, through the game.
The story is linear for the most part. In each new area, the best bet for progress is to simply move forward. Still, there are some chests that can be opened and hidden battles that might be missed if the area is not completely explored. The areas are somewhat small, so it shouldn’t take much time to do. As for the story, there are some holes and oddities that I noticed. Luka, the somewhat male love interest, for example, is under the belief that Bayonetta killed his father, and yet he still displays an attraction towards her. While I can see this as him having lapses in judgment due to his uncertainty, sometimes it seems more like moments of forced perversion than anything else.
The Bayonetta series has a reputation for controversy, especially in regards to its over-sexualization of certain characters. It was something that made me hesitant at first, but the game has so much more to offer that it would be a shame to let this stand in the way. While there are some blatant displays of sexuality within the game, at least it embraces its own crude mannerisms. It doesn’t feel like a poorly implemented section to an otherwise innocent premise, and so it, at least, makes up a cohesive theme and outlook. Bayonetta’s protagonist is a woman open to her sexuality making her seem even more powerful and dominating, and she doesn’t shy away from the subject matter at hand.
The gameplay revolved around building combo moves in fights. Bayonetta uses physical attacks, longer range guns, as well as demonic summons that use up magical power. There are also weapons that can be unlocked to equip besides the standard outlay. The demonic summons can be used to counter large numbers of enemies, induce high damage to smaller ones, and also to finish off bosses. Within each of these, a button will be mashed or the analog stick used as appropriate. It’s important, too. The score does help a lot, as it rewards extra halos, which is the in-game currency. Another part of the game to be aware of is dodging. Each time an attack is dodged, Witch Time is activated, slowing down time for some of the enemies. Outside of battle, the Witch Time can be activated by lifting statues after a countdown or activating it yourself. A lightning bolt will come down, and when you dodge that, Witch Time is available for activation. This is an essential part of the game and is needed to get past some of the obstacles, like the geyser.
The game also has a scoring system that is determined through combos, time spent completing the level, and the amount of damage taken. Each battle is scored giving coins of different values: pure platinum, platinum, gold, silver, bronze, and stone. The chapter is scored based on your performance in the level, and trophies are awarded accordingly. The pure platinum rating is for the perfect playthrough and is only unlocked through efficient use of combos, completing the level in good time, and taking no damage whatsoever.
Another feature to the gameplay is quick-time events. Unfortunately, Bayonetta probably does the worst job I have ever seen with handling this mechanic. If you don’t already know the button to press before the prompt then there’s a high chance that you’ll miss it. I was barely into the game when I got stuck at a quick-time event by pressing the wrong button, or pressing the right one too late. Since each failed quick-time event will result in your death, it is all the more frustrating each time a button press is missed. Yet, still, there are some long drawn out animations where a quick time event is more suitably expected. I suppose, considering my gripe with them, that I should be glad that they were not everywhere. That doesn’t stop me from expecting them.
The cut-scenes are a mix of animated movies and still images shown on film strips, which is an interesting stylistic choice, but one which also complements the story since Luka is a journalist trying to capture an image of Bayonetta. As a fan of photography, I enjoyed the strips being put in. Cut-scenes using film strips are even slightly discolored compared to normal ones. Similarly, flashbacks of old memories are shown with grainy and choppy images like they were shot on film.
Overall, Bayonetta is an enjoyable and fast-paced game which makes it easy to get through if you’ve got a few hours to spare. The story might seem a little choppy in places, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless. The game’s cast of characters is quite small, which puts the focus on each of them, and this style of storytelling makes following Bayonetta all the way to the end that much more entertaining.