Bayonetta (Wii U) Review
Bayonetta is a game that did pretty well, considering its market and it was a new IP. It was, more or less, Hideki Kamiya’s answer to Devil May Cry – a series he became less and less involved with as time went on. Now with a brand new company, the ever shining PlatinumGames, Kamiya embarked to redefine the action genre just as he did with Devil May Cry. The result? Possibly the antithesis of Dante himself: Bayonetta, a coquettish witch who could not only fight with weapons she holds but also weapons on her feet. It sounds ridiculous. And it is! But Bayonetta has always been about ridiculousness. And now enjoying new found re-emergence on Wii U, it’s time to jump back to the original game and see how it’s stood up. And whether or not the new additions to the game warrant a rebuy for anyone who played the originals.
While it’s most certainly not them main emphasis, there is a rudimentary story in place to push Bayonetta along to the places she needs to go. Taking place in a European city, where witches of the dark and sages of the light have been warring for centuries, Bayonetta is awoken from a 500 year sleep. She’s got no idea who she is, she eventually comes into possession of one of the halves of the “Eyes of the World”, which are said to grant great fortune to their owners. Acting on a hunch that the second half is somewhere in the European city of Vigrid, Bayonetta leaves for the city, but piques the interest of violent angelic hordes in the process.
As we said, the story certainly isn’t the focus of the game and it’s rare that you’ll find someone who considers it to be truly stellar. There’s some nice twists here and there but there’s barely anything that’ll come as a surprise or that you’ll care about. But as previously mentioned, it does a good job at pushing characters from A to B and setting the scene for the action.
And the main emphasis is action too. Bayonetta is a character driven action game. All eyes are on Bayonetta herself (both literally and figuratively speaking), as she battles her way through hordes of varied enemies. Bayonetta was unique for its time and remains to be today because it has a very high skill ceiling while also having a very low skill floor – that is, those who can master it will have a lot to do to get there while those who just want to have fun can do so. It’s an action game that is very sound technically, but also very well designed from a game design standpoint. And for those who might have been put off by Wonderful 101, which by comparison had a much higher skill floor than Bayonetta does. It’s just a lot more accessible and playable than Wonderful 101 was.
As you’d expect, each weapon you find can be equipped to either hands or feet, with some being compatible with both. This alone gives a countless amount of options to the player to mix things up with the game’s (roughly) thirteen weapons, which all suit a distinct purpose in the game so none of them feel like pointless filler. To further round out Bayonetta’s arsenal, she can also equip accessories that summon helpers to augment her attacks or even allow her to parry and counter certain moves if she so wishes.
But even if you don’t equip these accessories, there’s a great skillset to play around with from the get go. Chief among them is Witch Time, a technique where every successful last minute dodge slows down time to allow Bayonetta to deal a greater amount of damage. It’s a simple and yet incredibly satisfying move to pull off. Similarly, Bayonetta can also end her combos with Wicked Weaves – moves that use Bayonetta’s hair to conjure forth gigantic demonic arms and legs. Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds, but it, like many other things in Bayonetta, is a spectacle to behold.
When she’s not beating up enemies, Bayonetta is riding a variety of vehicles through some pretty high octane situations. These are probably the most divisive parts of the game as they break up the pacing quite badly, but at the same time they pay tribute to many classic SEGA properties such as Hang-On and Space Harrier. Given the game’s origins, they’re nice touches, and several other homages pay tribute to the developers’ pedigree including God Hand and Okami.
But that’s not where the references end – the Wii U version includes several nice references to Nintendo too, exclusively. Bayonetta can don several different costumes from Nintendo’s key franchises. Each of these are pretty well done, and the team have done an especially great job at making sure they do more than just change Bayonetta visually – for example some of them replace the Wicked Weaves with Bowser’s limbs instead, others change sound effects to Zelda ones or even her bullets to an arm cannon. They’re by no means a definitive reason to buy the game again but they help to make the game the definitive version to own since it includes all the content found in previous versions plus more.
Bayonetta is a slightly shorter experience than Platinum’s previous game, Wonderful 101 but it’s still got just as much playability, if not more. Players who rush through the main story should easily get through it in about eight hours, but to unlock everything and see absolutely everything the game has to offer, it’ll take upwards of fifteen to twenty hours, if not more. Those who are looking for a more accessible experience will be happy to hear that the new, touch-enabled easier mode gives players who might not be as good a fair go at the game to ease into later difficulties too.
Visually speaking, Bayonetta is a bit of a strange situation. When it originally released it was a pretty great looking game with some very fluid animations – but the performance of the game was dependent on which platform you picked it up on. The 360 version was great, but the PS3 version was borderline unplayable. Thankfully, the Wii U version appears to be the best performing of the lot. Models are slightly more detailed, textures look better and the framerate is smooth as ever at a constant 60fps. It’s just a shame that ever since its sequel came out, that it’s environmental designs have been made to look very dull by comparison. While Bayonetta 2 isn’t afraid to throw bright, vibrant azure blues and other colours on the screen, Bayonetta feels like a very brown, grey and gold affair. It doesn’t look bad – it’s just that the sequel has retroactively made it look inferior.
The score is a bit of a bizarre one too – mixing jazzy ensembles with a distinct gothic tinge. It’s a really unique marriage of aural flavours and one that weirdly suits the game too. There’s loud choral elements, there’s bizarre half English, half Japanese battle themes and there’s even a brand new rendition of Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me To The Moon. It’s a great mix, and it’s only complemented by Bayonetta’s voice actress who makes everything sound so effortless and so carefree. Its camp, it’s over the top, but more importantly, nothing feels out of place.
Bayonetta was and continues to be the great game it was when it was first released four years ago. The new improvements are minor, however, and while they’re great little nods to other Nintendo franchises, most of them are available in the sequel too. It’s certainly not worth buying just for them – but anyone who hasn’t experienced it or just wants to own both Bayonetta games will appreciate the option.
All in all, Bayonetta combines a great combat system that’s easy to grasp for newcomers, especially with the new touch controls, but has considerable depth for those looking for more of a challenge. It has simple and yet innovative features like Witch Time, Wicked Weaves and the ability to equip weapons to both hands and feet. It has beautifully designed characters, enemies, levels and setpieces. But most importantly – it’s just plain fun.
Rating: 5 / 5
Keep an eye out for our Bayonetta 2 review, which will be hitting the site early next week!