Bayonetta has become the topic of so much attention due to its over-sexualized, sassy main character. Regardless, Bayonetta is an incredibly well-crafted action game with technical combat, responsive controls, and a memorable main character oozing with personality. Director Hideki Kamiya has successfully created a game so fluid and subtly complex that it will channel memories not only of great action games but also of the most technical fighting games.
Bayonetta’s story is based around the idea of two clans, the Umbra Witches (dark clan) and the Lumen Sages (light clan). There was a big war and all the Umbra Witches were killed off, except for Bayonetta herself. The story is so insane and ridiculous I almost can’t explain it with real human words. Absurd story aside, the characters inside it are wonderful, most especially Bayonetta herself who has a never-ending supply of personality and fantastic on liners.
Honestly, you aren’t going to sit down and play this game for its deep and interesting story. Instead, the reason this game needs to be experienced is a deep and satisfying combat system that feels really refreshing for the third-person action game genre. The action is fast, constant and satisfying, making the story a means to transition the action from one interesting environment to another. The game is simultaneously simple to pick up and start playing and complex to really master. It makes the combat in games like Devil May Cry and God of War seem boring and trivial by comparison. Combos and dodging are among your most important initial concerns with more advanced techniques like interrupting a combo to dodge and moving back into that combo (dodge offsetting) offering a higher level of complexity for the dedicated player.
Dedication is key here, because this game is not meant to simply be played once and set aside. Your first trip through Bayonetta’s world will be difficult and filled with terrible scores at the end of each chapter. The game is begging you to play it again for better times and higher scores. It gives the player that old arcade feeling of wanting to get in and play a chapter again and again to increase that final score. With a sentiment of “on to the next one” in games now it feels good to be presented with a title that screams to be played over and over again. At first the game feels a bit punishing (even on normal difficulty), but as you spend time with Bayonetta, you quickly realize the adjustments you need to make to perform better. The action never feels unfair and offers a slew of difficulty levels to allow the player to adjust the experience.
It has been quite some time since I’ve felt this much satisfaction completing a game. Not since Devil May Cry 3 has an action game brought a smile to my face like Bayonetta has. The story may be a throwaway but the action and main character more than make up for a subpar narrative experience. If you enjoy action games you owe it to yourself to spend some time with my favorite hair witch.
Pros: Satisfying, complex combat system, fun and witty main character.
Cons: The narrative is terrible. You won’t like this if you already hate action games.