First Impressions: Bayonetta

January 9, 2010

Toeing a line that splits astounding action with incredble frustration, Bayonetta is a whirlwind of action that perfectly encapsulates its medium; a madcap, crazy rollercoaster that would be impossible to realise in other media which continually surprises, amuses and enrages in equal measure. But in a game where you eat angels with your own hair, its easy to forgive the cons and focus on the pros.

From the creator of Devil May Cry, it’s perhaps not surprising that Bayonetta is a combo-heavy combat game, where self-contained skirmishes with the denizens of Paradiso and Inferno are awarded with a medal, from Pure Platinum to Stone, based on how well you dispatch them. The combo list is dizzying in its breadth and varied use of it, combined with the speed of the kill and the amount of damage you avoid taking, will determine how shiny the medal you are awarded will be. Initially the combat is a thrill, as Bayonetta rolls out the big guns right off the bat, where Wicked Weave attacks allow you channel demonic power through your hair to make colossal fists and legs, and Torture Attacks send your enemies to a gruesome doom, whether that be through spiked coffins or sudden tombstones landing on them from turbulent skies.

But I feel that mastery is key here. Only several chapters in, the difficulty curve became steep for me (I’m playing on Normal), and only well-timed evasion techniques will ensure you come through battles alive. Dodge an attack at the last possible moment, and you activate Witch Time, a slo-mo mode where your enemies are languid enough for you to strike them with your most devastating combo. Boss battles are insane, screen-filling monstrosities that look like they came from your nightmares. Bayonetta astonishes in its level of imagination – you wont be at all surprised to hear that the developer, Platinum Games, originates from Japan.

The eponymous heroine herself is a fantastic protagonist but not always likeable; her cocksure arrogance is thrilling, her tone often biting and sarcastic as she dispatches her foes. The back-up cast, featuring the likes of Rodin – a badass barkeeper/weapons dealer that calls to mind Morpheus from the Matrix movies – and Luka, hell-bent on revenge against Bayonetta, are unique creations that are likely to live long in the memory long after the final credits roll.

Practice and patience, then, are the key virtues for my continued enjoyment of this game. Timing is everything; despite coming from a stable of games where button-mashing wins the day, Bayonetta punishes for using such crass tactics. If my desire to go back and improve on my many dismal awards is any judge, I’ll be spending a lot of time making sure I dont fall back into this trap.

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