Giant variety of moves available from the beginning.
The core gameplay is the very best of its kind.
Easy and Very Easy modes make the game playable by anyone.
The Bad stuff
The previous three points combine to make the game unplayable by any but fans of the extreme action genre.
When it comes down to it probably the most important thing about Bayonetta is its genre. Bayonetta fits into the Extreme Action genre - the same genre as the well known titles Ninja Gaiden, God of War and Devil May Cry. The extreme action genre is known for its exceptional battle systems, massive screen filling enemies and stylish fighting.
It can be divided further into Western and Japanese varieties, with titles like God of War championing the ranks of the West and Devil May Cry and its ilk representing Japan.
I mention this because - like Devil May Cry - Bayonetta is a niche title and it will not appeal to everyone. With Bayonetta, Platinum Games has created an exceptional battle system fleshed out with dozens of combos and containing a remarkable amount of depth - and buried it under an extravaganza of cheesy slapstick, revolting jazz and j-pop and ridiculous pseudo-intellectual idiocy. Many people found DMC too campy and over-the-top - Bayonetta makes it look monochrome in comparison. It's obvious then, if you don't like the genre Bayonetta won't change your mind.
Bayonetta has been highly anticipated by some since first announced back in 2006. With Devil May Cry Hideki Kamiya practically created a brand new genre, mixing an intense fast pace, brutal difficulty, split second timing and massive combos, and many were excited to see where he went with it. Bayonetta was designed specifically with the evolution of the third person action genre in mind, broadening the combat and extending its scope. And when it comes to combat it does an excellent job.
The combat is absolutely top notch and you have access to a wealth of moves from the very beginning of the game - with more purchasable from the in-game store throughout the game. Bayonetta starts the game with access to her four pistols - wielding two in her hands and two on her feet - and throughout the game gets access to a variety of other guns and melee weapons. While weapons like the sword are hand wielded only, others like the shotguns or claws can be attached to the feet as well, adding more combinations and extending the already large move list.
While the different weapons all have a different feel and playing style, most attacks can still be executed using the same combos learned with the pistols. It's an excellent design choice, meaning you won't need to learn a brand new way to fight every time you change weapons, and because of the amount of combos available you won't feel like you're just doing the same moves over and over again.
Combat is further enhanced by the addition of Witch Time. Witch Time, similar to old classic 'bullet time' slows down time. It can be activated at any time during battle, and a lot of the puzzles activate and require it as well. Pulling the right trigger or R2 when the enemy attacks makes Bayonetta dodge and Witch Time is activated by pulling the right trigger or R2 just before an enemy's attack hits you. When activated it turns the screen blue and gives you ample time to get some free hits in and a much needed chance to catch your breath or reposition yourself.
The different difficulties also play a large part in how your fights go down. Bayonetta has attempted to broaden the audience of the extreme action genre with very easy and easy difficulties accessible to anyone. Meanwhile the normal and harder difficulties require the timing and know-how expected by fans of the genre. The easy difficulties are designed to let anyone destroy monsters with style; setting up combos and dodging (and in the case of very easy moving from enemy to enemy) simply by mashing the Y and B buttons.
Unfortunately the easy difficulties won't make a player better at the game - the automatic combat chooses combos for you. As long as you run at the enemy and press Y or B at regular intervals (one or the other is fine, the game will add in attacks from the other button) you will destroy everything on the screen. Anyone could enjoy this for a while but anyone who would enjoy it for 12 hours would be better off trading in their console for a hundred million balloons and a safety pin. Eventually if you want to keep playing you will have to move on to normal difficulty, and if the twitch combat isn't for you, you'll find it just as frustrating as always.
There is no denying that Bayonetta's combat is the best of its kind. If the game were set in a featureless black room with you busting out combos against enemies repeatedly... It would be considered a tech demo and yet I would enjoy it infinitely more than having to put up with the ridiculous cut-scenes, music and characters in Bayonetta. The loading screens are exactly that featureless black room, and while they don't have enemies I looked forward to them much more than any time I advanced through Bayonetta's plot.
Bayonetta spends her time fighting hordes of angels - angels based on a healthy mixture of the less well known points of Christian mythos (Angels did actually occupy nine different choirs separated into spheres) mixed with typical Japanese insanity. Bayonetta is an Umbran Witch, given infernal powers to maintain the balance of the cosmos alongside the Lumen Sages - their 'light side' counterpart. The angels want to destroy the balance and so it is up to Bayonetta, recently recovered from a 500 year sleep and grappling with temporary amnesia, to stop them.
While in itself this is no crazier than the hundreds of other Japanese games with a loose grip on western mythology, it spends half its time trying to be a serious narrative and the other half hamming it up with a cast compiled mostly of comic relief characters. This has the usual side effect of making the 'comedy' scenes feel out of place and drastically lowering the impact of any drama, effectively ruining both.
One character in particular who epitomises the bipolar nature of the plot is Luka, a young man who believes Bayonetta murdered his father and wants revenge. He spends one sentence talking about how Bayonetta will pay and needs to be exposed - before flipping to cracking a joke about being a ladies man in the next. He tries to be severe and nonchalant at the same time, and - like he would in real life - ends up seeming mentally ill.
Bayonetta herself is not exempt from this lunacy - her comedy is primarily innuendo based, and even her moves can't escape the cheese ball nature at times. Aside from her finishing moves, which strip her down to naked except for conveniently swirling hair, she also has moves that end with her legs splayed and winking at the camera - clashing completely with the numerous scenes you are supposed to find touching and serious.
It starts to feel awkward quickly - not to mention a little insulting - as it seems like the game expects you to leer and ogle her at every chance you get. You are practically begged to actively position her into sexually suggestive poses and manoeuvre her as you please, and at the same time think of her as a strong and sexy heroine, not some object you can... actively position into sexually suggestive poses and manoeuvre as you please.
Platinum Games didn't stop at a terrible story, voice acting and characterisation when they decided to ruin the best extreme action game created - you could easily skip the cut-scenes and with the giant move list you can easily avoid the moves designed by 13 year olds. To make sure the game was outright unplayable without some serious effort, they also made sure the soundtrack was composed primarily of the worst j-pop ever created - with worse versions of Fly Me to the Moon than were ever featured at the end of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
The soundtrack also contains choir music at times, the kind that makes battles feel epic. The instrumentals don't feature in battles however; instead Bayonetta treats you to the same amazingly horrible j-pop song over and over ad infinitum - slapping you in the face for daring to think the game should have anything enjoyable in it aside from the combat mechanics. Coupled with the poor quality of the majority of the voice acting and the mute button ends up being the best option - aside from the power button.
Fans of the extreme action genre, especially the Japanese variant, have proven time and again they will put up with anything to get
their sweet, sweet chain combo action. Seeing some of the praise the game has received around the world, I began to wonder if maybe the entire game was just far too Meta for me - maybe there's some over-arching joke with a punch line I'm missing.
Maybe Platinum Games had deliberately pushed the game so far over the top it became ridiculous and stupid, not out of an attempt to circle on round from stupid back to awesome in that out-there-crazy-no-holds-barred-explosion way, but as a direct parody of all of the previous games which have tried to do that. Maybe Bayonetta isn't a terrible game, but is in fact the pure utilisation of irony to mock both the game manufacturers and its fans!
If this is the case change the score to a 10. As it is, it is more a failed attempt to deliver a story so stupid it becomes awesome. If I want to objectify women I have the internet, if I want to make my ears bleed I have iTunes and if I wanted to watch something flip between comedy and serious and accomplish neither, I have season six of Scrubs on DVD.