2010 has an unprecedented Q1 for games thanks to Modern Warfare 2 scaring off the competition from a 2009 holiday release. Bayonetta is the first big game of the year, and has the treat of being the game to start of the year. Platinum Games developed Bayonetta with the director being Hideki Kamiya who directed Resident Evil 2, Viewtiful Joe, and the game that inspired the creation of Bayonetta, Devil May Cry. With such a promising portfolio, anything less than great could be considered a disappointment for this game.
Bayonetta's focus was definitely not on the storyline; it was so odd that by the end I wasn't even sure what it was trying to focus on. The game has somewhat biblical storyline of the Umbra Witches clan, like Bayonetta, who represent the darkness. Not that they're evil, but rather that they get their power from the night. On the other hand, there are the Lumen Sages which are explained as being angels and followers of light, although the angels are far from being "angelic". As you can expect there's a whole history between these two clans that goes back hundreds of year, but the way the story plays out is barely coherent let alone enjoyable. Being that Bayonetta is an action game, you can forgive the lack of a good story since the gameplay is so good, but it's a damn shame considering this is THE element of the game that does not hold its own.
Bayonetta plays like Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden, and God of War in the sense that they're all action games revolving around a combat system that features some outrageous combos, but still adds a few features that makes it somewhat unique. Combat is done mainly using two attack buttons. One is punch attacks while the other is for kick attacks. As uninspiring at that sounds, the developers did change it up a little. In the game, Bayonetta will have access to her guns, sword, and claws which she can equip to either her hand or feet for different attacks. By equipping different weapons in different areas, you can customize the kind of combos that work best for you whether it's about getting more hits or doing more damage. Throughout the game, you'll be able to purchase weapon upgrades, accessories to improve Bayonetta in various ways, and more moves - including my personal favorite, the move simply called "Breakdancing." In addition to the two attack buttons, there's also a button to use Bayonetta's gun, but this gun attack doesn't have near the damage of your regular attacks. Instead, it's used for increasing your combos and getting some small damage to enemies at a long distance.
So far this may sound just like Devil May Cry's style of gameplay in different clothign. However there are some areas where the developers improved on the already established formula. The most noticeable improvement is the use of "Witch Time": By having Bayonetta dodge an enemy's attack just right, time will slow down to allow Bayonetta to unleash her fury on the almost frozen in time enemies. Essentially, this brings the "Bullet Time" gameplay that you mainly see in FPS games into the mix while rewarding you for being more defensive and having quick reflexes. Witch Time" will also come into play outside of battle in order to reach some platforms or open doors to proceed further with the game. It's because of this use of time that Bayonetta works pretty damn well even though it plays like several other games.
In a manner similar to God of War, Bayonetta has some attacks that destroy enemies in gruesome yet awesome ways. For your standard enemies these special attacks are called "Torture combos." By filling up Bayonetta's magic bar, by using items or acquiring powerups from enemies, "Torture combos" can be activated to deal some heavy damage to the enemy or kill it in one hit. During a "Torture combo", you will be prompted on screen to rapidly press a button or rotate the analog stick to both do more damage to the enemy and gain more points.
For the bigger enemies, Bayonetta will use a "Climax attack" at specific parts of the fight or when the enemy's health reaches a certain point. "Climax attacks" work the same way as "Torture combos" when it comes to the on screen prompts to again do more damage or gain more points. Boss battles make use of all the previously mentioned elements, and some quick time events, making for some incredible action that is both exciting and cinematic. The player, as mentioned before, can purchase goods such as include moves, weapons, accessories, and powerups in exchange for the halos that the enemies drop when defeated. Also, enemies drop ingredients that can be used to create powerups making so that you don't have to rely on buying items, but instead make them while you're progressing through a stage.
Being that the game's focus is that on a sexual, pole spinning, booty shaking witch, well you'd expect the game to be pretty as well. Although you'll probably be focused on Bayonetta herself, you may want to spend a little time checking out the backgrounds. Everything is colorful and detailed making for some great looking stages. In an attempt to offer a kind of Grindhouse effect, some of the cutscenes are done through the use of still shots with a gritty look to them and film strip borders. For me, this was kind of an annoyance being that these still shot scenes offer nothing different than the regular full motion cutscenes.
The soundtrack for Bayonetta has some J-pop so be prepared for that. It's a great soundtrack, but I know that any J-pop can really kill it for some people that are anti-weeaboos. On the other hand, the soundtrack is a real treat for fans of Neon Genesis Evangelion with the use of a J-pop version of the Frank Sinatra classic "Fly Me to the Moon." As for the voice acting, the real standout is Bayonetta. Something about the English accent with that character makes the whole package even sexier and makes me creepier for thinking that.
Your first time through will take about 10-12 hours, and replay value it totally dependent on whether you're a perfectionist or someone that's like s playing with dolls. For the perfectionist, there are medals you earn in parts of the stage where you have to kill enemies to get past a certain point. These medals are not always on the direct path through the level meaning you may have to backtrack and explore to get all the medals in a stage. Also, with the Leaderboard, time and scores can be ranked for those hoping to be the best of the best. Now those that like playing dress-up, not that there's anything wrong with that, will want to beat the game multiples times as you will be rewarded with different outfits for Bayonetta to wear. As you'd expect, these outfits can get very skimpy.
Those that have heard the news should know that the PS3 version is plagued with problems. Well there are problems but thanks to a few updates, they're far less noticeable. Still, the problems are there and it takes away from the game that was so great on the Xbox 360.
Thanks to Modern Warfare 2, many games were pushed to 2010, but that just leaves some excellent choices to start the year. Bayonetta sets the bar pretty high for action games, and was just one good storyline from being a stellar game.
If this review doesn't do it for you, I got 5 more reasons to get this game.