“I’ll, how do the Americans put it…oh yes, ‘Bust a cap in yo ass.’” – Bayonetta
Bayonetta was originally released for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 in Japan in October 2009 by Platinum Games and SEGA. It was released in North America and Europe in January 2010. It is an action-adventure hack and slash video game set in Vigrid, a fictional place in Europe, about a witch named Bayonetta with guns strapped to her stiletto heels who can eat angels with her magical hair.
500 years ago, there were two clans in Europe. The two clans were the Umbra Witches, followers of the darkness, and their counterpart, the Lumen Sages, followers of the light. The clans shared two distinct treasures, the “Eyes of the World” (Umbra had the Left Eye while the Lumen had the Right Eye) which they used to oversee the passage of time. The clans respected each other and their laws, balancing each other out.
One day, this balance collapsed when Rosa, an umbra witch, and Balder, a Lumen Sage, conceived a child named Cereza. A sacred law exists between the clans where they could not have a child with one another. The father was exiled from his clan while the mother was arrested. Cereza remained with the Umbra but she was treated as a black sheep. There, she befriended Jeanne, the next Umbra Heiress. To cement her claim, she needed to choose an opponent to fight her for the “Left Eye of the World”. She chose Cereza to be her opponent. They fought and Jeanne was defeated. Jeanne was ordered to seal away Cereza in order to stop her from awakening the Left Eye which would summon Jubileus, the Creator.
Before she was sealed, Umbra emerged victorious from the war between the two clans. After the war, the witch hunts began and wiped out all of the Umbra witches except Jeanne and Cereza. The game starts after Bayonetta’s awakening at the bottom of a lake without her memories. She searches for a mystical macguffin and discovers her past while killing a lot of angels.
The combat system is Bayonetta’s main feature. There is a basic punch and kick attack which are used to perform any of the possible combos based on the equipped weapon. Certain combos can be capped off with a powerful finisher/climax, called a Wicked Weave, which uses her magical hair to summon a demonic entity to slam into your foe. There are special “Torture Attacks” that she can pull off.
There are also a variety of temporary weapons dropped by some enemies that you can equip which are distinct and are more effective in dealing heavy damage to the enemies. There are also accessories that you can equip which can grant you access to unique mechanics and character features.
You can dodge incoming attacks. Dodging at the right time lets you enter Witch Time, where everything is slowed except the character and you can easily perform combos on the enemies. This is where the game’s sound design becomes very vital. For example, you can distinguish the sound of an upcoming staff attack giving you an intuitive sense of the best moment to dodge.
Every basic movement mechanic is flawless; she runs, jumps, and dodges beautifully yet effectively. Every single attack using every weapon looks fantastic with the animations being fast and brutal. The variety of attacks across different weapons is amazing. You can mix and match weapons in pairs because the character has a weapon slot in her hands and on her heels.
Any mechanic in the game can be cancelled by dodging or jumping which makes the game feel incredibly responsive and controlled. Even though there is a lock-on mechanic, it is not necessary since the game lets you direct your attacks by using your directional keys to orient yourself.
There is a huge variety of enemies all with their very own mechanical identity. This is what I enjoy in Bayonetta. There are a lot of enemy models and they have different attack patterns, weapons and skills therefore you won’t easily get bored fighting the same enemy with the same mechanics.
Outside of combat, players explore the city of Vigrid, solving simple environmental puzzles and collecting healing and support items. When there is a full moon, Bayonetta can walk on walls and ceilings through the help of her witch powers. Be prepared to fight while standing on a wall or a ceiling or dodge rocks and obstacles while climbing a wall on your feet.
Bayonetta’s weapons include four guns named Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme. She can also equip dual shotguns on her legs and wield a Katana. You can charge the Katana for a more powerful attack. She also has a huge chain and sickle that she uses for both ground and air attacks. Certain weapons are designed to be equipped for the hands, feet, and both. You can upgrade or buy new weapons in the Gates of Hell (a shop you can access in-game which is owned by Rodin) using halos, the game’s currency which is usually dropped by the angels that you kill.
Bayonetta also has the ability to mix together concoctions that creates special lollipop candies which she can use as healing aids or ability enhancement. The ingredients can be found by breaking items throughout the game.
There is also a special arcade mini-game in the end of every stage called “Angel Attack” where you shoot angels using the special bullets that you have collected in the current stage. Points earned can be swapped for different lollipops and items or you can also exchange it for halos.
Mostly, variety comes from enemy types and environment design. Even though Vigrid seems a little bland as an environment, there are other locations like Paradiso which look great despite the ageing graphics. The game also runs all the action without any problems with the camera obscuring it. Overall, the graphics are really reasonable since it was originally released back in 2010; it does not hinder the whole game experience with some crazy over the top cinematics like picking up a staff and pole dancing enemies to death. With the decent PC port you can play it with smooth and stable framerates which is very important in hack and slash games like this.
If you enjoy hack and slash games with fast-paced action, jaw-dropping cut scenes, and a deep/extensive lore like Devil May Cry for example, you may also enjoy Bayonetta. If you want to fight and kill different types of Angels while still being sexy and elegant, then this game is for you. Even though Bayonetta has aged in some places, it is still one of the best games in its genre, plus it’s very entertaining thanks to an exceptional combat system.