A full moon looms, vast and bright, as specks fly before its visage, materializing into angels armed with vicious crosses. The camera pulls back, placing the point of view on our heroine, Bayonetta, as she stands firmly on a clock face as it tumbles end over end through space. The angels land, surrounding her and the fun begins.
So starts the demo version of Bayonetta - Final Climax (snigger). The full game was released in Japan October 29th, 2009 and here in the States it will be released January 5th, 2010. Bayonetta’s director, Hideki Kamiya, has truly outdone himself with this offering in conjunction with Platinum Games (formerly Seeds Inc.), published by Sega (Saayga!). Hideki takes the action converted Resident Evil formula (ala Devil May Cry) paints it with the grace and art of Okami, and multiplies the action by the factor of Viewtiful Joe to yield what will definitely be the top action game of 2010. Bayonetta's musical score, composed by Hiroshi Yamaguchi, is a flow of classical, operatic, and J-pop - the perfect complement to the game's over the top action and camp. Yes, camp. Unlike many of the other recent offerings in the action genre, Bayonetta doesn't take itself too seriously - uber animalistic angels shrieking hate, dragons flying in the background, and pink pistols attached to the spike heels of our heroine (yes true, ya gotta try em in action before scoffing) all blend smoothly into a ballet of violence.
The controls are easy to pick up (though definitely more Eastern in orientation). The left analog stick controls movement, the right stick is the camera (although the action camera did an admirable job of staying with the action on its own). Clicking in the right stick brings the camera behind our black clad character. The directional pad accesses items displayed in the lower left corner of the hud; press a direction, hit 'a' & you've used that item. A word of caution here though - like Devil May Cry, Bayonetta is a score based game and using items will lower your level scores, possibly preventing you from unlocking such items as light sabers, secret characters, and gunchuks. 'A' is jump, press it twice to perform a double jump (with ephemeral pink and purple moth wings fluttering behind you for a moment) and even a triple jump if pressed near a wall (like Mario 64). 'X' is your action button, controlling guns in battle with the analog stick for sweeping bullets over enemies on the ground and in the air. 'Y' is punch, 'B' is kick; when combinations of the two are pressed some truly awesome moves are performed. The left button is taunt (yayy!..finally a game maker moves this choice from the hard to reach 'back' button). The right button is targeting (kinda weird, I know, but to be honest I didn't use it that often). The left trigger changes your weapons on the fly and the right trigger is your dodge/evade button. When properly timed (dodging) the screen goes purple as you enter 'Witch Time' - times slows all of the action on the screen except for Bayonetta. I gotta interject here to mention the awesome finishing moves Bayonetta can employ if she's near a weakened enemy. Once an enemy is going down, an iron maiden rises from the ground and opens. By pressing 'B' or 'Y' you can kick the enemy into the box of death which slams shut on them. Then there's my personal favorite: a guillotine that rises from the ground as Bayonetta repeatedly kicks an enemy in the derriere until their head is beneath the descending blade. Off with their head after a swift kick in the a..! Oh, and did I mention all of the over the top accessories of death are composed of Bayonetta's hair, leaving her naked as a jay bird as the violence ensues, cheeky monkey.
The Japanese magazine Famitsu gave Bayonetta a 40 out of 40, and so far all other reviewers have been singing its praises. The only downsides I've found have been that the game is short, and the Playstation 3 version has muddied graphics and long load times. The shortness of the main campaign is balanced by extras such as Alfheims (similar to Devil May Cry's secret missions) and Lost Chapters (DMC's Bloody Palace). I played the 360 version and was impressed by the graphics. Sega did release a statement that they would most likely release a patch to take care of the PS3's load times.
One last item that's worth mentioning is the 'Automatic Mode'. Added as an accompaniment to the Easy and Very Easy modes, it allows players to sail through the game, releasing a flurry of complex moves by simply pressing the punch button (Y). Many gamers (in the States) are complaining about this. Kinda silly from my point of view. As an older gamer, I end up missing some of the finer details of a game while in the heat of battle - I love the option of being able to play through again and catch things I missed the first time through. Thank you Hideki Kamiya for following through with yet another fine entry in the world of gaming. With such a pedigree (he directed Resident Evil 2, Devil May Cry, Okami, Viewtiful Joe and now Bayonetta) the argument that games are not an art form is definitely lost.