Our sexy witch has been quite the hassle lately, especially with the release of Bayonetta 2, which earned quite the impressive scores and reviews from pretty much everybody and I wouldn’t object about that at all, not to mention the original games hitting the Steam shelves. I personally believe that both games form one of the best action franchise to exist in present times and one of my all-time top favorites, so I thought even if I’m not officially reviewing the title, I couldn’t just pass it on, without giving it, the love it deserves.
When I speak about Bayonetta, it’s hard not to be biased, since I would outright go and state that it is indeed a great game and it’s a must try if you have the opportunity. But of course, as any other game, Bayonetta has its flaws too, especially when you’re trying to score the pure platinum for each chapter on each difficulty, then it can get even tedious, but we will get to that later.
Shall we begin with the Story of Bayonetta (spoilers, proceed on your own risk!). I’ve been tackling Bayonetta for years now and I have to say, even though I understand the story now perfectly, back in the days in my first playthrough I felt overwhelmed. When you first play the game, so much is going on that your mind automatically loses trail of what the hell happened. And then all the revelations are made in the end and your brain is like “Wuuuuut?!? Can you repeat that, please?”, at least I know I was. Towards the end, there is a cutscene where Balder talks for like 10 minutes, explaining crap and I had to re-watch that 3-4 times to begin following what was going on. I’m not even gonna start on the time-changing crap.
Anyway, basically the story goes like this: There exist two clans – the Umbra Witches and Lumen Sages, who both are said to be the overseers of the world (the witches being darkness and sages – light). They were at peace for most of the time but then one of the most sacred rules were broken by Rosa and Balder – a witch and a sage respectively – falling in love and conceiving a child, which is none other than our sexy protagonist Bayonetta. For that Rosa was jailed and Balder was exiled from his clan, but Bayonetta remained with the Umbra witches, raised as a “black sheep even amongst the darkness”. To be honest I’m glad they kept her, because I can’t picture Bayonetta as a sage … and angels are assholes. Of course everything went downhill from here and the two clans engaged in a war, which was won by the Umbra Witches. It was said that all sages were killed, but there was one survivor – Balder (surprise, surprise to everybody).
Basically what happens next is that he starts the infamous witch hunts with the help of the angels and the humans of Vigrid and the Umbra Witches are wiped out. Before that, however, Bayonetta was sealed in a gem by Jeanne, her childhood friend, and smuggled out, only to be sealed in a casket at the bottom of a lake for 500 years. This was done, because Bayonetta possessed the Left Eye. The Eyes of the World are an ancient treasure and were given to both the Umbra Witches and the Lumen Sages. One had the Left Eye of Darkness (witches) and the other had the Right Eye of Light (sages). They were said to be the two clans’ greatest treasures. Basically they are connected to the whole “overseers” thing both clans do to preserve the balance. In the game it is heavily implied that Bayonetta’s red gem, which she has on her umbran watch, is the Left Eye, but in truth she herself is the Left Eye, while Balder is the Right.
So, Bayonetta was sealed, Jeanne survives and there you have it, we have 1 surviving sage and 2 surviving witches. 500 years later, our protagonist is awaken from slumber by Antonio Redgrave, an investigative journalist, who well … investigates witches and sages and all the crap related to him. Sadly he dies when he does and right in front of his young son – Luka. Bayonetta spends 20 years fighting angels in order to satisfy her infernal friends, with whom she has a pact (like all Umbra Witches), but she has an amnesia and doesn’t remember her past at all. She works with a bar owner, named Rodin (who owns The Gates of Hell, which is basically where you shop in-game) and a fat annoying Italian, who never shuts up – Enzo. He basically provides her with information, while Rodin crafts weapons for her (Rodin is OP … nuff said).
One day Bayonetta sets out to find the Right Eye (which is then believed to be a blue gemstone, much like her red one) so that she can try and figure out her past. She begins from Vigrid and there she meets Luka, who’s basically stalking her with the pretext “You killed my dad and I will expose you, you heartless bi… I mean witch”. He can’t see her though, because she is in Purgatorio (apparently only in mirrors and he tries to take pictures lolz). Later on she also meets with Cereza, probably the only kid I can bring myself to relate to the word cute, who gets clingy to Bayonetta and starts calling her “mummy”. Most of the time after that, she spends with Luka, while he tails Bayonetta. He believes that Bayonetta killed Cereza’s parents as well (as if she’s got nothing better to do). Bayonetta also comes in contact with Jeanne on a few occasions and they fight, but she doesn’t remember who the latter was until towards the end. It also appears that Jeanne is working with the angels of Paradiso. Blah, blah, blah, a lot of fighting, action game-y stuff until we get to an island called Isla del Sol, where Bayonetta and Jeanne fight for the last time and they get all mushy at the end remembering stuff about their past (basically how they were friends and how they used to play together and shit). Jeanne saves Bayonetta from the missiles she unleashed earlier in the fight and off our protagonist, alongside Luka (and little Cerezita, as Luka calls her) go to confront Balder in his big ass tower of richness. And here is the speech I mentioned, which got me quite confused (and believe me, it was super effective).
Basically Balder reveals that he is Bayonetta’s dad and that Cereza is Bayonetta from the past and that he wants to awaken the Left Eye, which is Bayonetta herself, all to resurrect a presumable god, called Jubileus the Creator. She was sealed during the First Armageddon, which caused the universe to split into 3 realities – Paradiso, Inferno and Purgatorio in between. All in all they want to awaken her, so that the realities can be reunited again and Paradiso can rule the world (see, I told you angels are assholes). He also mentions that he brainwashed Jeanne to work for him and that he was the one to kill Luka’s dad, by sending lesser angels for Bayonetta when he opened the casket. Balder and Bayonetta fight and she defeats him and goes to bring Cereza back to the past, where she belongs. But when she returns to the present, Bayonetta remembers her past, because of her encounter with Cereza and awakens the Left Eye. This happens because she managed to alter the past (and this is the piece that eluded me for quite some time). When Cereza showed Bayonetta the pendant her mother gave her, which is the umbran watch, Bayonetta advises her to “keep it safe, close to her heart” and ties it with one of her ribbons so that Cereza can wear it around her neck. She continues to do so in the past, after she has been returned and when Jeanne tries to stab her, in order to seal her, the umbran watch cockblocks the dagger and Bayonetta never ends up being sealed.
In the present Bayonetta collapses from awakening the power of the Left Eye and Balder comes and takes her, trying to resurrect Jubileus, but Jeanne interferes once again and frees Bayonetta from the statue’s left eye, so when Jubileus awakens, she only has half her power. Here, you get to fight her as a final boss and I’d say it’s a pretty damn good fight (very dynamic and all) and after she is defeated you summon the badass ruler of Inferno – Queen Sheba, for a cool finisher. And there we have it, the Trinity of Realities are saved and happy ending + sexy dance scene for the lads.
I personally believe that the story and the world of Bayonetta is developed with great depth and has so much potential, but I don’t think it was presented in a great way in the game, because most of the time you get nothing, nothing, slight bits, crap and then you get a few revelation moments, which make you go all “Come again?!”. But all in all, I like the universe.
Moving on to gameplay. So many things to say here, I don’t know where to begin. I like that they didn’t make half of the game value in cutscenes. Most of them are short and there to basically introduce what you’re fighting. There are a few very long ones, however, which can get a bit tedious, especially in further playthroughs, but I’m happy to say that there is a skip cutscene option in the menu. The game itself begins with a very long cutscene, where half of the time Bayonetta wiggles her lady parts, fighting angels and I felt sitting there being all “Yeah this is so cool, she’s awesome … but when do I get to wiggle her around?” Long cutscenes are nice and all to set the mood and ease into the plot, but remember that this is ultimately a game, not a movie, so the more interactive – the better. A good example of this is that Platinum made interactive end credits (yes there are actually verses in the credits). I know people like doing this and it reminds me of Dragon Age Inquisition where you get the title of the game so much into it, and in this one you get it here in the so-called “Vestibule”. I understand it serves as a prologue number 2.
This brings me to the prologue battle, which is basically Bayonetta and Jeanne in the past, fighting a group of angels on a flying piece of what was a clock tower and a voice tells you wth is going on. But the game just throws you in there … no controls, no instructions, no nothing and I ended up bashing my keyboard, trying to figure out which button, does what. To top it off, the color scheme is yellowish, orange-y whatever (typical for old movies, just not grey) and you can’t tell who is who and what is what. Happy for you, no matter how many times you get hit, you won’t die, cuz you have no health bar. But all in all when you get past that, the game is pretty straightforward about the controls and even explains everything in a nice fashion in the vestibule, when you encounter your first angels (so to say, after the long cutscene).
Now, before I go on explaining anything else about the game, let me tell you how Pure Platinum works, since I will be referencing that a lot. Each chapter is divided into verses (battles) and running around in between. Each verse receives a medal, depending on 3 things – combo score (the higher the better), the time you took to complete the verse (the lower the better) and the damage you sustained (again, the lower the better). If you want to get a platinum medal on the 3rd one, basically you don’t have to get hit … at all. So medals’ order is: stone, bronze, silver, gold and platinum. In order for you to achieve a pure platinum on the verse, you need to get platinum medals on all 3 categories. If you want a pure platinum trophy at the end of the chapter you need to complete all verses in the chapter with a pure platinum medal (no skipping on verses or that will weight you down). Fun times indeed.
Potentially, I believe that out of all the hack-and-slash games I’ve experienced, Bayonetta is the one with the most detail put into combos. I can certainly say that up to this day I probably haven’t done them all. You get a wide variety of them, depending on what weapons you have equipped and where. In Bayonetta you can equip your weapons either on your hands or on your feet and some of them on both. For example Scarborough Fair, which are her starting guns, can be equipped on either or on both and you get more firearms in the future, which can be used the same way (yes, you can end up with 4 bazookas). Some weapons, though, are hands or feet exclusive, such as Kulshedra, which is a whip (for spanking naughty angels) that only goes to your hands or Odette, a pair of ice skates, only meant for the feet slot. Every combination of weapons has a different set of combos. For example if you put the fire claws Durga on your hands and, let’s say, Onyx Roses on your feet (those are shotguns). That will have different combos than if you swap them the other way around. Also fire and lightning Durga have different combos, because of the latter being a “lighter” variation of the previous. All in all, you can spend the whole game doing different combos and not seeing them all. Animation-wise some might be the same, but they have a separate counter. I really enjoyed that Platinum decided to make an interactive loading screen, where you can f*ck around with combos, because the loading times were pretty long (idk if that was generally the PS3, but the Wii U didn’t fare better, and neither did PC).
Now there is a detail here that on one hand put me off so hard but on the other I was shitting rainbows from happiness. Bayonetta, in no way, stimulates the player to do the variety of combos. The combo score is not affected by what combo you do, rather than the damage the combo does. So to put it simply, you can spam the highest damage combo the whole game and kudos to you. And then there is the Durga/Kilgore exploit, which basically does tons of damage and generates tons of combo points, so the platinum medal for combo is easy-peasy. Of course, you can still go doing the variety of combos in the game, but that won’t change anything and basically you get no reward for doing so (but hey, you get to see Bayo shaking her treasure in different ways at least). Now you would imagine why I said I was happy with that, since at least this was off my worries for the pure platinum run. Besides normal attacks, Bayonetta is able to perform, the so called Wicked Weaves at the end of each combo, which usually come in the form of Madama Butterfly’s hands or feet (the demoness she has a pact with) punching/stomping angels. Occasionally they can be colored differently, depending on the element of the weapon or they can be sword slashes for Shuraba, a huge whip for Kulshedra, etc. There is also her “Serious Mode”, which is usually against bosses, where every attack will produce a Wicked Weave. And also you get a Climax finisher here and there, by summoning all kinds of demons from Inferno.
The other thing, which makes me very happy is the dedicated dodge button. Now, Bayonetta is very agile, so naturally she would be able to dodge a lot and thus the dodge button was born. There is also the Dodge Offset. This is when you dodge in the middle of the combo, but hold the button you pressed last in the combo, so you can finish it after the dodge. I’m not saying this feature is bad, it’s something good to have, but I found myself never using it (well, only to get the achievement for it). Other than that, the dodge offset went straight to the bucket of things I never use because quite frankly, combos in which you have to pause, go against my button mashing policy (same goes for the ones you have to make a small pause in between a kick or a punch, but they are more doable). By dodging at the last second, Bayonetta activates Witch Time, which slows down time for all enemies and you can do whatever it is you please with them for a few seconds (and this is valid for every dodge … usually). When Witch Time is active the screen goes all purple. There are also Torture Attacks, which are awesome. Basically, Bayonetta summons a torture device (differs for angels) and executes them with it. They do take a lot of the magic gauge though.
The consumables in the game are in the form of lollipops – you get one for health, one for magic, one for increased damage and one that makes you untouchable. Also you have the red hot shot, which revives upon death instantaneously and the magic flute, which causes damage to enemies around Bayonetta. If you desire to pursue the pure platinum though, you can forget about using any of these. There are a few ways you can acquire these. First one is buying them from Rodin’s bar, but the limit which you can buy is very small (if I’m not mistaken it was 5 for small lollipops and 1 for a big one) But let’s face it, you’d wanna be spending your halos (currency) for other sh*t. The easier way is to craft them yourself by collecting the ingredients along the way. They go in 3 kinds – mandragora root, unicorn horn and backed gecko. Early in the game the player receives the piece of paper with all the recipes and can start concocting. The third way is to receive it as a reward from Angel Attack.
Angel Attack is a mini game, which the player comes across at the end of each chapter. It’s basically a first-person shooter, where Bayonetta shoots at angels. At the end of the round she gets points and can exchange them for consumables or halos. Now, at the start (the first few playthroughs) I liked doing it, but then it began getting tedious and I was just like “Oh let’s get this over with then”. Other consumables, which are collectables in the game are Broken Witch Hearts, 4 of which make a full one and increase your health, Broken Moon Pearls, 2 of which make a full one and increase your magic and Arcade Bullets, which increase the number of bullets you can use in Angel Attack by 3 each (but that is for the chapter only). When you collect a broken heart or moon pearl, next time they will be replaced by an arcade bullet. They can be usually found in Umbra Witch’s final resting places, which are basically the golden chests, or as a reward for doing Alfheims.
Ah, Alfheim portals … my favorite. They are optional challenges, hidden around the chapters, which most of are fairly easy, but not when you’re trying to pure platinum it and if you want the pure platinum trophy of the chapter, you have to do them all. They usually present the player with a challenge, things like: use Wicked Weaves, or Witch Time disabled, or use Torture Attacks, etc. The easiest in my opinion are the ones where you have to stay in the air. When you use Kulshedra to do that it’s a piece of cake. The thing I don’t understand with Alfheim portals and optional chapter verses is all the backtracking you have to do to find them. I find this notion stupid … If I’ve been somewhere, why the f*ck would I want to go back again. The final collectables are the umbran crows, which hold a red jewel, called an umbran tear of blood. There are 101 umbran tears of blood in total – some of them you get by catching these crows, which are spread all over the game (and difficulties). Yes there are new crows, when you progress in difficulty. The others are rewarded to the player for completing achievements/trophies. By collecting them you are awarded different accessories.
Also the game comes in 5 difficulties in general (2 of which I believe are completely unnecessary, since Normal is pretty easy as leisure play): Very Easy, Easy, Normal, Hard and Non-stop ∞ Climax. As I said normal is quite easy, not even gonna comment on the 2 easies, hard was a bit challenging but the real bitch is the ∞ Climax. There enemies are fast, hit hard and to top it off say bye-bye to Witch Time. If you’re not prepared and you don’t know your sh*t, then you’re gonna struggle really hard on this difficulty. I ended up having a lot of stone trophies towards the end of the game, because of my lollipop abuse.
Now, I did have a few serious quirks with the game, which didn’t bother me much normally, but when I went to do the pure platinum it was shitville. Quick time events … oh how I love them. They are only a few, but can f*ck you up your tight butthole if you die on them, because death is a big no-no for pure platinums. Memorizing them is all you can do about it. Remember when I said you can skip the cutscenes? Well, remember also that if you by any chance decide to skip a cutscene, which introduces an enemy … dodge, dodge, DODGE!!! Usually enemies will begin the attack in the cutscene and if you’re not prepared, well … sad life for you. Also there are a few fights which are flooded with angels and it gets hard to notice where you’re getting hit from (oh the frustrations I’ve had with these).
I also want to whine a bit about the buttons too. Overall everything’s good, but there were some stupid button decisions made here. First of all transforming into a panther or a crow. This is done by double tapping the dodge button. For me in battle most of the time I end up turning into panther or a crow. The panther is no big deal, because you can quickly get out of that by a simple attack (and you get to scratch the enemy too), but crows have their own attacks (shooting feathers and stuffz … too bad you can’t throw dung at angels) so you have to dodge again to break the crow transformation and in the heat of the battle that can be very annoying. Also, there is an attack you can perform, where basically you spin the analog stick and Bayonetta ends up shooting either from her hands or feet, depending on which button you pressed after that. Yeah, it was a pain when it happens mid-combo in a battle and I go pulling my hair cuz I didn’t mean to do that. Obviously, on PC, this was handled better, but this complaint goes to all my PS3 and Wii U owners of the game. The final thing and probably the most annoying of all … *drumroll please* and the winner is … picking up angel arms by accident. Now, you pick them up with the button, which is utilized for shooting. You might wonder why that is so bad. In most verses if you want a platinum medal for combo you have to keep it up during the whole battle. When an enemy is far away from you, you can keep the combo going by shooting at it. Imagine you start shooting near an angel weapon and instead of shooting you end up picking it up and dropping the combo. Now imagine this happening a lot, because most angels would drop their weapons upon death. And finally imagine me raging like a fancy pants, cussing at the screen. Sad indeed.
Despite all the hardships of the Pure Platinum, which by the way gives no reward in-game, it’s purely for trophy whores such as myself, my happy moments with Bayonetta outweighed the quirks. The game has a lot of replayability potential to unlock all the accessories and try out all difficulties and also the Lost Chapter, which is something like Bloody Palace in Devil May Cry (endless waves of angels for the beating … but it does have an end). Also you can unlock and play as Jeanne and Little King Zero (which is a funny little grim-reaper like character). The only bad thing here is that if you wish to switch character you have to start a new save and thus basically a new game. You can also view concept art, 3D models and music in a gallery from the menu. Speaking of music, the OST of Bayonetta is simply gorgeous. Your have the high pitched angelic themes for angels of Paradiso and then there are the playful tunes for Bayonetta. All fits perfectly and is simply ear-candy.
Character design was great, I love Bayonetta (and her younger version), Luka was generally hilarious (except when he goes on yapping about “the truth”, which is more than he should), Enzo is annoying, but that was intentional and well Rodin is Rodin, nothing more needs to be said. Just bathe in his badassness (he’s also a secret boss and a pain in the neck to beat). Jeanne was okay, I liked her little sparry cutscenes with Bayonetta and finally we have Balder. He was an ass yes, I always went on “she’s your little girl, how can you do dat, I though you loved Rosa too so why would you start the witch hunts” blah blah blah crap, but then I played Bayonetta 2 and my opinion of him changed a lot … you’ll find out why if you ever get to play Bayonetta 2, which you totally should!!!!
Angel designs were weird (seriously look up Iustitia on google), but I guess that was the point. I kind of felt bad for the Affinities, because they look cute and since they are your generic type of angels (basically the handymen) you get to kill a lot of them. I hated the Decorations, since they have stupid baby faces and laughter. On higher difficulties the most annoying enemies are Grace and Glory which are super-fast, so dodge to your heart’s extent. And their stronger versions Gracious and Glorious are even more annoying cuz they’re too badass to be affected by Witch Time. But all in all angels came in variety and were well designed.
Game progression and gameplay was smooth, story could have been better implemented but it’s fine once you get what’s going on. People seem to moan about the PS3 version of the game being sh*t, but I didn’t find any problems with it (other than the long loading screens, which weren’t a problem, since you can play with Bayo). The Wii U and PC ports seem to be positively accepted and I am totally agreeing on that. The game is amazing, I’m not gonna lie, but there were some quirks and some issues that keep it from going to the full perfection. I’d definitely recommend it to people who like this genre of games and since it’s an old game now, it’s not very costly (if at all) so go try it out. And top it off … IT’S ON STEAM PPL, WUT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!!?