A creativity blog - including reviews, photographs and discussion on a variety of things; such as dragons and other things almost but not quite completely entirely unlike tea.

Friday, 2 August 2013

The witching hour - me playing Bayonetta

Bayonetta was among the first three games I bought when I got PS3 last year. Others were Devil May Cry 4 and Final Fantasy XIII, about which I might write sometime later, but for now, let's concentrate on Bayonetta.

Bayonetta at first reminded me of a mixture of the Devil May Cry and Dead Or Alive series - DMC came to mind mostly of the cheesy subject matter, posy cut scenes and the action-adventure genre, while learning the moves for the different weaponry reminded me a lot about DOA, which is basically the only fighting game I've ever played more or less seriously. Bayonetta came out in 2009-2010 for both PS3 and Xbox 360, and its director Hideki Kamiya has worked with titles such as DMC before; all of these interesting facts you can also learn from the game's wiki pages. A sequel, Bayonetta 2, has been announced, but sadly it also seems to be exclusive for the Wii U platform. Maybe I could borrow the one my brother has for the duration of playing through the game...

Back to the first game. The main story in Bayonetta involves finding out about the title character's past - apparently she just woke up one day with no memory of anything, except the knowledge that she is a witch and must battle the forces of good, so as to not be dragged down to hell, where she gets her powers. This means basically killing angels and collecting their halos for currency. You'll have several different weapons to use (once you find and/or buy them) to aid you on your journey. You can equip weapons to both your hands and feet, and the move lists differ according to what you've got equipped and where. Kicks and punches are pretty straightforward, in addition to which you'll have guns, ice skates, fire/electricity claws, a sword and a whip to choose between, to name a few. 

In addition to just smashing and bashing, in combat you take advantage of your witch skills - you can slow down time by dodging, use torture attacks to finish off (or seriously wound) enemies and use your hair (yes, your HAIR) to make powerful Wicked Weave attacks (yes, they are called exactly that) when punching in the right combos. And that's not all, for the enemies drop weapons too, which you can use. The Angelic weapons only last for a limited time though, but they are the best damage accruers you can get. 

The plot is organized in chapters, of which you get a rating and bonus halos if you do good. Between chapters you can save and shop, much like in the DMC series. Whenever the game is loading, you also get to train with Bayonetta - and you can stop the loading and stay in the training mode if you wish to try out your new toys, but as you cannot change equipment except between the two sets you've chosen, one rarely spends exceedingly long times just training. Within each chapter there are also hidden quests, Alfheim portals, where you get goodies for completing missions in a given time - much like the secret missions in DMC. And naturally, there are some hidden treasures within the chapters, with which you can get new weapons and other goodies from your pal Rodin, the barkeep.

Bayonetta is the best action game I have ever played. The story line could be better, but the actual game play is superb. It is easy and challenging at the same time and there are even some puzzles you need to work your way around, which, although not very difficult, are a nice breather in-between battles. Even the tiniest angels are annoying and the bosses are badass, so if you haven't got skills to play, you're not going to make any progress. I started to play straight away with the Normal difficulty, there are also Easy and Hard to choose in the beginning and after Hard, you can unlock the Umbra Witch difficulty. You get to save your game and take all of your achievements and candy and weaponry for the rerun, so learning to play with Easy/Normal and using your experience and equipment to trudge through Hard is really the way to go here. What I've seen of the different difficulty levels is that you get more difficult enemies earlier on, and you get more of them at one go when you up the difficulty - I'm not sure if the enemies are simpler or harder to kill on any given difficulty, but I'd guess so.

I've been thinking whether or not I should talk about sex in the course of this post: when it comes to Bayonetta, you sort of think you should mention it, but then again, when it comes to Bayonetta, it's so given, that you maybe want to skip all that and talk about something else. I'm going to write something brief about it though. Sexuality is very much slammed to your face when playing Bayonetta. She dances, has tight clothes, fights cat fights with another witch, eats lollipops, loses her clothes regularly and well, makes references to pole dancing in her dialogue. So she's a witch. I personally don't mind the overplaying with sex in Bayonetta just because it is so overplayed - and to me, sex is also an important part of Bayonetta as a character. It could be argued that Bayonetta is a game made by men for other men on the one hand, but on the other hand here we have a female character, who is openly very sexual, independent and dangerous - and I cannot really say that portrayal is degrading for women in general. And of course, there is the obligatory compassionate and caring aspect in her too, but I don't see how that could be avoided either. Or if it should be.

So, the game is good-looking, fun to learn and play, there's versatility and interesting characters, the plot is a little silly but manageable, the music is awesome, you have a few mini games to play beside the actual game and there's content beyond the actual story line. I guess the end note here could be that the writing in this game is extremely witty. And not only because the main character speaks with a British accent, although it doesn't hurt, either. I thoroughly enjoyed watching all the cut scenes and listening to all the conversations and hearing random voice actor comments in the middle of the fights, because they were all just so very well written. All of the characters are individuals in their own right and though evolving occurs, it is not to say that the beginning was somehow less involving as the end product. There is humor, sarcasm, references and even down-to-hell conviction to look forward to in the dialogue. It is rarely that you really enjoy "being" in your characters' presence for hours on end, but this happens when playing Bayonetta. In the end, the game is meant to entertain first and pierce the dark abyss of its' players' souls second; and it does both of them in abundance.

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