When Bayonetta first came out in 2010 for the PS3 and Xbox 360, I knew nothing about it. I got it confused with other action games released around the same time. I vaguely assumed it involved bayonets. When Bayonetta 2 was announced for the Wii U, I finally got a better idea of what it was.
I went back and forth I on whether or not I wanted to get Bayonetta 2–it looked interesting and the inclusion of the first game made it even better, but a witch killing angels is a little… ehhh….
Long story short, I learned about Operation Platinum, saw all the excellent Bayonetta 2 reviews, tried the demo, pre-ordered the game, and started the original Bayonetta on Halloween.
Not only did I lose my misgivings about it, but I enjoyed it much more than I expected. I expected it to be entertaining and maybe a bit challenging. I didn’t expect to find myself devoting hours to challenges I wasn’t ready for, getting caught up in the admittedly-convoluted story, and having a fantastic time even when I died on a regular basis and got Stone awards for every chapter.
You will die a lot in Bayonetta. You will see a lot of Stone awards during your first playthrough.
I figured I was just awful until I saw other people talking about all their Stone rankings. Turns out it’s normal!
Bayonetta is a game that will challenge you, but not in a bad way. And once you start to get used to dodging and performing combos, you’ll feel powerful enough to take on anything! (And then Grace & Glory will appear to ruin your day.) Before I get into particulars, though, let’s discuss some of the reasons other than difficulty why you might be uncertain about this game.
Common Reasons Why You Might Avoid Bayonetta
As far as I can tell, there are three main things outside of “I don’t like this genre” or “I tried it and it wasn’t fun” (standard reasons not to play any game, really) that might deter otherwise-interested players from this gem.
1. Bayonetta and Religion
Let’s just dive right into this hornets’ nest, because this was the issue that made me cringe the most when I started. When you play Bayonetta, you’ll spend a lot of time shooting angels. (As well as shoving them in iron maidens, guillotining them, and otherwise bringing them to gruesome ends.) You’ll even summon demons from Hell to kill some.
But Bayonetta is not anti-Christian or anti-any-other-religions. Instead, Bayonetta draws on Abrahamic imagery, names, and ideas the way other games pull stuff out of other mythologies. Yes, imagery. Some people will tell you Bayonetta’s angels aren’t Christian because they don’t look like angels. This is false. These guys may remind you more of Eldritch Abominations, but the enemy designers for Bayonetta did their research. And you know what? This makes them really cool. It doesn’t make them the same angels, and this game does not take place within the framework of a real-world religion.
Don’t believe me? Okay, let me ask you a few questions.
- Are some of your angels created through ritualistic suicide?
- Does the light have its own equivalent to witches, with their own special powers?
- Did Lumen Sages and Umbran Witches once work together to keep the balance between light and darkness and oversee the passage of time?
- Do angels have a callous disregard for human life?
No? Okay, glad we settled that.
Bayonetta has its own unique lore, and it actually devotes a fair amount of effort to building it up and explaining its universe. Though its angels are theoretically “good,” judge them by their actions and then decide. The further you progress in the game, the clearer it becomes a good-versus-evil struggle, rather than the “we must find our own paths!” plot other stories with deity antagonists tend to prefer. Bayonetta is no saint, but she’s a good deal better than the beings she fights.
She’s also in a curious predicament which adds even more depth to the world and lore. Umbran Witches have all these powers because they work with demons. When they die, demons will drag them to Hell. Bayonetta needs to kill angels for her demons to take to Hell, in order to satisfy them so they don’t take her instead. This is very similar to the bind Gerald Tarrant of the Coldfire Trilogy is in, as he must commit atrocities in order to remain alive–if he stopped, he would die and go to Hell for his sins. I can’t wait to finish the Coldfire Trilogy to see if he ever finds a way out, and I can’t wait to see if Bayonetta 2 explores this issue further.
I’m getting off topic. Main point: Bayonetta isn’t evil.
Back to religion, Bayonetta does take place on Earth instead of a fantasy world, and there are a couple lines that suggest Christianity exists, so we’ve got two possibilities:
- It’s a myth. Our religions exist in Bayonetta’s universe, but Yahweh, Jesus, etc. do not.
- Bayonetta’s universe is a crazy mash-up of religions and mythologies, like the Mortal Coils series, which includes the gods and goddesses on one side and the demons of Hell (with Lucifer as a notable character) on the other.
2. Bayonetta and Sex
Yes, since Bayonetta’s hair is the catalyst she uses to summon demons and perform powerful attacks, as well as her clothing (don’t think about it too hard), she’ll lose her clothes during battles. During combos, you’ll be most concerned about your combos. During climaxes, she’s technically naked, but her hair spirals up around her and covers the important parts.
And really, she’s using her hair, which is also her clothes, to summon a demon. That’s too insane to be offensive!
Maybe you disagree, and if you do, I have an easy solution for you. Buy Bayonetta 2 for the Wii U and play the included version of Bayonetta. Why? Because you can put her in a Nintendo-themed costume. They may be scanty by Nintendo standards, but they’re actual clothes, so they don’t disappear.
Innuendo is the main thing you’ll have to deal with, and even that can be ignored if you just want to focus on the wild story and crazy gameplay.
One last piece of advice: if the sexual content is a concern for you, don’t use Torture Attacks on the Joy angels.
Wear a costume and avoid that one specific Torture Attack, and you’ll be fine.
3. …Torture Attacks?
Yep, this is the last thing I can see being an issue for some people. I mentioned them a couple of times already, but you have powerful attacks you can use when your magic meter is full, which use traditional torture instruments (and a chainsaw). More softhearted players might cringe at that–and as someone who won’t kill sleeping Grunts in Halo, I’m right there with you.
But the game’s style really pulls through for it here. First, the game is hard. When you’re fighting for your life against a monstrosity doing its best to drag you to the game over screen, it won’t feel as bad to smash off a chunk of its health. You aren’t a bully, you’re surviving.
Second, like everything in Bayonetta, Torture Attacks are ridiculously over the top. Violent, yes, but this is no Amnesia.
Those are the main three concerns I could think of, but if you’ve got more, feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll answer to the best of my ability.
Back to the review!
I really enjoyed this game. I’m not even good at games with combos (I’m a button masher in fighting games), but I got the hang of the combat quickly enough to not feel frustrated. First, you have enough attacks and combos that a little button mashing here or there isn’t a problem, and second, Bayonetta has the best loading screens ever.
What kind of game makes you praise the loading screen?
Most loading screens let you practice your combos, with a list on the side of the screen so you can see what you’re doing and pick new attacks to try. You can even enter practice mode from there if you want more time, although I found that these little snippets of practice were just perfect.
Combat was challenging, but rewarding. You can evade attacks, and if you evade at the last moment before it hits, you activate Witch Time, which puts the enemies into slow motion. Successfully entering Witch Time is a great feeling… the only downside is that now I want to dodge like that in every game I play!
And few things compare to the satisfaction of beating an Alfheim Challenge. (Speaking of which, the number of Norse names contribute to my mythology-mash-up theory.) You know what one of those few things is? Getting better at combat, earning enough halos to buy special accessories, and returning to those earlier chapters to blast through it with ease.
Collectors will enjoy smashing up the environment to find halos (the game’s currency, which you can use to buy stuff from Rodin, a pretty cool guy even if he is a fan of Resident Evil 4), not to mention hunting down the actual collectibles: lore, hidden treasures, and Umbran Crows. There’s even a small crafting system, although using items lowers your chapter score–but not as badly as dying does, so concoct some green lollipops and go!
When you aren’t breaking everything around you, look around. Bayonetta is a beautiful game. I mentioned earlier that the religious imagery creates cool enemy designs, but everything is breathtaking in Bayonetta. There were several moments where I just stopped to consider how nice everything looked.
A lot of people criticize the game’s story, but I even liked that. With an interesting cast, more depth to Bayonetta herself than I expected, and enough mysteries to keep me wondering what was really going on, the story handles itself well. It’s rather mind-bending at the end, but so is one of my favorite series.
I loved every second of Bayonetta. I finished it over a week ago, though I’m still going through to find Umbran Crows and Alfheim Challenges I missed. I’m already satisfied with my purchase, and since most people say the sequel is even better, I can’t wait!
If you’ve already played this excellent game, share your thoughts with me in the comments! And if you haven’t…
Do yourself a favor–buy Bayonetta 2.
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