After seeing some promotional shots and trailers, I wasn't too excited about Bayonetta. I kind of thought that the game itself would be mediocre at best, trying to cash in with cheap boobshots and sexploitation. At least it wouldn't have been the first time a Japanese game would cover up its gameplay weaknesses by offering wildly bouncing mammaries to the drooling male audience. Sometimes it's just wonderful to realize how wrong you've been the whole time. While it's true that Bayonetta does utilize some really suggestive camera angles to portray its protagonist's anatomy, but rather than just make the imagery the main course, the game brings to the table a smoothly flowing gameplay and some beautifully orchestrated combat.
The tightly-clad, angel-hunting heroine is the descendant of an ancient European clan of witches, and she uses both her guns and her body with deadly precision. With glasses and all she also happens to look like a librarian from some teenager's softporn fantasy. Carrying guns in both her hands and her feet, she just oozes sex and danger, and it's clear from the first battle that the babe has more in her than just skin-deep beauty.
The game's relatively simple controls combined with timely slow-motion effects and nice use of colour make fighting really enjoyable and astonishingly impressive at the same time. In addition to the more orthodox use of weapons, Bayonetta has the ability to combine her witchcraft with multiple hit combinations. The "downside" to this is that these special attacks reveal more skin - Bayonetta's long, black hair is magical, and in addition to granting her powers, the hairdo also serves as her clothing. In short, Bayonetta wears only her hair, and even that is parted when magic comes to picture. Some of the more powerful attacks leave our lovely heroine completely naked, even though we are only treated with some strategically planned shots of her supple body.
Witch Time is one of the neatest gameplay tricks in the game. It's basically a rendition of bullet time, which activates when the player dodges an enemys attack with perfect timing. In addition to making the fights look ultracool, it gives the player more time to lay some sweet punishment on the assaillant's behind. Fairly easy to learn, dodging maneuvers are also a necessity in winning some of the more epic battles in the course of the game. Witch Time is not the only other cool stunt available to the player, and all of them bring a huge grin to your face. Often one has to wonder in awe: Did I just do that?
The difficulty of gameplay in Bayonetta feels just right when playing on the normal setting, and I'll gladly come back to the game after unlocking the harder difficulty. The game also offers a very easy setting, which makes just laying back and enjoying the sights delightfully effortless. This way the fighting is practically automatic - the gameplay requires bashing only one button, which frees your other hand to do... other stuff.
The over the top -style of Bayonetta works just fine also between fights. Cutscenes show more of the crazy stunts, and the humour is in line with the rest of the game. It's actually quite amazing to see how well the game stays together as an entertaining package with the high-flying action and the highly imaginative setting. The musical score stays true to the style of the game, with Bayonettas J-popish theme playing in the background in most of the fights. Somehow the game manages to feel really coherent even with the soundtrack, and coming from someone who dislikes J-pop, to say the least, that's quite a feat. Impressive surroundings and detailed character models are a standard in the graphical design of Bayonetta, and the grotesque symbolism used in the angels' many forms carry on with the unique style of the game.
Frankly, I'm quite surprised if the game's western release won't stir up some conversation about the content of the game. The game's abundant use of the title character's scantily clad body borders on soft porn, and the game isn't really afraid of using gore either. Mature ratings are truly well deserved, but Bayonetta's continuous female nudity might be too much for the more conservative types.
The immense quality of the special and peculiar game came to me as a real surprise. Bayonetta excels in practically everything it tries, and the overall style of the game somehow manages to make it a solid entity. You better keep an eye out this winter, because Bayonetta just might be the hottest piece around. And the game seems to be great as well.
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