Way, way, way back in the mists of time, when I was a middle aged man, a game came about from Platinum Games that made a huge impact. Despite being published by SEGA, because of who was behind the game, I knew I had to play it. See, I had been a massive fan of the Devil May Cry games back on PS2, and so when its creator, Hideki Kamiya, puts out a new game, you can guarantee I was going to pay attention. And boy, with Bayonetta, I’m glad I did.
Being described as an “action adventure hack and slash” game, with major themes of “sexiness” and “partial nudity” (those wacky Japanese, eh?), luckily Bayonetta played a whole lot better than the description made it sound. However, the main thing about the game is the way that it played, almost like nothing else that had gone before it. I certainly can’t remember taking control of a sexy witch clad only in her own hair, with guns in her shoes and armed with melee weapons and magic attacks, before. Further to that, and having angels in a game usually leads to them being the good guys, however this was also turned on its head, as the enemies that Bayonetta has to kill are the heavenly hosts themselves. And leaving you to collect their halos before spending them in a demons shop to buy lollipops… well by this point I was just going with whatever the game said.
The story of Bayonetta is also suitably bonkers, taking place in a fictional European city called Vigrid, Bayonetta is awoken after a 500 year sleep, with very little memory of who she is. She owns one half of The Eyes Of The World, which were used to keep the world balanced between the light and the dark. When Bayonetta hears rumours that the other Eye Of The World has surfaced in Vigrid, it’s enough to send her off on a mission to find it. Taking in other witches, small children and various other NPCs to interact with, the story is absolutely crazy, and features a lot of bonkers screen-filling bosses to take down. The design of said bosses, the creativity found in the various Angelic enemies, and even the layouts of the levels themselves all speak to a real labour of love. Bayonetta is crafted to within an inch of its life and still, to this day, looks great and plays like oiled silk.
The absolute stand out part was found in the combat, running very much like Devil May Cry, just turned up to 11. The mix of melee and ranged attacks, and the way that the dodge mechanic works with split second timing rewarding you with Witch Time, seeing the world slowed down and enabling you to really lay the smack down on the enemies who were swarming, was just brilliant. Teaming this up with Torture Attacks that Bayonetta could pull off, slamming enemies into iron maidens, for instance, and then summoning demons using the power of her hair, all came together to ensure that this particular experience would play out like nothing else on this Earth. I used to really enjoy pulling off those attacks, as the hair was an inspired piece of design and just for a split second, seeing Bayonetta dancing around in her birthday suit was enough to raise the pulse of anyone who wasn’t actually dead. The visuals did a fantastic job of hinting at things that were never actually shown though, and if I had a penny for the number of times I could hear my wife sighing from the settee behind me as Bayonetta disrobed, I’d never have to work again.
With the entire experience divided into chapters, and the chapters split into verses, Bayonetta rewards replay. You see, each verse comes with a rating, and a medal is awarded at the end of each section. These range from stone all the way up to to pure platinum, the highest rating. I’ll admit, I never got anywhere near that, but I imagine it would require a perfect playthrough, with no damage taken or healing items used.
Exploring the levels was always a good idea too, as tucked away in hard to reach corners would be fragments of golden records, that when collected can be traded for new weapons, like a whip or a katana. Special missions are also in place – just like in Devil May Cry – where you have to achieve a certain outcome in a specific amount of time. The more you action in a level, the higher the score is, but as time is also a scoring point, it’s very much risk/reward over whether it’s worth your time to bother with everything. It’s this score chasing element that keeps you playing Bayonetta; honing your skills, making your dodges tighter and better timed, and the attacks mixed up and flowing, all in order to get those elusive higher scores and medals.
Bayonetta has gone on to be a something of a global phenomenon since launch back in 2009, with a sequel arriving in 2014 – sadly only on Nintendo platforms. Bayonetta has also had a manga series and an anime movie in Japan, while also appearing as a playable character in Smash Bros 4. Fittingly enough, according to my son, she is “totally OP” in that game too.
Best of all however is the fact that Bayonetta has made the most of Xbox One Backwards Compatibility and can experienced on Xbox One, playing fantastically to this day. Hell, it even went free via Games With Gold back in 2017. So, in the spirit of these articles, do you have fond memories of Bayonetta? Let me know in the comments.