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Gamersyde review: Bayonetta

Gamersyde review: Bayonetta

Bayonetta is the second game to get a real review here on Gamersyde. After DjMizuhara's videos a few days ago we had the chance to play the import Japanese version of Platinum Games' first HD release. We expected a lot for Kamiya's big return to a genre he helped perfecting with Devil May Cry, and he certainly didn't disappoint.
Update: Bayonetta is released today here in Europe, so in case you missed it here is our review again!

But who is Bayonetta? Don't expect a deep and multifaceted character here. Bayonetta is nothing more that a pretext for some over the top and sexy cut-scenes, and Kamiya himself admitted that the story isn't really what matters in the game. Still, you can expect some revelations and surprises. The sexy witch is there for the show, and in that role she's just perfect.

Even if the story isn't the game's strongest element, the numerous and lengthy cut-scenes certainly didn't get neglected, far from it. There are two types: The regular animated ones, with some very good motion capture and animation, and some more photo-romance typed ones where only the camera is in motion. These ones certainly seem surprising at first, but they add a real visual identity to the game and most likely allowed the developers to put even more resources into the fully animated ones. Also worth mentioning are the English voices, more than good enough to fit the over the top nature of the characters.

But the Heart of Bayonetta is of course its gameplay, and this is a point where there isn't much negative things to say. Kamiya's team put together an incredibly complete and deep fighting system. Bayonetta puts the bar very high in terms of number of moves available, but also in the way they can be chained gracefully. And even if her arsenal is already very deep in the beginning Bayonetta can use many different weapons, either some collected from fallen enemies or unlocked throughout the levels. Each new weapon opens new moves and combos, and the ability to switch from one to another at all times by a simple press on the left trigger multiplies the combo possibilities.

The weapons and moves, as numerous as they already are, are only a part of Bayonetta's full arsenal. She has at all times her favorite guns available, in her hands of course, but also strapped to her feet. This allows her to keep firing whatever position she is in, including in the air. And of course Bayonetta's uniqueness is her ability to use her hair as an incredibly powerful weapon, temporarily having her more or less nude in the process. Yes, Bayonetta's clothes are actually her hair, always expect the unexpected with Kamiya! These attacks can go from a big fist to a boot falling from the air, and more importantly they are used in the forms of huge demonic animals as finishers for the various boss fights. And just like with the weapons, the guns and hair of the witch are all used together with rather disconcerting easiness. Clearly Kamiya and his team worked long and hard to perfect such a gameplay system, and the mountain of work behind all this is totally transparent to the player.

The enemies didn't get neglected in the least though, the dozens available go from the small cherub to the huge city block sized boss, with all the expected variants in size and speed in between. Each enemy, whatever its size, requires to think a new tactic to be put down efficiently. Some will be easier killed from the air, others will snap you out of the air and remove a big part of your health in the process. The difficulty is of course when various types of enemies are on the same screen, and it's in that case that the right trigger gets even more useful than expected. It allows Bayonetta to dodge attacks with a kind of pirouette, but more importantly with the right timing it slows down time to allow for a furious counter-attack that can last a variable amount of time. This dodging system is introduced very early in the game, and it soon becomes a natural part of the fighting system. Starting the game this is only possible while on the ground, but this is one of the moves available to buy later on, and it's of course a more than suggested upgrade.

It's indeed possible to buy new moves, weapons and potions (here taking the form of lollipops, what else?) at the game's shop. This is where the rings that most enemies leave on the ground when killed will be used. The shop is available before starting a new level, but also for the longest ones right in the middle of level itself. The least talented players such I myself will certainly enjoy being able to get some more health potions before going back to the fighting.

In a game like Bayonetta, bosses are an integral part of the experience, and again Platinum didn't fail to deliver. The more you progress into the game, the uglier they get, and of course they all require different tactics to be taken down. The most advanced ones have of course various phases, usually introduced after a rather devastating move by Bayonetta. Once again here Platinum proves their mastery of the genre.

The biggest competitors of Bayonetta, mostly Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden 2, tend to suffer from difficulty peaks, frustrating the player in the process. It looks like Kamiya's team took a long hard look at what was wrong with these and made sure that there would be enough checkpoints and put in infinite continues with a full health bar. Of course using a continue will instantly kill your chances of getting a good score at the end of the level, but for the average player who just wants to keep fighting an see more insane cut-scenes, this doesn't really matter. It's been a long time since such a hardcore game had basically zero frustrating points in its main gameplay.

But not everything is perfect with Bayonetta. Platinum seems to have been a bit frightened by the thought that the players would get bored by its usual gameplay and introduced some bonus (but still mandatory) phases. Revealing what they are exactly would kill the surprise, but these phases are not so hidden homages at old Sega classics and wouldn't have been such a problem if they hadn't been so long and repetitive. The first one especially was particularly frustrating because of many unnecessary insta-deaths. These phases certainly required a lot of time to be done and the developers certainly wanted to use them fully, but in the end, they become one of the annoying parts of the game.

Another negative point is that some cut-scenes require a single timely button press, usually at rather unexpected times, and missing it means another insta-death. This will be most annoying for the player trying to get a good score, and even for others and the fact that dying means a rather long loading to go back just a few seconds before that button press is just maddening.

Even though the gameplay itself is as close to perfection as possible, the technical part isn't that excellent. The loadings are quite frequent and also quite long. More importantly the game, as it should, tries to run at 60 fps, and while it never has a negative impact on the ever important gameplay, it sometimes has a real hard time doing so. The tearing is very present during busy fights or with some bosses, and some phases like the clock-tower sequence can be almost painful to watch. These problems are even more visible with the PS3 version of the game, a port done by a Sega team rather than internally by Platinum. Again the gameplay is still there, but the game's visuals certainly are impacted.


Despite some weaker parts and a technical side not always at the top, Bayonetta easily becomes the new reigning king of the modern Beat'Em All genre. With a gameplay as deep as it is easy to understand, an incredibly varied arsenal and numerous enemies and bosses, Platinum released here nothing less than THE new reference. A game that no player that considers himself a gamer should miss.

Combos and Puzzles
Not always smooth

All comments

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Commented on 2009-11-11 17:28:34
My first review. I don't consider myself a good writer in my native language (French), so don't expect some great writing here.
Commented on 2009-11-11 17:33:44
Well considering it isn't your native language I'd say good writing then :-)

After that great read, I'm gonna check the game out for sure. I'm really turned off by the crap-ass character designs and overly silly storyline, but the gameplay just sounds way too good to pass up.

Looking forward to seeing first hand why people are so hyped about this game. The frequent checkpoints alone will make this game a lot less annoying than the others in this category.
Commented on 2009-11-11 17:50:41
Great review Blim. Definitely gonna get this game now.

Also, you write better English than most English people, so don't worry about it.
Commented on 2009-11-11 17:58:15


Take that haters Bayonetta its "THE new reference" bow to your queen!!

I love you all but I love Bayonetta more!!!!
Commented on 2009-11-11 18:02:43
Good review. Started to download the movies. No spoilers, right?
Commented on 2009-11-11 18:05:38
not too bad considering english isn't your native tongue. Keep'em coming.
Commented on 2009-11-11 18:11:22 In reply to Griever666
Posted by Griever666
Good review. Started to download the movies. No spoilers, right?
No story spoilers, but the boss and and weapons videos show some stuff from level 4 (or 5 I don't know for sure)
Commented on 2009-11-11 18:16:30 In reply to BlimBlim
Posted by BlimBlim
No story spoilers, but the boss and and weapons videos show some stuff from level 4 (or 5 I don't know for sure)
That's fine. Thanks.
Can't wait for my import copy to arrive. Should be here any day now.
Commented on 2009-11-11 18:23:31
Hey BlimBlim how long took you to finish the game?
Commented on 2009-11-11 18:31:47 In reply to IRAIPT0IR
Posted by IRAIPT0IR
Hey BlimBlim how long took you to finish the game?
About 9 hours, but I didn't do any of the challenges and didn't even find all of the CDs. I focused only on finishing the game (normal difficulty, though I did 2 levels on easy to test it out, you can see it when I show the gauntlet weapon)
Commented on 2009-11-11 18:34:44 In reply to BlimBlim
Posted by BlimBlim
About 9 hours, but I didn't do any of the challenges and didn't even find all of the CDs. I focused only on finishing the game (normal difficulty, though I did 2 levels on easy to test it out, you can see it when I show the gauntlet weapon)
Oh thanks a lot,that means easy a 15 hour for me that I like to take my time and find everything possible.

Commented on 2009-11-11 18:35:22
Superb. Thanks Blim
Commented on 2009-11-11 18:38:50
Great review! While I'm not going to stroke your ego and say that the technical aspects of your writing are, well, lacking, I will praise the structure and content of your review. I appreciate that you included videos of each of your main topics (which I assume you captured specifically for your review). This is a vast improvement over many on-line game video reviews, which often rely on stock footage from the game studio or publisher, which would never, e.g., show how bad the tearing in the game gets.

I also think it is important to compare a game like this to other benchmarks in its genre, like DMC or NG--and not to just say that they're like them. You included some good details on how Bayonetta uses elements from those games while improving on them.

Lastly, let me say that I think all game reviewers should take a week after playing a game they really like to write about it. It's not that your ebullience is insincere—but it does cloud anyone's representation of what they love. That is, assuming game reporting should be as objective as the degree to which other forms of reportage aspire. But your fawning for the game overshadows (I think) some of the valid criticisms you offer of the game, which, in time or from the perspective of someone who doesn't share your love of the game, may take on greater importance than what you seem to give them here. But you are not alone in this. All positive reviews come off sounding like love-notes. (That's why Zero Punctuation is so popular, methinks. His vitriol counterbalances some of the industry's self-infatuation.)

Nonetheless, your review has got me seriously considering the purchase of this game. The videos are incredible and sell me completely. (Even "not always smooth" since those things don't bother me.) Thanks for your well-conceived review of this rare and unique game. It is much needed, I think.

One lingering thought: If she can make her hair into a giant monster that crushes 50 foot tall golems with its jaws using 1000 megatons of force, why doesn't she do that from the start? I like over-the-top (I *love* all things DMC), but when things get over-the-top-of-over-the-top, my eyebrow raises.
Commented on 2009-11-11 19:51:52
"Despite some weaker parts and a technical side not always at the top, Bayonetta easily becomes the new reigning king..."

See, that's the problem... nowadays we are happy with flawed kings.
Commented on 2009-11-11 19:54:46 In reply to hiscore
Posted by hiscore
"Despite some weaker parts and a technical side not always at the top, Bayonetta easily becomes the new reigning king..."

See, that's the problem... nowadays we are happy with flawed kings.
If you can mention even one game with no flaws you deserve a medal for achieving the impossible.
Commented on 2009-11-11 20:21:58 In reply to Megido
Posted by Megido
If you can mention even one game with no flaws you deserve a medal for achieving the impossible.
Impossible I say too,even OoT,Uncharted 2,Crysis,SMB3,SMG and some of the best games ever created have flaws.
Commented on 2009-11-11 21:52:36
Commented on 2009-11-11 21:54:45 In reply to bleachedsmiles
Posted by bleachedsmiles
You have to be kidding me.
Commented on 2009-11-11 22:36:20
Gamersyde at it's best ...I don't think i've seen more gamevideos and gamfootage in one review . Awesome :)
Commented on 2009-11-11 22:45:57
And review with no scores man,thats is very cool.

Go gamersyde!!!
Commented on 2009-11-11 23:16:39
I appreciate your review Blim, but I'm still 100% not interested. I just hate the main character SOoooooo much I won't give the game a chance. Some may say I'm "missing out", but I really don't care. At all. Granted- I really don't care much for Asian designed Action Games (Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry, anything DragonBallZ or Naruto) but at least I don't detest the characters. This chick actually pisses me off when I see her! hahahah. But I hope the rest of you have a great time. I just look forward to not seeing this Palin looking twit on the headlines anymore!
Commented on 2009-11-11 23:28:52
ummmm *looks at Halo avatar*.......ok

Commented on 2009-11-11 23:57:10
Kethmach, I agree with you the style is what makes me turn away no matter what, the main character, hate it.
If they someday add a character that I can take seriously, then I might consider it, but so far, not even close of interest, period.

But I must say this though, Bayonetta is suppose to be a "bitch", thats how they designed her, and I can't take her seriously, and her attitude and even fighting style is annoying and ugly.

Ah well, there is plenty of other games coming out within this genre that I am much more looking into, and I am straying away from Japanese devs and going into western styles considering I prefer that and the art and such.

Atleast we all know Raptor is a #1 Bayonetta fan :P
Commented on 2009-11-12 00:26:32
I didnt mean it as an insult or anything its just that the Halo avatar made me believe that he is more into FPS and that type of games and of course Bayonetta its way different that those games,its not a bad thing at all thats all its just I thinks there is a genre and game if you prefer for all of us.

Just happen the game for me its Bayonetta hell yeah baby!!!!!

Dont take it the wrong way Kethmach =)


Sath what do you think of the review?

A new Queen is here to stay!!!

Commented on 2009-11-12 00:35:57 In reply to IRAIPT0IR
Posted by IRAIPT0IR
And review with no scores man,thats is very cool.

Go gamersyde!!!
exactly, great review gamesdye/blimblim and cannot wait for my ps3 copy
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    b0vril ..or maybe the updates fixed some stuff. (23 minutes ago)
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    b0vril @KORNdog: mess? Thus far no signs of it being a mess. (1 Hour ago)
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