I didn’t want to admit it, I really didn’t. As a loyal follower and advocate of the Devil May Cry series, I didn’t want to think that another extreme action game could come close to Devil May Cry’s sheer style and purity, let alone surpass it. But after thoroughly testing every aspect of Bayonetta, I have to admit that we may have a new champion in our midst.
Every action game needs a story, even if it’s little more than bubblegum and string to hold the violence together. In this case, Bayonetta is the last witch in the world, following a great war between her clan, the Umbra Witches, and their enemies, the Lumen Sages. She has no memories of her past beyond the fact that she is a witch and must kill a quota of angels every so often to earn the right to stay out of Hell [Seriously? – ed]. Seriously. While on Earth, she employs the services of a shifty criminal named Enzo to help her track down items which will allow her to regain her memories, and she doesn’t care how many souls she has to harvest along the way. Yeah. A Pretty demonic-sounding premise right there, but it’s not the only reason the game bears an 18 age-restriction, I can promise you.
While the story isn’t brilliant, it serves its purpose: setting Bayonetta up to fight hordes and hordes of angels and she pursues her lost past. At first, the control scheme and Bayonetta’s arsenal of moves seems rather typical of the genre. She can throw out punches and kicks, or string together various combinations of the two, shoot with her guns, dodge, lock on to single enemy to direct her attacks more accurately, and use healing items when her health becomes low. This is just the tip of the iceberg, however, as Bayonetta turns out to be one of those games that reveals itself to the player little by little as they go along. Before you know it, you’ll have a veritable wealth of crazy combat moves and magical attacks at your disposal, with a whole bunch more waiting to be earned.
Bayonetta starts out with a pretty capable set of combat moves, including the ability to fire the guns attached to her hands and feet while punching and kicking; the option to use a magical torture attack, which allows players to mash a button to increase the damage this visually impressive (and disturbing) technique deals; and the ability to enter a slow-motion Witch Time mode by dodging an attack at the last second. As players progress, however, they’ll find and buy new weapons and accessories which give Bayonetta new attacks and powers – up to the point where they completely change the way game plays. Don’t fancy the Witch Time ability? Equip the right accessory and Bayonetta will be able to parry attacks instead, or deliver an automatic counter-attack by dodging instead of entering Witch Time mode. Don’t like the guns too much? Not to worry, Bayonetta can temporarily pick up and wield an entire arsenal of angel weapons, including swords, spears, flails and bows, and later on she’ll be able to wield other primary weapons, including a katana and a whip. She can also buy other magic spells to use in place of the torture attack, and when you consider that you can combine all of these crazy abilities to create wildly-varied combos, the player’s skill and imagination are truly the only limits.