Bayonetta is a game of contradictions. A great game yet annoying, brilliant to play but incredibly frustrating, great to look at while at times muddy & bland, can crush your spirit yet give huge dollops of euphoria. It is a game that requires commitment, technique, reactions, skill, as well as the ability to adapt, to learn, and problem solve on the fly. The game may be rife with dichotomy but is it worth your time and your hard earned cash?
Bayonetta was first released in 2010 (2009 in Japan) for the seventh generation of consoles. Four years later it was brought over to the Wii U and now a further 4 years later the game is arriving on Switch as part of a double pack with the game’s sequel. If you’ve already played the game on a previous system you’ll know what to expect. If you are coming to the series for the first time, Bayonetta is a hack-and-slash, action adventure game from PlatinumGames. You play as the eponymous witch who, while travelling through Vigrid (a fictional city in Europe), starts to remember parts of her past that she has forgotten after an incident that left her with memory loss. She comes across a young child and a man called Luka who . . . look, let’s be honest, you aren’t going to play this game for the story. Yes, there is a story but it is incredibly convoluted, complex, and confusing. What this game is about is fast fluid combat where you take down hundreds of enemies, some as big as buildings.
Fortunately, the combat is where this game shines. Coming from the director of Devil May Cry, you can clearly see the influence here. Combos are the order of the day with attacks consisting of punches, kicks, and gunplay. There’s a lot of variety to be had as you blend these three different attacks. Performing longer combos will result in a supernatural attack called a Wicked Weave. These moves are particularly powerful and will be felt by even the largest of enemies. Land enough hits on your foes, without taking any damage yourself, and you will build up your magic power. Once you fill your magic power gauge you can unleash a torture attack, which is even more powerful and will annihilate all but the biggest of enemies.
As important as the attacks are, the other major part of combat is dodging. Dodging is not just used to get out of the way of an enemy’s strike but timed correctly it can turn defence into powerful attacks. If you dodge at the last second, you will enter ‘witch time’ which slows everything down except for you, allowing for some serious damage to be dealt with very low risk to you. This move comes with a huge risk/reward factor. Dodge to late and the enemy will hit you. Move too early and you won’t activate ‘witch time’. It takes some time to really get the hang of but becomes an essential tool in your armoury as enemies become more plentiful and powerful.
Speaking of enemies, this is an area where the game excels. The art design and imagination that has gone into the various foes is top-notch. The variety is also to be applauded, as the different enemies are easy to differentiate, something that is essential when they all require different tactics to vanquish. While all the character models are particularly well designed and look great, the same can’t be said of the environments. There is a nice array of different locations but occasionally they can look a little dreary and bland. Some of this is done to provide a nice juxtaposition between the heavenly locales you encounter and the fictional European city you find yourself in. However, drab grey walls and low textured brown dirt is just a bit boring.
There’s quite a lot of content here for your money. Levels are designed for you to run through them several times as you hunt for different collectibles, areas, and more enemies to annihilate. The game is very hard, even on normal difficulty and that also encourages you to revisit earlier levels to gain more money to buy new items but also to see how much your skills have improved. I remember really struggling the first time I played through chapter two but when I went back to farm some crafting components, I breezed through the level. The completionists out there will be able to plow hours, even days, into this game. With collectibles, Alfheim portals, and pure platinum awards to obtain there is a lot to do.
Bayonetta gets a welcome reissue on Switch. The game’s fluid gameplay and tough as nails difficulty remain firmly intact. There’s a nice nod to the ecosystem the game now finds itself on with some cool costumes based on Nintendo royalty. Otherwise, it’s the same game as before. The graphics may not have been improved but with the game only being eight years old, they hold up quite well. The framerate allows for some super smooth action in both docked and handheld mode. If you’re a fan of hack-and-slash games then this is a must-buy. If you have even a passing interest in the genre then you should seriously consider adding it to your collection, just be prepared to take some deep breaths and try again.