By Josh Speer / March 9th, 2018
|Title||Bayonetta 1 & 2 for Nintendo Switch|
|Release Date||February 16th, 2018|
|Age Rating||M for Mature 17+ – Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes|
Though it’s true I’ve been a fan of Bayonetta since she first arrived on the PS3, I wasn’t able to join the fun until she made her way to the Wii U, along with her sequel Bayonetta 2. Then I made the horrible mistake of playing them out of order and quickly got distracted before I beat either game. So when I was offered the opportunity to review both games on the Nintendo Switch, I saw it as a chance I shouldn’t ignore. After all, I find it much easier to review titles on a portable system, which is exactly how I use my Nintendo Switch. While it’s true oprainfall has previously covered both Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2, this combined review is looking at both games with fresh eyes. Let’s see how well everyone’s favorite witch has aged on the newest Nintendo console.
I said above that I made the mistake of initially playing the Bayonetta games in reverse order. The reason for that was I let myself get convinced that the plot wasn’t that important, and that my experience with the game wouldn’t suffer as a result. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. While it’s true that the plot of both games is crazy, mixed up and totally over the top, playing them out of order takes away any emotional impact from the plot of the second game. Another reason I’m happy I played them in order was that it let me learn the ropes in the first game, and thus appreciate them more in the second. But I will get into the gameplay a bit later, first let’s rehash the plot of both games a bit.
The original Bayonetta is an origin story, which is to be expected. You can see where Platinum and Team Little Angels were constantly pushing boundaries and throwing ideas at the wall, for better or worse. It has time travel, fast paced action sequences, twisted angels, demonic bartenders and a riff on your amnesiac hero. Even Bayonetta doesn’t know who she really is, and we find out the truth of her convoluted backstory over the course of the game. While the first game is much more focused on spectacle and humor than the sequel, at times striking me like a live action cartoon with more sex appeal, the second is more about resolving dangling plot threads and getting further immersed in the world of the game. Frankly, I much preferred the story of the second game, as well as its emotional arc. The hijinks of the first game are entertaining, but they oftentimes felt like the madcap ideas of a particularly insane anime. I didn’t really care about Bayonetta as a person until very late in the first game, and by then, I had more questions than answers. That said, you will grow to love this cast of characters, from foul mouthed Enzo to loverboy Luka to strong and silent Rodin. As for the sequel, I was frankly shocked by the clever plot twists and narrative focus of the second game, which in turn has me frothing at the mouth for the release of Bayonetta 3.
Much as the plot of Bayonetta was a mixed bag, so too was the gameplay. It seemed that for every thing that the original did right, it did another thing wrong. Take for example the level design. Many levels wear out their welcome by stretching on for too long with not enough healing items that can be found. When coupled with the unfair scoring system and vertigo inducing platforming sections, it made many levels incredibly frustrating. A particular problem were all the gotcha moments peppered into the game. It got so bad that every time I was watching an epic cutscene full of explosions and high speed chases, the first thought that popped into my head was “please don’t make me play through this”. By that, I mean that often you would need to act out the scenes, whether that be racing up a building to escape an explosion nipping at your heels or getting through a particularly anxiety inducing platforming challenge. More often than not I didn’t react quickly enough and died, especially in reaction to the many QTEs that pop up. But for each of those issues, there was something wonderful about the game.
Though the combat is fast, furious and wicked, I felt myself quickly acclimating to it. It was all pretty intuitive, even when mixing and matching weapons and learning new techniques. The Torture attacks were a brilliant touch, offering a reward for playing the game well and doing your level best to anticipate and react to enemy attacks. While the lock on button may be a little too close to the dodge button, and I would have preferred it be mapped to the L button instead, nevertheless I found the controls mostly fine on the Switch. At least so long as the camera behaved itself, since it often had a tendency to recklessly pan for dramatic flair. I also liked the diversity found in the vehicle stages. Whether it’s jumping onto cars to slay angels or riding a motorcycle, Bayonetta keeps you on your toes, making sure you never get bored. My only real complaint was that often these sections stretched on overly long, and often were punctuated with an intense boss fight. If the game allowed you to restart from checkpoints with no score penalty, I frankly wouldn’t have cared as much. But since the game is constantly scoring your progress, all the little nitpicks added up and often left me dissatisfied with my results. I could get through a stage with many golds and even a platinum or two, and still end up with a bronze for the entire stage, just because I used a couple items or was forced to use a continue.
If I sound like I have mixed feelings about the first game, that’s because I very much do. I would often have moments of sheer satisfaction cut short by some frustrating design choice. Take for example the Valkyrie stage. You’re making your way through this airplane, fighting off angels, and then you have a tremendous and challenging boss battle against Jeanne. This would naturally be the smart place to end the stage, but instead it was punctuated by a protracted escort sequence that involves Bayo protecting sweet little Cereza from harm. While I adored Cereza as a character, it is simply not fun protecting her from angels, imminent drowning and electrical damage. Thankfully, the one area that the first game gets absolutely right were the amazing boss fights against towering angelic monstrosities.
These giant boss fights were easily the highlights, and somehow seemed more fair than most basic stages, despite the challenge. Perhaps that was because I only had to focus on one task in these stages, even though they are all daunting. But it was just fun dodging giant dragon heads, leaping off floating debris, and utterly destroying these crazy bosses. Many of the gold scores I got in the game were against them, and though there are only a handful in the game, they absolutely made the experience that much better. If the entire game was as well balanced as these boss fights, I would have had almost no problems with it. But luckily, I’m not just reviewing the first game.
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