Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Bayonetta: It's just so awesome
As promised, my review of Bayonetta is up at thephoenix.com. I am fairly certain that you will not read another review of this game that includes the phrase "weird otaku crap" in the opening paragraph. Dismissive? Maybe. Hilarious? Absolutely.
But this game is an absolute blast to play -- at least, it's a blast when you're playing it and not watching cutscenes. It's funny how I can play a game like God of War and complain that I keep getting locked into rooms with endless waves of enemies, and then play Bayonetta and complain that it isn't constantly locking me into rooms with endless waves of enemies. Every time Bayonetta steps away from its combat, it suffers, if only a little bit. That's not a slam against the rest of the game. It's praise for how much fun it is to fight.
I've played and appreciated some Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden games before, but I think I'd take Bayonetta over either of them. It does some of the smaller things better than those games did. For one thing, the game camera is really good. At first, I wished there were some kind of lock-on mechanism, but then I realized what a fine job the camera was doing of keeping things in focus. It keeps the character well in frame, and rotates smoothly to keep the action centered.
The camera also helps by swinging to show where the next threat is coming from. On normal difficulty, foes don't swarm you, but neither do they all hang back waiting for you to finish comboing one of their allies. The camera is smart enough to give you a hint about where you should be looking next. That, combined with the other visual and audio clues about who will strike next, means you don't have to stop and re-calibrate in the middle of a fight.
I remember Ninja Gaiden II, especially, had such a bad camera that it never seemed to show you what you needed to see. Only once in Bayonetta did that seem like a problem, against an enormous boss relatively early on. It's so big that you can't actually see when it's about to strike, so beating it takes guesswork. But that's the exception.
And I appreciated that Bayonetta was not painfully, absurdly difficult. I died a lot, but the checkpoints were so forgiving that it wasn't frustrating. Usually it puts you right back where you were, even letting you restart midway through a boss fight. I loved Devil May Cry 3, but I never could finish it, because even getting through one level of that game was so draining. With Bayonetta, the difficulty was just right, and I spent my time being exhilarated by the moves I was performing instead of stubbornly trying to advance to the next checkpoint.
All in all, I'm a little surprised by the reception the game has gotten -- its 90 Metacritic score includes a 10 from Edge, of all places -- but then again I can't remember the last game of this genre that was better. It certainly wasn't Devil May Cry 4.