Before I got the opportunity to dig into Bayonetta myself, we were shown some of the later stages, starting with the wild weaponry that becomes available down the road. After a cutscene that showed off Bayonetta’s ability to exist across multiple planes (and how that plays into the story), a later boss battle was also shown, and that may have been the clincher as far as displaying just how off the wall this game gets as the player progresses. A multi-faced, statuesque colossus jutting out from a vacuous crater, attacking our witchy woman with some kind of protruding, cherub-cheeked tongue tentacle that she would ultimately run across for some up-close ass kicking… yeah, this looks like it’s going to be something else alright.
But above all, it looks like a Hideki Kamiya game, practically oozing his signature in every screen. Famous for the first in the Devil May Cry series and known for being an all-around Action Man in general (see Viewtiful Joe and Okami for further evidence of his past critical successes), Kamiya got the chance to use ideas his team had for the Devil May Cry sequel they were never able to make. Yeah, remember the actual Devil May Cry 2? That was a real stinker, to put it bluntly, and Bayonetta shows a lot of the potential madness that Capcom missed out on in the past.
Now that Sega has Kamiya’s power in their grasp, his team at Platinum Games has seen fit to roll those ideas into the sexed-up witch of the hour, Bayonetta. She does a deadly dance on screen, switching effortlessly between her own sword, her four guns known as Scarborough Fair (two of which are wielded by foot), and whatever weapons her enemies leave strewn about post-mortem. However, her skills are at their most impressive when channeled through the weapon one would least expect to see mopping up hoards of baddies all over the Euro-styled world of Vigrid: hair.
The use of Bayonetta’s hair goes to show that the title really is all about style. Double jumps, for instance, are represented by fleeting butterfly wings, just one of many protrusions that Bayonetta’s magical hair creates. Her wicked weave also manifests in pretty much every other way imaginable, and some that are tough to wrap your noodle around until you see it in action. Giant demonic dragons, stomping stilettos and pounding disembodied fists are good for starters, and it’s going to be interesting to see how far the developers have taken it by the time the end is reached.
That style extends to the scoring system, making this some real arcade-ready fare. Landing successive combos without taking damage builds up a series of orbs that can be unleashed in the form of Torture Attacks. These brutal finishers come in a few shapes and sizes, and the attacks I had a chance to pull off were the Iron Maiden and the Guillotine. The latter involves the appearance of said head-chopper, after which Bayonetta delivers a swift kick to her angelic foe, sending him flying head-first into the device. Mashing the on-screen button keeps the kicks coming until woosh, the blade drops in a burst of gore.
Once each weapon, hair attack, and everything else under her control is tallied and considered, it seems possible that Bayonetta, conceptually speaking, has spiraled slightly out of control. From what I played, though, the controls were simple and responsive enough to keep it from being a chore. Altercations with angels are offensive affairs in the purest sense thanks to the lack of a block button, so Bayonetta’s dodge maneuver—which, when timed right, triggers the slowed-down advantage of Witch Time—immediately becomes your best friend.
There also seems to be a lot of room for seasoned players to flex and really go nuts, racking up improbably high scores and unlocking further secrets. According to the folks at Sega, getting everything isn’t going to be possible in just one play-through, and that initial jaunt alone should last about 12 hours on average.
If the entire game can keep up this madness—the ever-evolving abilities and weapons, the larger than life action set pieces played to the unusual but refreshing tune of J-pop—then action fans should have a pretty hearty dish come January of next year.
Developer: Platinum Games
System: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Available: January 2010