PAX ’09 – Bayonetta
When Bayonetta was announced there was a lot of murmuring about it just being a Devil May Cry clone. After all, its creator is also the father of that. Despite the immediate similarities, Hideki Kamiya insisted that his new title would push the boundaries of the action game and reinvent the entire genre. Skipping ahead to the Bayonetta demo waiting for gamers at PAX I can assure you that Kamiya has not in fact reinvented the action gaming wheel. However, what he has done is kicked up over-the-top insanity levels he is known for and added his own blatantly gratuitous flavor you’ll either love or hate.
The demo kicks off and I’m fighting a number of smaller Angels around a fountain in a courtyard. Bayonetta moves smoothly and has all the commands you’d expect of a high octane action game, including long attack chains, double jumps, dodges and counter-attacks. The Angels attempt to surround me, throwing out small attacks and the occasional slow powerful attack. The slower attacks were noted with a handy danger notification that allowed me time to dodge and deliver some truly devastating slow-mo counter-attacks.
About that time the first larger basic Angel joins the fray, but is easily dispensed with a few chains. Like many action games, beating a larger enemy can grant you an exciting finisher and Bayonetta is no exception. Instead of letting the guy die in peace, I invoked one of Bayonetta’s aptly named ‘Torture Attacks,’ which creates a medieval guillotine out of her hair that decapitates the sorry sap. This is only the beginning of the absurdity.
Following the head-cleaving, an even larger Angel will arrive with some more basic enemy types. This new behemoth had a weak spot on its back that I exploited with a series of aerial combos. Once the Angel’s health was depleted I sent him to a rather undignified death as Bayonetta literally got naked and created a portal from her hair that reveals a massive hair dragon, who chomps the Angel’s head clean off. It’s also worth noting that enemies will drop weapons that Bayonetta can use for short periods, even boss characters. Dropped weapons will only last a short amount of time, but have a wide variety of speeds and uses that provide a welcome change of pace to her normal arsenal.
After moving through a few small interior areas and fighting some more basic Angel types I was confronted with a massive Ogre-like Angel. This one rips the bridge you’re standing on right out from under you and begins to shake it back and forth as you pummel the hand holding you aloft. Eventually the Ogre lets go and fell to what I had hoped was his demise, but much to my chagrin he returned only to demolish the stairs I was descending and spin me around in order to run for my life. Once at the peak of the staircase the fight resumed, and eventually ended with the bloody sequel to the previous naked hair- dragon extravaganza.
Following the Ogre-like boss battle, the demo concluded with a boss battle much later in the game that illustrated yet another different gameplay mechanic. This boss was just another woman like Bayonetta and was obviously some sort of rival of hers in the story. The catch was we were fighting across the walls, floor and ceiling, wherever she went I followed using Bayonetta’s Witch Walking ability. The fight was a fairly standard boss affair, learning patterns and looking for an opening but the added spice of wall running gave the fight a dizzying effect.
If the demo is at all indicative of the final product there should be a ton of over-the-top excitement when Bayonetta ships in early 2010. It certainly doesn’t greatly innovate over Kamiya’s previous franchise but it appears to have carved its own niche, with its slightly refined combat, tits to the wall absurdity, non-stop climax action and total disregard for taste.