Saturday, July 25, 2015

Bayonetta (Wii U) Review

As I stated on my Twitter, I have a second review for this fine Saturday. Quite out of the ordinary to have one review on a Saturday, much more two! Regardless, this second review is for a game I finally got the chance to play through on the Wii U after getting it late last year. It's Bayonetta. Is the Wii U version definitely definitive?

Fun in almost every witch way.

Reviewing a game that didn't release that long ago is always a bit challenging, as the experience is somewhat fresh in your mind so you somewhat know what to expect. However, the Wii U version of Bayonetta takes what players know of the original game and adds some stuff in both presentation and content to make for a game that is truly worthy of replaying.

An Umbran witch, Bayonetta awakens from a 500-year rest inside a coffin. Her memory is a bit fuzzy as to the events leading up to being placed inside her home of 500 years, and she's understandably wanting to make some sense of what happened. Along the way she heads to the European town of Vigrid, where her role in the future of the world will take shape.

Bayonetta isn't the clearest story out there. There are many times where I scratched my head at what discussions taking place were even about, and what a particular scene's relevance even was, other than identifying Bayonetta as someone who appears to be along for the ride. However, while the plot isn't crystal clear, the general idea of what was going on was in the back of mind as I played through the game. Even then, the story is just an excuse to pull off kickass battle maneuvers in some intense combat scenarios.

Our fair witch Bayonetta has a wide repertoire of killer moves to take down the angelic horde that is after her. The combat system is simple enough to learn, owing a lot to the already accessible Devil May Cry, another of director Hideki Kamiya's projects, but tough to master. Pardon that cliche there. With a combination of timed presses of the X and A buttons Bayonetta can cycle through punches and kicks. To maintain combos and attack foes from far away, she can let loose with her various guns, and with every attack, she's stylish as can be.

"Don't mind me, boys. I'm just getting some exercise in."
Loving to dish out pain, Bayonetta has some finishing moves that take the form of torture-style attacks. From putting a foe inside a giant guillotine to a massive vice, Bayonetta seems to have taken some pointers from the Saw series of movies. While those are always hard to watch in their cruel brutality, the finishing moves in Bayonetta take the shape of almost comical violence instead, easier on the eyes. Your mind, body, and soul will most definitely not need a shower after playing Bayonetta.

Ooh. This one is definitely going to hurt!
Of course, a witch's offense is only as good as her defense. This is where the mechanic of Witch Time comes in, initiated upon a last-second dodge from an enemy attack. When done correctly, the action will slow to a crawl, save for Bayonetta, who can unleash a flurry of attacks to deal massive amounts of damage to enemies during this time.

Bayonetta likes to fight for kicks.
Bayonetta is divided between chapters, and these are divided up more so between verses. Each verse grades your performance a la Viewtiful Joe (surprise, surprise, another Kamiya work) on how much of a combo you obtained, whether or not you took damage, and how much time the verse took you to complete. You are judged with a medal based on your efforts and ability, with a dull metal being the worst you can do, and a pure platinum being the absolute best.

This panther transformation allows Bayonetta
to dart fast through levels.
Going for pure platinum on every verse in the game, some are hidden from the normal path, by the way, is one of the most challenging things a gamer can try to accomplish. It may even be a fool's errand, but it no doubt makes the already lengthy game of about 10-12 hours (playing on Normal, of course) all the more replay-able. There are also five difficulties in all with the first two, Very Easy and Easy, basically putting training wheels on the action. You can also utilize the Wii U Gamepad's touch screen more, swiping on the screen to unleash attacks and dodges if you so choose. The higher difficulties introduce different, usually harder enemy combinations earlier in the game than you'd otherwise see on easier difficulties, and obviously our favorite whimsical witch takes more damage from enemy attacks.

While the combat feels fast and fluid, making you feel like a total bad-ass ripping and roaring through the angelic and demonic masses, there can be some kinks in how Bayonetta presents itself as a game. There are multiple times where a pure platinum run can be lost because of a stray quick time event that comes out of nowhere. These are definitely unwelcome as they're rather rare, but they happen enough that you basically always have to keep on your guard when the huge spectacle of battle and of the cutscenes take place.

You can also pick up weapons like this to temporarily use during combat.
Furthermore, there are occasions in Bayonetta where the game takes you of the pure character action-driven gameplay into completely different scenarios that take a bit of learning to play well. I'm referring to sections like the motorcycle riding chapter of Highway 666, as well as a late-game ode to games like Space Harrier. These are also moments that can mess up a good ranking run due to not being overly familiar with the brand-new gameplay style implemented and then never used again.

Between chapters and at particular moments in levels, Bayonetta can enter into a bar known simply as The Gates of Hell. Here, with the halos, the currency of the game, dropped from enemies and earned through getting high ranks in battle, you can purchase everything from helpful items (though using them in battle will lower your overall grade) to new moves, to special costumes and weaponry. It makes playing through Bayonetta more than once a must (it's already a fun idea to begin with) to purchase everything the shopkeeper offers.

Alongside the pretty much throwaway optional touch controls to perform attacks and movement, Bayonetta on Wii U features a lovely exclusive to it in the form of Nintendo-themed outfits. In addition to unlockable costumes like dressing up like a nun or cheerleader, Bayonetta can cosplay as Princess Peach, Daisy, Metroid's Samus Aran or The Legend of Zelda's Link, each offering a special set of moves and visual variety to said moves. You get these Nintendo costumes right from get-go, making it so even if you've played Bayonetta to death on the PlayStation 3 (so sorry for your suffering) or the Xbox 360, there is something new to make your latest play-through well worth it.

There's no worries of any babies marring the
 experience with the Samus Aran costume.
Bayonetta runs on Wii U rather well. It's no surprise that it beats out the abomination that was the PlayStation 3 version, but it also beats out the Xbox 360 in some aspects and others not. The frame-rate can vary oftentimes, but it never truly harmed my experience with the game. Textures also aren't the greatest, offering plenty of fuzzy-looking environments. Overall though, Bayonetta shines in its presentation, delivering well crafted visuals with absolutely stunning animation. Sound-wise, Bayonetta has terrific music, such as a pop-like version of "Fly Me to the Moon" as well as jazz, classical, choir music, and much more. The voice acting is suitably well acted, especially Bayonetta's voice actress who I believe steals the show... er... game.

Is Bayonetta on Wii U the definitive version of Platinum Games' classic character action game? I argue that yes, it is. Very much so. It offers a host of control and controller options, off-TV play is a godsend, and the extras included more than make the game worth playing, even if you've exhausted yourself on the original release five years ago. Bayonetta is an engaging thrill ride that once it sinks its teeth into you, it doesn't let go until long after the credits have ended.

[SPC Says: B]

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