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“Bayonetta” Demo Impressions

Some games are just so crazy that trying to explain them simply cannot do them justice. Bayonetta, a soon to be released Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 game, falls under that category. The demo has been up on the two systems’ respective online stores for a while now, but it still deserves to be talked about here on Frayed Wire.

Fans of action games in the vein of Devil May Cry or God of War will get the most enjoyment out of this insane title, but I found that even I, one not normally impressed by button-mashing action games, had a great time with the demo. After a short opening cutscene briefly explaining a story involving angels consigning another angel to some sort of eternal punishment for having a child she wasn’t supposed to, the menu opens up. I chose to go through the tutorial simply to learn all the little tricks of the combat system. Games like this tend to involve a somewhat complicated control scheme that takes practice to master. It appears to me that Bayonetta‘s combat is deep and varied enough to keep players busy learning the ins and outs of it, but it is accessible enough to let people jump right into the action. I have read in other publications that Bayonetta offers an easy difficulty where button presses are minimal, and most of the control involves simply pointing one of the analog sticks at enemies in order to execute attacks, but the demo did not allow this control scheme to be played. I wonder why this “casual-friendly” setup would even be in the full game, because this doesn’t seem like the kind of game that is being marketed to the casual crowd, and it certainly would overwhelm all the soccer moms who are challenged enough getting Wii Fit to work.

I chose the “normal” difficulty for my demo playthrough, since that doesn’t hold the player’s hand at all – any and all combos have to be executed with specific button combinations and timing (just like most games would have it). Right away there is another cutscene to watch once the game starts, only this one cannot be skipped. Thankfully, it’s not too long, and even more thankfully, it’s pretty cool. Bayonetta doesn’t waste any time getting insane. The first level of the demo has the titular main character fighting off swarms of enemies while standing on a chunk of a destroyed clock tower falling thousands of feet towards a cliff. To add to the strangeness of the situation, let me describe the main character: Bayonetta is a witch who can shoot guns from not only her hands, but her feet as well. Also, the outfit she is wearing is not a tight leather suit as it appears to be; rather, it is entirely made up of her hair woven rather intricately. Some of Bayonetta’s attacks involve using her hair to create, for example, a giant high heel used for smashing things into the pavement, or a massive dragon-like thing that can chomp screen-filling bosses into bits. Does this make any sense at all? Not really. I really wonder if the character of Bayonetta was thought up off the top of the game designers’ heads, or if a ton of thought was put into this bizarre woman. The bottom line is that once you stop trying to figure out what exactly is going on in the game, you can appreciate it for the insane thrill ride that it is.

While fighting on the broken clock tower hurtling through the sky in the beginning stage of the demo, it’s hard not to notice how impressive the graphics are. The colors and the detail seen in every fact of the visuals is the most delicious kind of eye candy I’ve seen in a while. Contributing to the glorious choas going onscreen by controlling Bayonetta’s attacks is a joy as well. Every once in a while, the action takes a quick break to showcase a “torture attack”. One involves pushing an enemy into an iron maiden that appears out of nowhere and watching it snap shut. Blood spurts. Rings start flying everywhere. Upbeat Japanese pop music is playing in the background. It’s over the top, and it makes no sense. But that’s Bayonetta for you.

The second level of the demo is great as well, although it starts with a peaceful walk through a train station. This lull in the action gives you a chance to breathe from the explosive opening and also to try out some of the many combos on various objects sitting around the station. When things get going later on in the level, the craziness resumes, and the boss battles are as crazy as ever. I’m not going to go through all of them, since they’re better off seen in the gameplay rather than in writing. All I know is that when the demo ended, I was left wanting more, and that’s a good sign. Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu rewarded Bayonetta with an incredibly rare perfect score when it reviewed it, and American publications have been praising the game as well. Without a doubt, Bayonetta will be turning lots of heads when it comes out in North America early next year.

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