Monday, November 21, 2011
Oh, I know somebody is going to ask, but my "Skyward Sword" order isn't coming until the 28th for some reason or another. And yes, I have cried about it. Returning to the point:
"Bayonetta" is an action game developed by the same guys who made "Devil May Cry". The point here is to create a game even more ridiculous and over-the-top starring the most shameless fanservice delivery device Sega could find, a witch clad in black leather with guns for stilettos and a fetish for lollipops. The main point of this video game can be seen very clearly in the image I picked for this post. Examine it closely, and you will understand "Bayonetta" completely. Of course, I still can't tell if "Bayonetta" is a straight example of pure male pandering or just some kind of over-the-top parody of the trope. Maybe somebody at Sega was fed up with the annoying feminist argument that all women in video games were "mindless sluts", so they went out of their way to create the most slutty absurd sex object ever in this game's star, the titular Bayonetta. Or maybe nobody cared at all and were just trying to be as ridiculous and Japanese as possible. This is the "Batman and Robin" of video games, something so campy and downright stupid that it almost feels self-degrading to lower yourself to its level and try to examine it critically.
So I guess I'll mostly talk about the gameplay, which is largely solid, if painfully, horribly, wretchedly unfair. And the loading. There's a lot of loading. So wait thirty seconds for the rest of this review to load up, and move on to the rest.
First of all, let's talk about the biggest glaring problem with this game: the story. In no place during Sega's plan to create a magnificently preposterous video game did they ever need to make the plot incomprehensible and massively confusing. So Bayonetta is a witch, which means that she serves Satan, who is this Black guy who runs a bar. She goes to the imaginary European city of Vigrid... for some reason, they never bother to explain why, and then she gets attacked by angels. Nobody ever bothered to tell me if the angels were good or bad, but they kept on attacking me so I killed every one I saw. Maybe the angels were perfectly nice guys, but they're pissed off at Bayonetta for constantly slaughtering them. In fact, in one scene, a really big boss angel called Fortitudo tried to talk with Bayonetta reasonably, and she kept on shooting him in the face. Why? I don't know, Bayonetta is just kinda a dick. Then there's this other witch who keeps trying to kill Bayonetta, but then she saves you at the end, and I don't know what. Stuff happens a lot.
So Bayonetta kills all the angels, teams up with this random dude who is there just to be a random dude, and eventually meets a little kid. Is this little kid her daughter or Bayonetta's past self, or maybe some kind of combination of the two? I don't know. She mostly plays with her doll in the background and says "mummy" a lot. Bayonetta's dad is the big boss, and he's this creepy fruitcake dressed like a peacock, and he puts lipstick on the little girl. Is there some kind of weird incest plotline going on? Did Bayonetta fuck her dad and give birth to herself? Did I actually just write that? Well, I have no idea what's going on in this game, all I do know is that in the end peacock-guy resurrects God, you kill God for some reason, and the game ends. Why is God evil? I don't know!
And Joe Pesci is there. Just accept that: Joe Pesci is in this game. Why? I DON'T KNOW.
There are a lot of funny video game references here and there. When you kill angels, you get "halos" which look exactly like rings from Sonic the Hedgehog. The start of the game sees the burial of Dr. Eggman. The dude you meet mentions that one of his ex-girlfriends was "Ammy", canine Sun Goddess. Well, that's freaky, huh? When Bayonetta turns into a dog, she leaves little flowers behind when she runs.
Bayonetta herself is, as I said before, a ridiculous pile of fetishes. She dresses as a nun, wears glasses, takes her cloths off repeatedly*, likes to give fellatio to lollipops, and talks like a dominatrix the whole time. Her fighting style is designed to get her legs to open up and show off her insane flexibility, which is made possible in part because she's twelve feet tall and has legs as tall as I am. Then many of her taunts are these utterly shameless lines so freaking stupid and hilarious that you will not believe it. "You want to touch me??" is her first one, they only get worse from there. Even the way Bayonetta stands is this horribly awkward painful twisted posture, with her back completely arched back. I'm stunned that they didn't include a crawl feature. This all seems sexy enough, which is a plus for this game, but Bayonetta's character design is actually hideously awful, one of the worst outfits in all of gaming history. Also, something about seeing her naked is really disappointing, like, there's something off. Her impossible anatomy becomes all too clear**, her skin isn't quite right, something is terribly wrong with this lady. If you were a woman and were really disappointed to see Robert Pattinson's nasty pale body in "Twilight 2", you would understand.
As for whether or not this is sexist, it doesn't matter. This is an exploitation game, it might as well be a 70s Italian horror film. Don't be bring any moralizing into this game, its pointless. There's no deeper meaning, its just silly for silliness's own sake. If anybody says that Bayonetta is an empowering female figure, they're full of shit, she's 100% designed and packaged for male consumption. But if anybody says that this game is anti-feminist, they're equally full of shit. Bayonetta isn't a role model, just have fun.
So now that the story is out of the way, let's talk about the game world, shall we? This is an entirely linear game divided up into levels like God of War. Personally I hate this style of game development because it means that developers don't really make much of an environment, they just line up a bunch of "cool" stuff to happen to you. You do get to walk around a few streets of Vigrid, but every person is a ghost (I don't know why), and you can't talk to anybody. The only sidequests I found were these mini battles that take place in Heaven. Good luck finding any of them, by the way, I found one in the whole game. Where is Vigrid? Good luck on that, because you don't even get to see what Vigridians look like until the last chapter! Basically all this game has is a long string of events, cutscenes, and battles and all linked together for the purposes of expediency. Which is fine, I guess, especially since I paid almost nothing for this game, but I usually want more in my video games. "Skyward Sword" this is not. Ironically, I wound up playing a game just like "Final Fantasy XIII" anyway. All we needed was a Chocobo and we would be set.
The real point of this game is the action, of course. This is where "Bayonetta" really should be judged. Now I happen to like the gameplay, mostly. There is a very in-depth combo system, and a wide variety of attacks to use. Most of which I actually ignored, I just gave Bayonetta the katana and kept spamming triangle-triangle-triangle-triangle-square. The combos you pick are meaningless, because few enemies stop long enough for you to get a few combo off, usually you get only hit once or twice then dodge. Enemies almost never stagger on their own, they will ignore every hit you land and then smash your face in. The big deal is the "bullet time" effect. If you dodge at exactly the right second, you'll get a free twenty seconds to lay down any combo you want. So you spend a good deal of time waiting for the enemy to attack, then dodging, then finally attacking yourself. I can't say I liked this more than Kingdom Hearts, but it had its place. I found the battles to be more interesting, at least, than God of War. At least I actually can do this dodge system gameplay, unlike God of War, which demands insane ridiculous button mashing skills***. And if you play well enough, you get to pull off a Limit Break, which usually tears the enemies to pieces.
Unfortunately, "Bayonetta" also can get ruthlessly unfair in a lot of places. Sometimes the enemies will just lay down a stupidly-damaging combo because I got hit one time and there's nothing you can do to break out of it. There's half your HP gone. A lot of bosses work on this absurd system where you can only enter bullet time whenever the game decides arbitrarily. So you'll dodge an attack, think you've entered bullet time, try to lay down a combo, and get smashed. Then when you actually do enter bullet time, you won't be ready for it, fail to finish your combo fast enough, and get smashed. And there are some golden enemies which for some reason are immune entirely to bullet time. Not even God is immune to bullet time in "Bayonetta", yet these enemies are. Why? I don't know. Its very annoying, because these enemies basically subvert the entire point of "Bayonetta"'s gameplay. The only way to win is to keep dodging until you load up enough Spirit Energy to get a Limit Break. And a lot of enemies are really tough, in some cases stupidly broken, the worst case being the big floating gunships. I could talk for hours about how bad fighting the gunships is - they shoot out huge barrages of missiles that take out half your health, if you get hit in mid-air you fall to your death, they have stupidly-damaging lasers, and they fly around, so you can't just whack at them. Oh, before I'm done with this paragraph, there are quick time events, a lot of them, and if you fail, you will die. It is impossible for any human being to get through these events without failing on the first try. A game of football between the New York Giants and a child cancer ward is more fair than "Bayonetta"'s quick time events.
At the very least, many of the bosses have mid-point saves, so if you die on their last bar of health, you don't go back very far. This is really useful if the game decides to end the boss fight on some ridiculous impossible bullshit, like in the fight against Bayonetta's dad. You see, to win, you have to shoot some lipstick at his head, and you control the lipstick as it flies forward. But there are pains of glass that knock you off course, and its really stupid and really impossible. The glass, of course, is almost invisible and you can't dodge it until the last second, when its already too late. And if you fail, he kills you... somehow. How does hitting him with completely harmless lipstick mean victory? How can he kill me when he has no health left! The same minigame happens with God, by the way. You have to shoot her into the Sun, but if she hits one of the nine planets, you die... somehow. But even if you dodge every planet, sometimes the game will decide that you failed anyway, I don't know how it works. Then ultimately the game has the audacity to give you a final grade, usually a very poor one. Thanks, game, I loved it when Sonic gave me a "D", I love this just as much.
There's also this semi-impossible driving stage, no fun there. Oh, and this flying stage, which is like "Star Fox" gone retarded. Bayonetta's ship is dead-on with the camera, so you can't actually see what you're shooting. And the controls are reversed by default, which you can't fix. So I really couldn't figure out what I was doing. I just did a lot of barrel rolls and kept shooting and somehow got through it. Its awful. I only used life-restoring items here, because I just wanted all this crap to end immediately.
And OHMYGOD, the loading. You all know about a little game called "Sonic 2006", right? Its the worst game of this generation, a disaster beyond all recognition. It was featured in the greatest Let's Play of all time, by a man named Pokecapn and his merry band of friends. Among everything else that was wrong with that game, you got insane loading times. "Bayonetta" is almost as bad. And I never complain about load times, never. "Bayonetta" does so bad with the PS3 hardware that I simply must make a point of it. At least it doesn't load for a minute for a single line of dialog, but it does take five minutes to visit Satan's shop because the game has to load seemingly nine terabytes of info. Every time you die, get ready to be visited by a monster load time. Its the worst punishment ever for a simple death. Why does the game have to completely unload and reload itself when you die? What is it loading? Just take me back two minutes to the past! Its not hard! How come every other game ever made can do this quickly, but "Bayonetta" can't? And yeah, there is a way around this if you download the patch and load the whole game to the PS3's harddrive, but I'm not doing that. I just want to play through this game. A quarter of my play time was loading. There's loading when you open up with menus! There's loading when you find an item! There's loading when you go to the menu to skip a cutscene, which is then followed by more loading! No wonder why Bayonetta likes to kill things, I'd be a psychopath too if I had to live a world of so much loading.
So ultimately, "Bayonetta" is a very cool action game with its own sense of playful style, I can dig that. But its very frustrating, and very stupid. At least its self-aware. Its a one of a kind game, worth playing just for its own audacity. But would I play a "Bayonetta 2"? No, honestly. I'm probably going to never play this again. Better than God of War, but not by much. Really, not my style, let's be honest.
Why isn't my "Skyward Sword" here yet!!!???
* But for reasons that will never be made clear to me, you never get to see anything. She's always covered by strategically placed black bands of magic. So I have to wonder about that. Because this isn't a game for kids, and its rated M, so in theory nobody until 18 can play it without adult consent. So why not have nudity? What's the issue? We're already past the line here, you might as well go all the way. I bought this game for the ridiculous sexiness, I demand more out of it.
** Almost all the characters in this game have weird anatomy, none of them look like real people, which is odd since they are presented in a photo-realistic style. Only Bayonetta's kid/past-self looks properly human.
*** I can't button mash for my life. Sorry, I just can't. Its not a psysical skill I posess.