Has it really been over four years since the release of Bayonetta? It has been so long in gaming terms, but Platinum’s third-person action game has rarely been matched when it comes to chaotic, blood-pumping action, and although we’re chomping at the bit for the sequel to arrive, it’s a wonderful gesture for Nintendo to offer this slightly amended version of the original game, as part of the Bayonetta 2 retail package.
Developed by Bee Tribe under the careful watch of Platinum Games, this is a note for note port of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game – although thankfully without the technical issues that dogged the latter version. It remains unchanged, save for a handful of additions, and that is in no way a bad thing.
So, a recap for those who didn’t pay attention the first time around: set in several dimensions, all based from Dante’s Divine Comedy, Bayonetta herself belongs to an ancient society of Umbran Witches, followers of darkness, who remain at loggerheads with the light-loving Lumen Sages. Each faction holds custody over powerful relics known as Eyes of The World, with Bayonetta herself in possession of the Left Eye after a 500 year slumber, awaking with no memory of who she really is. Battling demons, angels, gods and devils alike in a bid to uncover the truth, this conceit is an excuse to fight a ton of weird and wonderful enemies in a ballet of gunfire, campy dialogue and oversized weaponry.
And what enemies they are. An astoundingly unique cast of baddies that are (still) unlike anything you’ve fought before, with some absolutely huge bosses to contend with as well, residing in a gamut of settings, from European cities to otherworldly dimensions. Unfortunately, while the asset and environment design is inspired, the muted colours used throughout the game detract from the visuals, making everything look incredibly washed out and dated.
As for fighting, Bayonetta has a lot of it, and those who have played a Devil May Cry game will feel right at home. Thanks to the Witch Time mechanic, which slows down gameplay after a perfect dodge, this is a game where evasion and timing is as important as combos and offensive prowess. This is one witch with a lot of tools at her disposal, from her own Scarborough Fair guns, to the deadly tools of destruction she can temporarily steal from enemies or unlock via other means. Being able to equip different weapons to her arms and feet, as well as switching between two user-defined sets of equipment, there’s a lot of scope for player experimentation and discovery, making for a relatively simple to learn, but endlessly fun to master combat system.
Yet, there are also opportunities for limited environmental exploration that act as calming interludes between the chaos of battle. Useful items and hidden battles are everywhere if you take the time to look, along with plenty of opportunities to earn currency in the form of Halos. You’ll need lots of them as well, because many of the purchasable equipment is quite expensive, requiring mastery of combat as well as multiple replays of chapters in order to fund some of the more exciting items for sale. Often, it feels like the cost of these items is far too expensive, with many of them being out of reach even after finishing the game.
With this in mind, Bayonetta is a game based on replayability, as well as racking up the biggest combos and getting the highest scores you can. This is an action game that has a firm old-school feel in this regard, and it’s also a lot tougher than you probably remember, especially with the strict timing needed to perform certain moves like Witch Time.
In terms of additions, the Wii U version contains four Nintendo-related costumes already unlocked to begin with. Costumes for Princess Peach, Princess Daisy, Link and Samus are at your disposal, with each one having their own special abilities. These costumes work very similar to their Bayonetta 2 counterparts and are cool and fun to play with. This port also features the same touch screen controls that have been added to the sequel, providing an accessible alternative to button controls.
Fast and frantic, Bayonetta is still a quality action game. The visuals may have aged somewhat, and the difficulty may be hard as nails, but this is the definitive version of a game that feels strangely at home on a Nintendo console. A welcome refresher to the upcoming sequel, that deserves to be replayed for old times’ sake.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.