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Bayonetta is a series of action video games created by Hideki Kamiya and developed by PlatinumGames. The first iteration was released on 2009, published by Sega, on Playstation 3 and XBox 360. The creator of the game is the same as the Devil May Cry franchise and some similarities are present. The main character is Bayonetta, a powerful witch welding four pistols on her hands and feet and able to invoke terrible demons shaped by her very long hairs. Following the release of the third game in October 2022, I propose a little retrospective about this franchise. On my side, I’ve discovered the series with Bayonetta 2 on Wii U. I’ve seen some images of the first game during its time, but it didn’t attracted me at first.
Bayonetta is a Witch who awakened after a 500 years sleep, without any memories of her past, and having in her possession one of the “Eyes of the World”, an artifact that could be related to her past. Thanks to her informant Enzo, she learned that the second half of the “Eyes” is supposed to be in the European city of Vigrid. There, she is confronted by Jeanne, another Witch who seems to be associated with her foes, the Angels, and Lukas, a reporter who blames Bayonetta for the death of his father.
The setting of Bayonetta is inspired by the Italian narrative poem The Divine Comedy, with the Paradiso where the Angels come from and visited during the game, the Purgatorio which is the in-between world in our reality where the Angels and the Demons materialize and where Bayonetta fights, and the Inferno where the demons are from. The game story is not the strongest part of the series, the scenario is quite predictable and the main setting is mainly a playground for developing its two main features : its main character and its gameplay.
Bayonetta, the eponymous main character of the game, has been designed with the objective to be a modern-era witch, powerful and sexy. Her beehive hairdo inspires the traditional witches pointy hat and her glasses give her a mysterious and intelligent look has wanted by the game creator and the designer. She’s also over-confident and clearly aware of her sexiness, always joking about it and using it as an asset. As a modern witch, she fights both with magic and pistol weapons. The character is a mix of great action and fan service as every moves, camera angles, and actions are made to display Bayonetta in sexy and deadly postures. The “finish” during the fights, named the “Climax”, are using one of the may feature of the character who uses her hairs as a costume. When she invokes demons, they’re materialized by her hairs and during the sequence she appears almost naked with just a swimsuit. Everything has been tailored to make the character sexy, powerful, also elegant and gracious in her moves.
And the moves, there are a lot of them. Bayonetta is an action hack and slash game using combos and scoring with an incredible list of moves combinations to achieve the highest score. One of the main features of the game is the “Torture Attacks”, a finish for intermediate ennemies using a QTE to destroy them with various torture machines like chainsaws, wooden horse or iron maiden. Another combo action is the “Wicked Weave”, where Madama Butterfly, the demon that Bayonetta has associated with, appears and inflicts a powerful hit. Another feature is the “Witch Time”, a short time-slowed period triggered by a perfect evasion allowing the player to chain combos and avoiding being hit. And the last main feature is the Climax finishes, usually from bosses fights, where Bayonetta summons a demon to finish her foe. As the game is action-oriented, its graphic rendering is smooth and fast, a quality that has been praised on its initial release. Bayonetta can be upgraded by exchanging the halos (a reference to the Sonic games) collected during the fights in Rodin’s bar for weapon amelioration and accessories.
The game exploration is mainly exploring corridors-like environments with regular fights in a closed arena. The scoring oriented gameplay is nicely made and typically, the foes that are not displayed on screen wont attack to allow the player to concentrate on the evasion and combo mechanics. Some chapters are inspired by arcade games with several shoot’em up sequences used as travel steps. The story is narrated via some cut-scenes in game or made with animated fixed plans. The game lifetime is not very high, its story can be cleared in 10 or 15 hours and it counts on its scoring feature for replay value.
A last element of the game which has been highly praised by the critics is the soundtrack. The soundtrack features 150 tracks and uses various styles mixing female choirs, pianos, folk instruments, and also some iconic songs like a cover of Fly my to the Moon used as a fight theme. The music is very important in the game because it’s one of its essence for the fast action battles, and when Bayonetta fights, she always says she “dances”.
Despite being its most successful release at this time with more than 1.35 millions units shipped, PlatinumGames has been disappointed by the sales. A sequel was under development with Sega, but the publisher decided to cancel the game’s development. Against all expectations, it’s Nintendo who announced in 2012 the release of the sequel in 2012. Bayonetta got ported on Wii U too along with its sequel on the console. In 2020, the game has been remastered alongside Vanquish, another PlatinumGame title, for Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Bayonetta is also available on Nintendo Switch, where the third entry was released too.
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