Bayonetta Hands-On Preview

Beauty comes in many forms. Ico is beautiful in its subtlety, like a fairy tale. Bayonetta, however, is beautiful in its excessiveness. Like Las Vegas or Monte Carlo, the game is garish, over-the-top, and borderline sleazy, yet it dazzles and delights like no other.

Bayonetta is also a game about killing things. Instead of being a tried-and-true demon slayer, Bayonetta is an ass-kicking, witch-slaughtering renegade angel. Not much is known about the plot at this point, but we do know that Bayonetta has been asleep for over 200 years and has now been awakened with no memory. While further details of the storyline remain a mystery, the real draw of the game lies in its unique blend of upbeat slaughterhouse fantasy fun.

The core mechanics of Bayonetta are a bit like Hideki Kamiya’s previous outing, Devil May Cry, on crack. Dante had his sword and guns, while Bayonetta has guns and–in a wonderfully sadomasochistic bent–her high heels, which are comprised of revolvers. Dead sexy. The triangle and circle buttons are used for her punches and kicks respectively, while the square button swings her weapon. Enemies leave weapons behind as you fight them, such as a musket, a spear, and a giant mace. You can only hold one at a time, and they all come with their own unique strengths and weaknesses, such as speed, damage, and range. As you destroy things, you collect gold rings which–as far as I can tell–are on loan from the Sonic division of Sega. Rings are the game’s currency, and can be used to buy new moves and items for more ass-kicking greatness. Adding to the insanity of it all, Bayonetta can also run up walls in certain areas, making for some wonderfully dizzifying combat scenarios.

As one would expect from the creator of Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe, Bayonetta values style over realism. From the lead character and the majestic angels that she fights to the upbeat jazzy pop soundtrack, everything in Bayonetta is designed to be beautiful, to the point that even the lock-on targeting reticule is shaped like a pair of lips. Bayonetta is able to summon magical torture devices–such as guillotines and iron maidens–out of the ether before kicking creeps into them for glorious, bloody finishing moves. Some of these are quite sexy, as one of them has Bayonetta punishing an enemy by spanking them to death (oddly the second time I’ve seen that this year, both from Sega. Can you guess the other title?). Her hair is also magical, as she is able to use it to form clothing for herself. When she utilizes the hair in battle, her garbs get stripped away to morph into gigantic, screen-filling demonic entities that chew up the opposition. I’m not quite sure how her hair forms zippers and buckles or digests chewed up angel soldiers, but you’re not meant to ask such questions. Just go with it and enjoy the ride.

One particularly interesting note about Bayonetta is its brilliant answer to the age old dilemma of loading screens. In a decision of pure genius, the load screen is an empty space where you control Bayonetta as she practices certain combos, which are portrayed as a list on the right side of the screen. The game keeps track of how many times you’ve done a move successfully, though there’s no telling if you receive a reward for pulling off the same combo any number of times. At the very least, allowing you to practice the game’s rather large move set during what would have otherwise been ponderous downtime is a godsend, preventing you from ever getting bored.

At first glance Bayonetta might look all too similar to the creator’s previous work, but the similarities are only skin deep. When I asked Kamiya-san what the greatest difference was between Bayonetta and Devil May Cry, he responded that DMC was the best game he could have made given the technology available at the time. He wants Bayonetta to do for the genre today what Devil did for it eight years ago. From what I have played of it so far, Bayonetta looks to do just that.

Bayonetta comes out this Fall for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

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