Amazing visuals, super solid and fun combat, majorly overrated.
Difficulty: Normal Mode
Gameplay Focus: Beat the Game, Find Secret Lore
and Hidden Items, Get Good at the Combat
I love the fighting in this game. You can really tell that the minds behind the original Devil May Cry series have conceptualized this game and taken their core ideas to the next level. With its combat, Bayonetta exudes all sorts of challenge, fun, and creativity. With everything else, not so much.
To give some insight into my experience with the game, I played through it on Normal difficulty once at the time of this Weaksauce Review. I am the type of gamer who likes a good challenging game, but needs something else besides the challenge to hook me. That something could include the game's characters, atmosphere, art style, story, but very rarely will the gameplay alone be enough to hook me. Bayonetta had plenty of chances to hook me, but it just didn't and it actually consistently did a lot to repulse me to be honest. My repulsion has nothing to do with anything like oversexualization. I just think that's a style choice for the character. My repulsion comes from some frustrating and annoying game design decisions made by Team Little Angels.
The overall gameplay is a mixed bag for me. On the one hand you have tight, engaging, highly fun, and challenging combat with extremely well designed enemies. On the other hand, you have mindless mandatory minigames and platforming sections that seem to drag on forever and constantly interrupt the most fun aspect that the game has going for it, the combat.
I'll talk about the combat first. There are a nice amount of weapons, each with their own types of attacks and combos. Everything feels unique from the default handgun punches and kicks to the samurai sword to the whip, shotgun, claws, and bazooka. There's probably even more weapons that I didn't find. You can also perform a variant of purchased special moves with each weapon. While the combat does indeed feel near perfect, certain things hold it back as well. The first is the fact that the game, in some ways, discourages player experimentation during the first playthrough of the game. Every technique and weapon you can buy costs several completed levels worth of in-game currency. The game gets around this with its techniques by having a "Try it" function available so that you can practice with the technique in a training space before buying it. It's a great function that many other similar action games can definitely implement themselves. But beyond that, the weapons themselves that you unlock are ridiculously expensive and so is everything else including the accessories that you'd have to save up the whole game to buy.
There's also the fact that the game introduces a new enemy to you every few moments so you don't ever really get a chance to master strategies against certain enemies before you're pitted against new ones. The game loves to mix and match enemy types too. One particular enemy that really frustrated me was Gracious and Glorious, two golden "super" version of two enemies you fight earlier, Grace and Glory. Grace and Glory were difficult enough because they could each attack you through your own attacks with "superarmored" strikes and also attacked you together. Gracious and Glorious can do that and can't be frozen with Witch Time. This would be a tough fight regardless without that core gameplay mechanic, given how they fight. The situation was made tougher for me because I had no clue why my Witch Time wasn't working. There was no previous indication that it wouldn't work against certain enemies and the game gave me no clue why it wasn't working on them even after dying about six times to them. They even introduce these characters in a cutscene so I have no clue why Bayonetta didn't at least make an effort to say that her Witch Time wouldn't work. Situations like that made the combat a little bit less than perfect.
Top notch visuals, especially when in motion. But when the action slows down and you're allowed to stop and look at buildings and objects up close there is definitely a lack of details. Sometimes it just looks like prettied up PS2/Dreamcast objects. There's a clunkiness to many of the objects like cars. Some of it is to do with the art style but the models themselves look pretty clunky compared to the concept art. But when in combat you'll never notice these things. The effects during combat are really vibrant and Bayonetta and enemy special attacks get some nice looking special effects. The enemies (especially giant bosses) have an extraordinary level of detail put into them. Oh and Bayonetta's transformations are great touches for her speed and flying abilities as well. The game tells more story in its visual effects than its actual narrative at times.
Pretty good audio. Nothing much to say. The soundtrack is kind of catchy, but not my type of music. The music did manage pump me up during the combat. The voice acting was okay. The dialogue itself was pretty hokey and purposefully cliche, but some would say it adds to the charm. There were one-liners everywhere from just about every character. The sound design helps give weight to much of the fighting.
A hot mess, but the lore's good. There's a lot of time and attention given to characters and scenarios that don't contribute much to the overall story. For instance, Luka's story seems superfluous to everything and the time spent on characters like him, Enzo, and Rodin seems like a waste given how disjointed the story feels with their inclusion.
Most of the interesting backstory that's in the game can be found in the lore through scattered pages of Antonio's Notebook. You can pick these pages up throughout each level and read them at your leisure. Or you can wait until chapter 11 where all the lore and backstory are dumped unto you at once. Before chapter 11 you just randomly chase bosses or Jeanne while Bayonetta's memory slowly returns the they pretty much reveal all the lore you've been reading in Antonio's Notebook beforehand in a chapter 11 cutscene which is nearly at the end.
The rest of the time you're presented with cutscenes and character dialog that barely reveals anything or moves the story forward in any meaningful way. It's all corny, cliche riddled dialogue and awkward character interactions. Though I do like the characters, at the end of the day I feel they weren't utilized very well in the game. Everything felt shoehorned in. The Bayonetta, Jeanne, Balder, Cereza story arcs were pretty simple but good overall. There were some neat though predictable twists and character drama. More of that and less Luka/boss chasing randomness would've benefited the game a lot. Of course, I didn't expect much from the story going in since story has never been this team's strong suit.
Very clean and familiar presentation. Reminiscent of Devil May Cry in every way except art direction. I found everything to be easily accessible, with the exception of the item mixing menus which confused me for a while.
The Quick and Dirty
+Amazingly Solid Combat
+Very Creative Enemy Design
+Much Lore To Find
+Trying Out Techniques Before You Buy Them
+Gallery Mode With Concept Art, Music, Model Viewer, etc.
+Harder Difficulties and Hidden Challenges and Secrets For Gameplay Value
Negatives:-Too Many Other Types of Gameplay Forced In.
-Anything Besides Combat Feels Wonky (platforming, minigames, etc.)
-Lore Isn't Shown Naturally In The Game. It's Also a Wordy Mess.
-Story is Incoherent From Start to Finish. Everything Feels Shoehorned In From The Mobster Guy, To Rodin, To Lucca. Could've Been Much More Focused.
-Cutscenes Are Mostly Used For Fun Moments But Time Could Be Made To Expand The Story as Well.
-Could Use More Fighting in the Main Playthrough.
-Story Relies on Cliches and Overdoes the Cheeseball Moments, Creating Something That Feels Cheaper Than It Is.
-Boring, Chatty, Weaksauce Main Villain.
-Last 4 Levels Bored Me to Death When I Wasn't Fighting and the Ending Dragged On and On.
What is a weaksauce review?
A weaksauce review is a review of a game, based on it's surface impressions. Weaksauce reviews are born from me not having a lot of time or maybe interest to delve deeply into a game's deeper mechanics or systems which I do in my Deeper Look series. So I'll do a first impressions type of review about my standard gameplay experience.