Long Hair & Lollipops:
Aah, the age old battle between Angels and … witches? It might not be as synonymous a rivalry as the one that likely came to your mind, but this war Bayonetta is waging is quickly becoming a Nintendo staple.
If you’d told me that seven years ago, when I first played the first Bayonetta, I’d have probably laughed in your face – Platinum Games latest hack’n’slasher was about as far removed from the Nintendo image as I could imagine – but here we are, with a third outing for our titular witch on the horizon, and a Nintendo exclusive yet again. So what better time to return to the titles that began it all?
Bayonetta is an impossibly proportioned witch – an Umbra Witch to be exact – who is looking for the ‘Eyes of the World’, a pair of gemstones that have time-based abilities I never quite grasped. Bayo and fellow Umbra Witch Jeanne, enemies turned frenemies turned jolly old chums, fight for it against the powers of Heaven whilst utilizing the powers of Hell, and there’s some mention of Purgatorio and other Divine-Comedy-inspired buzzwords.
If I’m being perfectly candid, the story doesn’t make much sense – or it does and there’s just not much to it. Honestly it flits between those two extremes on a dime. I played through the story about four times way back when, and I never quite grasped it completely, and revisiting the original game all these years later doesn’t really seem to help. Maybe it’s because it was all a little convoluted, maybe it’s because I was too busy gawping at the countless splits Bayonetta was pulling off. Oftentimes the story is there only to serve as a vehicle for Bayonetta to rub the camera with her expertly rendered booty. Her over the top sexuality is as good a reason as any for the game to chug from chapter to chapter, and I’m certainly not complaining.
Bayonetta truly shines as soon as you take control. It quickly became a gold standard of the genre when it launched and it hasn’t been challenged since. In the same vein as blood-relative Devil May Cry, Bayonetta tasks you with dispatching groups of goons in the most stylish ways possible. Do so and you’ll rack up Halos, the games currency to buy new moves and weapons for your repertoire. This slowly building library of attacks soon becomes a massive arsenal that puts player choice and style above all else.
My biggest problems with Bayonetta 1 – and there weren’t many – was how easily the system could be gamed by abusing the Witch Time mechanic (where a well-timed dodge gives you a few seconds of overly destructive slow-mo) and how certain gargantuan enemies felt like an exercise in ankle-slashing. For the most part Bayonetta 2 rectified these mistakes, and whilst it would be nice to see the Witch Time crutch alleviated retroactively from the original, I think that’s asking too much of a port.
Otherwise the combat mechanics form a brilliant set of systems that are served well throughout this port. Both Bayonetta 1 and 2 run fantastically well on the Switch in both handheld and docked mode – and I grew to really love the former. I don’t play my Switch on the go much at the moment, but Bayonetta changed all that. I’ve been toting the console around everywhere I’ve gone this last week so that I could grab a cheeky ten or twenty minutes here and there. The framerate remains silky smooth, only dipping in the most hectic of battles when I’m playing portably and seemingly never when docked.
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