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Critical Reception: Sega/PlatinumGames' Bayonetta

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Sega's stylish, cinematic shooter Bayonetta, which reviews describe as "about as good as it gets."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Sega's stylish, cinematic shooter Bayonetta, which reviews describe as "about as good as it gets." Bayonetta currently earns a score of 93 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Edge Online rates Bayonetta at 10 out of 10. "Bayonetta is nearly flawless," the review begins. "From start to finish its intricate and intuitive fighting system is a masterclass, and it even finds time to reclaim vehicle levels. This is about as good as it gets." Describing the experience as being "from the same school as Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden," Edge notes that Bayonetta's gameplay represents years of refinement. "The fighting system isn't revolutionary in its elements, but their combination and execution breaks new ground," the review describes. "It's easy to learn the basic moves, but they all share a certain rhythm to their execution which means that, after a few hours, you'll be instinctively using combinations you didn't know were there for sure, but suspected might be. The review continues: "As for the systems of Ninja Gaiden or Devil May Cry, Bayonetta simply includes them: a sword comes with Gaiden's charge move, while a pair of bracelets produce a convincing cross between Dante's Royal Guard style and SFIII's parries, a whip channels DMC4's Nero, and a pair of ice skates even bring a touch of Ice B Mario's momentum to proceedings." "It's a beautiful and graceful fighting game that lets imagination loose, and winks before slapping Dante, Kratos and every other hero back to the drawing board," Edge praises. "Above all else, it's proof that you can never have too many great ideas – or do too much with them." 1UP.com's Matt Leone gives Bayonetta an A grade, describing it as a meaty experience that feels like the sequel to an established franchise. "It's not a 'nice first attempt.' It's not short," he says. "It's not a foundation lacking features and variety and whatever else reviewers like to complain about. It has the kind of heft usually reserved for the second or third game in a franchise, and deserves to sit next to Assassin's Creed 2 and Uncharted 2 rather than their predecessors. "It was developed by some of the people that created the original Devil May Cry, including director Hideki Kamiya, so these guys weren't exactly starting from scratch," Leone continues. "And it shows: Bayonetta feels much more like a sequel or a side story in the Devil May Cry universe than I expected it to when I started playing, even though the two officially have nothing to do with each other." Bayonetta's smooth controls make the experience much more compelling than many similar titles. "It's Bayonetta's controls that shine above everything else," Leone admits. "I can't think of another character-based game I've played that responds as quickly or transitions as smoothly between all its different options. Chances are, if you can think of something that could be done to make action game controls more user friendly, Platinum Games has done that here." Leone cites an example: "Within a few seconds, you can easily run, morph into a panther to run faster, leap and double jump quite a long distance, attack with multiple combos in midair, then land, swap weapons on the fly, and dodge an attack at the last second." "Really, this is as good as action games get," Leone concludes. "It controls like a dream, is extremely well balanced (not terribly difficult on Normal and incredibly challenging on Hard), has tons of variety, features great retro game references, contains tons of unlockables and challenges to keep you busy after you finish the story, and when it comes down to it, is the best game Sega has published in years." Lark Anderson at GameSpot rates Bayonetta at 9 out of 10. "Bayonetta is simultaneously gratuitous, ludicrous, and marvelous," he says, "but that's precisely why it's such a wild and fun adventure." "Do not make the mistake of dismissing Bayonetta as all style with no substance," Anderson warns. "Beneath its glossy facade lies an accessible but deep and intricately nuanced combat system that allows you to perform impressive feats and feel like part of the magically empowered. "This high-octane hack-and-slash game is expertly paced and further enhanced by several subtle but brilliant tweaks to the formula. These include a powerful item concoction mode, a comprehensive scoring system with online leaderboards, and a loading screen cleverly disguised as a practice mode. Whether you believe in magic or not, Bayonetta is a truly bewitching experience." The game occasionally suffers from a problematic camera, however. "Though the dynamic camera generally does a fine job of ensuring that the action is front and center -- particularly during witch walk sequences -- there are a few enclosed areas where it seems unsure as to what to do," Anderson writes. "This is a rare occurrence, however, and overall, it's a minor annoyance at worst." "With the fluidity and flexibility of its fighting engine, innovative use of bullet time and wall-walking mechanics, and the competitive online scoring system that is weaved into its very fabric, Bayonetta isn't so much a sister to other combat-oriented action games as it is an evolution of them," Anderson concludes. "This is one action game that you absolutely must not miss."

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