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The Melancholy of Bayonetta

I finally got around to playing through Bayonetta, but beneath its glamorous veneer, I found its gameplay dated. With Platinum Games' pedigree, why did Bayonetta ring hollow?

Reposted from my blog.

I finally got around to playing Bayonetta but I have to admit I'm pretty disappointed. I loved the media related to Bayonetta. How shamelessly over the top and tongue in cheek it seemed to be. But then we finally get to the gameplay and all that built up personality and character feels shattered by the game constantly tripping over itself.

Where the non interactive parts seem firmly planted in the vein of God Hand, the gameplay strays little from Devil May Cry, and, especially after Arkham Asylum, Devil May Cry's combat just feels a bit too dated for my tastes. The controls feel too unresponsive (I think fighting games should have some sort of lag adjuster like Guitar Hero and Rock Band have), it's too hard to tell if you pressed a button too early or too late, it's hard to even see yourself when things get chaotic... there's lots of small issues (especially on the PS3 perhaps), but the crux of the experience comes down on the combat.

When I play a power fantasy game I mainly just want to have my character doing the awesome things the character is supposedly capable of doing, without having to memorize complex formulas or jump through a ton of hoops (like switching between weapons to jump cancel air dash *brain explode*). Maybe I'm not just the target audience for a game like Bayonetta, but then I wonder why I felt advertised to.

Going into this game with God Hand in mind might have spoiled my experience, but I think it helped me realize something really unique and critical to its enjoyment that God Hand did. God Hand lets you get to the meat of a moveset without having to keep in mind a seemingly endless index of button combinations.

In Bayonetta a punch isn't always just a punch. What sort of punch you punch is dependent on context: whether or not you are jumping up, falling down, moving in a particular direction or standing still, have punched or kicked immediately prior to this punch or a second before this punch, and whether or not you have enough magical energy to pull off whatever your move is supposed to result in. In God Hand you get at most like 6 different punches, through which you'll cycle through as you progress your combo, otherwise formulating combos is up to the player to tailor fit to their play style and level of comfort.

Now, I don't think God Hand's system is perfect, setting a movelist is pretty complex stuff and it would be nice if the game could just dynamically generate your moveset based on the situation. This is how Batman Arkham Asylum sort of feels like, but even there more powerful moves are buried behind a combo limit. The good thing is you only have to build up your combo to a certain limit for Batman to start really kicking ass, you don't have to build up any one specific combo for every single badass move though, which is what Bayonetta stubbornly requires.

Perhaps I'm just bitter because the final moment in the game involved me mistaking how awesome it would be to punch the final boss through every planet AND THEN into the sun, rather directly into the sun. I'm sorry that my version of awesome doesn't match up with your version of awesome, Platinum Games.

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