Bayonetta (PC) Review – Her Milkshake brings all the Boys to the Yard

Sexy and U know it

Warning, Bayonetta might cause epileptic seizures and motion sickness

Centuries ago, the Lumen sages and Umbran witches lived spread out across Europe. One controlled the light and served angels; the other dwelled in darkness and made pacts with demons. Still, they worked together to assure balance in the world. Then, after centuries of peace, their fragile equilibrium was suddenly broken when a baby was brought to this world by a Lumen father and an Umbran mother, for both groups believed that a child of mixed heritage would bring with it the age of calamity. A conflict between the clans erupted that threw all of Europe into chaos. Though the witches were able to destroy the Lumen during the course of this war, the exhausted sorceresses’ victory was short-lived; people grew to distrust them and began the witch hunts. All of the Umbra died, all except for one.

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When a magic bar is filled, Bayonetta can conjure up a device to perform a torture attack

Bayonetta (2009) is arguably Platinum Game’s most famous, no chill hack-and-slash/spectacle fighter revolving around the highly iconic Umbran witch who woke up in a lake after several centuries of slumber. Suffering from memory loss, the sorceress now lives in present-day North America and tries to piece the clues of her origin back together. After her friend, Enzo, tells her about an object called the Right Eye of the World that would help her remember her past, Bayonetta travels to the fictional city of Vigrid, Spain to find it.

The Quality of the PC port

To get the most important question out of the way: Will the PC release from 2017 play on your old computer? Yes, yes, it will. I played this on a 32-bit Windows Vista Home Premium desktop PC with an Intel Core 2 CPU, 3070 MB RAM, DirectX 11, and a GeForce 9500 GT graphics card without any trouble, after I had set the graphics to “Custom” and then lowered every stat. The game ran with 30 frames per second (fps) most of the time, but slowed down to around 15 fps during effect filled scenes. These frame drops are not distracting however, and players used to playing on weaker rigs won’t notice that they occur. Be that as it may, those with more contemporary machines will be happy to hear that this over-the-top adventure does support 60 fps with a 4k resolution. Before the first patch to v.1.01, the game started to freeze in Chapter II Verse 7 (after the tramway), as multiple enemy waves would appear. It was technically still playable if players went back and forth between the item menu and the game, but that wasn’t any fun play. Since the patch though, sections like this do run smoothly.

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The game’s not just frenetic, but also fabulous

Bayonetta also lets players freely switch between their gamepad and the keyboard & mouse combination at any point. Both options work perfectly fine; in fact, some actions are indeed easier to perform with the latter. It’s also great that all keys are rebindable, so players can use whichever button arrangement they are comfortable with. In view of this, Bayonetta does feature one of the weirdest design choices ever: Moving the mouse around does almost nothing. Sure, some Quick Time Events (QTEs) require players to move the computer mouse in a circular motion, which works fine, but outside of that, it does not control the camera.

If one wants the viewing angle readjusted or have it face in a certain direction, they have to press the corresponding keys on their keyboard, which can be distracting in tight situations and feels cumbersome in others. Of course, action-filled games like Bayonetta only want players to occasionally readjust the camera and the title does have a dedicated key to put it right behind the witch, but it still takes some getting used to, especially inside challenge rooms that feature an onslaught of opponents.

Gameplay

Before talking about gameplay, dodging during Chapter XIV, Verses 1 & 2 will rotate the entire screen, which may lead to motion sickness. Furthermore, due to rapidly flashing lights during some battles, epilepsy patients might consider staying away from Bayonetta.

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Gomorrah is an infernal demon summoned by Bayonetta to get rid of angels

Those who have heard of the game before, probably know about alleged crotch shots and yes, they are there. However, there is a reason why Bayonetta has so many female fans.  It’s not a perverse game and players won’t feel that these shots are there to arouse anyone, as they are exceedingly campy, overtly self-aware, and because the overall tone is unduly comedic, but more about that later.

From the get-go Bayonetta blasts off with the speed of light and will continuously keep players’ heart rates at a relaxing 180 bpm. Players first meet up with the witch as she fights an onslaught of adversaries on top of a falling clock tower, and things just becomes more absurd as well as extreme as the story goes on, with bosses that are the size of entire buildings, flashy, bright colors, coupled with one-liners. If taken seriously, the game might offend a few people along the way, but most will likely notice that Bayonetta just cranks up everything to “extreme” to give everyone unjaded fun. And as this is an action title by Platinum Games, it really does deliver on the fast-paced combat. The witch has a remarkable amount of attacks that will even make Tekken (1994 ongoing) blush. Certain combos will also end in a so-called “Wicked Weaves”, wherein the sorceress uses her hair to summon the demon, Madama Butterfly (in reference to Giacomo Puccini’s opera of the same title [1904]) to literally smash all of her foes.

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While in Purgatorio, mortals cannot see Bayonetta, although she can see them

Speaking of combat, at the start of the game, players only have the witch’s Scarborough Fair pistols at their disposal (Scarborough Fair being an English ballad, presumably from the 16th or 17th century CE), but will quickly amass a comfortable arsenal of weapons, including a sword (修羅刃 – Shuraba, Scene of Carnage), a whip (Kulshedra, a dragon from Albanian folklore), as well as several optional ones, including a throwback to Ōkami (2006), Pillow Talk. These arms can then be freely combined with one another to reveal even more devastating combos. Some weapons, like the ice skates (Odette, in reference to the protagonist of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s [Пётр Ильич Чайковский] Swan Lake [1875-86]) or the claws (Durga, [दुर्गा] a Hindu deity) even shield the enchantress from elemental effects. If that weren’t enough, Bayonetta can also taunt enemies to refill her magic bar and rake in more cash, or perform dodge offsets that allow her to evade enemy attacks without breaking combo chains.

But wait, there’s more. Just as the witch has quite an arsenal to her, so do her enemies. The angels’ maneuvers require players to observe their patterns and then react accordingly. Luckily, their movements are telegraphed to make fighting easier. Dodging or countering their advances at the right time will even activate “Witch Time”. During this state, enemies will move in slow motion; essential when facing large groups of angels or giant boss enemies. Sadly, because the opponents can be larger than the screen, they can block the view of the playable character, which then leads to cheap hits. Even further, Bayonetta can get stunlocked (not be able to move while enemies keep on depleting the health bar) by the angels’ combos, making combat on “Normal” difficulty or higher a real challenge.

Luckily, Platinum Games had put a lot of thought into the difficulty settings to make Bayonetta surprisingly accessible to everyone, with modes ranging from “Very Easy” – wherein the enemies are all weaker and the game helps the player perform combos – to ∞ Climax – wherein angels are incredibly tough and “Witch Time” has been disabled. So, there is something in the game for everyone, whether they are casuals or hardcore. Even unlocking secret items or playable characters is inclusive as they can be gotten either by fulfilling certain objectives or through the public telephone cheats*. Still, some parts of the game are hard, really hard, especially Alfheim.

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During ‘Wicked Weaves’ Bayonetta uses her hair to summon Madama Butterfly who then attacks enemies on her behest

Throughout the game are twenty-one hidden challenge rooms referred to as Alfheim locations, which require players to understand and implement their knowledge of the Bayonetta mechanics. Though these rooms seem insurmountable at first glance, those who have completed the game at least once or put a little bit of thought into things will find them doable. The vast majority of them can even be beaten after the first couple of tries, except for one room; Alfheim number 12 in Chapter VI, Verse 4 is an area that tells players to finish off five or seven (depending on difficulty) enemies using torture attacks and then prevail over the remaining ones.

Not only is this specific trial dreadfully demanding on “Normal”, completionists are even expected to beat it on “Hard” to get a 100% completion rate and that is either just stupid or I’m simply really bad at this game (or both). Players can probably sink hours of failure into this one, even after they figured out what to do. That’s way too hard, even for a tough cookie like Bayonetta. Challenge is okay, but masochism in video games is not. The other smaller gripes are that some cutscenes are of the “press X to not die” variety and that the Umbran Tears Of Blood collectibles don’t make any sound when Bayonetta is near them, making hunting all of them down without a guide almost impossible. Both of these design choices are missteps in an otherwise stellar game.

Bayonetta, Europe, and Crotch Shots

Speaking of stellar, the developers seemed to have enjoyed conducting research. As the game takes place in Spain, Platinum Games included plenty of little nods to European culture and Christian lore, even though some of it has the typical Asian reinterpretation to it. But, boy, do these references come slamming down like a sledgehammer.

The allusions start off with the game’s different worlds: Paradiso (heaven), Purgatorio (purgatory), and Inferno (hell) from Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy (ca. 1307-1321). But that’s not all, the angelic hierarchy, as put forth by Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita in Περί Της Ουράνιας Ιεραρχίας (Peri Tes Ouranias Hierarchias, aka De Caelesti Hierarchia, About the Heavenly Hierarchy [5th Century CE]), also found its way into Bayonetta as The Hierarchy of Laguna, that explains the ranks of Bayonetta’s opponents. Some angel designs even point directly to Bible, with “Enchant”, who resembles the Ophanim (אוֹפָן, ‘ōphān cf. Ez 1:15-21) or “Inspired”, which references the term seraphim (שָׂרָף, śārāf), a word used in the scripture to refer to both snakes (cf. Num 21:6–8, Dt 8:15) and angels (cf. Is 6:2–6). There’s even a place called Jörmungandr’s Staff, in reference to the Midgard snake from Northern European mythology. Finally, the city of Vigrid, where most of the story takes place, looks remarkably similar to Antonio Gaudí’s Park Güell in Barcelona, Spain. Like most tourists in Europe, Bayonetta even comments that the modern, digital displays in the train station clash with the classical European architectures in which they were installed.

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‘Witch Time’ causes enemies to move in slow motion and is activated whenever Bayonetta dodges or counters an attack at the last possible second

However, anyone would be mistaken to think that the references would end there. European folklore also played a key role when Mari Shimazaki (島崎麻里) and her team designed the game’s protagonist. Heinrich Kramer’s Malleus Maleficarum (aka, Der Hexenhammer, The Witch Hammer [1486]) is one of the most infamous books when it comes to the witch hunts and pretty much describes Bayonetta and her powers to a T.

Not only does Kramer express how witches can perform transformations of humans into animals1 – probably why Bayonetta turns into a panther, a crow, or a swarm of bats – he also points out how hair is so important to witches that the Inquisitor of Como had 41 alleged witches cremated in 1485 after having shaved off all of their hair2. Rosemary Guiley would then explain centuries later that “[i]n folklore, a witch’s magical power is bound in her hair. By shaking her hair, the power of a spell is doubled. The shearing off of another’s hair is considered an act of degradation, humiliation or punishment.”3 Even further, Kramer also explains that witches are allegedly highly sexual beings who make pacts with demons4.

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‘Angel Attack’ is a mini game and also one of the different ways the game spices things up

Based on how witches were perceived in medieval Europe, Platinum Games then created a protagonist with agency, one who is in control of her sexuality at all times, but also wants to openly to provoke others. This did not sit well with many in North America, where sex and sexuality are much more controversial topics than in other developed nations, and so the game, together with its sequel (2014), received heavy criticism5 6 7, but also praise8 9 10 11 from North Americans.

Sadly, several critics appear to have not informed their reader- and viewerships about women like Mari Shimazaki (島崎麻里, designed Bayonetta), Akiko Kuroda (黒田晶子, producer of Bayonetta 2), or Mai Ohkura (大倉麻衣, concept artist at Platinum Games), who were key personnel in the creation of Bayonetta 1 & 2. Nor did they elaborate on how much the designs drew from European folklore, mysticism, and Judeo-Christian theology, or elaborate on the overall tone of the game, which might have led to a false impression amongst consumers12 followed by controversy. In the end, the sorceress is not so much a sexualized, but more of a sexually empowered character, comparable to how Dante in DmC: Devil May Cry (2013) is portrayed. Sadly, the same cannot be said for “Joy” in Bayonetta, who is the only angel that’s forced on to the Spanish donkey (often used in BDSM) during one of the witch’s torture attacks. It is the only clearly gendered attack and the game could’ve done without it.

Conclusion

Overall, Bayonetta is loads of fun to play for anyone who is into bright, action-packed video games, especially since it welcomes both casual and hardcore audiences.  The protagonist is very likable and the way the adventure escalates is simply spellbinding. One ride on this carousel takes around twelve hours, but offers so much replayability that many will find themselves going for a couple more rounds. Unlocking everything requires around 100 hours, quite a lot of mileage for the admission price, during which the game, surprisingly, does not get boring. Unfortunately there are a couple of little things here and there that are an annoyance whenever they pop up – like how finding all collectibles can be quite unintuitive or how some mechanics could’ve been explained better – but are forgotten as soon as the game continues. With all that said, Bayonetta is a great game that really concentrates on fun and spectacle over anything else. Players who are okay with colorful video games that aren’t a hundred percent serious will like this one for sure.

Bayonetta is currently sold for U.S. $19.99 or your local equivalent and is available on Steam, Wii U (which has exclusive Nintendo themed outfits), Xbox 360 (this version is also playable on Xbox One via the console’s backwards compatibility feature), and PlayStation 3.

Bayonetta receives 9 Umbran tears out of 10 gun toting witches

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Gameplay Tips

  • Benches, windows, pots, statues, piles of rocks, and some walls are destructible. Breaking them might not only reveal goodies, but also some secrets.
  • Whenever enemies are too far away, keep combos going by shooting the pistols.
  • If the game allows you to walk back to the beginning of a level/section even after you’ve progressed far into the stage, something worthwhile might appear there.
  • During some cutscenes, Bayonetta will have a lollipop in her hand. Press the punch key before the candy is shown on screen and it will be yellow, meaning that she will be temporarily invincible at the start of the next combat, without it affecting the items-used counter or the amount of sweets in her inventory negatively.
    Thank you to YouTube user yoshesque for explaining this in her video, starting at 4:12:

    • yoshesque, NSIC 05: In Labours and Dangers, YouTube, Alphabet Inc., posted 2012, October, 11, accessed 2017, June 9, retrieved from https://youtu.be/S4xotDiSWtg
  • During loading screens, press the item menu key to enter the practice mode. Press it again to continue with the game.
  • Press the dodge and item menu key simultaneously to instantly skip a cutscene when replaying the game.
  • *The easiest way to rake up on coins without special equipment is to purchase the Gaze of Despair at the item store for 100,000, equip it, put on the hand claws (Durga), switch them to electricity by turning the analog stick and pressing punch, then fight Temperantia, the boss in Chapter VII by continuously pressing the punch button. The battle does not become harder, only longer on higher difficulties. So do challenge him on at least “Normal” to get around 200,000 to about 1,000,000 coins per encounter. It is also advisable to pack at least one yellow lollipop to make the final phase easier.
    Thanks to these two YouTubers for pointing that out:

    • NecroinabaKai, Bayonetta-Halo Farming Trick, YouTube, Alphabet Inc., posted 2010, January, 13, accessed 2017, June 6, retrieved from https://youtu.be/-erTwKbxb4Y
    • Shattered Angel, Bayonetta Halo Farming trick., YouTube, Alphabet Inc., posted 2014, December, 28, accessed 2017, June 6, retrieved from https://youtu.be/T2aQquKC8Sg

Since you got this far

Thank you for reading my article. If you like, please do feel free to leave a comment. There’s no need to register or login. Also, all screenshots shown here were taken by me during my playthrough. You can also follow my reviews on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/curator/8839524-Gaos-Corner/ Have a nice day.

References

  1. ENGLISH: “PART II, QUESTION I. CHAPTER XIV “Here followeth how Witches Injure Cattle in Various Ways”, Summers, Montague, 1998, The Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger translated with an Introduction – Bibliography & Notes by the Reverend Montague Summers (3rd edition), p. 305, Windhaven Network Inc., accessed 2017, June 6, retrieved from http://www.freeinfosociety.com/media/pdf/5533.pdf
    GERMAN: 2. Teil, Kapitel 14 “Über die Art, wie sie die Menschen in Tiergestalten verwandeln.”, Heinrich Kramer: Der Hexenhammer. Zweiter Teil – Kapitel 1, accessed 2017, June 6, retrieved from http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/der-hexenhammer-zweiter-teil-5867/1
  2. ENGLISH: “There were such witches lately, thirty years ago, in the district of Savoy, towards the State of Berne, as Nider tells in his Formicarius. And there are now some in the country of Lombardy, in the domains of the Duke of Austria, where the Inquisitor of Como [Lorenzo Solieri da Sant’Agata**], as we told in the former Part, caused forty-one witches to be burned in one year; and he was fifty-five years old, and still continues to labour in the Inquisition.” Summers, Montague, 1998, The Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger translated with an Introduction – Bibliography & Notes by the Reverend Montague Summers (3rd edition), p. 207, Windhaven Network Inc., accessed 2017, June 6, retrieved from http://www.freeinfosociety.com/media/pdf/5533.pdf
    GERMAN: “Daher hat auch der Inquisitor von Como [Lorenzo Solieri da Sant’Agata**] uns wissen lassen, daß er im verflossenen Jahre, welches 1485 war, einundvierzig Hexen habe einäschern lassen, nachdem am ganzen Körper die Haare abrasiert worden waren; und zwar im Bezirk und in der Grafschaft Burbia, im Volksmunde Wormserbad, in der Nachbarschaft des Erzherzogs von Österreich, gegen Mailand zu.” Heinrich Kramer: Der Hexenhammer. Dritter Teil – Kapitel 17, accessed 2017, June 6, retrieved from http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/der-hexenhammer-dritter-teil-5868/17
    ** Tschacher, Werner, 2008, Malleus Maleficarum (Hexenhammer), accessed 2017, June 6, retrieved from https://www.historicum.net/themen/hexenforschung/lexikon/alphabetisch/h-o/artikel/malleus-malefic/
  3. Guiley, Rosemary Ellen, 2008, The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca (3rd ed.), p. 153, New York, NY, USA, Facts on File Inc.
  4. ENGLISH: PART II, QUESTION I. CHAPTER IV “ere follows the Way whereby Witches copulate with those Devils known as Incubi.”, Summers, Montague, 1998, The Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger translated with an Introduction – Bibliography & Notes by the Reverend Montague Summers (3rd edition), p. 305, Windhaven Network Inc., accessed 2017, June 6, retrieved from http://www.freeinfosociety.com/media/pdf/5533.pdf
    GERMAN: 2. Teil, Kapitel 4, “Über die Art, wie sie sich den Incubi unterwerfen.”, Heinrich Kramer: Der Hexenhammer. Dritter Teil – Kapitel 17, accessed 2017, June 6, retrieved from http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/der-hexenhammer-zweiter-teil-5867/5
  5. Nasty Opinions, Feminist Frequency: Bayonetta And Advertising Original, YouTube, Alphabet Inc., posted 2012, June 16, accessed 2017, June 6, retrieved from https://youtu.be/XbihPTgAql4 (reupload)
  6. feministfrequency, Lingerie is not Armor – Tropes vs Women in Video Games, YouTube, Alphabet Inc., posted 2016, June 06, accessed 2017, June 6, retrieved from https://youtu.be/jko06dA_x88
  7. Gies, Arthur, 2014, Bayonetta 2 review: heaven and hell, Polygon, Vox Media, last edited 2014, October, 13, accessed 2017, June 6, retrieved from https://www.polygon.com/2014/10/13/6957677/bayonetta-2-review-wii-u
  8. The Geek Spot, 2013, The Feminist Stance on Bayonetta, Blogger, Google, last edited 2013, June, 25, accessed 2017, June 6, retrieved from http://the-geek-spot.blogspot.de/2013/06/the-feminist-stance-on-bayonetta.html
  9. SuperButterBuns, BAYONETTA 1 FOR BEGINNERS , YouTube, Alphabet Inc., posted 2015, May, 20, accessed 2017, June 8, retrieved from https://youtu.be/QAfFCd7QNNg
  10. SuperButterBuns, BAYONETTA 2 FOR BEGINNERS , YouTube, Alphabet Inc., posted 2016, September, 15, accessed 2017, June 8, retrieved from https://youtu.be/Uwp8P67iyOw
  11. Sterling, Jim, Stupid Sexy Bayonetta (Jimquisition), YouTube, Alphabet Inc., posted 2014, October, 27, accessed 2017, June 7, retrieved from https://youtu.be/CEfeETiWe5M
  12. Eurogamer, Let’s Play Bayonetta – Late to the Party, YouTube, Alphabet Inc., posted 2016, March, 18, accessed 2017, June 8, retrieved from https://youtu.be/YOKVWdjevXs
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