“Don’t f**k with a witch!”
Bayonetta is up there with the best—arguably even the best—hack-‘n-slash action game around. It’s problematic and erratic PS3 port back in 2010 left a false impression – after all, Bayonetta is no mere historical curio. We may have had to wait ten years, but Bayonetta finally has the Playstation port it deserves, offering 4K support with smooth, stable framerates. This, my friends, is how you port a classic.
The story of Bayonetta is, quite frankly, a mental one to explain in simple terms. A shapeshifting witch left with amnesia after a 500-year slumber, with guns in both her hands and strapped to her heels, is but the beginning. From then on, her story is your story. As the detailed lore is explained throughout as flashes of her previous life, reacquaint her, and of course you, of her salient backstory. The fictional European city of Vigrid is the adventure’s setting, and finding the “Right Eye of the World” is the quest Bayonetta must fulfill. Along the way is an army of angels that must be slain in a variety of wonderful ways, including demons made of hair. See, I told you the story was mental.
“Say hi to the wife and kids for me!”
If that potentially sounds too much for you, then remember this: Come for the story, stay for the combat. Bayonetta’s existence revolves around its masterful combat mechanics. Tapping triangle/circle gives you quick punch/kick attacks. Chaining them together with different weapons assigned can lead to a myriad of combinations. Then there are Wicked Weaves; powerful combo finishers that, when executed, transform Bayonetta’s mystical hair into a giant demonic boot/fist that inflict great damage. And naturally, look flashy as hell. In the past ten years, only one title has come close to Bayonetta’s combat, and that is the Wii U-exclusive sequel, Bayonetta 2, a little over five years ago. The fluidity and hypnotic rhythm of the combat are indeed that good.
Aside from the combos themselves, adding to that fluidity is the Dodge function. A quick tap of R2 allows Bayonetta to glide away from harm. Not only that, activating a dodge at the last possible moment freezes everyone – except for Bayonetta – in what is called Witch Time. For anyone who has played a Platinum title since, such as Transformers Devastation or Nier: Automata, this concept may be nothing new. But such is the genius of the concept, and it’s no surprise to see it becoming a developer-mainstay feature. There are, of course, subtle differences. Where Nier is all about accuracy, flow is the key in Bayonetta. The dodge is part of the combo chain, so it can be resumed after dodging.
“Do you like it when she calls you ‘Mummy’?”
The combat is oh so important as it is an extension of Bayonetta herself. The opening sequence gives the impression of someone with grace, poise, always in charge, and enjoys the thrill of combat. In turn, so is the animation of your actions – graceful that is – and assuming you’re not too terrible at it, you’ll be having as much fun as she is. It is both genius and beauty coming together, all at your fingertips.
The same can also be said for the action cutscenes. They are silly, playful, and on the right side of cocky. They are also highly entertaining and brilliantly choreographed, encapsulating again how much Bayonetta is in control. The camera also lingers over our star frequently, often with camera-facing glances, or alternatively, Bayonetta’s more private areas. Some may find this somewhat egregious. But this is merely intended as an extension of the self-awareness and confidence of Bayonetta. The sexualization is merely another source of power for our titular character. She is a funny, tenacious, and wise-cracking witch, and it is hard not to admire her beauty and grace.
There are very few, minor quibbles. This being a Sega property, it feels inevitable that QTE’s are involved. Not often, nor debilitating overall, but let’s face it, they are a product of a bygone era. Here a key life or death moment may need repeating until the correct singular button is pressed. It feels unnecessary and old-fashioned. The tendency to transition directly into being attacked out from a cutscene can be more irritating. Especially for those gunning, slashing, punching, and indeed spinning for top stage rankings.
“Now, it’s time to be naughty.”
But what of the remaster? Well, the action certainly keeps up the 60 frames per second promise. It feels right at home on the PS4 pad also. It is, without doubt, a major upgrade on the Platinum-outsourced PS3 disappointment of ten years ago. Even the Xbox 360 version struggled when the action got too frantic, but here it is smooth as smooth gets. It steps up to the plate of modern resolutions admirably well, also. Never has Bayonetta looked so good in my home than on my 55-inch 4K television.
As for the re-release timing generally, it feels like an important piece of redemption for Playstation hardware. The PS3 version has a bad rap with bad sales to go with it, so it is fitting that a definitive version gets both a new and old audience. The colour palette may seem a little bland in places today, but the level design remains superb, the combat sublime, and, now more than ever, an essential bargain.
Final Verdict: 5/5
Available on: Xbox One, Playstation 4 (Reviewed); Publisher: Sega ; Developer: PlatinumGames; Players: 1 ; Released: February 18 2020 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $24.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a PlayStation 4 review copy of Bayonetta given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher