Garnering perfect scores on both sides of the Atlantic, Hideki Kamiya’s 3D action masterpiece has a lot to live up to – after all, since he invented the genre with Capcom’s Devil May Cry, it hasn’t exactly stood still with Ninja Gaiden, Bujingai and God of War all adding to (some may argue bettering) his 2001 blueprint. Unlike many other titles showered with such universal reverence however, Bayonetta is not a game for everyone.
Kamiya and colleagues’ previous work as Capcom/Clover employees has often branched out into broader artistic areas beyond the usual remit of video games such as the comic book homage Viewtiful Joe or the living and breathing Ukyo-e painting, Okami – Bayonetta has no such pretentions and is one of the most defiantly “gamey” games of this generation. This isn’t just a video game; it’s a love letter to Japanese video game fans, signed with every cliché, reference, homage in the book.
Platinum Games have taken a hedonistically unrestrained approach to design that will divide audiences down the middle; every aspect of Bayonetta’s (both the lady herself and the game) design has been crafted with seemingly no concern for self-control. The titular heroine has been the subject of much debate, from her disturbingly unrealistic proportions to her painfully camp dialogue and of course the rampantly hyper-sexualized character design and move set. In a lesser title this transparent appeal to the sexual fantasies of the predominantly male user base may be offensive or distasteful, but Bayonetta is more Carry On Dante than Playboy May Cry.
The story and design are attacked with such gleeful excess, it’s hard to imagine anybody taking it seriously enough to be offended. The tale of half demonic sibling rivalries is so derivative of Devil May Cry that it boarders on the parody and the absurdity of the story segments knows no bounds and serves merely to take you from one incredible set piece to the next. While the writing is hardly sophisticated enough to claim to be an intelligent critique on redundancy of story in such action-led games, there are tell-tale signs throughout that Bayonetta is a response how po-faced and dull story telling and design has become in the majority of games. Only the Japanese could show such unashamed disregard seriousness and be so willing to embrace the camp, the irreverent and the ridiculous.