First Level: Bayonetta

Those of you that follow TSA’s writers on Twitter (and assuming you’re following me, of course) will know that yesterday I splashed out fifty notes on a Japanese import of SEGA’s Bayonetta.  Yep, that’s right – of all the imports floating around at the moment (God Of War Collection and Final Fantasy XIII the other biggies) I picked the PS3 version of the Platinum Games developed third person battler.  I hadn’t really played the demo, I was aware that the PS3 port was inferior to the 360’s and knew that I probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much as Kratos’ latest, but that Edge 10 tempted me so along with a handful of second hand Wii games (I’d missed out on Madworld, Zack and Wiki etc) I picked it up.

Those of you that follow our regular features will also know, then, that we like to do what we call ‘First Level’ posts which are our personal impressions of a game after just a couple of hours – you can read more of them here.  It’s hardly ever impressions of the actual first level, because that wouldn’t give our readers much to nibble on, and thankfully that’s not the case here as the first level (in fact, the first couple) of Bayonetta is truly dreadful.  Playing out like a Japanese developer bending over backwards to satisfy a Western audience, your character is immortal, dancing around a tiny little platform kicking barely recognisable angelic baddies as the frame rate struggles to meet anything approaching 30fps.

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Thankfully, what should probably have just been a cut-scene finally gives way to the game proper, and after some lengthy (but nicely done) cut-scenes themselves, the game is slowly drip fed to you via a series of instructionary tutorials on how to kick, punch, avoid and shoot your guns.  It feels like a poor mans Devil May Cry at this stage, to be perfectly honest, but it’s worth plugging on – once Bayonetta gets her groove on and the massive amount of combos finally give way it’s more obvious what Platinum were aiming for.  The guns are an integral part of the gameplay: you can aim and fire, of course, but you can string them into combos and even end a combo with a fist or foot powered roundhouse shooting spree.

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The special moves continue right through the opening chapters of the game, with Bayonetta’s hair also coming into play with certain combos, unleashing all manner of witchcraft based weaponry.  Along with the cool Torture Moves and the slowing down of time when you do a skillful evade, the possibilities are endless.  As are the loading times, apparently – there’s lengthly load breaks between levels, mid levels and even when you pick up an item, staggeringly, and should you die then you’ll need to sit through another loading pause whilst you tackle the same checkpoint again.  This, coupled with the poor frame rate means I probably should have just waited for that mythical super-patch for the European release, or just got the 360 version.

But I didn’t, so I’m stuck with it.  That means, over new year I’ll continue plugging through the game, because despite its shortcomings it does have its moments.  Visually some of the environments can be pretty stunning, and whilst the animation won’t be worrying Naughty Dog there’s a certain amount of badass charm to be garnered from the way Bayonetta struts about the place, and her moves can be impressively strung together if you know what you’re doing.  If you don’t, the game’s likely to be labeled as another button masher but you won’t last long just hammering triangle on the harder levels.  Let’s hope the action hots up towards the end of the game’s 14 or so levels and the set pieces continue to impress, because this could be good…

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