In terms of gameplay, Bayonetta is meticulously designed to maximize the ‘action’ in any gameplay scenario. I could tell that the masters of hack & slash worked on this game because the gameplay is executed to near perfection (nothing is perfect, ofcourse!) Never have I ever played an action hack & slash game quite like this, even when I've played the God of War franchise. The sheer amount of combos, weapons, items, and gameplay mechanics given to the player is intoxication and overwhelming to say the least. However, I would say Bayonetta's greatest achievement in terms of gameplay is the fact that you cannot block in this game. At first, I was confused as to how I can evade my enemies successfully. That’s when the game introduced the Dodge mechanic which triggers “Witch Time”, a phase where time is slowed down temporarily. I’ve read about this design choice from the devs which talked about how they wanted players to never stop attacking and always be on their toes when it comes to playing Bayonetta (they called it “The Flowing Combo Attacks” design philosophy). The flexibility of movement in Bayonetta is one of the best in any game that I’ve ever played in a video game. The intense moments of the game arise not from close encounters with NPCs but rather when trying to evade them in terms of dodging their attacks. I’ve struggled at first when it came to understanding the basics but as time passed, I saw myself becoming more skilled and adept to the enemies, especially when timing my dodging correctly. The weapons given in this game are well-balanced and fun to use. At the same time, it requires a level of skill to properly handle them, which adds to the overall difficulty of Bayonetta. With that being said, this game does not hold your hand, but it respects your intelligence. Slightly frustrating checkpoint issues aside, Bayonetta is a masterful action hack & slash game when it comes to gameplay, especially if you’re a fan of the genre.
Bayonetta is a surprisingly deep story when considering the lore and mythology in the game. The fact that you can hear Angels speaking Enochian tells me how much attention to detail this game possesses (Occultists would understand what I mean). Playing Bayonetta for the first time made me realize why she is so beloved among fans of the genre: she has amazing charisma, incredibly alluring, and an empowering personality that makes her character easily loved and respected (tips fedora). The dialogue in the game is well-written, witty, and cheesy all at the same time. The game’s localization is incredible and brought out the best of the voice actors and in-game text. The antagonists in the game are well-rounded, not one-dimensional in their motives. I loved the story of the Two Clans that represent the Light and Dark of the world (READ THE IN-GAME BOOKS!). The locations that take place in the story are memorable to say the least, not just in terms of how they appear visually, but the tone and art direction for each location truly made me feel like I was in another world, metaphysically speaking. While there was some backtracking in terms of locations used, I felt like those locations warranted another visit from how well they were realized in the game. The story has a great mystery that continued to tease and amp up the tension and thankfully, the reveal at the end was worth the wait. Some nice plot twists sprinkled here and there too, but the ending of the game was the highlight of the story. The end credits is truly memorable, to say the least. Overall, the story was executed very well and I can safely say it’s a story and a lore/mythology that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Atmosphere (Graphics/World Design/Art Direction/Music/Sound Design) [9.75/10]
From all of the PlayStation 3 games that I’ve played over the past 17 years, never have I been so stunned by a game’s art direction than Bayonetta. Some of the best art direction in terms of location design I've seen in years. I honestly want to visit some of these locations now after playing the game. My favorite area to visit in Bayonetta is the Gates of Hell Bar (the music in this area is so jazzy in a really good way) Not only this, but the attention to detail in this game is noteworthy, to say the least. The character design of Bayonetta and the details on her body and costume is a sight to see! The enemies are very unique when it comes to their designs as well. The atmosphere evoked in this game is first-rate; you truly feel like you’re in another realm of your world and the music that accompanies you along the way does a great job of maintaining that ethereal atmosphere throughout the game. The sound design really impressed me with the way it balanced the music with the sound effects when engaging in combat. Overall, the presentation was outstanding and I love seeing developers push the envelope when it comes to art direction, character design, sound design, and music.
All in all, I had an amazing and memorable time with Bayonetta. It has great replay value due to the sheer depth of the gameplay and overall, It was a great start to a legendary franchise. I hope this series never ends as there are so many possibilities to achieve with it, both narratively and gameplay-wise. I highly recommend this game for those who love action hack & slash and those who love old school game design tendencies. I would not recommend this game to those who get frustrated easily because this game does not play around; it will never hold your hand. Now, I have to really start saving up money and buy myself a Nintendo Switch to play the second (and possibly third!) Bayonetta.
Score: 9.5/10 (Outstanding/Editor’s Choice)