GamesCom 2009: Bayonetta Hands On Preview - Hair to the Throne
Written Thursday, August 27, 2009 By Lee AbrahamsView author's profile
Pure action games are a fairly rare breed on the Xbox 360 and recent additions to the genre like Ninja Gaiden 2 and Devil May cry 4 have not been given the warmest of welcomes by gamers and critics alike. Luckily we may well have a game just around the corner that is a welcome return to form, and it is due in no small part to developers who know a thing or two about the genre. When you’ve had a hand in the original Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe and Okami, then there will undoubtedly be an expectation to deliver.
After a lengthy hands on we were also treated to a demo by none other than Hideki Kamiya himself, the game’s director, who was keen to show off some of the newer aspects of the title and answer a few questions. From what we saw, the game is shaping up to be something a little bit special, featuring the kind of fluid combat and jaw dropping boss fights that Kamiya has become renowned for.
You control the titular character, Bayonetta, a demon witch who was locked away in a cursed coffin for hundreds of years. Accidentally set loose, she is now on a quest to restore her missing memories and punish those that entrapped her. It would be too obvious to say she was an anti-hero, as it seems more like Bayonetta is an out and out villain considering the fact she is fighting angels. No doubt the story will offer a number of twists and turns and it is already apparent that other characters will have a vital part to play. One of these is Luka, a young man seeking revenge for the death of his father, and through a number of flashbacks it becomes apparent that he has a history with Bayonetta – though whether she had a hand in his father’s death is another question. An interesting aspect of their relationship is that they occupy different realities of the same world, so can only ‘sense’ each other rather than see each other. Luka is also unaware of the demons so close at hand, but that does not mean they cannot harm him.
Anyone that has played Devil May Cry will be instantly familiar with the combat system, which involves a number of light and heavy attacks strung together into combos. The moves at her disposal will depend on the weapons Bayonetta equips, as she can attach equipment to her hands and feet. Not to mention use her hair for massively damaging assaults. With an array of gear at your disposal, such as guns, bazookas, swords and whips, you can string together a wealth of options. Plus you can store pre-set arrangements of weapons and switch to them mid combo for even more damage. Not to mention the fact you can swipe a ton of enemy weapons and turn them against their former owners. For those not really in the mood for studying a ton of combos you can study up on the loading screens, which allow you to practice for as long as you like and display damaging button combos that you might not have been aware of. The developers were keen to point out that thanks to the number of weapons and the ability to switch set ups at any time, even they were not sure how many combos could be pulled off.
Once in combat you can build up energy to unleash special torture moves, such as throwing your opponents into an iron maiden or crushing them with a giant fist. You are also rewarded for dodging enemy attacks at the last second, as doing so enables you to enter ‘Witch Time’ – a power that momentarily paralyses your foes and allows you a split second to gain the upper hand. Obviously the larger the enemies the more convoluted the tactics you require. One large, multi tentacled boss that was put on show required you to dash up its tongue, dodging incoming attacks, before leaping onto its head to wreak some havoc. Even smaller enemy battles have a real sense of spectacle about them, but fighting huge creatures as they smash scenery around you is supremely satisfying.
The key to the whole game according to Kamiya, is accessibility. The whole game has been designed to draw in players that might not traditionally be interested in this kind of title. The learning curve is certainly not as steep as in the previous games he has worked on, but I did make a point of asking of whether the same sadistically tough modes would creep in for the hardcore players. His answer was a resounding yes, but he was also at pains to state that each difficulty was more about making the game fun as opposed to impossibly tricky.
The game plays superbly and even relative novices should have no trouble stepping into the fray and stringing impressive sets of moves together. For those that want to, there is still a deeper challenge and one that looks simply jaw dropping. I think Bayonetta may well cast her spell over a large number of us when she eventually lands on Western consoles early next year.
Bayonetta is currently slated for a Q1 2010 release outside of Japan. Japan sees it this coming October which according to SEGA will be region locked.