Submitted by: Retro Gamer
In 2006, Capcom closed Clover Studio, composed of some of the best talent from the Japanese publisher and developer of uniquely wonderful games including Viewtiful Joe, God Hand and Okami. After Clover went, PlatinumGames emerged shortly thereafter, an independent studio that came out of the gate with a four-game Sega deal in May 2008.
However, there’s another intriguing part to Bayonetta’s history before we go any further. Hideki Kamiya, creator of Devil May Cry and one of the directors at Platinum, reportedly wasn’t offered the opportunity to create Devil May Cry 2 back when it was greenlit in 2001. Years later, when Platinum was created, one of Kamiya’s co-workers on Devil May Cry, Yusuke Hashimoto, discussed the idea of Kamiya making another action game, a game that eventually became Bayonetta.
Kamiya wanted to make something pure within the genre, yet somewhat mainstream at the same time. In terms of creating the unusually designed character herself, Kamiya describes Bayonetta as his ideal woman “in many ways.” He aimed to make the game as original as he could, though he acknowledged that there would be quite a few similarities with DMC, and played about half of the mildly disappointing 2008 sequel Devil May Cry 4 for the purposes of research. Essentially though, Bayonetta was entering a bit of a dead landscape when it came to 3D hack-and-slash games, as DMC stagnated, leaving Platinum to easily set the precedent with almost no competition.
Bayonetta feels like it accurately encapsulates the status of its creators at the time it was made. Platinum was formed from the ashes of Clover and allied itself with Sega. This game is rife with gleeful references to both companies and their legacies in terms of gameplay ideas, visual cues and even conversational asides. This represented the new peak of the 3D hardcore action genre that Kamiya himself pioneered, and became a genuine cult hit in a console generation that was unfortunately bereft of them.
Bayonetta’s bizarre universe of angelic creatures is basically incomprehensible, but its array of gargantuan freaky creatures, gravity-defying celestial dimensions and odd real-world gothic city bits gives it a feeling of unpredictability. More than Kamiya’s other games, Bayonetta makes strides in variety, throwing caution to the wind and laying a set piece in front of you if it makes the pacing better. This is how you can find yourself going from an exhilarating motorbike chase on a sprawling urban highway to running away from a boulder made of Lego bricks. Not every level relies on mastery of the fighting mechanics, which is refreshing, and the design holds up well as Bayonetta takes inspiration from different genres.
This is because being Bayonetta is so fun, which is illustrated by the loading screens that allow you to practice combos. Like Mario or Zelda, just playing Bayonetta without any enemies or environments surrounding you is enjoyable and, like Devil May Cry 3 – the highlight of that series – you feel your instinctive use of the controls manifests itself perfectly on-screen. The sense of feedback is great, yet the gradually expanding range of weaponry offers wonderful replay value too, throwing in different types of blades and firearms that reward the perseverance required to unlock them.
In short, it allows your experience of Bayonetta to evolve and become perfected as you master its highly technical combat system. You start the game with basic kick and gun attacks; you end your second playthrough ice-skating your way through levels with a rocket launcher that’s bigger than your character. Each weapon is buried away, yet informs the rhythm of combat in a different fashion. It’s wonderful, with a contrasting flavour to Devil May Cry that aptly sets the series apart.
And then, perhaps most Retro Gamer-friendly of all, it piles on the references to other superb games. Bayonetta really does exist in that sweet spot between Capcom and Sega and allows us to enjoy it, referencing Dr Eggman in its opening level and managing to crowbar in callbacks to Resident Evil 2, Viewtiful Joe, Devil May Cry and Okami in just one line of dialogue, as foolish sidekick Luka (himself likely a cheeky reference to Assassin’s Creed) reels off a list of his Capcom-themed ex-girlfriends. Your in-game currency is Sonic-like rings. Your shop representative, Rodin, breaks the fourth wall and directly quotes the infamous merchant from Resident Evil 4. Bayonetta herself even turns into a dog that leads a trail of dead flowers, a parallel of Amaterasu in Okami. This game wants hardcore players to love it, and Platinum works awfully hard to earn that affection, both with these cursory nods and by displaying its trademark skill in hack-and-slash design.
Why It’s A Future Classic
Bayonetta was always destined to divide opinion more than the Devil May Cry games, which at least had more of a mainstream-friendly visual hook in both the design of its protagonist and the more familiar supernatural setting. This, on the other hand, represents Platinum’s willingness to be utterly weird and specific. They have created a character deliberately unlike others in the medium, as well as a surrounding world that offers the scope to do pretty much anything in terms of level design.
Therefore, Kamiya’s Bayonetta is a much more ambitious action game than the original Devil May Cry, contemporising the action genre in its own way while Capcom went in a different direction with that series. Platinum created something just for the hardcore gamer, celebrating the history of its creators as well as its publisher, Sega, for which this was certainly one of its best games in years.