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            Can you handle it?
by Ethos

Bayonetta Faceoff: The Conclusion

Monday, January 18th, 2010

As of right now, Bayonetta is 2010’s best action game. Not much of an accolade, perhaps, seeing that 2010 is barely two weeks old – but a true statement nonetheless.

In fact, I’ll go a bit further and say that Bayonetta may, in fact, be the best action game of its kind. By “its kind,” I’m referring the hyper-stylized, combat-oriented subgenre that is populated by franchises such as God of War and Devil May Cry.

So, let’s cut to the chase. In the last week I’ve spent time with Bayonetta, God of War II, Devil May Cry 3, and the God of War III demo. How do these well-established franchises hold up against the fancy new kid on the block? Let’s find out.

bayonetta-witchBayonetta

There isn’t much I can say here that I didn’t already say in the review I wrote a week ago. Bayonetta has been described by director Hideki Kamiya as an “evolution” of the Devil May Cry franchise, which he invented. And that’s almost exactly what it feels like – a faster, flashier Devil May Cry with gratuitous God of War influences. But is it as good, or better than either of its main influences?

kratosGod of War

In the last week, I played a decent chunk of God of War II, as well as the God of War III Demo. No doubt about it, these are some of the best hack ‘n slash games out there; God of War II is particularly impressive for its time, and for the hardware it was on. The action setpieces are extremely impressive, at least from what I’ve seen so far – the opening boss battle against the sentient statue is incredible, and the aerial combat sequences are a lot of fun as well.

The God of War III demo was a lot of fun, and for the most part, it felt like a next-generation God of War game should. The combat largely felt the same, but it definitely controlled smoother, and featured some subtle but appreciable upgrades – for example, “heavy attacks” are slightly faster now, making them far more useful. It will be interesting indeed to compare God of War III to Bayonetta upon its release in March.

Bayonetta clearly channels the combo based-combat of God of War, as well as the visceral, intense nature of the battles themselves. But does it improve on the formula, or simply emulate it in a Japanese environment? And, speaking of Japanese…

devil-may-cry--danteDevil May Cry

Bayonetta lifts its mechanics from God of War, yes, but it channels its atmosphere directly from Capcom’s Devil May Cry franchise. The hyper-stylized Japanese themes and the undeniably awesome combination of physical combat and gunplay was first introduced to us way back in 2001 by a certain Devil Hunter named Dante – and it’s important to give credit where credit is due.

However, Devil May Cry and Bayonetta share little in the way of actual gameplay mechanics. Dante is limited to a single attack button, making DMC’s battles more of a button-mashing affair. Also, while Bayonetta features long-range gun combat, it isn’t nearly as useful or prominent as it is in DMC.  However, Devil May Cry does have one key aspect in common with Bayonetta, and it’s worth noting: combat in both games place heavy emphasis on avoiding damage entirely. Want to win? Don’t let yourself get hit. But again: is Bayonetta a better game than Devil May Cry, or did Hideki Kamiya simply swap out everyone’s favorite prettyboy Dante for the ridiculously sexualized witch Bayonetta, and call it something new?

Now that we’ve touched briefly on all three franchises in question, it’s time to decide who is best at what.

Best Combat System: Bayonetta

To answer the question I asked earlier, Bayonetta doesn’t just copy and paste select combat mechanics from God of War and Devil May Cry; it evolves them. God of War has plenty of combos for you to play around with, yes – but Bayonetta actually makes using combos integral to the gameplay. And at the same time, it makes them easier to use. Devil May Cry introduced “twitch-based” combat with an emphasis on avoiding damage, but Bayonetta evolves this concept with Witch Time. Assigning the dodge maneuver to the tap of a shoulder button was a nice upgrade as well.

Bayonetta really does make its two main influences feel slow and somewhat unwieldy by comparison. And that’s not because either God of War or Devil May Cry are broken – far from it. Rather, it’s because Bayonetta’s combat system is simply the fastest, smoothest, most intuitive hack ‘n slash that I’ve ever experienced.

Best Boss Battles: Bayonetta

Aaand she wins again. This is more like an extension of the “Best Combat” category, but I felt the need to honor Bayonetta’s boss encounters.  Like God of War, Bayonetta features some truly massive, grandiose boss battles – the difference here is that they’re even more massive. And, uh. Grandiose. Kratos has officially been outdone.

Best Storytelling/Atmosphere: God of War

Finally, an accolade for our scowly, pale-skinned friend. Admittedly, atmosphere comes down to a matter of preference between the three, but there’s no doubt that the narrative told in God of War is by far the most sensible among our little matchup. It’s not deep, and as Ethos has stated in the past, it’s overly epic. However, unlike Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, it actually makes sense most of the time, and it’s written fairly well. That counts for something.

Best Gunslinger: Devil May Cry

Okay, so maybe I just couldn’t bear not to throw Devil May Cry a bone. It really is a fine series, even if it has been one-upped by its own spiritual successor. This award honors the one thing it does better than Bayonetta: gunplay. One of the best things about Devil May Cry’s combat is the ease and speed at which you can switch back and forth between physical and long-range attacks, oozing badassery the entire time. In Bayonetta you can do the same, but guns are disappointingly ineffective against… well, almost every enemy in the game. Ironic, seeing that she sports no fewer than four of the damn things.

Most Fun: Bayonetta

So now we get down to the nitty-gritty, and answer the question: which game is the most fun to play? For my money, it’s Bayonetta, for all the reasons I’ve listed above. The combat system is practically flawless. The boss battles are some of the best I’ve seen, and certainly the best among the three contenders here. The pacing is spot-on, without a dull moment or a rotating spike-wall to be found. (Props to those who catch the reference.) The difficulty is balanced perfectly; you’ll die a lot, but never because of unfairness on part of the game.

At the end of the day, these are all fantastic franchises in their own right, and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. I greatly enjoyed the time I spent with all of them in the past week, and I can easily recommend them to anyone who enjoys a good action game.

My God

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Riddles is such a fuck. JRPG Relapse Week is a taxing week, yet he decides to postpone it. Thanks a lot, asshole. You get this picture.

Riddles is this guy AND the noob

Riddles is this guy AND the noob

OFFICIAL DELAY

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Due to, ah… extraneous circumstances, the verdict of Bayonetta week will be delayed until Monday afternoon. Please enjoy this in the meantime

lolwut

Darksiders: Almost 20 Hours In.

Sunday, January 17th, 2010
Sweeet

Sweeet

Yup, while Riddles played relevant games to the theme week and will have his verdict probably late (that asshole), I played a lot of Darksiders this weekend. I’m fairly certain I’m in the “final stretch”, but in these sorts of games, that could be another 5 hours of gameplay, so I’m not banking on beating it tonight.

However, my feelings on it are largely the same since my initial impressions. I’m starting to see some of the complaints that I didn’t before, however. With more enemies and now riding the back of a literally blazing fast horse, the framerate has more moments when it starts to hiccough. Also, while I think the puzzles are better than most describe, it is becoming noticeable that there’s barely a difficulty curve with them. In fact, the puzzles in the dungeon I’m currently in are only difficult because the most obvious route is correct, and my Zelda mindset is always trying to think outside the box. Again, that’s not to say they’re all bad, but this latest dungeon is an example of the worst.

One complaint I do not understand, however, is one about the bosses. So far, I think they’ve been fun, epic, frantic, and very enjoyable. I suppose they’re largely easy, but I definitely wouldn’t call them pushovers, and they are all absolutely exciting.

I’m on the fence about backtracking for optional additional items and collectables. No, the locales aren’t quite as packed with mood and personality compared to Zelda, but they are impressively varied, and fun to explore. Also, War – the hero – isn’t as boring as I expected. He’s determined and noble, but not a goody two-shoes, and no matter what huge baddie is after his head, they all address him with a pinch of respect. It’s a cool atmosphere that way. Anyway, I plan to review it if I can finish it next week while a review would still be relevant, so I’ll wrap up these impressions here. For now, get excited for JRPG ridiculous next week and probably a late verdict from everybody’s favourite Riddles!

So, I played some Devil May Cry 3

Saturday, January 16th, 2010
I love this guy. No joke.

I love this guy. No joke.

Hello again, Riddlethosians. It’s a dark, gloomy Saturday here in Murfreesboro, TN… one of those days where it’s almost impossible to drag yourself out of bed and face the world. Hence why I didn’t get up until 1:30 p.m.

Then again, it might have had something to do with all the empty beer bottles littered around my apartment.

Regardless, once I did manage to get up,  I (finally) took my copy of Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition out of its shrinkwrap, dusted off my PS2, and gave it a go. It was the first time I’d played a Devil May Cry game in a few years, and honestly, it felt pretty good to go back to the series.

My last experience with Devil May Cry was a playthrough of Devil May Cry 2. I played it almost immediately after beating the first Devil May Cry, which remains one of my favorite action games on the PlayStation 2. Because I enjoyed the first one so much, I decided to give the second game a try in spite of all the terrible things I heard about it.

Once again, I ignored the advice of others at my own peril – playing Devil May Cry 2 was a spirit-crushing experience. I’ve never played a sequel quite like it; the mechanics and design of the game are all but identical the original, and in many ways, they’ve been improved. But somehow, Capcom managed to entirely suck the life and soul out of the experience. Devil May Cry 2 is best described as a skeleton of an action game, and needless to say, it left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth – hence why it took me so long to play Devil May Cry 3.

Thankfully, Devil May Cry 3 is a massive step up from 2, and in fact, it seems like it could be the best of the series. (Not including Devil May Cry 4, which I’ve never played or owned.) It’s especially interesting to play directly after Bayonetta, which has been described as an “evolution” of the DMC series.

Like Bayonetta, Devil May Cry features a stylish blend of guns, swords, and magic all wrapped up in an absurdly Japanese package. Dialog and voice acting is appropriately cheesy and over-the-top, and the plot is fairly inconsequential. Granted, it’s actually told fairly well – especially compared to the clusterfuck that is Bayonetta’s plotline – but it’s hardly a prominent feature of the game.

Like Bayonetta, Devil May Cry is all about combat, and lots of it. The combat system in Devil May Cry 3 is quite satisfying indeed, both from a mechanical and visual standpoint. Launching enemies into the air with a swipe of your sword, and then juggling them with a barrage of bullets as they fall to the ground, simply never gets old. Like Bayonetta, the game encourages fast, responsive play with an emphasis on avoiding damage – sloppy play will get you killed.

But as fun as it is, when compared to Bayonetta, Devil May Cry really does feel like last generation’s model. It’s more of a compliment to Bayonetta than anything else, really, but when compared side-by-side, Devil May Cry just feels… slow. Slow, and occasionally, unwieldy. The ability to dodge attacks with the tap of a shoulder button is sorely missed, and so is the addition of a second attack button. However, I will say that the guns in Devil May Cry are actually worth a shit. More so than they were in Bayonetta, at least, and she had four of ‘em.

Also, I have to say that I prefer the atmosphere and setting of Devil May Cry to that of Bayonetta. I wasn’t bothered by Bayonetta’s J-pop and overtly feminine vibes, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t prefer Devil May Cry’s gritter, more “macho” setting. It’s just a matter of personal preference, really; nothing that reflects on the quality of either game.

Okay! The week is almost over, but I’ve managed to spend some time with all three franchises taking part in my little “faceoff.” Who’s the winner? I’m not telling yet! Look for a final editorial before the week’s end. I believe I require more playtime…

Tingle! Tingle! Kooloo-Limpah!

Friday, January 15th, 2010

tingleheader
After a glorious return to Hey! Look! Listen!s, I thought it would only be fit to follow it up with its gimped brother, the Tingle! Tingle! Kooloo-Limpah! The feature in which I talk about previews, editorials, interviews, and potentially news that I found interesting that Riddles didn’t. Let’s start!

Sands of Destruction has influence -
I touched on this in my latest Scatter Storming, but I wanted to post the only trailer I’ve actually seen for the game. It reminds me a little of Skies of Arcadia with the special moves and hokey one liners, but it seems to have the same charm too. In fact, this trailer gave me the idea for my JRPG Relapse Week. 2010 has already had one great surprise with Darksiders, and a lot of my risks last year paid off, so I’m excited to give this one a try.

We old geezers don’t like 3D -
IGN’s been pumping out the editorials lately, and while some seem to be pure flamebait, most have been a great jumping point for conversation. I hate being an old man when it comes to 3D things, but even after seeing and enjoying Avatar, I still see it as a gimmick. I thought I would have enjoyed that movie just the same in 2D and it wouldn’t have given me a headache like 3D. But from movies to games, I just haven’t been shown how 3D can improve the experience. My roommate disagrees saying, “once 3D becomes glasses-free, if I had the option to play an awesome game or play an awesome game in 3D, I see no reason why I’d choose 2D.” Bah, I say! I am still far from convinced.

This'll make sense...

This'll make sense...

Nintendo’s lazy and we let them continue being lazy -
This is a great read especially considering it’s coming from Matt Casamassina. Whether or not you like him, the guy covered Nintendo for over 10 years, he knows his shit. It’s great to see him simply call Nintendo out on their incredible laziness since the Wii’s runaway success. Anyway, this has been talked to death, so I’ll leave it at that.

We all need a good laugh -
Oh man, if my expectations weren’t low enough already. You all NEED to see this “trailer”. White Knight Chronicles has never been so oversold. Truly a fantastic watch.

Hey! Look! Listen!

Friday, January 15th, 2010

HLLfinal

Wow, has it really been a full month since I wrote one of these things? Seems that way, since the last time we saw a Hey! Look! Listen! on Riddlethos was on December 15, and it is now, in fact, January 15.

Like Ethos and his Scatter Storming, I’M BACK, bitches. And so is HLL, your source for Riddlethos-flavored news. Without further ado, let’s cut to the chase.

assassinscreed26Assassin’s Creed III Announced, First Details Revealed

On Wednesday, Ubisoft officially announced that yet another Assassin’s Creed game for consoles was in development. Seeing that Assassin’s Creed II has already sold over six million units, this announcement is hardly a surprise. However, a few of the details released in tandem might seem a little out of left field.

For one, Ubisoft has stated that Assassin’s Creed III will feature (brace yourselves) online multiplayer. Details on how the hell it will work, or why the fuck Assassin’s Creed needs an online component, were not offered. I imagine we’ll find out, for better or worse. (Probably worse).

The second announcement isn’t as ridiculous, but it still came as a surprise to me, personally: Assassin’s Creed III will not feature a new historical setting, but rather, it will continue the story of Ezio in Renaissance-era Italy. I’m *tentatively* okay with this – so long as it doesn’t mean I’ll be retreading old ground. Ezio was a good character, far more likable than Altair. And 15th-century Italy has already proven its worth as a rich setting.

Perhaps the most frightening announcement, though is this: Assassin’s Creed III will be released sometime within “the 12 months ending March 2011.” In other words, it looks like Assassin’s Creed III is on track for a holiday 2010 release, which leaves Ubisoft Montreal with approximately half the time they took to develop Assassin’s Creed II. I’ll refrain from saying more here, because this item is already too lengthy – but suffice to say, I’ll be watching Assassin’s Creed III with interest and suspicion. (VG247).

New God of War III Screens Look… Godly

Well, that's a new one. I think.

Well, that's a new one. I think.

As I’ve already stated, with the recent release of Bayonetta, God of War III has a difficult act to follow. But if these screens are any indication, it’ll likely have Bayonetta beat in the graphics department. Check out all 14 new screens on Kotaku.

dsiA Successor to the Nintendo DS Is On the Way… Or Is It?

This one’s a tad convoluted, but bear with me. A few weeks ago, Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun interviewed Nintendo’s president, Satoru Iwata. He talked about a few different things, including a successor to the Nintendo DS, and what such a device would be capable of. From the interview: “”[It will have] highly detailed graphics, and it will be necessary to have a sensor with the ability to read the movements of people playing.”

But wait! In a classic case of corporate backpedaling, Nintendo released a statement about a week later claiming that their president’s words had been “misinterpreted.” That might be easier to swallow if Iwata had been speaking to, say, The Tennesseean. Or any publication that wasn’t, y’know… Japanese.

However, and much to their credit methinks, the Asahi Shimbun didn’t take this one lying down. Speaking to Kotaku Japan, they released this short and taciturn statement: “The article quoted Nintendo President Satoru Iwata’s comment accurately.”

Just to add further credibility to it all, industry research firm EEDAR has gone on the record stating that they “[expect] Nintendo to make an official announcement on the DS2 within the next eight months.” Their reasoning? Nintendo has always been the first to roll out a next-generation handheld. They also cite the fact that publishers such as Capcom and Ubisoft have essentially stated that they plan on reducing support for current-generation Nintendo hardware – particularly for the DS.

I’m inclined to agree. E3 2010, anyone? (Kotaku, VG247).

He looks... considerably less badass than Nathan Drake. But we can forgive him.

Nolan North Talks Voice Acting

Perhaps you’ve noticed my running love affair with Nolan North, the man who provides the voice for Uncharted 2’s Nathan Drake. Seriously, though, the guy is one of the best in the business, and GamePro just released a fantastic article that’s all about him. Believe it or not, the dude started out acting in soap operas. I’d say he’s come quite a ways since then, wouldn’t you? From the article:

“I feel terrible for Brad Pitt. The anonymity of voice over is one the biggest advantages of the job. You make a great living, support your family, and nobody’s going to bother you.”

Little-known secret: if I had to pick another dream job, (aside from my hopes of becoming a game journalist) it’d be videogame voicework. It’s an industry that has always intrigued me. I encourage you to read the full article on GamePro.

I Feel Like I’ve Seen This Somewhere Before

Below is a trailer for Tecmo’s upcoming third-person shooter, Quantam Theory. I don’t think I’ve seen such a derivative piece of work in quite some time. The gameplay shown off in the trailer clearly channels gameplay and aesthetic conventions from not one, but two different franchises. The first one is painfully obvious, but the other one might not be – if you can guess what it is, let me know in the comments below. (Hint: you’ll have to watch practically the entire trailer to catch the second one. You’ll be sorely tempted to turn it off after about sixty seconds, but don’t.)

Let’s Learn About Videogames!

I thought this was pretty damned interesting myself.
Videogame Statistics
Source: Online Education

I definitely do not spend 18 hours a week gaming. I feel like I’m being shorted somehow.

And that’s a wrap, folks! My fingers are now officially in pain, so it’s time to stop typing. Look for my next appearance in tandem with some thoughts on Devil May Cry 3.  ’Till then!

Check Out the New Final Fantasy XIII Trailer

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010
Sure, there may be a great deal of unrest amongst Final Fantasy fans concerning the quality of the upcoming thirteenth entry. However, if trailers like this are any indication, Final Fantasy XIII will be one hell of a movie, if nothing else.
But Square Enix desperately needs to expand their musical tastes. It’s starting to feel like we’ve heard the same shitty pop song in every Final Fantasy game for the last ten years.

So I played some God of War II

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

God of War IIWell, it took two consecutive nights of staying up until 5 a.m or later, but Bayonetta has been finished and reviewed. I liked it a lot, (as evidenced by the nice things I said in my review) but I don’t think I fell in love with it quite as much as many other reviewers did. To each their own I suppose.

So, as I promised at the beginning of the week, I broke out God of War II today. Or the God of War Collection, rather. I (finally) finished the original God of War some weeks ago and quite enjoyed it, apart from a few ridiculously annoying parts. (The revolving spike wall will forever live on in my nightmares.) All in all, I thought it was a great hack-and-slash game, but I wasn’t about to start drooling over it the way people did six years ago.

I’ve yet to spend more than two hours with God of War II, but so far, it seems like… well, more God of War. But this is hardly a bad thing; and the in intensity meter seems to have been cranked up a notch from the previous game. The opening, elongated boss battle against that big… statue-thing was pretty awesome indeed, and certainly succeeded in grabbing my attention from the get-go.

It does feel like a bit of a step backwards to play God of War II immediately after finishing Bayonetta, I won’t lie. Bayonetta, obviously, has the unfair advantage of being a current-generation title – it’s bigger, flashier, it looks a hell of a lot better, and the combat mechanics are an evolution of what God of War originally set down. But in spite of this, God of War II is incredibly fun to play, and like its predecessor, oozes with badassery.

I require more playtime before a judgment call can be made. And, don’t forget, a certain Devil May Cry 3 is on deck for the week.  Bayonetta Faceoff week has barely begun, so don’t go ANYWHERE.

Seriously. Stay right there. Don’t move. We’ll hear about it if you do.

Scatter Storming. Issue #015 “Ryan’s Apocalypse”

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

ss015No, my name’s not Ryan nor am I trying to change my name yet again. Ryan’s Apocalypse is a short story I wrote 3 or 4 years ago that essentially asks the question, “does it even matter if the world is ending if your own world is crumbling around you?”. This picture was taken by a friend with that short story as inspiration. Now my world isn’t crumbling either, but I have been notably exhausted and stressed the past two weeks. But hey, at least the cover art for this issue is semi-sorta-relevant, that’s better than most weeks. Anyway, it’s almost been a month since the last Scatter Storming – yup, it was December 16th, people – so let’s talk games.

Darksiders and Beyond –
I didn’t get a chance to play any more Darksiders last night, as a pile of dishes and a new episode of Scrubs just edged it out on the priority list. Still, something I didn’t mention in my first impressions was a feeling I got while playing it. It wasn’t a feeling specifically relating to the game, but I just felt like my love for games got a kick-start. Not that I ever stopped loving gaming, but it was just something that was always there. A known fact that I played games, like when love becomes a habit. I think I have Riddlethos to thank in part for that spark, actually. Writing for this site makes me try games that I wouldn’t necessarily, and also seems to help me finish them. But I had a moment while playing Darksiders in which I just had instant appreciation for my favourite hobby. The work that went into the game, the obvious inspirations from other games that likely struck a chord with the developer. It was just a cool moment and if Darksiders can bring that about, I’m itching to play more.

I was right -
I started this issue when I started my workday around 11am. I made the cover art, wrote the intro and half that last “story” and thought to myself, “I’m probably going to finish this at 9pm”. Bloo-ya!

Sands of Destruction -
Anybody know about this game? I’m going to talk about a preview in an upcoming Tingle feature, but it wasn’t even on my radar until recently. I don’t know much about it, but it looks like pure handheld action RPG classic-ness. What does the buzz seem to be? Is there any?

I don't even have the horse yet!

I don't even have the horse yet!

Seriously, Darksiders -
I want to play more, and it’s all I’ve really played since the break on account of my crazy-ass new job. But it all seems to be slowly settling, so back to gaming for me! Which brings me to…

I’m excited for next week! -
I’m a genius. JRPG Relapse Week? It’s brilliance! It’s the genre that got me started, and I’m excited to dive back into it after a small taste over the break.

That’s it! I gotta go home, man. I’m really starting to live here. And because I forgot to say it at the beginning: I’m back, bitches! Suck it!