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            Can you handle it?
by Ethos

Most Surprising Game 2010 – Riddles

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Bayonetta

Most Surprising was a little difficult to decide this year, largely because, well, not much really surprised me. In fact, a lot of games that I wanted to surprise me, didn’t. *coughALANWAKEcough*

That being said, I have chosen Bayonetta, as you have all gathered. Bayonetta hardly came from left field – I was fairly confident in the fact that I would enjoy the game – but I didn’t expect I would enjoy it quite as much that I did. And, to be perfectly honest, I never expected the gameplay and mechanics to shine the way they did. So, I suppose you could say, the game impressed me with its shine – and I don’t just mean style.

If you’re like me, you don’t look to Japan for much these days. And certainly, you don’t look to Japan to deliver a game that can almost – almost – be called the definitive action game of this generation. Bayonetta’s combat mechanics are so polished and intelligently designed, they can be called a piece of programming art. It can be summed up simply: utterly accessible, yet insanely complex. It’s better than Devil May Cry, better than God of War, better than Ninja Gaiden. In fact, it’s better than just about anything else out there.

Obviously, more than just pure and simple gameplay must be considered when deciding the best titles of the year. But, I can say this: of all the games I played in 2010, not one of them was as much pure, unadulterated, consistent plain fun as Bayonetta. And yeah, I’ll admit, I didn’t quite expect that.

Maybe in Bayonetta 2, they can work on making all the other parts of the game equally sensible.

Runner Up: Mass Effect 2

Ah, well this was even harder to decide, but I promise it’s not a cop-out. Again, I didn’t think I’d enjoy Mass Effect 2 as much as I did. Know why? Because I really didn’t fall in love with Mass Effect 1. I managed a single bare-bones playthrough, appreciated the depth of the universe and some of the mechanics, and wondered why they didn’t do a better job of delivering a game with these concepts. Well, Mass Effect 2 takes those concepts, and delivers that game. And it’s amazing to witness.

Best Game Ethos was Too Dumb to Play 2010 – Bayonetta

Friday, December 31st, 2010

This is revenge for a post Ethos wrote about six months ago to close out Sexy Summer week. If you recall, he usurped my “Vetoed Pick” article for one of the five sexiest chicks in gaming, and wrote many blasphemous paragraphs about Bayonetta – both the game and the character.

The kicker is that Ethos has never actually played Bayonetta. Now, I wouldn’t be able to fault him for this, necessarily – if not for said blasphemous article.

I’m going to take this opportunity to praise Bayonetta again, as I did in my positive review early this year. It’s the best hack ‘n slash action gameplay to be found, full stop. If the rest of the game was able to live up, it’d be the best action game of 2010 – but a certain God of War III had to go and steal that honor away. Bayonetta takes the relentless twitch-based stylized gameplay of Devil May Cry, combines it with the ferocity of God of War, dips it in a thick pool of sex appeal, and serves it up on a platter made of… uh… sexiness. Or… hair. Or I don’t know, I didn’t think that sentence through beforehand.

Point being, Bayonetta is a unique and incredibly well-designed game. In many ways, it’s the best of its class. It’s living proof that ridiculous Japanese nonsense can still, occasionally, be totally awesome. Just like it was back when we were kids. And yet, not only can Ethos not spare the time to play it, he has to go and bash it, along with its titular protagonist. Like the short-sighted retard that he is.

Also, while this is tangential at best, I have to take the opportunity to point this out: among many other things, Ethos criticizes Bayonetta’s outfit, noting the lack of back and a cleavage hole.

Scroll down two articles, and you’ll find an article where he laments the fact that I wouldn’t allow Jack from Mass Effect 2 on the list.

JACK WEARS FUCKING NOTHING EXCEPT TATTOOS

Seriously? Seriously, Ethos? Oh, and plenty of women would choose to wear that outfit if they had crazy witch powers. All things considered, it’s actually a far more “modest” outfit than 98% of female gaming characters. Also, I had a weird obsession with spiders as a kid, which has translated into a bizarre sexual arachnid fetish in my adult life so FUCK YOU.

That’s not true at all. Well, the first part is, but the second part isn’t.

I hope.

Ahem. Ethos should, uh, play Bayonetta. It’s a good game.

Runner Up: Limbo

I know Ethos has never pointedly refused to play this, or spoken negatively of it – much as I’ve never spoken negatively (or at all, really) of DeathSpank. What I’m actually trying to do, if you want the truth, is give Limbo as much relevant, timely exposure that I can with the limited time I have remaining. I played through the game right before I moved out of my apartment of 2 years and my life became a crazy piece of craziness, so I literally forgot all about it. And I regret that. Limbo will receive a more suiting, in-depth write-up later this week, so I won’t trouble you with details here; suffice to say, Ethos is dumb for not having played it. And so are you. And you. And you. And you, even.

The Vetoed Picks – Riddles: Bayonetta (Written by Ethos)

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Well, I gave him ample time to step in and defend his hideous spider lady, but the grace period is over. Time for me to step in and talk about how incredibly repulsive Bayonetta is.

Let me preface everything by admitting that I have not played Bayonetta – although I watched about 30 minutes of cutscenes and gameplay on YouTube for this – and as such, I am always open to the possibility of my mind being changed on some of these points. However…I doubt it.

Bayonetta is a creepy spider lady. She is completely ridiculous looking and tries to fool people into thinking she’s sexy by wearing glasses and an insanely tight outfit. And believe me, I’m a glasses guy, so it’s gotta take a lot for me to not give a free pass to a chick who wears them.

I honestly have no idea why Riddles was so desperately arguing in her defense. I had to devise a fucking veto system on the fly just to ensure that this chick wouldn’t snatch a top 5 spot. He argues that she’s one of the strongest woman characters in gaming.

I hope to fuck that this is not the case.

I mean, I know that gaming is about 15 steps behind in terms of gender equality, and that Bayonetta can hold her own in a fight and is definitely not a weak character. But nothing I’ve seen shows that’s she’s anything beyond serious faces, kicking people, and talking with condescension to children. Plus, it’s hard to make an argument for a strong character for a chick who fights in the tightest outfit possible with basically no back and a cleavage hole. No woman would ever, ever choose to wear that.

Also, I called her the Spider Lady even before I saw her in action when I watched some clips for this article. The woman’s anatomy is preposterous and terrifying, and her movements are creepy and – for lack of a better simile – like a spider. Maybe girls like Jessica and Tifa have bigger boobs than is generally realistic, but it’s at least feasible. If Bayonetta somehow spawned in the real world, she would collapse in a heap of legs and spider eggs.

I’m being a little harsh, and if someone were only shown her face and heard her voice, then they could make a valid case. However, as it stands, Bayonetta looks entirely silly, moves like an idiot, and has a perfectly fine strong personality, but nothing I see to be winning awards over. And above all else, she is definitely not sexy.

Also, her game looks completely ridiculous. The gameplay looks fun, and that opening scene is epic, but the voiceacting was either passable or terrible in the stuff I saw, and everything looked like nonsense.

So there you have it, Riddles. That’s what happens when you decide to move apartments during the week of Riddlethos’ birthday. You get your chance to defend The Spider Lady squashed.

Hey! Look! Listen!

Friday, February 5th, 2010

HLLfinal

I can’t wake up today. I laid in bed until 1:30 p.m, and I’m still not awake. A bit of an annoyance, to be sure, but I suppose there’s nothing to do but attempt to meet the day head-on in spite of myself.

…or what little is left of today, rather. Welcome to Riddlethos.com, everyone, and welcome to my twice-weekly (sorta) column, Hey! Look! Listen! More than a few things caught my eye today as I scanned my RSS feed, so without further ado, let’s get to the meat.

Damn straight.

IGN Reviews BioShock 2

Hoo boy, it really is almost here, isn’t it? The sequel to what remains my favorite game of this generation, and possibly, of all time. For the last few months, all the many reservations and concerns I had for BioShock 2 have been slowly melting away, and with the heralding of IGN’s written and video reviews, I can safely say that they’re gone. Check out IGN’s US review here and their UK review here. They awarded the game a 9.1 and a 9.0, respectively.

If the reviews are any indication, 2K Marin knew their source material well, and delivered a sequel accordingly. If that’s the case, (and I’ll know for sure in a few short days) then I can’t ask for any more.

No More Original Xbox Games on Xbox Live

Well, it had to happen eventually. After March 15, 2010, Microsoft will not be supporting online play for original Xbox titles. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing on an original Xbox or a 360.

Apologies to the (likely absurdly large number of) people still playing Halo 2 online. I’d almost like to get some official numbers on that. Having never even owned an original Xbox, (or a Gold subscription, for that matter – see the editorial below) this really is a no-never-mind affair to me.  I imagine that it might suck for a variety of other people, but seriously… the world has to move on at some point.

To read Microsoft’s PR spin on the matter, check out the original story on Kotaku.

bayonetta-witchYes, Bayonetta Was  a Commercial Success

Lots of publishers are in the process of reporting Fiscal Year result to this point, and Sega is no exception. And guess what, a certain Bayonetta was their second most popular game in the last nine months, second only to Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games. (Which really doesn’t count anyway.)

Reportedly, the game has sold 1.1 million units since its initial release in Japan. I brought up sequel talk a few weeks ago in this very column, and it’s only looking more likely now. (VG247)

Oh Shit: Disgaea Publisher’s Financial Fortunes Looking Grim

Any Disgaea fans out there? Yes? No? Possibly? I know I’m not one of them, but I bought the original game for my brothers a while back and they’ve been telling me to give the series a try since then. I also know a certain Shawn Cooper enjoys them quite a bit.

So, if you do enjoy Disgaea, or any game published by Nippon Ichi Software, you may want to be aware: in the first nine months of its current fiscal year, NIS’s operating profit is down an astronomical 97.5 percent.

Ouch. Big-time, major ouch. I’m too lazy to research in detail right now, but in the last nine months, has NIS release a single game in North America? The Kotaku article I read mentions several titles released in Japan, (Disgaea Infinite, A Witch’s Tale, another Phantom Brave) but not a single game that made it across the ocean.

Just an observation. (Kotaku)

Tease.Final Fantasy VII on PS3 Looking Less and Less Likely, Square Enix Hates Making Towns

Y’know, looking back, I’m forced to wonder why and how the gaming community became so convinced that a Final Fantasy VII remake for the PS3 was going to happen. They showed us a flashy video back in 2006 (which was probably little more than chopped Advent Children footage) called it a “tech demo” and like the hopeless fanboys we are, we latched onto the prospect of a glorious, HD remake, and haven’t let go.

Granted, Square Enix hasn’t really helped the matter; every time it’s brought up they say something to the effect of “yeah, that WOULD be totally awesome, wouldn’t it?” And yet, four years later, they’ve failed to provide such a remake, and they’ve failed to provide adequate an adequate reason as to why it wouldn’t/shouldn’t/couldn’t be made.

Until now, that is. Speaking to Ultimania Magazine, Square Enix big shots Motomu Toriyama and Yoshinori Kitase finally explained why a Final Fantasy VII remake isn’t feasible: designing towns in HD is just too much of a bitch.

No, seriously:

“It is a result of considering HD graphics will be the mainstream. Considering the amount of work to make graphics that deserve HD, it is hard to make towns in the conventional style,” Toriyama said.

“It is very hard to make games on PlayStation 3 in the same style as the games in that era had. Making graphics will take enormous time,” Kitase added.

Well, there you have it. I suppose this is why Final Fantasy XIII did away with towns altogether, eh?

Weak, Square Enix. Weak. (VG247)

I Want This

Yes, it's for real.

Yes, it's for real.

We’ve reached the end. You’ll note I didn’t include any clever remarks about how this column was somehow worse than February. And that’s because this column isn’t worse than February. February sucks ass.

‘Till next time!

Hey! Look! Listen!

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

HLLfinal

This is already a strange day.

Why? Well, for starters, I woke up at about 8:30 a.m. this morning. And… well, that’s about it. But frankly, that’s all it takes to make my day weird. For me, early morning is between 11 and noon. Sleeping in is waking up 2-3 p.m.

And  yet, here I am at 10:24 a.m, typing up the Friday edition of Hey! Look! Listen! Who am I? None other than your host, Oliver “Riddles” Motok. Love me or hate me… you have to live with me.

Well, no, you don’t actually. Charlie does. Since he’s my roomate and whatnot.

But that has nothing to do with anything, so I suppose we should move on to the actual topics of interest.

Final Fantasy XIII Collector’s Edition Revealed for PAL Regions

I suppose this was to be expected. Like every other even-somewhat-high-profile-release these days, Final Fantasy XIII will be given the Collector’s treatment for both PS3 and 360 upon its release on March 9. The set will include:

-A soundtrack CD with tracks “especially chosen for the Limited Collector’s Edition by composer Masashi Hamauzu.” (In other words, you’ll have to look elsewhere for the complete OST).

-The World a Final Fantasy XIII, which is a hardcover art book featuring… artwork from the game.

-Three “highly collectable” art prints of the Eidolons, Final Fantasy XIII’s summon creatures.

-A ‘Brand of the l’Cie’ decal.

FF13_SPECIAL_PACK_UK

Doesn’t sound like anything that breaks the mold. Regardless, it’ll probably be a nice set for Final Fantasy fans such as myself. This is only confirmed for Europe and other PAL regions at the moment, but I’m *fairly* confident we’ll see the same set – or something similar – here in the states.

I like this guy already.
I like this guy already.

First Online Mass Effect 2 Review to be Published Tonight

While I doubt it’ll make a whole lot of cosmic difference, the gaming world will be able to scrutinize a written review of Mass Effect 2 before its release this Tuesday. UK site NowGamer intends to post their review of the game tonight at 1 a.m GMT. They’re so excited that they posted an article announcing the good news.

Well hey, if Riddlethos was posting an exclusive advance review of one of 2010’s biggest games, I’d be excited too. (NowGamer via VG247)

Mass Effect 2’s Cerberus Pipeline for Free DLC Only

Remember last Tuesday when I talked about the Cerberus Pipeline, an in-game download service for Mass Effect 2? Apparently it won’t be the only way to acquire DLC. In fact, you can only get free stuff through Cerberus. If you want any of the game’s “premium” DLC you’ll have to navigate the Xbox Live Marketplace as per usual.

“It’s not going to be all free DLC for Mass Effect 2 — far from that,”  BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk told Joystiq. ” There’ll be paid DLC packs, and there’ll be stuff available through Cerberus as well.”

If BioWare took the time to design and implement a convenient in-game DLC hub, why wouldn’t they allow you purchase, y’know… everything through it, whether it was free or not? That’s the first thing that comes to my mind. In the end, though, I suppose it’s a fairly inconsequential thing. (Joystiq via VG247)

Spoil the First Eight Minutes of Mass Effect 2

And speaking of Mass Effect 2, here’s the first eight minutes, courtesy of… some German site translated by Google.

Note: If you can not be spoilers, and the first minutes of the game, people wanting to enjoy in front of the TV, the best clicks away again!”

Hee hee. Those silly Google-translated Germans. For the record, I did not watch this. I’m not shit scared of early exposure to games like certain Ethos’ are, but this is a little too spoilerific even for me.

bayonetta-witchBayonetta Will Probably Spawn Sequels and Spinoffs

Bayonetta is the most well-received new action franchise to come along in a good while, so of course the internet is already hot and heavy with sequel talk. The game’s director, Hideki Kamiya recently spoke to Game Informer about the possibilities of future Bayonetta titles, and here’s what he had to say:

“We obviously have love for the work we have created, so I don’t see anything wrong with Bayonetta 2. Personally, I’d like to approach the world of Bayonetta from a different angle, in the form of a spin-off.”

Bayonetta’s plotline is best described as a clusterfuck, but regardless, there’s more than enough backstory and mythology behind it to easily spawn spinoffs and sequels galore. The most obvious possibility would be a game starring Bayonetta’s red-clad rival, Jeanne, but that’s just one of a myriad of options.

Who wants to visit the Demon World this time around? Anyone?

Oh, and Sega: whatever you end up doing, can you make sure the PS3 version doesn’t suck ass next time around? (Game Informer via Kotaku)

ac2screen2Assassin’s Creed II DLC Dated, Priced

Who’s ready to play some more Assassin’s Creed II, eh? I know I am, and on January 28 I’ll be able to do just that. The first DLC pack is called Battle of Forli, and it tells the story of the Orsi brothers and their attempt to take control of the city of Forli. (That’s an actual historical event, by the by.) The DLC will include six new memories in total, and it’ll cost you 320 MS points. ($3.99).

Bonfire of the Vanities will release in February, and will feature ten new memories. For those interested, check out this video on Joystiq, which has Assassin’s Creed II Patrice Desilets talking all about the two DLC packs. If you’re like me, it will fill you with both joy and rage – joy because it looks like these DLC packs will be quite robust indeed, and rage because I still don’t understand why this stuff wasn’t part of the game in the first place.(VG247)

Wordpress says I’m closing on on 1000 words, so I suppose I’ll call it quits here. Look for the third part of my JRPG relapse in a few hours; Persona 3, here I come…


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.

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.

Bayonetta Review – Move Over, Dante

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

504x_bayonetta_box_artBayonetta has simply begged attention from the gaming world since the first details were revealed. After all, it’s not every day that a game features a female protagonist with guns on her feet, living hair, and an extremely flamboyant sense of sexuality. It looks ridiculous because it is ridiculous, but as senseless as it can be, Bayonetta’s silky-smooth combat mechanics and relentless pacing make the game a must-play for fans of the action genre.

I suppose I should attempt to explain what the game’s storyline is about.  I say “attempt,” because I know I’m not going to succeed – after playing the game from beginning to end, I’m still not entirely sure what happened in Bayonetta. The general premise is that Bayonetta, an Umbran Witch, has just awoken from a 500 year slumber, and is now trying to piece together her lost past. Apparently this process involves visiting a lot of strange, mystical places, and beating the crap out of a lot of celestial monsters. There’s an absurd amount of backstory as well, concerning two ancient clans that maintained the balance of the world, an illegitimate child who led to their downfall, and blah blah blah.

Bayonetta’s plot and storyline features a fairly intriguing mythos and some interesting concepts, but it’s told so poorly that you’ll never be able to make heads or tails of it. To be fair, their are some fun, and (oddly enough) touching moments, and the titular Bayonetta is undeniably charming. Sure, she’s ridiculously over-sexualized, but she’s also smooth, sexy and strong – no other female protagonists in gaming really compare to her. All in all, it’s really a bit of a disappointment that what could have been an almost Tarantino-esque epic fast devolves into a convoluted mess.

But what Bayonetta lacks in plot, it makes up for with action. The best aspects of Devil May Cry and God of War are combined in a combat system that’s incredibly easy to pick up, but almost impossible to master. Instead of opening with a tutorial, the game kicks off with a large-scale battle. After a few moments of button-mashing, I was able to get the gist of the controls, and handle myself competently. However, after playing the game for over twelve hours, I’m still no expert – the depth of Bayonetta’s combat is almost unbelievable, and in fact, it’s comparable to fighting games such as Soul Calibur. You’ll get a little better every time you play, and thanks to the game’s clever ranking system, you’ll want to get better.

You’ll soon realize that dodging and avoiding damage is key to victory in Bayonetta, for more than one reason. First and foremost, enemies are numerous, powerful, and deadly – get caught in a nasty combo attack, and you could be dead within seconds, so needless to say it’s best to avoid being hit at all. Second, if you dodge at the last possible second, you’ll activate Witch Time, which is essentially Bayonetta’s version of bullet time. Witch Time is a fantastic mechanic, and is often integral to victory – it gives Bayonetta a few precious seconds to deal some damage without fear of being hit, as well as affording an opportunity to collect herself amidst the more hectic battles. Playing on normal difficulty, I died quite a number of times in Bayonetta, and you probably will too. But the game never feels unfairly difficult or unbalanced; it just requires that players keep a level head and utilize all the skills at their disposal. Sloppy play is simply not allowed, and in truth, this is one of the main reasons that the combat is so satisfying.

BayonettaScreen1Bayonetta features quite a few boss encounters, and these are always memorable experiences. Much like Devil May Cry and God of War, bosses tend to dwarf Bayonetta in size, and require a healthy mix of attacking, dodging, and quicktime events to take down.  Quicktime events are occasionally annoying, particularly when failing them results in death, but this is a minor complaint. Few other games boast boss encounters as massive and epic as those found in Bayonetta – even the most seasoned action game veterans will walk away impressed.

But in addition to rock-solid mechanics, the combat in Bayonetta has a sense of style and flair that’s never really been seen anywhere else. Devil May Cry comes to mind, of course (DMC and Bayonetta share the same creator, Hideki Kamiya) but if you can believe it, Bayonetta is even more flashy and over-the-top. Magical attacks known as “torture” attacks show Bayonetta summoning guillotines, spiked coffins, and even chainsaws with which to punish her foes. Boss battles end with Bayonetta striking a ridiculously sexualized pose, and transforming her magic hair into one of several different oversized beasts, who then proceed to finish off the boss in a spectacular, gory fashion. It’s ridiculous, yes, but that’s what makes it so damned entertaining.

As you may have gathered, Bayonetta focuses pretty heavily on combat; there aren’t many other aspects of the gameplay worth mentioning. You’ll encounter a few simple puzzles to solve, generally involving the same few mechanics: turning cranks, slowing down time in order to walk on water or get through a door, and occasionally avoiding some traps. I certainly don’t mean to imply that the game feels stripped-down; the combat is really the star of the show here, and that’s perfectly fine – it’s more than enough to carry the entire game.

Bayonetta’s graphical presentation isn’t as impressive as, say, Uncharted 2, but it’s quite a pretty game nonetheless. Environments are attractive and varied, ranging from gothic castles to industrial complexes to trippy netherworld-ish zones. You may not know why the hell you’re anywhere at any given time, but chances are that you’ll enjoy the sites. The game features some fantastic animation work as well, particularly in the character of Bayonetta herself – both in-game and during the game’s many cutscenes, the witch moves with remarkable smoothness and grace, oozing sexiness all the while.

Speaking of cutscenes, it’s interesting to note that many of Bayonetta’s cutscenes are merely static scenes with voiceovers, often stylized to appear as still frames from a move reel. Clearly Sega had a smaller budget than the game’s slick production values imply. The static cutscenes are hardly an annoyance, but in this day and age, they really do seem archaic.

BayonettaScreen2The music in Bayonetta ranges from obnoxious pop tunes to epic synth-orchestra tracks. It’s not that bad, actually; the pop tunes are forgivable, if only because it’s clear we’re not supposed to take them seriously, which is in-line with the game’s over-the-top style. Voice acting ranges from passable to painful. Bayonetta herself isn’t bad at all, with her sultry, ridiculously British accent and steady supply of snooty remarks. Luka, the tenacious journalist isn’t bad either – he’s voiced by Yuri Lowenthal, one of my favorite voice actors. He doesn’t exactly amaze in Bayonetta, but frankly, with such a campfest of a script I’m not sure he could have done much better. On the other hand, characters such as Enzo the lowlife informant and Rodin the demonic shopkeeper feature some of the hammiest voicework I’ve heard in a while.

As long as you aren’t looking for a rich or serious story (i.e Uncharted 2, Assassin’s Creed II) Bayonetta is a must-play. The combat system is practically flawless, channeling and improving upon what’s been done in other franchises. Sure, you may have seen many of these mechanics before – but rarely do you see them executed so smoothly, and with such a unique sense of style. Bayonetta is something you have to experience for yourself; it sets a new bar for the super-stylized action subgenre. God of War III now has a very tough act to follow.

Bayonetta

Welcome to Bayonetta Faceoff Week

Monday, January 11th, 2010
Many thanks to GamesRadar.com. Couldn't have summed it up better myself.

Many thanks to GamesRadar.com. Couldn't have summed it up better myself.

Well, the holidays are over, the award weeks are over, and the new year has all but settled in here at Riddlethos.com. So, in many ways, this week represents a return to normalcy. And we could all use a little normalcy in our lives, now couldn’t we?

Now, I’m sure you’re all a bit confused as to what, exactly, this theme week will entail. If you think long enough I’m sure you could catch the drift, but just to save you all some time, I will explain: this week at Riddlethos, I’ll be weighing three different action franchises against eachother: God of War, Devil May Cry, and the recently-released Bayonetta.

What’s the point, you ask? Well, in the impressions I wrote for Bayonetta last week, I described it as a mixture of God of War and Devil May Cry. This comparison was subsequently stolen by several other sites as well, so I’m not the only one touting it.

That being the case, I decided I’d devote a week to playing all three franchises, evaluating them, weighing their strengths and weaknesses against eachother, and perhaps even announcing a winner. In order to do this, I’ll be spending varying amounts of time with:

Bayonetta (Obviously)

Devil May Cry 3 (Played and finished the first two; the third remains in its shrink wrap even after all these years…)

God of War II (Courtesy of the God of War Collection on PS3)

So. That’s the plan. Excited yet? Because you should be. The faceoff will kick off tomorrow with a full review of Bayonetta. After that, it’s anyone’s ball game…

Bayonetta: The First Five Hours

Thursday, January 7th, 2010
That's her name.

That's her name.

What happens when you take God of War, Devil May Cry and mix them together with a heavy dose of shameless sex appeal?

Apparently you get Bayonetta, because the above sentence pretty much sums the game  up. Or the first five to six hours, at least. But don’t get me wrong, this is hardly a bad combination – Bayonetta is a ton of fun to play, and earns its rightful place among the paragons of the super-stylized action subgenre.

Upon starting a new game, you’re instantly thrust into the thick of things, with a bombastic opening fight sequence. At this point the game offers no tutorial – you mash buttons, and watch the action onscreen as a narrator attempts to establish some sort of confusing backstory. Good luck paying attention to what he has to say – I certainly couldn’t. But if you’re like me, you’ll be having so much fun beating Heaven’s soldiers to a pulp that you won’t care.

In fact, that more or less sums up the storytelling present in Bayonetta. That is to say it’s difficult to grasp, and always takes a backseat to the game’s non-stop, frenetic action sequences. You’ll always be confused, but you’ll almost never care.

Why? Because Bayonetta’s combat is an absolute joy to partake in, for a myriad of different reasons. First and foremost, the titular character herself, Bayonetta, is undeniably appealing and likable, and not just because of her voluptuous features. She’s gorgeous, yes, (in a mildly creepy way) but she’s also strong willed, independent, and one of the most prolific female ass-kickers in the world of video games.  The game shamelessly plays up her sexuality with every opportunity, yet instead of feeling embarrassing or annoying, it just… fits.

I could talk about her all day long, but seeing her in action is the only way to fully appreciate her awesomeness. Bayonetta’s combat system is a triumph in design, because it’s incredibly easy to pick up and play, yet features almost unbelievable depth. And I know full well that every journalist says that about almost every game, but in the case of Bayonetta, it’s absolutely 100 percent true. It’s evidenced by the opening sequence of the game – no tutorials are offered, and enemies attack by the dozens, but I found myself handily shredding them within seconds. It’s that easy to grasp. It’s hardly necessary to master the game’s endless number of special attacks and combos in order to survive, but if you’re that kind of player, you’ll have a field day with Bayonetta.

You might have a bit of an easier time, too. I’ve been playing on Normal mode, and Bayonetta is consistently challenging. I initially wondered why the other two options were “easy” and “very easy.” Many defeats later, I think I understand. But unless you’re the type who frustrates easily, don’t let that deter you. Despite the many deaths, I’ve never felt that the game is unfairly difficult – it simply demands quick fingers, and an alert player. Let your guard down for a moment at a poor time, and most of the game’s many baddies can shred you in a single go.

BayonettaScreen1To win, you’ll have to use everything Bayonetta has at her disposal – and believe me, she has enough. Devastating combos, guns that fire with a speed that surpasses Dante from Devil May Cry, special “torture” attacks, and of course, a variety of evasive tactics. Also worth mentioning is “Witch Time,” which is essentially Bayonetta’s version of bullet time – enemies move in slow-motion for a few precious seconds, allowing Bayonetta to beat on them without fear of being hit herself. Witch Time can only be activated by dodging an enemy attack at the last possible second, so it’s not exactly easy to use. However, you’ll find it to be an essential tactic against the game’s faster enemies and boss battles.

Oh, and speaking of the boss battles: they’re huge, epic, and challenging. That is to say, they’re pretty awesome.

There’s a good deal more I could say about Bayonetta, but I’ll stop here for now. To sum up, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my time with the game. It’s stylish, fast-paced, and features an incredibly addicting combat system. The only reason I’ve put it down is to write these impressions. Look for a full review soon.