Home Upcoming Reviews About
Ethos and Riddles talk about video games...
            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.

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…

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…