Game #1 – Bayonetta – Episode 1: First Impressions

Having Bayonetta serve as the first game ‘you probably missed’ can be questioned. For starters, it was very highly anticipated both in Japan and in North America thanks to those involved. The game was directed by Hideko Kamiya, the same man who helmed such classics as Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe and Okami. Platinum Games were the studio everyone was talking about because of its Capcom Heritage and it seemed that Bayonetta was the return of Japanese Hack-and-Slash action games that had lost its popularity in recent years.

But even with all that hype, Platinum Games hasn’t been that successful. In fact, they are known as making many games that just don’t manage to get the attention they probably should. As Clover Studios, their game Okami was praised by many but didn’t end up being a financial success, even after it was ported onto the Nintendo Wii. Their other games, Mad World and Vanquish got a lot of attention but neither sold that well; at least  not enough to warrant sequels.

It’s difficult to secure proper sales numbers, but from what can be found online, Bayonetta managed to sell over 1.35 million copies. This number might be fine for some, but considering this was a multi console game, that number is actually quite disappointing. There are a number of different factors that could be behind this. The weaker PS3 version, which was not developed by Platinum, was criticized heavily in comparison to its Xbox 360 cousin. While the 360 version was clearly the better playing version, the low install base of that console in Japan didn’t help sales. It was really noticeable when Japanese consumers were still buying the PlayStation 3 version at a rate of 2:1.

As for its failure in North America, there could be a number of different factors to point the blame. For starters, perhaps this game, which has a very strong Japanese flavor to it, just didn’t resonate with Western audiences. From the music to the characters, everything about this game points towards a more Asian audience. The other factor could have been its female protagonist. While Bayonetta is extremely sexual looking, with “librarian” glasses, long legs and other features, Western gamers, especially male gamers, don’t tend to flock to games with female leads. This has been a problem for a very long time. While Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft is an exception to the rule, even her influence in the gaming market has waned in recent years.

While Bayonetta might not have been as successful as its publisher Sega would have liked, thus far, my experience with the game has been quite enjoyable. Having just completed four chapters of the game, the first thing that stood out the most was just how beautiful it looks. Bayonetta looks good it also helps that the rest of the game is on parr. Environments offer a lot of variety, both indoor and outdoor settings, including good use of colors. Enemies are pretty varied as well but its the various mini-bosses that standout the most. Early on, I have encountered a good amount of different boss-like characters, each with their own unique look to them.

While the look is fantastic, this has been one challenging of a game. Dying happens a lot as boss characters can take a significant chunk of your health with a single hit. Although there are always markers that point out an enemy’s weak spot and they fight in patterns, you can die in as little as three-to-four hits. Also, replenishing health doesn’t happen enough unless you invest in health recovery items. It wouldn’t be so bad to have to replay certain stages if it wasn’t for some odd checkpoints. Too often the game restarts before a cutscene which forces you to pause the game in order to skip it. If you die more than once, having to do this time and time again is pretty annoying.

Thus far, the story has been hard to follow. The game cuts between past and present events, not always being clear as to the reasoning behind that particular situation. Also, some characters have been introduced with very little backstory. Chances are a lot of this will be explained as the story unfolds but it can be confusing if you happen to restart playing the game after a long period away from it.

With Platinum Games having two games in development for 2012 -Anarchy Reigns and Metal Gear Rising: Revengence- and Capcom’s re-boot of Devil May Cry, it seems only fitting to get into Bayonetta now. Hopefully as we move forward in the story, even more creative looking enemies make an appearance and the story becomes clearer.

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