Everyone’s favourite Umbra witch is finally letting her hair down and is ready to unleash Hell on the Nintendo Switch. The question is, does the original angel basher still hold up almost a decade after its initial debut? And, perhaps more importantly, how does it play on the portable home console’s 6.2-inch capacitive touch screen?
When Bayonetta was first released way back in 2009, it was the title that really put PlatinumGames on the map. Previously known as the Capcom-funded Clover Studio, the Japanese team were responsible for games such as Viewtiful Joe and Okami before founding the big P in 2007. Key member Hideki Kamiya used his previous knowledge gained when creating Devil May Cry and evolved it into what Bayonetta is today. While it has never really been a huge hit in sales, the game’s reputation has been highly praised by critics and fans alike. So much so that she won a public vote in late 2015 to join the character roster in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.
To answer the first question, yes. Bayonetta still mechanically holds up very well indeed, along with a few slight but noteworthy improvements. The Nintendo Switch version runs at a locked 60 frames per second to keep the action silky smooth throughout. One huge difference lies in its loading time. It’s impressively snappy to throw you back into the action, making it even more convenient when on the go. The screen resolution may only be 720p when both docked and undocked, but the game still looks great regardless of how you play it.
For those that haven’t played Bayonetta before, it’s basically a scrolling beat ’em up at heart. It builds upon the fundamentals of old school brawlers such as Golden Axe and Streets of Rage and evolves it by making the most out of the third dimension. While the games from back in the day limited you with a small moveset, Bayonetta comes out guns blazing with almost a limitless bag of tricks.
The magic lies within its combo system. You basically have a punch, kick, and dedicated shoot button, and you can carry on your string in between melee attacks by holding down either punch or kick to fire off your Scarborough Fair handguns to keep the momentum flowing. However, you don’t just throw limbs and bullets at your enemies, as your hair is the most dangerous weapon of all. You can end a combo with a giant fist or foot made out of the wicked weave, by channelling your locks through portals to sucker punch the angels that stand in your way. In tackling much larger enemies, your hair will tie itself up to form a hungry demon of prodigious proportions. An incredible sight to behold, and a satisfying feeling indeed.
Along with your attack options, your main method of defence lies in your evade button. This allows Bayonetta to cartwheel out of the way of danger with the elegance of a gymnast. Execute a perfect dodge, and you will activate Witch Time – an ability to slow the movement of all that’s around you, so you can carry on spanking your enemies back to the heavenly gates of Paradiso from which they came from. There’s also plenty of stuff to unlock. Things like extra movesets to extend your attacks and weapon combinations that you can swap on the fly in combat. There are even accessories that provide special perks along with various costumes for every occasion. It’s a game that has been made to be played through multiple times to gain everything, with plenty of medals to grade you for your skills.
Most upgrades are purchased with the Halos that you beat out of your enemies. You spend them at The Gates Of Hell – a bar where a Morpheus look-alike named Rodin awaits. The Halos themselves have a striking resemblance to the rings from Sonic the Hedgehog games. However, it’s not the only reference to publisher SEGA. Alex The Kid, Eggman and some gameplay tributes to the legendary Yu Suzuki, based on classics such as Hang-On, Afterburner, and Space Harrier have their moments to shine. In fact, there are so many subtle easter eggs to find here, it may be worth looking up some that you may have missed once you finally beat the game.
However, despite being so close to perfection, Bayonetta isn’t without its issues. The camera can still go a bit skew-whiff at times, which can force you to have to adjust the Right Stick more often than desired in order to find a decent angle on the action. This can be quite fiddly as you obviously have to concentrate on nailing combos at the same time. The story itself is also very cringeworthy. That’s not necessarily due to the over the top flamboyant flair, although that does play some part of it. It’s more the case with the English voice acting. It’s absolutely dreadful in most cases minus Bayonetta – which happens to fit her character quite well.
I did, however, decide to play it with the Japanese voice language. This, surprisingly, made the whole experience so much better to the point that I wished that it was the default setting. Despite some rather incredible cinematic moments, the cutscenes can also outlive their welcome at times – more so at the beginning of the game. You do have a choice to easily skip them if you wish, which especially comes in handy with multiple playthroughs.
The biggest standout point is the enemies. An army of heaven’s angels that flip the conventional role of the good guys to make excellent opponents for Bayonetta. The gargantuan bosses in particular really drive the spectacle further with some of the most incredible character designs I have ever come across in gaming. Take Fortitudo for example, a double-headed dragon fused with the head of a Roman statue turned upside down and speaks from its underbelly. Even the names of the angels have style, with titles such as Affinity, Beloved, Grace, and Glory just to name a few.
Visually, it still looks the part. The character models mostly hold up well and Bayonetta herself looks as incredible as always. The animations of attacks are absolutely gorgeous, especially when you are racking up the hits with a flowing finesse. Some areas do show their age though and the colours can seem a little dull at times, especially in comparison to the more vibrant sequel. However, playing it in Handheld mode really shows the witchcraft of the Nintendo Switch at work.
It’s worth noting that if you purchase the physical copy of Bayonetta 2, you get this original adventure for free. However, purchasing each one individually grants you a discount on the other. As for amiibo, unfortunately, they aren’t supported in the original game. However, you can still cosplay the wicked witch with Nintendo-inspired costumes right from the get-go. I haven’t really gone into the fact that touch controls are an option, blatantly because its the inferior way to play and I can’t see anyone really using them.
Even after all these years, the original Bayonetta never fails to impress. It is stylish and sexy with a deep combo system for you to master. There’s so much to unlock giving you plenty of reason to go back, and the music is harder to get out of your head than putting a Rowntree’s Fruit Pastille in your mouth without chewing it. Needless to say, if you have never played the original Bayonetta, then what are you waiting for? For those who have, well, you probably already know how awesome the game is. So, again, what the hell are you waiting for?