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A Pose By Any Other Name - Gospel of Exodus
January 12th, 2010
03:15 pm

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A Pose By Any Other Name
Whoa, what now? Another review already? Why, yes!

Alright, I'll confess: I love hack and slash-athons to death. I loved Devil May Cry and (almost) all of it's children, even the bastard children like Chaos Legion and Bujingai, starring Gackt. If you get to wield a huge weapon, run around and kill countless numbers of mooks in a stylish manner and are graded on how well you kill them, I tend to be all over it. I don't know what it is, I just love my violence I suppose. So when I heard that the creator of Devil May Cry was making a brand new game, I lasted maybe 2 hours before I caved in and bought it.

Before I go any further, I want to provide a link to a very well-written article by a female gamer on the subject of Bayonetta's hyper-sexuality. This article actually addresses a number of issues I tend to have with female characters in games, namely how many of them are little more than eye-candy as compared to being competent, capable humans who don't need to be rescued at least once or twice. I have always wanted to see a strong female character whose strength is not a cover for her inner fragility or lack of confidence in herself, and needs some strong male to come along and show her that she doesn't need to act strong or some BS like that...and Bayonetta provides wonderfully.

So first, the story. In the world, there are two factions of magic users: the Umbra Witches and the Lumien Sages. The Witches hold the power of dark, and the Sages hold the power of light, and together they hold the balance of the world, steering it in the right direction...or at least, they did. some 500 years ago, the balance was broken when a Witch and a Sage had a child together, and everything fell apart after that. The Witch Hunts began, and every Witch and Sage was killed as a result...or so it seemed. Bayonetta is a Witch who woke up in a coffin at the bottom of a lake with no memories of her past, but with the knowledge of her magical powers. She now makes a living killing angels as she tries to find out more of her past.

Hideki Kamiya's style is apparent right from the get-go. There are plenty of scenes of Bayonetta hopping around gracefully, killing dozens of angels, making her own commentary and clearly loving every minute of it. It's everything I missed from DMC4, without all of the bad. The world is, without a doubt, a woman's world: the male characters of either bumbling fools who dance at the whims of the ladies, or (in the case of Rodin) a stalwart sidekick who clearly plays second fiddle. Bayonetta herself is admittedly a very hyper-sexualized character, but she also exudes a confident demeanor that is a weapon in itself. There's no hesitation or weakness in her - the only time she hesitates is when she doesn't know what's going on. Rodin is your shopkeep, who sells you new techniques, items, makes new weapons for you, and pretty much otherwise plays housekeeper while making witty dialogue. There is Luka, a reporter far too full of his good looks who is trying to prove that Bayonetta is a killer, and Enzo, a Mafia man who deals in information. Then there is Jeanne, another Witch who appears now and then and seems to want to provoke something out of Bayonetta, from somewhere in the depths of her memories.

Combat is much like we've come to expect from a DMC-style game. You get two attacks, a 'punch' and 'kick', and can alternate between the two to make a bunch of different combos. You can also shoot, but shooting does such pitiful damage it's not ever worth it, and most enemies actually will block your shots anyway! The game puts the focus on melee. You get a number of different weapons, and here's the fun part about them. You have two equipment slots, one for punch and one for kick, and can equip weapons to either. Some weapons are punch only, some are kick only, but everything else can be equipped to either. You can have two equipment sets and can switch between them freely with L2, even in the middle of a combo, giving you a nice range of style to utilize. Then there are the special abilities, first of which is Witch Time. This is akin to bullet time, but it isn't something you activate manually. Instead, you get a few brief seconds of Witch Time when you dodge an attack at the last moment - the closer to the hit you dodge, the more time you get. During this, enemies move slower and you deal slightly more damage, plus you can knock enemies back that can't normally be. Careful, though, because some enemies will actually cancel out your Witch Time, which makes battles hard. Then there are Torture Attacks. These are done when you have a Magic bar filled, and are a brutal way to deal a bunch of free damage. Then there are Wicked Weave attacks, which are done as part of the end of some combos. These are larger attacks that cover a wider range than your normal ones and deal more damage. Finally, there are the Infernal Demons, summons that you execute to finish off bosses. These tend to be fucking awesome, if not also incredibly brutal.

Brutality is an unexpected part of this game. DMC was certainly violent and had plenty of blood, but the brutality of this game boarders on pornographic in its delight. I'm sure many of you know that I have little stomach for gore, and get sick at the sight of it easily. Well, I won't deny that there are some Torture attacks where I was almost ready to look away, There's plenty of blood everywhere, and the Infernal Demons tend to rip their enemies to shreds violently and bloodily. But even if it did make me feel a little on the unsettled side, it is all part of the style of the game, which I feel is important. Also? first time ever in a game where people have used the work 'fuck' multiple times and done it in a way that feels natural. There is a lot of swearing in this game, but the writing is by no means poor. It all feels quite right, and isn't done to excess (I mean, if you saw a missile coming towards you, wouldn't you say 'Oh, fuck me'?). I applaud the writers for their usage of language and not going overboard with it.

Now that I've lovingly depicted this game as a masterpiece, let me stop and put up my qualms about the game. First of all, it's hard. This is not so much a complaint as it is a statement of fact. If you ever played DMC1, then you probably remember how goddam hard it was - the first boss took my about 20 tries to beat, and even then it was by a sliver. Bayonetta is just as hard, with a ton of enemies, very few healing drops, and a style of play that forces you to be almost getting hit all of the time. It's a challenge, and I personally found it to be an enjoyable one, but expect to get frustrated at times. Secondly, the loading times for this game are atrocious. Everything about it points to that there should be some way to install data on the HD to shorten this, but I can't figure it out for the life of me if there actually is one. There is little lag during the actual gameplay or in the middle of the missions themselves, but even just opening up the menu or pausing the game there is a fairly long load for such a simple process. When loading the stage or going into the shop, you are at least treated to a small arena where you can freely practice combos, but it's still a little frustrating. I would say this is the biggest downfall of the game, because it really breaks up the flow. Kamiya's previous titles have all been very smooth in their loading, so it troubles me to see delays of this magnitude. My only other complaint is trivial, but I'm putting it out there anyway: If you didn't like "Fly me to the Moon" before this game, you may not like it after it. :x A remix of it is used as the main battle theme, and I've found it stuck it my head for a while.

I won't say much more, because there isn't much more to say. It's a style of game that you either play or don't, there's really no middle ground about it. If it hadn't been for the bad load times, I would have loved the game to death. As it is, I simply really like it a lot, which is only two notches down. Now I'm going to go back to playing it. <.<;

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