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TGS 2009: Hands-on: Bayonetta (PS3)


If you hope to impress the cultural sophistication and profound artistic merit inherent in the video game medium (ahem) upon a doubtful acquaintance, you probably shouldn't count on something like Bayonetta to help illustrate your point. Centered on the exploits of an improbably posh witch and her fashionable pair of gun boots, Bayonetta feels like the result of designer Hideki Kamiya answering every development question with, "Sure, why not?"

The game's hyper excess occasionally veers into the distasteful -- Bayonetta's clothing seems to come and go as it pleases -- but it mostly leads to situations that feel creative and surprising. Even a boss fight avoids routine by constantly changing pace: a battle on a bridge eventually becomes airborne after the whole structure is flung across the stage, and the ordeal isn't over until after a brief chase and a final showdown atop a winding set of stairs. Sure, why not?

Gallery: Bayonetta | 26 Photos

As silly as it all is, some aspects of the game are treated with care. Bayonetta's controls feel snappy and never drag behind the frantic action. It's an important thing to get right, since you're rewarded for quick evasion in the form of "Witch Time," a slow-motion phase that allows you to get in a few more hits before enemies get back up to speed.

As with Kamiya's Devil May Cry, Bayonetta's combat is concerned just as much with visual flair as it is with improvisation -- enemy weapons can be wielded with ease, and between Bayonetta's sword, guns (four of 'em!), acrobatic leaps and magical finishing moves (including a giant, summoned guillotine), there's rarely a chance to catch your breath and grow bored. Short attention spans, check in here.

You're also probably wondering how the PlayStation 3 version of Bayonetta has turned out. Based on the Tokyo Game Show demo, the Sega-developed port definitely fails a parity check against the Xbox 360 version. As a whole, visuals seem blurrier (possibly the result of a full-screen anti-aliasing solution) and less vivid. The framerate seems less affected, however, and still provides a perfectly playable experience. Unless the final version fares much worse, the graphical discrepancies shouldn't turn you off from what looks to be an excellent action game.

There's still a long wait before Bayonetta arrives in North America and Europe (it's out in Japan this October), so we can only hope that the crowded Q1 2010 schedule prompts Sega to jump the gun.

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