Archive for November, 2022

A More Spoilery Narrative Review – Bayonetta 3

Posted in Grumblings with tags , , , on November 27, 2022 by chemiclord

I figured it would take me a hot minute to get to this. I do apologize to all five of this blog’s readers. But here we are, having absorbed enough and processed enough of Bayonetta 3’s narrative to offer some thoughts on it.

Firstly, none of the characters that you see in this game are the same ones as the first two outside of Rodin.

Luka suddenly has some sort of werewolf like ability? No need to explain why that is. It’s just a different Luka from a different universe! Same thing with Bayonetta apparently being so into him (and not Jeanne)! None of these characters are the same, so now we can completely toss aside character development and get right to what we want to do!

This is why I tend to not be a fan of “multiverses.” It strikes me as more of a narrative cop-out than anything else, even when done well, a way to dodge lore you already established rather than anything that particularly adds to said lore, and it is definitely being used as a cop-out to give Kamiya the characters he wants to work with rather than the ones that had developed over the prior two games.

Which is a bit unfortunate, because in this case, it’s a rare situation where a multiverse actually can somewhat make sense narratively. Bayonetta’s setting is the same “Dante’s Divine Comedy injected with a little bit of Norse mythology” in which these sort of shenanigans actually could work, and to an extent it does. Singularity is an interesting foe, and the decision to make the major threat something not angelic or demonic was a nice twist.

It’s just blunted by what seems the real reason Kamiya and his team went in this direction.

Which dovetails into one of the big controversies of this game; Bayonetta (or at least one of her iterations) deciding to shack up with Luka at some undetermined point before the game.

After the first two games, I always felt that your opinion of Bayonetta sexuality said more about you than it did Bayonetta. The character quite happily flirted and teased damn near anything with two legs and a sentience, and carried very little seriousness towards any of them. Even her flirting with Jeanne came across to me as more playful than serious. They had a far stronger emotional investment than a physical one, in my opinion.

But that’s my point; I’m a largely asexual flirt, and so I saw those same traits in Bayonetta… largely because the entire series never particularly hammers any of that down, and I’d argue actively avoids doing so.

If you wanted Bayonetta to be a flamboyant lesbian, you certainly had evidence to support that interpretation. If you wanted her to be a girl who talked a big game, but actually had little opportunity for actual relationships, and thus had no real idea what to do about her interest in Jeanne or Luka or anyone, that had quite a bit of evidence to work with too.

It’s actually the same here in Bayonetta 3. Despite her affections towards Luka to the point of actively having a daughter, she’s still the same flirt with a strong emotional attachment to her Umbran sister. The significant difference in this case is that we now have very overt evidence she actually knocked boots with Luka in a way we don’t explicitly have with anyone else.

And brings us to the final point I want to address; Bayonetta’s daughter Viola taking on the mantle at the end of this game, presumably to become the heroine of future installments. Now, I don’t have any particular problem with Viola as a character; really the only thing I found bothersome about her was how mechanically different she plays and how that can be jarring for someone who already has significant muscle memory for the dodge mechanics rather than parrying.

Viola’s punk rock motif can carry just as much “girl power” as Bayonetta’s big band swing style, so I’m not particularly worried that she’d necessarily betray or lose any of that if she were to become the main character in the future. But I’m also not the slightest bit convinced that the mother is actually out of the picture. In a world where death has already been proven to be more inconvenience than anything else, I don’t buy for a second that Bayonetta and Jeanne are inherently buried deep in Inferno forever.

(I will admit I want to see Viola get more screen time, if for no reason that to confirm my theory that Cheshire is Viola’s father either turned into a demon, or some manner of construct derived from that particular version of Luka.)

Anyway, there ya have it. Bayonetta 3, simultaneously a big deal in regards to the characters and narrative… and also, not nearly as much as you might want it to be.

A Spoiler-Free Bayonetta 3 Review

Posted in Grumblings on November 3, 2022 by chemiclord

Note: A more in-depth, spoiler-laden review will be forthcoming as I digest the details a little bit more.

So, after all the drama and spoilers and assorted nonsense, this (perhaps overly) anticipated game finally reached the mitts of the general public. It almost feels pointless to even have a spoiler-free review at all at this point, as quite a few things were already spoiled long before people outside of a handful of media outlets played it, but in this case, I think it might help to detach the story from the game for the time being.

Let’s be honest, if you were playing these games for the narrative… you were probably playing them for a different reason than Platinum Games and their head honcho made them.

Firstly (and let’s get this out of the way), it is not the same Bayonetta that you play in the first two games; thank you convenient narrative multiverse devices. In fact, the only character that is actually the same, as far as I understand, is Rodin. So, in that sense, a lot of things that might seem like ass-pulls at first glance in fact do have a story-based explanation. Not a particularly good one, but an in-game explanation nonetheless (we’ll get into more detail on that in the spoiler-ridden review, which might take me all month at the rate I compose blog posts).

Secondly (and let’s also get this out of the way), Hellena Taylor is a lying sack of human excrement who tried to manipulate what was, and is, a very real problem in the industry. It disgusts me how she will inevitably make it even harder for voice actors to get what they deserve in the future.

So, with that out of the way…

Mechanically, the game plays as well as it ever did. Combat is tight, yet fluid, and is probably the most gameplay-rewarding Bayonetta of the three. It feels really good to hit those combos just right, and the superficially similar foes (the homonculi and the angels really don’t play all that differently) still feel different and fresh; giving you benefit of a new experience that still rewards your muscle memory.

The more open world (because it is by no means open) is a nice touch to the linear experiences of prior games, and also serves to pad the length of a series that normally could be “full completed” in a handful of hours. As a result, the game doesn’t feel as fast-paced, which may be jarring for some but I found personally welcoming. Being able to backtrack (in a limited sense) was a welcome feature, especially to someone like me who hates just missing something a second before.

The new combat elements do take some getting used to. Directly controlling the demon beasts has a pretty rough learning curve, and the game doesn’t give you that much time to figure it out before making it really complicated. Someone not particularly used to managing two separate characters simultaneously will likely struggle.

The new character added to the game also takes some adjustment. Viola herself as a character isn’t the problem, and I don’t share the general sentiment of her being grating or unwelcome (I suspect that has a lot to do with her origins, which will be discussed in the spoiler-laden review). Mechanically, she is quite the deviation from the norm, and again, Platinum really doesn’t give you much time to get used to her idiosyncrasies before throwing you neck deep in some difficult fights.

The spy missions featuring Jeanne are a nice attempt to give her something unique to do within the story other than be a palette swap for Bayonetta, and while I appreciate the attempt, I think it’s a case of trying a little too hard to make her impact on the story and the game play different. Giving her some missions in the same way they handled Viola’s I think would have been fine.

The one part that is going to be rather wholly negative, and this really isn’t Platinum’s fault, is that we are definitely hitting the absolute limits of what the Switch’s hardware is capable of. Platinum does their best with what they have, but the graphics and frame rate do take some pretty heavy hits at times where there is a lot going on. Perhaps oddly, I think the game is more stable and pretty in handheld mode.

At the end of the day, if you’re not particularly playing this for the story, you’re probably going to enjoy the experience immensely. In terms of its play, it really is kinda like a Bayonetta+; it doesn’t sacrifice terribly much to give you more of what you already liked over two games, either by adding wrinkles to old systems or expanding the world to give you more to explore.

But if you were invested in the story and/or the characters… we’ll discuss that at a later time.