Monday, March 5, 2012

Game Design: Gaming Challenge 1! - Bayonetta

Bayonetta is a rather peculiar game but an excellent game nonetheless. The overall look of the game is, for lack of a better term, very exaggerated. The game's titular character Bayonetta has greatly overdone proportions but done so purposely. The game has themes of light and dark throughout but mixes in rather cheery, almost pop-like music at times but it somehow all fits. Bayonetta's remix of the popular song written in 1954, Fly to the Moon is not something you would normally see in a video game, but somehow with the overall tone of the game it manages to fit in the sequences. 

The game's protagonist and playable character, Bayonetta

Because the game doesn't take itself seriously, it knows it doesn't want to be serious. It of course has some serious moments, which are quickly subverted later on and brought right back into light, cheery moments that this Fly me to the Moon rendition extenuates. You yourself are actual a witch, someone of the dark side so you essentially fight against creatures of light. It subverts light vs dark by putting you right away in the shoes of someone on the dark side. Not to say you're evil, in fact it is the light side that is "evil" in this game.

I am explaining how the game works so that the challenge itself will be understandable. Note: The only gameplay of mine is in the challenge video near the end of this blog.

Gameplay basics

On an actual gameplay level, the game is brutally difficult when it wants to be. You play as Bayonetta in an lighting paced action platform. You need very quick reflexes and be able to anticipate attacks by opponents because they can be very fast at times. Your controls consist of a jump, 2 attacks that can be combined with certain timing and directional inputs to form powerful combos, and most importantly the dodge button (on the right trigger). 

Gameplay from the japanese demo

This is the most important tool in your arsenal as it allows you to dodge most enemy attacks. Most enemy attacks, if dodged at JUST the right moment will trigger "Witch time". In witch time, time is essentially slowed, it's easy to see by the purplish tint to the background as well as a clock sound ticking as well as actual clock bordering the edges of the screen. During this time all enemies will be slowed and you can unleash your devastating combos on them. This is the most satisfying mechanic in the game as its truly necessary in order to defeat many of the bosses as it will be difficult to damage them at all without this mechanic. The concept of slowing down time in action games isn't new, but Bayonetta executes it so well and keeps the pace of the game always frantic and fun with it. It's completely necessary to have this mechanic in the game at least for the normal difficulties as it truly brings in the player with it's constant rewards.

Boss battle against Fortitudo, one of the first bosses

The appeal of the game is also in it's rather fantastic boss battles. You fight a variety of different giant creatures (I am not familiar enough with biblical symbolism to realize what they each represent) but they all represent something from the bible I am sure of it. Creatures range from enormous two headed dragons, to serpent like sea creatures, to giant mechanical monsters. The design of the creatures is part of their appeal as I haven't see anything quite like them. They are all representing creatures of light, but twisted in various ways and have a certain look that makes them stand out and say "We are in Bayonetta, not in any other game". The boss music in each battle complements the intensity of them all and in particular the one I will showcase has the best music in the game in my opinion.

Combat and Combos!

So what keeps one hooked to the game? Well for one the combat is always evolving, you are always unlocking new abilities and combos. You can of course stick to one combo and use that throughout the game but it's actually way more fun to experiment with new combos you've learned and combine them to create some truly flashy and amazing looking combos. Other abilities you get to purchase, some that will increase health, magic meter (Which can help use various abilities), purchase new types of weapons, abilities to turn you into cat form or bat form, some that will let you use witch time without having to dodge, etc. There are a ton of different items that will be able to change the way you play at any time and it really makes it fun to experiment with. 

Explanation of the Witch time mechanic

The weapons in particular are actually all quite different, each one providing different attacks, different power, speed, etc. You even get to mix and match different weapons on your hands and feet, giving you many combinations of weapons to play with. It’s this experimentation along with the increasing difficulty that makes the game really fun, it can be punishing at times but it’s a whole lot of fun to play and as you get better, it’s possible to go through entire levels without getting hit if you’re good enough.

An example of a slick combo a player was able to perform

Various items will also give you boosts such as absorbing one attack, slowing down time, etc. These cost magic meter which you have a limited amount of but can increase how much of it through upgrades. The only way you can get this matter meter is by consistently dodging, you don’t gain any from hitting enemies. You also lose a large amount if you get hit, so essentially your aim to do good in any level is never get hit, which is of course easier said than done.

Difficulty system

The difficulty system works rather typically at first, enemies get stronger and faster, though they don’t necessarily get more health. In fact I am pretty sure they don’t. It’s actually a really good difficulty system in that sense because in this game they don’t necessarily have to get smarter anyways, but for some bosses they actually do because they will learn how to dodge your attacks as well. The faster attacks, having to worry about a lot of enemies at once is always nerve wracking when they deal a ton of damage but so, so fun. Also to note is that the pacing of the game is excellent, there aren't any major difficult gaps suddenly (at least not that I noticed) although there are some hard enemies, it always possible to get by, by healing yourself (Though it will make your rank suffer, which I will explain later).

Temperantia, a towering golem like boss

The neat this is when you get to the hardest difficulty Non-Stop Climax (This is SUPPOSED to mean something dirty, intentionally), that one of the most important parts that has been with you in your journey throughout the other difficulties. Your dodge, no longer triggers witch time. You now have no way of slowing down the enemy apart from one item that will allow you to use witch time. This means you have to now face faster, stronger enemies while relying on no witch time at all. If you thought it took forever to kill an enemy before, try it without witch time to allow you to combo. Enemies won’t get staggered as much from your attacks as well (Also because the hardest enemies will replace the easy enemies even during the early levels and they in general don’t get staggered as much). This means you have to attack, dodge, attack, and time it right or you could lose 1/3 of your life from a hit. Even harder is the fact that there are more enemies in every area, as well as how I mentioned the harder enemies replaced the easy ones. It It’s brutal but it’s even more exciting than the other difficulties if you can keep up with the action.

Sapeintia, the sea boss. You get to fight it while surfing!

Luckily like I mentioned there are items that can still help particularly for this mode. The item that can block hits will be essential, the one that can trigger witch time will be, one will actually replace witch time with creating a sphere of energy that can deal a good amount of damage to your enemies. This item in particular is essential to beating the mode, since you need every bit of damage you can get on the enemies, this is your key to survival.

Ranking system

Example of a gold medal

Now, in Bayonetta you are ranked in every level (stage) based on how you performed. The catagories are how long it took, the amount of points in chaining combos you were able to perform, and how much damage you took. These can be rather difficult to achieve based on the stage. If you get all three platinum rank then you get a pure platinum medal for the level. Various combinations of different ranks in each category will change your changes of different medals, but it goes from stone, bronze, silver, gold, platinum, pure platinum.

The Challenge

Now, I’ve explained just how hard and fast paced this game can really get and how the ranking system works, so now I can get into the challenge I made myself. Now the last time I played this game was apparently in December 2010 according to I myself doubt it was THAT long ago since I probably tried to replay it before. But let’s just say it’s been a fairly long time since I played the game, over a year. My challenge is to see how long it will take me to get a platinum medal on one of the last boss stages.That means I am allowed to get hit once or twice, fair, given the pace of the game. I am going to go on the hardest difficulty and see how many tries it might take me to get the platinum medal I want.

Last time I played apparently at the end of 2010

Now I've played again in 2012!

So enough talking, let’s see how long it takes me to get it and if I still have the skills I once had in Bayonetta!

Watch me take on the challenge after over a year of not playing!


It looks like it didn't take too many tries to beat the challenge. I was hoping I could get it in the first try but wasn't quite up to it. Oh well!

Bayonetta is by far one of my favourite action experiences of all time, in fact this game is one of my favourite action games of all time because of the entire pace of the game. It’s just so darn fun and exciting, brutally difficult at times but so exciting. Going for the platinum or pure platinum medals was always engaging and fun due to the rapid pace of the system and the amount of combo potential you could have. If anyone hasn’t played this game I suggest you do, it’s a game that any action fan needs to try. Note: (By the way the boss I fought won’t give any spoiler alerts despite him being near the end of the game).

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