From the first released trailer to the ending credits, my Bayonetta experience was a roller coaster of emotions. I laughed, I scratched my head, and I threw up in my mouth a little bit.
The first glimpses of Bayonetta gave the impression that the game would be an immature sex-fest for the average young male gamer to play while locked in his room. For a while, I couldn't visit a gaming website without seeing Bayonetta's face, butt, or both, and practically developed migraines from my constant eye-rolling at every mention of the one-handed "Very Easy" mode. It was the epitome of lazy marketing: Using blatant T&A to sell a game.
Since I've learned not to judge a game by its trailer (which should be the new expression), I gave the busty witch a chance. The result both pleasantly surprised me and triggered more migraines.
Bayonetta, a character I initially despised for being such an in-your-face depiction of hypersexualisation, proved to me that her sexuality works in context. A ridiculous action game deserves a ridiculous hero, and the long-legged, sass-talking Bayonetta certainly delivers. When surrounded by magical guillotines, 3m long chainsaws, and weapons that double as stripper poles, the caricature that is Bayonetta fits in perfectly.
A popular topic of discussion is whether Bayonetta's flagrant sexuality is demeaning or appealing to female gamers. Well, I must admit that the idea of "The bigger the move, the fewer the clothes" is a truly stupid excuse to get a character naked. Plus, come on, the camera didn't need to zoom that close to her nude… ahem, pelvic area. But even the things I dislike about Bayonetta don't offend me in the least as a female gamer.
Not only did Bayonetta grow on me, she appeals to me. The way she works her curvaceous, ba-donka-donk butt actually makes me feel better about my own booty, plus she rides motorcycles, clearly sharing my obsession for two-wheeled speed. Bayonetta's elegance with her elongated limbs is also to die for. From tearing apart enemies (to what I assume is upbeat Japanese elevator music) to her développé of the leg when pulling levers, everything she does is graceful. As a dancer, I can''t get enough of it.
That being said, my approval of Bayonetta in context doesn't mean the game is without flaws that take away from how hilarious the character could be. While it's easy to wrap up Bayonetta's body, power moves, weapons and dialogue into a neat little package of nonsense, there's one major weakness that detracts from this cohesion: the storyline. The game's gaping plot holes and poor storytelling are what truly make it worthy of the term "mind-numbingly absurd".
Bayonetta seems to be another case of a game not entirely knowing what it wants to be. Is it a tongue-in-cheek comedy with a horrible, confusing storyline? Or is it complex, intelligent fiction with a preposterous heroine? The plot ends up taking itself a bit too seriously, and this hinders what could be hilarious satire. When you allow your main character to be flattened Looney Tunes-style by a falling object, you've just obliterated any hope of being taken seriously.
Take the "machine gun leg" in Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror. It was hysterical because the story surrounding it was completely over-the-top; nothing needed to be explained. But Bayonetta's cast spends a painfully long time trying to explain the mystical prophecy of the "Left Eye", and it still never quite makes sense. With such a weighty storyline, Bayonetta at least needed more character development. She has solely two dimensions: magical ability and forced sexuality. It's disheartening that, in a world where video games are considered art, we're still getting shafted with shallow characters that would be rejected in any other medium.
But if "shallow" is truly the game's intent, then Bayonetta's sex appeal is no more outrageous than Marcus Fenix's beefiness. Surprisingly, most males I've discussed the game with don't find Bayonetta arousing, but do agree that the game is gorgeous and fun as hell. Using sex to sell games is nothing new, and thankfully, Bayonetta offers something more than just "hot chick with guns". Overall, I respect the boldness of Bayonetta's character, but wish the creators had pushed the envelope of comic relief even further.
…And seriously, I hope Frank Sinatra's undead zombie eats the brains of whoever is responsible for that "Fly Me to the Moon" remake. Sheesh.
Lisa Foiles is best known as the former star of Nickelodeon's award-winning comedy show, All That. She currently works as a graphic designer and writes for her game site, Save Point. For more info, visit Lisa's official website.