Let me introduce you to lady Bayonetta. By definition, one would call her a sexy she-devil, a demon from the underworld with such voluptuous curves she’d make your girlfriend flush with jealousy, force your elderly anatomy professor to go “what the?!” and make you… (clears throat) well, you get the point. Never does she stop to stand still, always killing monsters with her hell-pistols while dancing with the grace of a stripper and Ulala’s hyperkinetic sense of rhythm. And if you’re standing next to her, get ready to witness a whole new level of spite: you’ll be vilified by her tongue… in more ways than we care to describe. Well, that is if you’re not being shot, hacked, tortured, dismembered, minced, or crushed by other limbs of hers. Little point in saying that just watching her move is enough to make you cower in fear and develop an inferiority complex. Oh, forgot to mention her favourite hobby: she loves to sadistically rape angels and other religious figures… … … … stick around long enough, and you might even watch her go all S&M on the guy upstairs.
When Hideki Kamiya (“Resident Evil 2”, “Devil May Cry”, “Ôkami”) conjured such a character, he wasn’t just having fun, he was deconstructing videogames’ logic by embodying it in an artifact that exaggerates its flaws to such a point that they stand out, really stand out. Violence, sexuality and fantasy are the corner-stones of mainstream aesthetic – they define the crude objects which players most take pleasure in. By incarnating these flaws in “Bayonetta”, Kamiya simultaneously delivers a subversive critique to his medium, as well as a heartful homage, for underlying every pun he directs at his craft is a work of showmanship with such a level of grandeur, it transcends the very notions he so criticizes.
For one, there’s some of the most impressive visuals of this generation, thanks to Mari Shimazaki’s virtuoso goth-meets-baroque-meets-pop aesthetic, sculpted with absurd detail in its reliefs and arabesques, while overtly dealing a hard blow to all religious art. Then there’s the aureate combat, where every button combination awards you with ostentatious animations and abominable gore-fests, in a brawler system so intricate and complete, you’ll begin wondering what have Santa Monica and Capcom been spending their millions on for the past 10 years. And certainly, we can never forget the insane amount of citations spread across an immense variety of action sequences: like a certain plumber, one gets to defy gravity and climb walls whilst listening to “Fly me to the Moon”, play a “Space Harrier” shooter segment, and even drive a “Hang-on” motorbike chase. Everything screams unfathomed delight and excess, excess, excess, but also a profound admiration for the best and the worst videogame history can offer.
Like videogames, Bayonetta is superficial, camp and histrionic: she sells her body and her violent ways to charm players and gets little pay in exchange. However, unbeknownst to all, lies depth beyond measure. A thoughtful essay on our medium’s finest qualities and most nefarious of failings hides here, and by disguising it as an action game to end all action games, Hideki Kamiya got away with foul play and crafted the crowning opus of the very genre he so devilishly underpins. The result is a visceral, nihilist, over-indulgent, shamelessly voyeuristic, post-modern rant of the worst kind, parodic in every letter of its prose, repulsive and downright pornographic in its imagery. In other words, please welcome the new enfant terrible of videogames.
[Since this review comes late as hell, months after having actually played the game, and following several discussions on the very subject, I may have inadvertently borrowed random ideas, opinions or expressions from José Gonçalves, Bruno de Figueiredo and maybe even others. If such is the case, I hereby give merit where merit is due, and apologize them for the fact. Cheers!]