Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away…well, more like a half hour away from where I live now, I clicked on an enchanting little thumbnail of a sexy little gaming vixen, pulling me into the delightful world of Bayonetta. I didn't really know what I was in store for when I opened that link that detailed the new IP starring a remarkably Sarah Palin-ish woman (deal with it, Platinum Games) with a whole lot of hair.
Upon reading the preview I remember thinking how much fun the game looked, yet remained reserved about Platinum Games’ and SEGA’s sultry heroine having any real impact in a genre dominated by A-Listers such as God of War and Devil May Cry. Sure, I’m all for giving the hopeful upstarts the old college try, after all I did play Too Human and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West at length and to some moderate satisfaction. But getting back to our brunette of ballistic bombardment, not one month after reading that very first preview, I placed a copy of Bayonetta into my Xbox 360 and two things became instantly apparent to me: Hideki Kamiya really loves the song Fly Me to the Moon (seriously though, who doesn’t?). And the gameplay completely rocks.
Presented as a title not to take itself too seriously, Bayonetta allowed gamers to focus on the fast-paced action combat style and truly experience how surprisingly polished it was. It was so polished in fact that upon beating the game for my first time, I made the bold claim that the quirky and daring new title had even surpassed God of War as the most solid gameplay in the genre. Story wise the stylish witch couldn’t hold a candle to Kratos, nor could her journey match the unmitigated brutality of the vengeful Spartan; but as an over-the-top action game with crazy-ass combos, fight sequences, and exciting boss battles, Bayonetta was the new queen in town.
Fast forward to the present day, where had someone approached me with news of a Bayonetta 2, my reaction would have gone a little something like this:
Some Guy: “Hey! Check it out, they are making a Bayonetta 2!”
Me: “STFU AND TAKE MY MONEY!!!”
Some Guy: “And it’s going to be a Wii U exclusive!”
Me: *loading his crossbow* “You’ve got a five second head start…”
And so this brings us to the crux of this piece, the big questionable elephant in the room of this recently announced sequel. While it is easy to chastise and lament over cruel reality, let’s first take a look at the less than obvious benifitsthis news holds.
Regardless of how Bayonetta 2 ended up on the Wii U, the sequel represents just what the new console needs; the more third-party title support the better. With over fifty titles scheduled for the Wii U release window, one can assume that company executives and developers alike believe that they are offering up a silver platter of quality titles. In actuality many of the games that will initially hit the new console are ports of already existing popular games with little to no tweaks whatsoever, or multiplatform titles that won’t be winning anyone over to buying a new system when they already own one or two that can play that respective game already. Personally, I love Batman: Arkham City but there isn’t a whole lot left for me to accomplish considering I’ve had a year to play it already. Releases like this serve the purpose of “well, I already have a Wii U so I might as well play it sometime.” Rest assured nobody is shelling out $300 to play a year old game with a pretty new cover and some tablet controls. Bayonetta 2 however will be a proper next-generation release and only owners of Nintendo’s first HD home console will be able to enjoy it…for now.
Looking back, there have been games of high honor, games that on their own merit can convince hardcore gamers to purchase a system solely for that title alone. With me as with many others I’m sure, Metal Gear Solid 4 reached into my bank account and helped itself to the price for one PlayStation 3 system. Bayonetta is no Metal Gear Solid - this goes without saying – but it’s the closest title that Nintendo has at the moment that exemplifies what must be done to put a Wii-U in living rooms. We all expect the usual first-party titles that Nintendo is famous for; Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, etc. But if Nintendo wants to make good on their promise of winning back the long lost “hardcore” fanbase, it will take the cooperation of impressive third-party developers as well. Nabbing games like Bayonetta 2 already is a move conducive to this goal, but scoring it as an exclusive is taking it one step further. Ultimately, everyone’s favorite witch with guns on her heels is but the pickle slice on the burger Nintendo needs to serve up to garner a strong fanbase for their next-gen offering. Constructing the rest of that burger, with the beef (a Metal Gear Solid or Elder Scrolls-caliber exclusive) and the buns (an Assassin’s Creed or Halo-caliber exclusive) is the key to establishing a presence of contention.
What this matter of exclusivity also means however is the next step in turning Bayonetta into a beloved series of successful games will be terribly stunted in its tracks. New generations can already be rough transitions, especially from a financial standpoint. While the new systems have already begun rolling in, expect many gamers to hold tight to their PlayStation 3s and Xbox 360s until the day they truly dwindle out of significance. Considering how long it took people to finally power off their PS2s in favor of the current generation systems coupled with the overall skepticism of the impact the Wii U will make with both the casual and hardcore crowd, it’s a safe bet Bayonetta 2 will be a disappointing yet acceptable pass.
Perhaps this is why Hideki Kamiya stepped back into a more indirect supervisor position and had character designer Yusuke Hashimoto lead the sequel as game director? Maybe, maybe not. This however is not to say that down the line into the next generation proper if a third installment is created it won’t once again breathe life into the series. After all there always seems to be that one game in every big trilogy that is fairly integral to the overall experience yet also forgettable. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune or Devil May Cry 2 anybody?
CEO of Platinum Games Tatsuya Minami may be convinced that a partnership with Nintendo will strengthen the Bayonetta core and put the game into more households around the globe, but it is the gaming community and the depth of our wallets that will ultimately validate these hopes. The most important thing here is that the development team over at Platinum Games will remain dedicated and stand by their product, though I’ve preached about integrity enough during the infamous Mass Effect 3 calamity. Wii U exclusivity will certainly benefit far less people than it will hinder, but eventually Nintendo might just figure out how close they are to the correct formula for success in the next generation.