In 2007 a supergroup of Japanese games developers was formed, in the space-eschewing PlatinumGames. It didn’t take them long to turn heads with games like Bayonetta and Vanquish – games so good that they need celebrating.
And celebrate they do, in this release marking their tenth anniversary.
While PlatinumGames made a splash – a bright red one – with their debut splatter-fest MadWorld on the usually family-friendly Wii, Bayonetta and Vanquish gave them more console oomph to play around with, gracing the PS3 and Xbox 360.
So, what are they all about?
We can imagine the original pitch for Bayonetta: “We’ve got a tall, long dark haired, pneumatically bosomed witch with a waist Betty Boop would kill for, tight-fitting clothing, guns at each hand AND foot, plus more kick-arse moves – both natural and supernatural – than an army of Buffy the Vampire Slayers. Oh, and with a voice and attitude akin to Supernanny on serious sassy pills.”
Yep, it sounded like a typically oversexed, spotty 14-year-old’s fantasy to us then, and it still does. It’s made us wonder where Hideki Kamiya, the bloke behind Bayonetta and, previously, the much-lauded Devil May Cry series, has his head, but meh, who cares? For beyond the cavalcade of stereotypes resides a game that’s actually really good.
Akin to Devil May Cry stylistically – a third person slash and maim ‘em up with exploration elements – Bayonetta goes for more of a fantasy-meets-exploitation flick vibe and pulls it off, from the jive talkin’, arms dealin’ barman Rodin, to the many snappy quips that leave our brazen, lollipop-sucking heroine’s mouth.
Being at heart a beat ‘em up, you could think combat would become repetitive. Not so, as whilst mashing will get you by on easier levels, play it on hard and you’ll need to master the innumerable amount of combos and special moves that three buttons manage to muster in order to progress beyond frequent deadness.
Putting our disappointment that there wasn’t an Aston Martin in sight aside, when we originally laid hands on this game we were soon well and truly on-board, realising that despite a distinct lack of four wheels shod in rubber, this Vanquish handled quite sweetly.
Earth. Future. Staccato. Sentences. The Cold War’s alive and kicking, as the US goes all space stationy to harvest the power of the sun, and those pesky Russkis intervene with a rain of deadliness that renders innumerable US citizens deadski. Who can save the day? Howsabout Sam Gideon, who bears the decidedly unfortunate acronym ‘ARS’ emblazoned across his more than ample chest? Apparently standing for ‘Augmented Reaction Suit’, let’s just simplify things and say he’s the guy you control, and he has hyper butt-booting powers thanks to super-engaging weapons systems that once learned allow both innovative and intuitive combat. Plus, he can shoom around on his knees like The Who’s Pete Townshend on rocket-powered steroids.
This ARS system not only involves rocket booster doobries in Sammy’s four lengthiest limbs, but also gives a heads-up as to wherever new power-ups may be. All this, wrapped up in an experience not a million miles removed from Gears of War, means third-person cover-based shooter joyfulness with a healthy injection of Japanese off-kilterness. This latter ingredient may just be down to one Shinji Mikami, best known as the creator of the Resident Evil series of games. Cred much?
In all Vanquish remains a stonkingly enrapturing experience – even if there’s too much movie and too little action at times. But hey, cutscenes are skippable, yeah?
While not going the full-on remastered route – the stylised graphics may be 4K on PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, but still have an air of last-gen – the key advantage to the duo hitting now-gen is speed. Bayonetta in particular ran like a granny originally, but now romps along with all the sprighliness that she deserves – and at 60 frames per second, too!
Good games stand the test of time, and both Bayonetta and Vanquish – packaged together, but installing individually – certainly remain as fun, engaging and incredibly stylish today as they did a console generation ago. Wrap your gloves around this one package and experience two different – and two superb – examples of unbridled Japanese gaming creativity goodness… sweeties!
Bayonetta & Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle is available now on PS4 and Xbox One.