Bayonetta – Retrospect

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Why the recent rumours of Sega's cancellation of Bayonetta 2 spells bad news for gamers.

Bayonetta was a thing of beauty, a majestic game that didn’t just raise the bar for action titles, but did it with its own inimitable style and cocky, self-assured humour.

It overflowed with memorable set pieces, threw out new and exciting ideas, and somehow breathed new life into concepts we’d all experienced a hundred times before. It’s almost impossible not to imagine how good Bayonetta 2 could have been.

Videogame sequels, unlike their motion picture equivalents, usually enhance the reputation of a franchise. You have a team who’ve already created a successful game, an engine that’s already up and running, and a better understanding of exactly what it is that makes your characters tick. To coin a disgustingly overused phrase, sequels are ‘bigger, better and more badass’.

The original Bayonetta raked in accolades from the gaming press, vaunted for its electric fighting styles, its camp aesthetic and its refusal to take itself too seriously. This was everything we wanted our Japanese brawlers to be – lithe, hideously violent, difficult to master and full of moments that made your jaw hit the floor.

More than that though, Bayonetta was an irreverent masterpiece. Unafraid to play around with the foundations of its genre, it threw in homages to Space Harrier, OutRun and Afterburner as it did. Its impossibly long limbed protagonist might have been the focal point, but this was a game filled with interesting characters, breath taking settings and cheeky nods in the general direction of the rest of the games industry.

What shone through most was a development team brimming with confidence, unafraid to try new things. Bayonetta’s swagger belongs to them, her cocksure attitude a reflection of Platinum’s ability to work their digital magic. She is as graceful as she is brutal, as funny as she is quick to anger; a hyper sexualised avatar whose screen presence is more formidable than any muscular space marine or identikit solider.

Bayonetta gave us an action game without equal. From the lowly minions to the towering bosses, every creature you killed was honed to perfection, its patterns difficult to recognise, its weaknesses veiled until the precise moment you needed to strike. Behind the bloodshed and the chaos nestled a rhythm, a unique syncopation that had to be mastered in order to succeed.

And now it seems we’ll never see her like again, with a planned but unannounced sequel being shelved by Sega due to restructuring after some pretty disastrous financial results. Gaming is a business, despite what many think, and a stable ship is far more important to a publisher than critical acclaim.

Losing Bayonetta 2 isn’t just losing the next chapter in an intriguingly ridiculous story; it’s losing the next step in Japanese action games. Who knows what Platinum could have done with the critical success of their first outing ringing in their ears, and the added confidence of knowing there was a market waiting with baited breath for their next?

Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll never know, and all we can do is imagine just how good it could have been.

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