Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bayonetta for PS3: Final Review

Perhaps if I were to unleash some temporal witch power on it, my situation would suddenly improve. - Bayonetta

I've tried that trick before, Bayonetta, and it has been known to work. I refer to my “temporal witch power” as PMS, though, and my husband is on to the excuse, so it's not as effective as it used to be. are every woman, like Oprah, only you shoot angels rather than talk about them.

No, I take that back. Bayonetta is more than every woman. She's the woman who walks into a party and makes everybody stare. She's the woman with the inappropriate outfit on – the kind of outfit that makes other women whisper and makes men stupidly gawk. She's the mysterious, bitchy woman other women secretly want to be like, but also fear. She's smarter, stronger, and sexier than anyone else; she's manipulative, powerful, fearless, feisty, witty, and bold. She makes men look pitifully immature and idiotic, especially that Luka guy, the one that looks like Viggo Mortenson with the unfortunate looking homecoming-queen up-do hairstyle.

Bayonetta is a witch who fights angels. Such fodder for feminist analysis!

But, really, Bayonetta is the reason to play Bayonetta, despite the fact that she represents a cocktail of potentially offensive female stereotypes based on myriad male sexual fantasies. This is the first character-driven game I've played....a game with a character that's intriguing when the plotline isn't. Bayonetta's special abilities make the game interesting when most of the game mechanics seem typical; run around, find objects to smash, and fight things. The game becomes fun when you make her run on walls and ceilings and realize you no longer know which way is up. The game becomes satisfying when you learn the dozens of fighting moves she can perform using her hair and her shoes and all those fancy weapons Rodin dives into the inferno to obtain for her. The game becomes compelling when she can slow time to kick angel butt or cross bridges before they crumble. The game becomes beautiful when Bayonetta shapeshifts into a butterfly with every double jump. The game becomes goofy when she blows kisses at doors to make then open or when she catwalks like Giselle while shooting angel heads out of the sky.

While playing Bayonetta I've also been reading Y The Last Man, a graphic novel written by Brian K. Vaughan which is about how women carry on after all males on the Earth die....except for the one spared man and his male monkey pet. Between Bayonetta and Y The Last Man I've had women on the brain and, geesh, we're a complicated bunch. We want to be so many things simultaneously. While I bristle at Bayonetta's overt sexuality mixed with her brazen attitude, she makes me think about the tightrope women walk between the realm of angels and witches. We want to be both and we want to be neither and we don't really know which one men prefer, either. Is Bayonetta the ideal woman? Someone not afraid to fight, who wears nothing but her own flowing hair, who wants to hang out with Rodin in the bar but still has those quirky glasses to show she's not just street smart, but book smart, too? Can you take Bayonetta home to Mom?

Love her or hate her, she's interesting, and it's a good thing because the rest of the game really isn't. I had to read the plot on Wikipedia to actually understand what was happening and I'm still not sure I get it. From Wikipedia, if you're curious:

The title character is a witch who shapeshifts and uses various firearms, along with magical attacks she performs with her own hair, to dispatch her foes. She awakens after a 500 year sleeps and finds herself in an unfamiliar area with no memories of who or what she is. Over time, she begins to remember what caused her current predicament. 500 years before the incident that caused Bayonetta's memory loss, there were two factions preserving the balance between darkness and light in the world—the Umbra Witches, who are followers of darkness and their counterparts, the Lumen Sages, are followers of light. The factions shared two distinct treasures, the 'Eyes of the World' that were separately named the 'Left Eye' and the 'Right Eye', which they used to oversee the just passage of time. Both factions mysteriously disappeared from Vigrid under unknown circumstances. Bayonetta still has an ornate piece of jewelry which contains a small red gem, and believes this gem is the 'Left Eye' of the 'Eyes of the World'. While searching for the "Right Eye", she often receives flashbacks that make her remember what caused her current predicament.

She fights a bunch of virtues (bosses) only to discover that her Dad is the ultimate bad guy...another interesting Freudian choice.

All of this leaves me with one question. Where is my chick flick video game? If Bayonetta is Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider, where is my Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy? If you equate movies to video games, where's the romance? Where's the historical drama? Where are the romantic comedies? (Maybe Monkey Island counts?)

I want Pride and Prejudice in video game form. I'm not sure what the game play mechanics of Pride and Prejudice: the Videogame would be quite yet, but as soon as I figure it out, I demand that someone make it. I'm tired of heaven and hell, elves and dwarves, slimes and amulets. Stereotypes be damned! I need a good chick flick game. Any suggestions?

Alas, Ben describes my next game, Final Fight (arcade), as a "Bro-op," which sounds like the opposite of a Chick Flick game. We will be playing the whole game together, though, so that should be fun. We're going to count how many quarters it would take for me to beat the game in an actual arcade. How much money, do you think?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bayonetta for PS3: First Impressions

If you haven't seen this game, take a look. This is one of the prettier scenes I've come across:

Some old Greek quote I read once states, "He who suffers much will know much." This video game project has shown me the truth of that statement. I had to suffer through God of War III so that I could know what to do when faced with hordes of nasty enemies and quick-timer events. I had to suffer through Dead or Alive: Xtreme 2 so I could know that there is worse sexism in video games than this. I had to suffer through all those puzzle games to appreciate Bayonetta's ease of exploration. I had to suffer through Dragon Quest's strange religious angel story so that I could….endure another?

OK…so maybe the word "suffer" is a bit hyperbolic. It's not like I'm being forced to sit through every episode of
Two and a Half Men or American Dad. That would be suffering. This is just “a single-player third person 3D action game” in which “the player controls a witch named Bayonetta, and, using both melee and long ranged attacks, complex combo strings, and multiple weapons, is encouraged to explore ways to dispatch angelic enemies with as much flair as possible.” (Wikipedia said it better than I ever could).

So not exactly torture. Still, I've definitely begun to notice that each video game experience builds upon the next. My video game "vocabulary" is growing! That may not be enough to make me really enjoy playing every type of video game, but it does make my gaming experiences continuously easier. For me, easier means more enjoyable. So far (albeit, on easy mode)I haven't gotten lost or stuck and I haven't allowed the enemies to frighten me or stress me out because I know from past experience that the enemies are not as impossible to beat as they appear.

Bayonetta is like a "babe" version of God of War III, but with prettier, more interesting cut scenes, fewer obnoxious puzzles, and little extra artsy details that make Bayonetta a lot more fun for me than God of War III. However, if Bayonetta had been my second game assignment, like God of War III was, I don't think I would have enjoyed it at all – proof that my past suffering has aided my present experiences. Still, I could have SWORN I played three hours of Bayonetta, but my save file shows I have only played a little over one hour. How time can slow so dramatically while I play video games is beyond my comprehension.

There was an exact moment in my academic life when I realized I could no longer coast. In other words, school had always come pretty easily for me.Writing papers was an almost robotic exercise of finding a thesis and writing its subsequent five paragraph essay. My goal as a student was to figure out exactly what the teacher wanted and then give it to them. Easy. I coasted on that for many years (with a few math bumps along the way). Then I met a professor I desperately wanted to impress and he wasn't so easily satisfied with my work. First, I had a really hard time figuring out what he wanted, exactly, and second, his expectations were a lot more difficult to meet, not to mention, exceed. I could no longer coast by on shallow answers, facts ripped off from other people to suit my purposes, and generalized responses formulated from other people's opinions and my own brief summaries of them. I had to think...
the kind of thinking where you can feel your brain inside your skull. I had to find an angle no one else had thought about and then I had to analyze and critique and research the heck out of it.

I have reached that same point in this project. I have worn out the easy gut responses to these video games. I can't fall back on the I-hate-puzzle-games/this-game's-story-sucks/I-suck-at-playing-video-games/turn-based-fighting-is-pretty-boring-unless-I-can-name-my-party-after-famous-basketball-players discussions any longer. They've become worn. They're done. I actually have to figure out what Bayonetta is really about a what I actually think about it. What makes this game different from other games? Why is it worth (or not worth) playing? Would I want my son to play it someday? Would I ever want to play it again? Why, exactly?

And discovering the answers to those questions while finding an "angle" is a lot harder to do…and more time consuming.

To make matters more difficult, some games have been really easy to discuss...something about the game will sort of hit me and I will feel inspired to write about some particular element. Nothing has really jumped out at me about
Bayonetta. I have tried to recollect the first time I laid eyes on this game because that was the most fun I had with it. I remember Ben calls me in from the other room. He says I need to see this crazy game. I remember the impact that tall, black-jumpsuit-strutting, long red-streaked pony-tailed Bayonetta made on me when she first appeared on the screen. She struck a model's pose, then hip-waggle-walked around , gun pointed straight ahead. Bayonetta is one of the most powerful, dangerous female images I have seen on a screen and she was staring me down from behind her surprising thick-framed glasses. Then, as I watch Ben play, this woman turns into a purple ethereal butterfly when she jumps. She shoots bullets from her gun-boots. She bludgeons a bunch of creepy angels. Then, through some crazy witch-magic her jumpsuit is actually made out of her hair. This game is crazy! My instant impression was both, wow, she is mesmerizing and, wow, she is disturbing! Is she beautiful or is Her neck and face are a little funky but her body is female perfection. I can't quite place her accent and I can't tell if she's a model of female empowerment or the embodiment of every female stereotype every created - from the sexy librarian to a whip-wielding dominatrix to the ultimate Bitchwitch.

In short, I haven't figured out this game's angle yet and I'm not sure if it has one. Bayonetta exists somewhere in between”This game is awesome and interesting!” and “What the heck is going on and why is her hair swirling around her naked body?!”

So far, this is what I've decided. Best thing about
Bayonetta? The loading screen that lets me practice fighting moves while I wait. Thank you, game, for keeping me busy during loading times. I hate to wait and you have occupied me during those dangerous times when I want to turn off the console. Worst thing about Bayonetta? I'd have to say Enzo. He's a stupid character with an obnoxious accent and a filthy dirty potty mouth.

Speaking of potties, I wonder sometimes if I want to have another child. Going back to the idea of suffering, I've gleaned all this parenting wisdom and experience with Jhonen, my first and only child. If I don't have any more children it's like those temper tantrums and sleepless nights I endured and all the crazy methods I adopted for dealing with it all will be wasted. Let's face it, by the time I figure out how to avoid/solve any of my parenting dilemmas, he's usually already on to the next! Speaking of Jhonen, this is the first game I've played since
God of War that I really don't want him to watch. Will I ever want him to watch this game?

I haven't decided yet. Give me a little more time to play....and to think.