When it was first released in 2009, Bayonetta raised a few eyebrows and an outraged editorial or two over the stylized objectification of the title character. Certainly, objectified females were nothing new to video games but both Bayonetta (the character) and Bayonetta (the game) seemed to take things to a new level, with a character who shed her clothes in battle, used her hair as a weapon, and suggestively sucked on a lollipop while cracking wise to a fourth-wall-breaking camera.
It is only a minor exaggeration to say that Bayonetta both set the stage for a series of overtly sexual female game protagonists and equally created a backlash that has continued to this day. Horizon: Zero Dawn's Aloy is a strong, immensely capable and emotionally vulnerable leading lady with nary hint of sensuality. She is about as far from Bayonetta as possible.
Those ignoring (or braving) the tempest in a teapot over Bayonetta were rewarded with one of the best third person action games ever made, with stylish and fluid combat that remained challenging and interesting from start to finish. It was also as far as possible from the slow and deliberate pace of Demon's Souls, also a 2009 release. The game has just now been ported to PC, with upgraded graphics, support for 4K displays, and a solid 60fps framerate. While no one would mistake Bayonetta for a current gen title, most everything about it holds up remarkably well.
Gamers in search of a coherent narrative should probably look elsewhere as Bayonetta is about an amnesiac Umbral witch who travels to the pseudo-European city of Vigrid to battle an ever-escalating army of angels. Or something. It honestly doesn't matter much, as the linear story just propels Bayonetta from one battle to another and then to some impressive and imposing bosses. There are references to Dante's Divine Comedy in some of the areas that Bayonetta visits, and there is a cast of engaging supporting characters. Eight years out from release, not all of the game's humor still hits its mark, but Bayonetta's dogged refusal to take either its main character or story really seriously remains refreshing.
One thing that absolutely holds up is the game's combat. Bayonetta's arsenal of weapons -- pistols, shotguns, katanas, and whips -- emphasizes close-quarters melee fighting and goes hand and glove with her stiletto heels and her hair, which can transform into a variety of outsized weapons. Weld those weapons to a deep list of jumps, kicks, spins, finishing moves and a bullet-time slo-mo and you've got combat that is truly balletic. With difficulty settings ranging from Very Easy to Non-Stop Infinite Climax, there are plenty of ways for new players to learn and practice the game's relatively technical and precise combos.
Although Bayonetta's art design and overall aesthetic hold up well, the port from Xbox 360/PS3 to more graphically capable PCs does remind us that some of the textures are lacking in detail and that the gauzy, soft-focus visuals hide a variety of flaws and limitations. The music and voice acting were excellent and still remain so, though some of the game's humor and side characters -- like the gangster Enzo -- remind us that games have moved on.
At the end of the day the cocky, confident, wisecracking and unapologetically sexual protagonist and her amazingly rich style of combat still beats strong at the heart of Bayonetta and revisiting the game on PC is a reminder of how much fun the game was in 2009. Any fan of stylish action games will still appreciate Bayonetta, especially now that some of the original's technical issues have been addressed and resolved.