PlatinumGames are an interesting development studio. As DYEGB editor-in-chief Kieran Stockton has spoken about previously in an article, they’re very hit or miss. They have some excellent games and then some absolute blunders. They’re one of the only developers I have ever seen go from such extremes in quality and it’s part of why I think they are so awesome. Bayonetta is a game of theirs that I’ve always wanted to play but never got around to. To make matters worse, its sequel was exclusive to a platform that I was never going to own, the Wii U. Thankfully, the decision was made to port the games over to Nintendo’s current hybrid platform, the Nintendo Switch. This allowed me the opportunity to play PG’s critically acclaimed IP in the most flexible manner possible. Given that Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 are eight and four years old respectively, I’ll mainly be discussing how the games look and handle on the technical side of things and how the overall experience translates to Nintendo’s latest platform.
Let’s start with the experience of the games on the Switch. I’m just going to come right out and say it. Even amongst titles like Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2 and Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, the Bayonetta games provided me with some of the most fun that I have ever had on the Switch. Something about the slick gameplay along with the insane sense of style and self-awareness the game as well as the dynamite soundtracks makes the games incredibly enjoyable. Naturally, I put the games on Easy as I am absolutely terrible at any game that requires skill (which also explains why I’m so good at the Soulsborne games) but at no point did I feel like the lessened difficulty hampered the experience at all. Full disclosure, I’ve spent the last 2 weeks sick, to the point where I struggled to play your standard console games, but the versatility and portable nature of the Switch made it so much easier to enjoy these two games. I will say that it was surprising that I was playing a game which was so self-aware that it did not even try to be subtle with its over-the-top violence and overt sexuality. In saying that, Bayonetta rules.
For an eight-year-old game, Bayonetta holds up surprisingly well. Don’t get me wrong, it is by no means the prettiest game around, but PG’s choice to utilise good art direction over raw graphical horsepower has helped the game from looking tired and aged like so many other games do. I noticed no technical issues with the game’s texturing either, which is a nice break as while playing Monster Hunter World recently I’ve noticed a fair amount of texture and shadow popping (an issue which very quickly became increasingly annoying). Hell it wasn’t until after I finished the game that I actually learned the game was eight years old and the visuals were not indicative of its age. The environments, whilst relying on a lot of stonework, can be rather pretty and the enemy designs are horrifyingly cool. Given that Bayonetta 2 came out four years after the original, it would be safe to assume that the game would look noticeably prettier, but my goodness does it look good. The most noticeable improvements were in the game’s lighting and water textures. Much like the original, the game’s art really shines and helps keep the game from looking older than it is. I really have to commend Platinum for an excellent job with the art direction on the Bayonetta games. It really goes to show that good art beats raw graphical fidelity every time in terms of longevity.
Yes, I do Crossfit
Regardless of how the Bayonetta games look, they unfortunately have some shortcomings in terms of their technical performance. For the most part, both Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 aim to hit a beautifully crisp 60 frames per second, but ultimately fail to deliver on that target quite frequently. The framerate for both games isn’t so bad that it makes the games unplayable for the most part, but given the pace of the action you can tell when it stops hitting that mark. In one of the later chapters of Bayonetta 2 the framerate can be awful, but aside from that the rest of the games are what I’d deem as acceptable. When the game wants to hit its target of 60fps it is glorious, however the games’ reliance on heavy particles and busy, rendered backgrounds gets in the way and the game tends to run more at what feels like 30fps. For a lot of people, this won’t matter and that’s fine, but it is still a technical shortcoming that needs to be highlighted. What should be noted was that performance generally felt smoother in Bayonetta 2.
So what was a better, docked or undocked? While it’s hard to say as that is something that really comes down to personal preference, I noticed that performance was marginally better in the docked mode. I would assume that the slight boost to the Switch’s processing power when docked allows for the game to struggle less when rendering all the crazy busywork. However, given the flexible nature of being able to take the games on the go with me I’m willing to make the concession of game performance. So what is more important to you will determine whether you play in docked or undocked.
Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 are fantastic games on their own and they are a true mark on PlatinumGames’ ability as creative developers. Its incredible sense of style as a result of its cheeky self-awareness translates into its gameplay, writing and music. While the games aren’t the prettiest around, they certainly hold their own and perform reasonably well within a margin of error. If you can forgive the issue of the game struggling to maintain a solid 60 frames per second, then this is an excellent port and a welcome addition to the Nintendo Switch library. I would highly recommend picking these games up.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch | Code supplied by publisher