PlatinumGames have a long and rich history of superb action titles, particularly where style is concerned. They have a knack for the over-the-top, stylish flare that you’ve come to expect from developers who were largely pushing a new wave of action-heavy games in the vein of Devil May Cry. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of two of their most defining games, Platinum have released the Bayonetta & Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle – a remaster of these classics at a fantastic price point. Replaying these highly influential titles again, I was taken back to a simpler time in 2010, where futuristic guns, witches, and mech suits were the craze.
For the sake of reviewing each title in the bundle, the review will be split into two parts: Bayonetta and Vanquish.
While the series IP currently resides in the exclusive halls of Nintendo at the moment, it was great to see the multi-platform original Bayonetta game make an appearance on current-gen consoles, but specifically for this review, on PlayStation 4. Fans might already be familiar with the story of Bayonetta, as absolutely nothing has been changed – and for the better. After a few centuries of slumber, the supernatural witch Bayonetta awakens with no recollection of her past. She goes on a journey through Vigrid to reclaim her memories while battling an assortment of angelic and demonic enemies, all with varying shapes and sizes.
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Drawing a bit of obvious inspiration from Capcom’s Devil May Cry series (and both led by famed director Hideki Kamiya), Bayonetta shines in its fast-paced, ultra-stylish gameplay. Bayonetta’s extraordinary agility, paired with her mystical Umbra Witch powers and mixing/matching various crazy weapons like chainsaws and iron maidens, makes the gameplay extremely satisfying and stylish enough to hold your attention over throughout. Boss fights are the name of the game (well, in this case, both bundle games), and they’re simply stunning spectacles to witness again after all these years. Bosses can range from smaller, less intimidating foes to enormous creatures that add to its big action set pieces.
After ten years, Bayonetta still holds up remarkably well and runs like a dream on current-gen consoles. I only encountered occasional frame rate dips, but nothing that ever took me out of the experience. In fact, it’s a step up from the last-gen release in the technical department. Movement, action, and stringing together wildly diverse combos all feel buttery smooth – one could even mistake it for a newly released hack-and-slash. Largely thanks to its unique art style, phenomenal writing and irresistible jazz-infused soundtrack, the game hasn’t aged a day, and feels right at home in the modern gaming sphere. My only disappoint comes in a few shoddy backgrounds that were clearly limitations with draw distance, but for the most part, it runs splendidly on PS4. Particle effects bounce off the screen with a dazzling burst of energy, Bayonneta’s flexible combat is a joy to control, and the story and characters all hold up surprisingly well (even better now knowing some of its clever pop culture references).
Largely thanks to its unique art style, phenomenal writing and irresistible jazz-infused soundtrack, the game hasn’t aged a day…
It’s a shame that Bayonetta 2 may not make it to other platforms, and we’re still longing for the release of Bayonetta 3, but for what its worth, revisiting the original game is well worth your time and attention now – as it was ten years ago – if you’re in the market for one of the greatest hack-and-slash action titles of all time. Bayonetta is a masterpiece, and one that you cannot afford to miss if you haven’t given the series a chance yet.
Removing ourselves from the apocalyptic world of Bayonetta, PlatinumGames tried to capitalize on the “cool superpowered suit” craze that swept last-gen with Vanquish. Taking a few cues from mech titles, Vanquish puts us in control of one Sam Gideon, a snarky DARPA soldier who is enlisted by the American government to take on the evil Russian Federation (how original) who threatens to destroy the country with some big space weapons… or something. Vanquish‘s story isn’t anything groundbreaking nor very interesting for that matter, but it at least acts as the glue that holds the bare plot together.
Vanquish, like Bayonetta, exhibits PlatinumGames’ greatest strengths as a developer with an emphasis on very stylish combat. Equipped with the Augmented Reaction Suit, Sam is capable of some superhuman feats and agility, such as slowing down time to line up insane kills, boosting himself around environments with high-powered rockets attached to his knees (it’s still cool as hell), and breaking some faces with fast hand-to-hand combat. Unlike Bayonetta, Vanquish really doesn’t have the most compelling world-building or reasons to get invested in its characters. The writing is often paper thin, and characters are resorted to walking cliches with one-liners. What elevates Vanquish well above its flaws is the terrific gameplay.
Zipping around environments on rockets in slow motion while reigning an arsenal of bullets down on enemies is immensely satisfying and quite addictive. On-rails sections in video games are infuriating if not done correctly, but thankfully, Vanquish handles them with a crazy amount of sci-fi style and bombastic action sequences that would make Michael Bay blush. The world-building is lacking, but the design of the overworld itself (the SC-01 Providence) is fantastic and pays homage to Halo. However, Vanquish‘s story and lore is surface-level and passable, if not to just emphasize how great its gameplay is.
As technically fantastic as Bayonetta is in this same bundle, maybe some extra time could’ve been dedicated to polishing up Vanquish…
Vanquish unfortunately runs into some performance issues that are barely present in Bayonetta. The frame rate can dip to some distracting lows at times, and there’s a jarring frame stutter between every cut in the cinematics. In the heat of combat, it handles itself pretty smoothly, but outside of that (especially during dialogue-heavy scenes, for no reason at all) the game’s performance struggles to maintain a steady smoothness. As technically fantastic as Bayonetta is in this same bundle, maybe some extra time could’ve been dedicated to polishing up Vanquish too, which is just mildly disappointing.
Flaws aside, Vanquish is still a terrific and highly addictive third-person shooter with some of the best and most stylish action to ever come out of the sci-fi genre. Despite being roughly only five or six hours long, the game still provides quality action by the minute and never lets off its brakes as it rockets its way to some particularly incredible battles near its climax.
The Bayonetta & Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle is marvelous, and despite my small grievances with Vanquish, is still definitely worth the price of admission. Bayonetta remains the standout of the two as it brings one of the best action games of the last generation to a new home, with all the performance refinements and smoothing that comes with a superb cross-gen transition. Vanquish could’ve used a little more time in the cooker, but it’d be difficult not to wholeheartedly recommend the game for its pure exhilaration and ultra-stylish combat alone. There’s enough here to fulfill die-hard PlatinumGames fans, and who knows, newcomers might find this to be the ideal gateway into the developer’s extraordinary library.
|+ Bayonetta is (still) incredible||– Minor performance issues|
|+ Two great games at a modest price||– Vanquish’s story and writing|
|+ Ultra-stylish, ultra-fun|
|+ Bayonetta as a character|
Bayonetta & Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle
The Bayonetta & Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle delivers two superb, ultra-stylish PlatinumGames titles well worth the modest price tag.