October 9, 2009

Angel May Cry

So, I'm a fan of Hideki Kamiya's work. Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe, Okami, I loved it all. Thus, when I heard that the Japanese PSN had a Bayonetta demo up on it... I promptly registered a Japanese PSN account just to snag the demo. I've played through the demo... seven times now? So obviously, I liked it. But I wanted to discuss... oh, what I liked and didn't like, and what Bayonetta seems to owe to the more recent entries in the stylish action genre... if that is a genre. Whatever.

So, first off... if you think about it? It's actually been a long time since we've gotten an entry in the stylish action genre from Mr. Kamiya. I mean, all he's actually ever done is the first Devil May Cry, and Viewtiful Joe. Since then, we've had Ninja Gaiden, God of War, further entries in the Devil May Cry series... I could name others, but those are the real innovators. And it's pretty clear that Kamiya respects the innovation they've brought to the table... because boy does Bayonetta show signs of their influence. Beyond the obvious context sensitive moves from God of War, because really, EVERYONE uses those now, there are more subtle signs. The quick swap of Devil May Cry 3- sure, a fair few games have quick swap, but look at the implementation- even the UI- and tell me that's not the obvious inspiration. The boss battle at the end of the demo, too, feels very distinctly Devil May Cry, bringing back memories of the Virgil fights in 3 or the Dante fights in 4 (which, it could be argued, were inspired by the Nero Angelo fight in the first, but I think their feel is quite different).

I can't pull up a quote for this one, but I seem to recall Kamiya saying that he made Bayonetta because he couldn't make another DMC, because he didn't have the rights... and in many ways, Bayonetta feels like a response to Devil May Cry, the good and the bad. Devil May Cry had you going to Hell to fight demons, Bayonetta has you going to Paradise to fight angels. DMC's Dante had a distinct cockiness and arrogance as well as a flair for style... and Bayonetta feels quite similar, just... well, sexier, frankly (as in, trying to BE sexier. And succeeding, but that's not the point.). DMC was notable for its on the fly mix of gunplay and swordplay... Bayonetta, you can actually shoot WHILE you slash, thanks to ankle weaponry. And of course, there are even some move mappings that are identical... a taunt button, or R1+Back+Slash (a rising slash in both games) and R1+Forward+Slash (a charging stab in both... Dante's famous Stinger). Bayonetta does a lot better, but it owes more to Devil May Cry 3 than I've seen Kamiya admit.

What's the point of all this? Not much, I suppose... just... well, okay. So I saw a brief interview with Kamiya the other day. It was an enjoyable interview, in no small part due to the man's personality. He's got a playful cockiness to himself as well, but he still is polite and respectful. It's an interesting contrast with (former) genre rival Tomonobu Itagaki, who was cocky to the point of being a total asshole and dickhead. Really, his arrogance did him and his games no favor. Any time a rival was brought up, he had nothing but scorn for them. And frankly... what I would like? I would like Kamiya to acknowledge DMC3 as a source of inspiration for Bayonetta, and a solid game. Even when the game first came out, and got rave reviews, it languished in Kamiya's shadow. In the shadow of the series's brilliant creator. As good as it was, a vocal minority declared that it would have been way better if Kamiya had been onboard, that his absence made it less of a game.

And this leads to a larger point... the problem of changing teams for a sequel. No matter how good of a job the new team does, if the original was beloved, the new team can NEVER please the original fans. They will always scorn it out of some twisted loyalty. And I sympathize with that. I think, groundbreaking and amazing as it was, DMC1 was NOT as good as DMC3. And I'd like to hear a creator, for once, show respect for the work of his successors.

And give them a little shit over 4 while you're at it- that was an embarassment.

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