Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bayonetta | Sexpot Fail

One of the things that I genuinely enjoyed about Bayonetta was also a double-edged sword. While I still consider the character a titillating, exploitative, and one-note icon, she also formulated an undeniable 'shell' of empowerment for herself. This served as a lightning rod/catalyst for many 'beneficial or detrimental?' arguments that took place last year. Sex plays a large part of this game's appeal, but its actual use in the design is wielded with the sophistication of a twelve year old boy who has just found his first Playboy. This is why I came down on the side of her as detriment myself.

It shirks its own potential left and right, and what we're left with as an audience is a game full of nothing but gigantic and crass cockteases. The following is but a few of the most obvious ones.

Female Bonding

Bayonetta's only form of interaction with other females comes mainly in three forms (that are relevant anyway): her younger self, Joys, and of course---Jeanne. Now I've already seen what Kamiya thought he was doing with the Joy introduction (something about girls and competition) and I think it's safe to say that the man may have missed a few tenants on making social commentary on female interaction. Though, if we're going to get snooty with the game's own canon, Joys aren't technically female---they simply choose that form. That's besides the point though---what I'm after here is how solitary Bayonetta actually is in her own damn game (as a negative). I don't really count Joys because as I said, they're not technically female AND their only meaningful presence comes in the form of a humorous dance-off which is over just as soon as it starts.

I don't count young Cereza either because yes---it's Bayonetta herself, and anytime time-physics are essentially introduced anywhere, they just become silly story mechanics to be manipulated to the designer's artistic license (and I'm being generous there). At best, she irrationally plays out the mother trope towards herself due to an innate and subconscious recognition to who the child actually was.

And then there's dear Jeanne, the only saving grace in this situation is also tarnished by the fact that she's a brainwashed bitch who actually turns out to be Bayonetta's long-lost friend. Of course this is alluded to in the game's literal first five minutes---but consider this: Jeanne as a character doesn't make an actual appearance until the last two or three chapters of the game. The first thirteen chapters is her simply being controlled by Balder. The aforementioned opening sequence teases more of a relationship between the two and by the time the audience finds out what it is, the game is throwing about a dozen other things that cancel it out entirely. Jeanne's motorcycle sequence towards the end of the game do help things (especially considering the player actually controls her for that sequence) but only a minute amount.

The point here is that Bayonetta's sole feminine presence in this game makes her one big walking and unintentional 'fuck off femme fatale'. It's the equivalent of sticking something consumable such as pizza behind a fourteen-inch glass case and expecting its appeal to last. It's just simply not going to happen. If you're going to make a game (that isn't a nuanced character study) that plays off the sexuality of a woman or just general sexual feminineness, you kinda need more than one woman.

Cereza's Infuriating Figure

I'm going to snatch out my artist card here once again and simply say that Bayonetta's figure is fucking ridiculous. No, I don't necessarily mean her legs, head, or something specific that can't be rationally discussed.  I mean how's she was designed and placed into her own world. To emphasize, I'll quote my own Tumblr for a second:
"Something that bothered me about Bayonetta's figure is that her exaggerative features that accentuate her height (e.g. the legs) are still outclassed by characters like Luka. She looks as if she’s well over six feet tall (hell, probably seven), but when standing side by side, most of the others (with the exception of Jeanne I think) still come out taller. I don’t know if this was done to make said characters (namely Luka) appear sexier as males, but it was kind of weird that she’s freakishly tall but still not tall enough. Yeah, it’s kind of dumb on my part (not to mention the developers), but they cheapened her amazonian frame by pulling slights such as making the male co-star taller. Lame. Part of her sexiness to me is how absurdly intimidating she is/should be. Making the guy(s) just as tall to adhere to archaic styles (or even worse, sexist archetypes) is simply a gip."
This almost cancels out the next section but Bayonetta simply being taller than Luka would have done wonders for a game whose appeal lies so much on aesthetics and style. This is especially since we don't see such a thing that often, paticularly out a Japan. A strong woman? Sure, we've got a few. Promiscuous? Definitely. A sexually domineering icon of femininity? Nope, gaming has NONE---at---all, but Bayonetta was/still is ideally poised to take this title home for herself. Perhaps I am being demanding though, but quotes such as this one from The Game Overthinker gave her far too much credit in my honest opinion:
"Take a good look at Bayonetta in motion and ask yourself if you can imagine such a creature actually being eh—-satisfied by anything short of a six-foot seven teddy bear hooked up to a jackhammer."
She never approached that level of intimidation for me, but I actually wanted her to, which was kind of a letdown.

Sexual Intimidation

Personally, this was my favorite slip-up concerning the game's usage of Bayonetta as a sexualized symbol. She's untouchable in almost EVERY sense of the damn word (even by the game's own goddamn canon). Over the entire course of the game, she flirts, flaunts, and fraternizes, but she never ever capitalizes on what would seem to be a monstrous libido. This takes things beyond simple teasing too, in many ways this game places her in the same category as a stripper. Feel free to ogle, feel free throw your money at it, but never touch it---never engage it beyond anything that's purely on a superficial level.

It's a shame too, because what I'm describing isn't really meant to taken solely into context concerning the game's story. I also mean in play, during combos, and just random movements on her part. Like I said in last year's post, anytime I hit a Witch-Time clock or engaged a Wicked Weave attack, I would have honestly preferred her character model just appear entirely nude. IT WOULD HAVE ACTUALLY MATCHED THE CONFIDENCE SHE SEEMS TO SCREAM AT EVERY CORNER. She comes off as a lady who's got nothing to hide in that particular area, so why's she still doing so? Sure, there's a lot of practical answers to this, but it doesn't stop the odd and often dumbass execution from poking its head out dozens of times over the course of the game.

Of course this is something I don't expect to ever see corrected in a sequel or even later on, but as far as elaborating on why I took the silly and exploitive stance last year, I can back it up now that I actually own the game. Things like this---the ways that social context permeates such a game (from such a culture) across multiple countries, come off as FAR more absurd than the game's narrative.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bayonetta | The Shit I Was Wrong About

When Bayonetta was first announced I was pretty apathetic towards it, despite it being the brainchild of Hideki Kamiya  (aka the father of Dante). I had no problem voicing this uncaring attitude either, and it even manifested itself in a few of my posts last year. Well, I'm here right now to revise a few of those concerns and criticisms before I make any more posts about the game.

The cardinal virtues in this game are what I initially called bullshit on for being too much in the same vein of what God of War makes bank off of (a kind of reverse inspiration considering what Jaffe never shuts up about concerning the Devil May Cry series). While aesthetically there's no difference between them, the callous nature of Bayonetta herself and the pacing/structure of the fights would serve to contest me here. It's one thing when God of War makes Kratos out be some generic screaming icon of masculinity, but Bayonetta's over-the-top trampling of her enemies almost severs the tie completely (both through the game's actual mechanics and the character's one-note presentation).

The downside here is more of a problem with the game in general, as it's much easier than any of its spiritual predecessors (the Devil May Cry series), even on its maximum difficulty. This is a shift that I and many of others have taken offense to in terms of how some Japanese designers are looking at how the West perceives difficulty. That Bayonetta even has a totally restrained easy mode incorporated into it just worsens the matter (and furthers my point). So, that little bit kind of rekindles the tie to God of War which me.

What I was wrong about concerning the game's music was how many people actually enjoyed the score. I expected a lot more 'lol this is stupid's flying around, but the whole Jazzy+Jpop angle worked for the game, and in some essence, I'll even go as far to say that I prefer it instead of the 'screamo' that Devil May Cry is known for. The more original and distinct ambiance/action tracks are pretty much what I expected when weighing in how it's used in the actual game (which is a very good thing in this case). I suppose it's a good thing that a lot of us (particularly guys) were able to hop so graciously on board with skewering angels to Fly me to the Moon.

I mostly described the difficulty problem above, and I even tried getting  a few people to play through the game on its easiest automatic setting, but the response was that the game was still too overwhelming for them. The difficulty downgrade became something only noticeable to someone like me anyway, one who has nigh-religiously mined through such titles for his/her enjoyment (thus it making any slight variance in the name of accessibility becomes a detriment to some extent as well).

I was only partly wrong on the whole dilemma of 'exploratory or exploitive' deal, as this line from my blog last year still rings true to me now more than ever:
"Perhaps it's problematic for some people, but every time I did a combo that required her hair-clothes to come off, I always ended up feeling that I would love this game 100% more if they just went ahead and showed the character model totally nude when such sequences were triggered. Having them zip across her private areas is just so abashedly titillating, it cancels itself out for me."
I'll hold my tongue there though, as it could have a blog on its own.

So while it's most certainly a worthwhile successor to Devil May Cry, its potential is somewhat limited in the end. It's lasting power, stylistic muscle, and even ludicrous camp all have lines drawn around them, stating where and how things will go. It's kind of infuriating as well, considering the game is well-placed to do some real damage (just imagine how magnified the game's reception would have been if my quote above had more truth to it).

I also think I was pretty accurate in my concerns about how the game would sell though, as I found it in a damn Blockbuster bargain bin for nine dollars not even a year after its release. It's a shame too, because like I said---it's an exemplary Devil May Cry 5 (to be insultingly blunt that is). I am kind of surprised that Kamiya is talking so soon about doing the sequel to this game, but I think he also may be rushing to make the character 'surpass' Dante somehow, who he hasn't had any real hand in designing since the first title, and if he's doing that, it's going to eventually show in the game...

...and I'll be the first to call bullshit on it.

I'm Back...

I suppose I could apologize for the extended hiatus, but we all know that wouldn't be very sincere---now would it? The holidays were full of weird things on my end, and the most prominent of them was that there was actual paying work floating around so I snatched it. Any of my spare time was obviously spent buried in my Tumblr, shouting obscenities and firing off random sparks of hatred. The good news is that I actually played quite a few things between November and now, certainly more than enough to gallantly ride straight into 2011 here. I'll open with the first in my next post. I just wanted to use tonight to metaphorically burst my hand from the ground in front of the gravestone that's been 'Misanthropic Gamer' for the past few months (though my views have surprisingly stayed consistent for whatever reason).

As intrigued as I am to see what games like Catherine and Deus Ex: Human Revolution offer, I don't really see myself  looking to purchase them right now (which isn't surprising all, considering the number of day-one stuff I've picked up in the past two years). In fact, the only blip on my radar is the upcoming Pok√©mon Black, which is rather ironic considering the targeted number of bitchy posts I did late last year regarding the series at large. It's that same traditionalist structure I'm actually looking forward to burying a couple hundred of hours into this year. If it just so happens that it actually is the game of change I described a while back, then we can officially announce that the world is determined to undermine me in the most ironic possible way (which I can live with).

Obviously, I'm not interested in the 3DS or PSP2 apart from conjecture and theory, but I will be absolutely mortified if Sony actually pulls the same crap that they did with the Playstation 3 (i.e. putting out an overly expensive feature-ridden machine which will spend years trailing its competition).

Hmm, let see---oh yes, I was interested in Mass Effect 2 for about two hours, but then got lazy and spent an entire night on the series' Wikia, destroying any  incentive I had to actually purchase the title (which was a hard sell in itself---buying a full priced game that's already a year old). Apart from that, a lot of the stuff that I would pay attention to for this year is actually kind of hanging in limbo in terms of even being released here over the next eleven months, if ever (e.g. Xenoblade).

That's essentially it for right now, a quick blurb on where I've been, where I am, and what I'm currently doing. There will also probably be an update tomorrow as well sometime.