This week, PlatinumGames re-released its decade-old favourites Bayonetta and Vanquish, packaged together in one remastered bundle for the PS4 and Xbox One. Bayonetta has already been re-released in various incarnations several times over the past 10 years; the body has never had a chance to grow cold. For many current-generation console players, however, this is the chance to experience the games for the first time – and they’ve never seemed so polished.
In Bayonetta, you control the title character – a gun-brandishing witch – who is engaged in a conflict between the forces of heaven and hell. The story is violent, camp, and so swaggeringly sacreligious that it’s easy to ignore the cringe-inducing dialogue. Everything in Bayonetta exists to serve the game’s subversive sense of style, and its punchy, deceptively compicated hack-and-slash gameplay.
The 4K remastering looks good: it has made the environments richer and the loading times mercifully shorter. Combat is still a frantic, fluid delight, with interesting, increasingly challenging boss battles sprinkled liberally throughout the game. Clunky camera angles and slightly rigid movement controls are the only real giveaways that you’re playing decade-old games designed for now-outdated consoles (PS3 and Xbox 360).
Guns are fetishised in Bayonetta; they are beautiful tools, the work of skilled craftspeople, and Bayonetta carries four (one at the end of each limb). Then again, almost everything is fetishised in Bayonetta. Designed like a dominatrix and capable of dispensing BDSM-like “punishment” attacks on her foes, the protagonist is up there with the most sexually charged characters in gaming.
It’s a concept that smacks of sexism if handled indelicately, and delicacy couldn’t be further from the game’s bailiwick. Still, many have convincingly argued that Bayonetta’s persona – unlike, say, that of Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft – is a rejection of the male gaze, and that she is in fact a rare female video game character who has found a way to reclaim her sexual agency.
Perhaps significantly, Bayonetta was designed by a woman, Mari Shimazaki (although the game was mostly overseen by male developers). Whether you are able to enjoy Bayonetta in spite of, or because of, the game’s sexual politics will likely be down to personal interpretation. Regardless, there is plenty more to enjoy.
Vanquish is a slighter game but nearly as impressive – a sci-fi shooter wherein the player takes control of Sam Gideon, a mecha-suited supersoldier embroiled in a futuristic American-Russian war. The game equips Gideon with propulsive jet boosters, a mechanic that adds plenty of zip to an already wickedly high-tempo experience.
Released around a year after Bayonetta, Vanquish failed to cast quite the same spell over audiences. Bayonetta has received a sequel (with another planned), and had its lead character granted a place on the roster of the best-selling fighting game Super Smash Bros: Ultimate, but Vanquish’s star has faded. There is hope that this bundle might introduce the game to a new audience, even if many will inevitably treat it as Bayonetta’s shorter, less eye-catching B-side.
There’s something to be said for putting a halt to the ever-swelling glut of re-releases – for sitting back, breathing in and deciding if a game really warrants the time and energy here, now, again. But warranted or not, it doesn’t really matter: PlatinumGames has made two of the best games of the 21st century better than ever.
The Bayonetta & Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle can be purchased online now on PS4 and Xbox One