Review: Bayonetta & Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle

PlatinumGames – a name that has come to be associated with quality action games, occasionally known for their difficulty. Founded by some well-known developers formerly of Clover Studio, the company’s output has become a favorite of gamers from all walks of life.

While they already earned fame from releases such as Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, the studio was catapulted into the spotlight in 2017 with their work on Nier: Automata. That release brought Platinum from “popular amongst hardcore gamers” to “must-watch for the entire industry,” with their follow-up release Astral Chain in 2019 showing they have no intent on slowing down.

Having recently announced their “Platinum4” project of upcoming goals and games, slowly unveiling what they have planned (most recently starting a Kickstarter for a remaster of The Wonderful 101), and having just passed their ten-year anniversary, they also decided to take a look back at their past with the release we are looking at today.

Developed by PlatinumGames and published by SEGA, Bayonetta & Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle is set for release on February 18th, 2020, for PS4 and XB1. The PS4 version was played for this review.

As this is a package of two ten-year-old games, in lieu of doing full reviews of each, we will be taking a quick glance at both and how they stand up through modern eyes on current systems.

Bayonetta

Perhaps PlatinumGames’ most famous original character, Bayonetta’s namesake game was originally released for PS3 and 360 back in 2010. The game follows Bayonetta as she travels to the fictional city of Vigrid as she searches for a jewel known as the “Right Eye of the World,” all the while battling against angels and angelic figures that seem determined to wipe her from existence.

Now is time to admit a cardinal sin – I have never played Bayonetta. I know, I know, it’s a classic game that I should’ve played by now, but looking at it with fresh eyes in 2020, I’m impressed by how well this game still holds up.

For one, I greatly enjoyed the over-the-top storytelling in the game. Yes, the whole “war between Heaven and Hell” setting has been done countless times before, as have stories influenced by Dante’s Divine Comedy, which this game so obviously is. However, it’s the fact that Bayonetta never takes itself seriously that endeared me to it.

The plot also wields the amnesia trope fairly well – Bayonetta is unable to remember her past, and much of the story involves revealing what has happened to her before now. The story doesn’t go overboard with this cliche, using it enough to add an air of mystery to the overarching plot.

As far as gameplay, Bayonetta is a fairly standard character action game, but it handles its flow incredibly well. It did take me a while to really get a feel for the game, though; the action is fast and frantic, and playing defensively is a must, something I wasn’t expecting. Dodging around the playing field whilst landing combos on enemies I’m passing by just feels good.

However, I must admit…I’m not very good at this game. Putting out effective damage requires making use of Bayonetta’s “Witch Time,” a period of time where enemies slow down, activated by dodging an attack at the perfect moment. It’s timing those dodges that gave me the most trouble, leading me to taking a sword to the face more than half the time. Once I came up against enemies in the latter half of the game that would not allow me to enter Witch Time despite properly timed dodges, fights would turn into battles of attrition that I’d lose more often than not.

Of final note, whenever I came up against the enemies known as Grace and Glory, a pair of incredibly fast-moving and hard-hitting creatures, I nearly always had to resist putting my controller through the television; I was never able to beat them on my first try.

Vanquish

Paired up with Bayonetta is a game nearly its polar opposite: Vanquish. Original released for PS3 and 360 in 2010, Vanquish is an action-heavy third-person cover-based shooter.

Vanquish puts you in the shoes of DARPA agent Sam Gideon, who has been sent to a space colony stop a splinter cell of the Russian army. This cell, calling themselves the “Order of the Russian Star,” has used the colony’s microwave transmitter (normally used to transmit energy to Earth) as a weapon to basically boil the entirety of San Francisco alive. Their leader, a man named Zaitsev, has threatened to do the same to New York City unless the United States surrenders to him.

The storytelling is reigned in much more here compared to Bayonetta; aside from a few quips from the characters here and there, this is a relatively serious military and government story. The opening, as well as some later-game moments, definitely get some points for shock value, but the plot overall didn’t connect with me as much.

As far as gameplay, Vanquish is basically a third-person shooter on a whole lot of cocaine. Fighting is cover-based, but also built around jet engines on your character that let you quickly slide from cover point to cover point, so long as you have enough energy. Enemies attack fast and hard, often from all directions, requiring you to quickly get a feel for each battlefield you find yourself in.

There’s ten or so different weapons available, which you’ll find yourself swapping between regularly as you can only carry three at a time. Aside from a standard assault rifle that I held on to, my other two slots were always changing depending on what I could find on the field at any given time.

Setups often force you to approach enemies from unique ways. There were times I came up against a number of enemies picking away at me in the distance, but I had long ditched my sniper rifle as I had run out of ammo. Do I pull out my lock-on rocket launcher and use its limited ammo to take them out? Perhaps power-slide through their fire to flank them, putting myself at risk? Having to try different approaches kept the standing gunplay from getting too dull.

Vanquish is also a difficult game but, unlike Bayonetta, I wouldn’t exactly call its difficulty fair. Sometimes, if you take too much damage, the game will go into slow-motion to allow you time to save yourself, using up your energy bar in the process. Sometimes this doesn’t happen, and you just die. Which one occurs seems like a crapshoot. I also can’t count the number of times I was successfully picking off enemies, sliding around like a madman to take them all down, nearly completing a wave…when one sneaks up behind me and kills me in a single hit. I scared my cat quite often with my cries of anger at this all-too-common situation.

View From the Future

Looking at both Bayonetta and Vanquish through modern eyes, both hold up shocking well, although to differing degrees. Graphically, Vanquish seems to shine just a bit more. I think this has to do with the style and setting of each game. Vanquish is full Sci-Fi, while Bayonetta takes place in a more realistic world (despite its fantastical elements). In the latter, some rough textures and aliasing, as well as some awkward animations here and there, definitely stand out more.

Weirdly, both games suffer from framerate drops on occasion during cutscenes, the last thing I expected to see in these remasters. Playing these games on a base PS4, Bayonetta has some noticeable drops during random scenes, whilst Vanquish will just straight-up tank for a few seconds anytime the character Elena is on screen with all her fancy futuristic monitors.

Luckily these framerate issues don’t bleed over into the gameplay. Both games run fast and fluid, almost impressively so with all the action going on on screen in both games.

Worthwhile Replay

Both Bayonetta and Vanquish were amongst the first games released by PlatinumGames, and they both show just how strong the studio was from the get-go. These remasters open up the opportunity for newcomers to the studio, whether from Nier: Automata or Astral Chain, to check out the studio’s origins on modern hardware.

The pricing seems to be right too on these remasters. Getting them both as a bundle runs around $40 – $20 each, which lines up with current pricing on PC and (in the case of Bayonetta) is $10 cheaper than on the Switch at the time of writing.

Despite some weird framerate issues during cutscenes in both games, Bayonetta and Vanquish are both well worth your time (although I’d personally lean toward Bayonetta more if I was forced to pick between the two). If you don’t mind the occasional difficulty spike, and especially if you’ve never played either title before, this dual-pack release is definitely worth picking up.


~ Final Score: 9/10 ~


Review copy provided by SEGA for PS4. Screenshots taken by reviewer.