I may not be the biggest fan of the recent crop of games from Japan, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any awesome ones that came out this year. In fact, I can think of at least three off the top of my head: Bayonetta, Vanquish and Nier. Now, there are two things I realized when I came up with those three games. First, thank God for Platinum Games. And second, all three of them are unashamedly bizarre.
Seriously, they are. Bayonetta brainstorms the craziest action scenes ever, and then finds ways to make them crazier. Vanquish gives you a gun that transforms into all your guns and lets you press one button that makes your character do a rocket-leg power slide. And Nier? Nier is a secret sequel to Drakengard—one of the most insane games ever made–that manages to be almost as crazy as its predecessor. That is the level of weird we’re dealing with here, and I love all three of them for it. I’ll break down exactly why after the jump.
Bayonetta is a game where you play as an witch who uses her magical hair to fight angels. Oh, and did I mention that her hair is also her clothing, so more powerful moves will make her more naked? Because that’s something the game thinks is kind of a big deal. And as wary as I am about fanservice, I gotta say: Bayonetta is amazing. See, the problem I have with some fanservice-filled action shows (such as Samurai Girls) is that nudity is often used as an indicator of how badly a character is getting their ass handed to them. Want to show how powerful Jubei is? Haver her blast off all of Tokugawa Sen’s clothes in one hit. With Bayonetta, the exact opposite happens. Whenever she gets naked, it means her enemies are about to be brutally murdered.
And that’s not even the craziest thing about the game. Oh no, that honor would go to the levels themselves. The game starts with Bayonetta battling horde of angels while falling through the sky on the remains of a clock tower. It ends with her sometimes-friend, sometimes-foe fellow witch driving into space on a motorcycle to fight God. And in between, Bayonetta beats up a dragon with three heads, transforms into a panther, time-travels and rides a missile. Also, this happens [mildly NSFW].
Let me repeat myself: ROCKET-LEG POWER SLIDE! The interesting thing about Vanquish is that its core gameplay is that of the third-person cover-based shooters that America made popular with games such as Gears of War. Yet it plays much more like an action game. Instead of slowly picking off enemies from the safety of a concrete barricade, you want to be moving constantly, only spending time behind cover when you need to wait for you energy to recharge. It feels great to be so mobile, and there are few things more satisfying in life than activating bullet-time so you can power slide underneath a giant robot and hit it in the crotch with a rocket.
Yeah, sure, the story is pretty absurd, and your fellow soldiers–who aren’t lucky enough to be fighting in a fancy exosuit–die in hilariously large numbers. But keep in mind that the much of the English dialogue is voiced by Steve Blum (who needs no introduction) and Gideon Emery (who gave Balthier–the most badass character in Final Fantasy XII–his English voice). So, you know, that’s pretty awesome.
Now, you may be wondering, “Dustin, I thought you didn’t like Nier that much?” And you’d be right. I think it has a lot of problems. Yet the things it does right are both really crazy and really great. I mean, the boss fights play out like a bullet-hell shooter combined with God of War. You upgrade your weapons by attaching words to them. Your companions are an arrogant talking book, a vulgar hermaphrodite, and a boy who turns anything he sees into stone. And the ending? Let’s just say that you might have preferred it when things were inexplicably weird.
There truly is no other game like Nier. That has to count for something, right?
Japan, I have just one thing to say to you: Thanks for creating the only games that make me question my sanity.
And thank you to the fans of those crazy games for providing me with fantastic art such as this one: