Tag Archives: Platinum Games

Vanquish or: Wait For Year End to Choose a GOTY

To be fair, Vanquish isn’t my favourite of 2010, mainly because I love Red Dead that much, but also as it has a story that makes me feel less intelligent for having sat through it and can be finished off in a few hours. The four hours that was being bandied around before its release seems a touch on the harsh side – I did it in a hair under six hours on normal difficulty – but it would be enough for me to question the value of a full-price purchase. Find it for something around the £12.98 that I paid in the post-Christmas sales, though, and you shouldn’t hesitate.


Vanquish is just a good old-fashioned blast, of the kind that Japanese developers would have been pumping out with some regularity had they not gone to shit this generation. It takes the handful of things that I like from the Devil May Cry and God of War kind of games and mixes them with a dash of Gears-style cover shooter, and it ends up being one of the best of both styles. More accessible than DMC, more varied and deeper than God of War, and faster and more intense than Gears of War.

Although it’s developed by Platinum with Shinji Mikami at the helm, it’s published by Sega and feels like something that would have come out on the Dreamcast in its all-too-brief heyday. In that respect it’s like Bayonetta, not ashamed of the fact that it’s a video game and revelling in its lunacy and heritage. The story is utter shite most of the time, with characters who make cardboard cutouts look deep and some absolutely barking twists and turns that won’t do much to convince gaming’s detractors of its storytelling strengths, but even with these flaws and a slight feeling that it peaks too early, I can’t help but love it.

Platinum’s fast becoming one of my favourite developers, just because it’s proud of its and gaming’s heritage, and the enthusiasm shines through in its games. This and Bayonetta are two superlative examples of games from crowded genres that manage to possess great originality and polish, and they really buck the trend of the downturn in Japanese gaming so far this generation.

As long as Platinum’s fruitful relationship with Sega continues, I’m going to keep playing its games in a little time warp. Dreamcast 2: not just a console but a state of mind.

Best of 2010 #6: Bayonetta

BayonettaConsidering that I generally don’t get on with the genre at all, the fact that I liked Bayonetta as much as I did is a minor miracle. Or maybe it wasn’t, because the Platinum Games connection always seems to guarantee a deep and polished experience, regardless of genre, and Bayonetta trumped the rest in almost every respect.

First and foremost, it played wonderfully, with accessible, balletic combat and movement that flowed hypnotically, whether you were a button-mashing beginner – or a God of War fan, natch – or took the time to learn it. And I loved how the deep combat mechanics avoided a common pitfall by offering a carrot rather than a stick – mastery of the dodging system conferred a benefit, rather than punishing those who failed to use it properly.

Of course, the glorious presentations deserves plenty of credit. Beyond looking gorgeous, it was a love letter to Sega gaming – within minutes you’re driving along to Magical Sound Shower – and never failed to impress when it came to scale. Show me another game that ends with you riding a motorcycle up the side of a rocket into space to fight God, and I’ll thank you because I want to play it.

I wouldn’t have given Bayonetta some of the more excessive scores that it obtained this year, but it stands as certainly the best in breed for this year, and is up there with Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry as one of the few that I might return to without a gun to my head.

Some Old-Fashioned Hardcore Gaming

After a year dominated by good games, but games that didn’t really push the envelope any further than the number of guns featured in that particular first-person shooter, I’ve changed things up by having a good time with a couple of recent releases that have really taken me back.

Bayonetta was first, and I loved it from the moment it accompanied a drive in a red sports car with Magical Sound Shower on the radio. It’s loaded with references to classic Sega games and revels in the Capcom connection as well – many of the developers worked on Devil May Cry, most notably director Hideki Kamiya – with nods to everything from the obvious Devil May Cry through to Viewtiful Joe and Resident Evil 4. It’s far more entertaining in its homages than something like Matt Hazard, which uses them as an excuse for uninspired design – ironically bad.


It’s also mind-bendingly gorgeous, outrageously silly on occasions, and unashamedly hardcore in its design. Lower difficulty levels make cool-looking combos easy and accessible through button-mashing, but play it on normal or higher and it takes skill without requiring the third hand that certain similar games can do. The combo system in particular is superb, letting you flick between two different weapon loadouts mid-combo and cancel in and out of them as you go, dodging with a tap of the right trigger. It’s less prescriptive and more spectacular than Ninja Gaiden, while also less daunting than Devil May Cry 4.

Essentially, it’s just a lot of fun to play, whether you’re out for a challenge or some classic gameplay of a sort that seems to be in decline. Just don’t play it for the story, because that’s utter bollocks.

I’m not convinced that it’s a 10/10, though. Although there’s nothing that I’d pick out as a glaring flaw, it’s very much standing on the shoulders of giants rather than forging its own path, and I like to think of perfect scores as being reserved for the few games that do the latter.

Demon’s Souls is the other game, and although it’s been out in the US for a few months, I only recently took the opportunity to import it. Its buzz has been hard to ignore and it’s even picked up a few awards along the way, and I’m surprised by how easily it seems to have found an audience considering its difficulty and plain old-fashioned bloody-mindedness. Ganged up on by a couple of basic zombies? Dead. Killed again before you manage to resurrect yourself? Dead. Oh, and you’ve lost all your collected souls as well. Brilliant…

Demon's Souls

Both games are different sides of the same coin. Bayonetta is brash, loud, and intent on having fun with its audience but also accessible, whereas Demon’s Souls wants to trip you up and is only playable by someone who can play through the frustration. It’s not fun, per se, but it’s a very compelling challenge, and the enjoyment is in getting through it and finally beating that boss who reduced you to a broken pile of bones within seconds of your first meeting.

But regardless of their wildly divergent approaches, I’m just happy to see that games like this – ‘proper’ games, as I’ll hesitantly call them – can still succeed. As much as I love Modern Warfare 2, I like to see games hewn of the bedrock of gaming history still getting out there and doing good business. Hack-and-slash action games and roguelikes – admittedly, Demon’s Souls isn’t quite that bad – were once staples of gaming, and Bayonetta and Demon’s Souls represent their modern equivalents, doing a great job of keeping the old-school flag flying. We should appreciate them for that.

But now, Atlus, how about pulling your finger out and giving Demon’s Souls a European release? This is 2010, not 1995.