tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

Comparison Theatre: The Witch and the Warrior

Confused by the title? Well, read on and all will become clear.

I’m a fan of 3D action games in general, and I’m currently working my way through two of them, which has inevitably led me to draw comparisons between the two of them. And as it turns out, one of them comes out on top of the other. Or rather, one of them completely curbstomps the other.

To start, let’s talk about Bayonetta.

That's one hell of a kick

I’d been looking forward to Hideki Kamiya’s first project after leaving Capcom, and Bayonetta absolutely doesn’t disappoint. It’s fast-paced and unforgiving, and the combat mechanics are great to play around with. The idea behind Witch Time is easy to understand at first glance, but actually putting it to good use is where the fun lies. Your attacks don’t put enemies into hitstun immediately (unlike most 3D hack-and-slash games), so weaving in dodges with your attack strings to activate Witch Time mid-combo is the key to keeping up a good offense. On top of this there’s the Dodge Offset mechanic that lets you attack immediately after dodging, which I’m still trying to figure out. On top of this, every level introduces something like three to four new enemy types and mixes them up to keep you on your toes.

My only complaint is the QTE sequences that seem to kick in at random intervals, often resulting in instant death if you fail them – an annoying blemish on an otherwise excellent game, especially considering that your end-of-level ranking is severely crippled if you have to use continues to complete the level. But otherwise, I’m really glad I bought this game, and I’m looking forward to playing a lot more of it.

That said, it vastly outshines the other 3D action game I’ve been playing alongside it – Metroid: Other M.

This is the root of most of the game's problems

The game starts out strong enough, with a decent level of difficulty, although the one thing you notice straight away is that there isn’t really much substance to the combat. It’s fast-paced, to be sure, but Samus auto-locks to anything in a wide cone in front of her, and dodging is pulled off reactively rather than proactively (you press a direction on the d-pad when there’s an active enemy attack on the screen), so there’s very little risk of mistiming your dodges. The first-person mode is a little disorienting at first, but it works ok for the few times you need to fire missiles at enemy weak points.

Unfortunately it’s all downhill from there. As you collect powerups and, um, ‘gain’ abilities, the combat doesn’t really get any harder, and once you get the charge beam and diffusion beam you might as well put down the controller and walk away. You can beat most of the enemy encounters by just running around in circles, charging a shot, turning in the enemy’s general direction and releasing the button. And once you figure out that you can instantly charge a shot while dodging…well, yeah.

On top of that the game forces you to use this ridiculous Wiimote-only control setup that makes you use the d-pad to dodge, one button to fire and one button to jump. Would it have been so bad to include a GameCube controller or Classic Controller setup? Hell, a proper controller would have probably forced the developers to come up with a more interesting combat system.

Honestly the only reaction this game elicits from me is ‘wow, did Team Ninja really make this game?’ I still remember how the Ninja Gaiden Sigma demo kicked my ass, so seeing a game like this come from them makes me feel like I’m being trolled. I know that drawing comparisons to Super Metroid is silly since the two games are in different genres, but if there was a game that could have shown how to do a free-roaming 3D action game with the same veneer of non-linearity as Super Metroid, this could have been it. This should have been it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

(I’ve got one more ‘Comparison Theatre’ coming up soon…if you want a hint what the topic will be, here’s a hint: YOUはSHOCK!)

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