Airing your grievances about games being hard is fine, it’s your right. The devs have already clarified that the game actually has multiple difficulty modes, so nobody has anything to worry about. But, complaining about difficulty in videogames, specifically Dark Souls, is all too common. While it can be cringeworthy to hear people describe all hard games as “soulslike”, they have a bit of a point.
You see, Soulsborne is actually kindof sortof ruining games. But no, not like you think it is. The resurgence of hard games isn’t the problem. There’s just too many games aping the souls formula, directly. In terms of my exposure to the OG series, I hated Bloodborne. Because I didn’t even know what I’m supposed to do at the start, wasn’t even the combat. I’ll try it again some day but probably not because so many games just use the formula, and I’ve played those games.
The most recent ones I played were Jedi Fallen Order and Remnant From the Ashes.
Let’s start with Jedi Fallen Order because I can be brief about my experience. The game is essentially “what if Dark Souls but Star Wars?”. At the end of the day I enjoyed it but the difficulty settings annoyed me. The difference between the designated Easy and Normal modes are night and day. Normal like was throwing brick walls at my face frustrating. Easy was like “hahaha lightsaber goes brrrrrrr”. Okay? It was fine.
Next is Remnant from the Ashes, which is “what if Dark Souls but third person shooter?”. It does not play well as a single player game. The developers made it that way. And you can matchmake, buuuut even on GamePass, very few people were playing. It took forever for me to get someone to help me with a boss. Plus the first boss was doing cheap shit like spawning endless minions on top of bullet sponge health bar. You absolutely needed two people, one to fight the hordes of minions, one to focus on the boss. I actually don’t even remember if I beat it or not.
Later on I got matchmade into someone else’s game and helped them do a quest that I wasn’t even at yet. It was just endless tunnels and tunnels and tunnels of enemies that it eventually went from “tense” to “obnoxious”. Despite getting some good XP from the experience, it also advanced the plot… for his game. I got back to my game and I’m still several missions behind and, as I said, rarely can get anyone to join. I heard it gets more visually interesting later on but… yeah it was just a total slog.
Now before you tell me to “git gud scrub”….
I’d like to present to you my resume of tough melee combat games I’ve tackled. Most of them have a faster pace than Soulsborne games.
I love my lightning-fast brawling games. I’m an avid fan of Platinum Games. I’ve beaten Nier Automata, Transformers Devastation, and Bayonetta 2 in their hard modes. Same for DMC5. Spastic jumpy punchy action dodgy slashy hackey fun. I get to choose when I want the game to be challenging. But I don’t see the entire industry trying to design their games to be more like Platinum.
Platinum allows me to enjoy my game before I tell it to start kicking my ass. I get good by mastering the game and then dramatically increasing the challenge and playing it again the moment I’ve finished. And once again, the fast motion is fun. I’d love to see a game that plays like Platinum Games with a Souls-tier difficult “Normal Mode”. Oh wait, there is. Astral Chain. The game gives starts you off with a baby mode, and easy mode, and then jumps straight to “Platinum Standard”, which skips normal and goes straight to hard. It also reminds you how much you suck at the end of every encounter. Not only is the game hard but they decide very early on in the game to tell you what the controls are, only AFTER you fight 5 minibosses simultaneously. I’m not making that part up.
So yeah, uh, not every game has to specifically do Dark Souls.
And those that do frequently miss the point and just make them super hard or insurmountable. if I had more patience I’d probably finish Jedi Fallen Order on “normal” but it came off the heels of me having finished a Platinum Game on hard and the muscle memory kept me from enjoying the challenge. With Monster Hunter World, Salt and Sanctuary, Hyper Light Drifter, Nioh, Sekuro Shadows Die Twice, The Surge 1 & 2, Blasphemous, Code Vein, the list goes on. We have plenty of game that are either like Dark Souls are compared as such. Not every game needs to be so very similar.
Two game developers are influencing the action game market.
In the world of brawler style melee action games, there are many sorts of styles that can be adapted to make the players feel comfortable with the action. With the popularity of two major game developers, it’s pretty cut and dry that there are two methods of designing the playstyle. From Software and Platinum Games are those two developers, and both of their games have a signature style that their studios are notorious for employing. They both also make for great combat. Yet, by and large, they are polar opposites from one another. These prevailing gameplay styles can thus be broken down on a simplified scale from 0-10 with one developer on each side. Let’s talk about those styles for a bit.
Let’s start with From Software. They are notorious for the Dark Souls series and Bloodborne, and in case you’ve been living under a rock, they are quite popular. Indeed, Souls games are known for their difficulty, range of playstyle choices, and thoughtful combat practices. In older times, you could mash a button to attack enemies a la Warriors games until you win, but that discipline is a good way to get yourself killed over and over if you’re playing Souls. Nay, when playing a Souls game, one must exercise caution and patience when playing. If you try to run up to enemies and smack them about as much as you can, you will quickly run out of stamina and get the stuffing beat out of you.
Souls games have the ongoing memes attached to them. There’s “Git Gud,” which implies that if you find the difficulty too hard, tough shit, you just have to get better. This game will not accommodate an easier setting. And of course, the well known “Prepare to Die” also sticks with the games, as the challenge of the combat will find you dying many times as you figure out the best ways to fight. That’s how the games are. Every new enemy encounter is a new experience. You have to take things slow and learn your combatants’ patterns and flows in order to best them. You watch them and you adapt. Soon, you learn that different animations mean different attacks, and you learn how to anticipate them and act accordingly. You can only get by with perseverance, getting to know your enemy’s line of attacks. Once you have them figured out, as long as you stay diligent, you can hold your own. Or at least until a boss shows up.
Before we dive into bosses, let’s talk about the other end of the spectrum. We have Platinum Games, makes of some of the most purely awesome combat encounters. Platinum throws common sense and logic right out the fucking window in favor of a coolness factor. It doesn’t matter how impractical or absurd everything gets, you are there to wreak absolute havoc upon anyone who stands in your way. In stark contrast to the methodical nature of Souls, these games want you to absolutely wreck your opponents. Now, mashing buttons may be the key to these games, but it sure as hell isn’t brainless, instead it is a solid flow. You learn how to take visual cues from the fighting to know when to press dodge, when to fast attack, when to strong attack, and then you sting up that series of button stomping action right on into the latter half of the double digits. Keeping your combos going is key, and any moment you are spending on not attacking your opponents is basically wasted time.
Platinum’s repertoire is vast but often features key similarities. They have a lot of successful releases, like Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance- Lightning Bolt Action, Transformers Devastation, and new critically acclaimed Nier Automata. All of these feature combat based on stringing together tight-knit button combinations while being mindful of visual cues. As long as you’re smashing the dodge button, you’ll get out the way of being hit hard. Enemy attacks are far less telegraphed in these games, as a very short gleam appears on an enemy, giving you a fraction of a second to dodge, and then continue your full frontal assault. You don’t exercise any caution in these games. Instead, as soon as you see a single enemy, your first move will likely be to charge right on into them at full speed to destroy them before they can even sneeze.
Let’s talk about boss fights. When you encounter a boss in a Souls game, there’s a strong chance you were never prepared for it. They will also terrify the everliving hell out of you as they morph and grow before your very eyes and menace you to an extent where you’ve already accepted your fate and thus “prepared to die.” You learn how to fight bosses by dying. These giant, imposing bastards will pound you into the ground over and over until you finally get just the right amount of focus. Once you’re in the zone, you can carefully pay attention to all of their attacks and strike when it’s your turn. You know you’re in for a long fight in these, and learn that getting hasty is a mistake you can’t afford. When you see a boss in a souls game, you’d be lying if your first reaction isn’t “oh shit”.
Contrast this with the aggression that Platinum encourages, and you’re in for a completely different ride. When you encounter a boss in a Platinum game, the mentality isn’t fear. You internally say yourself, “Wow, I cannot wait to fuck that guy up!” and proceed to have at them, even if they are frequently 3-6 times your puny size. Here, you run in and you start beating on them no matter what and you keep the pressure going, never allowing your target to catch their breath. Instead of learning from dying, you simply learn what does and does not work as you fight. Are certain attacks not working? Try others. Are all of your attacks simply chiseling down the boss’s HP? Just keep at it and they’ll go down. You have to be fierce and vicious to win. Don’t think about your attacks, just act and react. Fight, fight and fight, and if the boss hits you hard you just gotta hit them back harder.
And so, the influence of these developers brightly shines through, even as I play more and more games that aren’t made by them. It’s popular for ‘games journalists’ to compare difficult melee games to Souls, but it’s not their fault. Games are starting to borrow elements from the style of this unfathomably popular new game series. Not all games though; while some tend to take a leaf from the Souls book, others lean in on the sharp and fast action of Platinum. I’d like to introduce a scale to rank games based on how similar their fighting styles are to the repertoire of these two developers’ groundbreaking series. It’s called the From Platinum scale, and it goes like this:
It’s 0-10. On the left-hand side, you have From Software occupying the space of 0. Not because it’s bad, think of it as more of a scale of speed and forgiveness. Souls are not forgiving, nor are they expedient, thus the zero. Only a game made by that developer can receive a 0, everything else can get a “1” at best. On the other side, it’s Platinum Games holding up the 10. I chose them for 10 because “platinum” is a precious metal, which implies high monetary value. Only games by that company can get a 10, the rest can only get a “9” at best. How does that factor into games that are recent or popular? Let’s have a look at a few games.
Dark Souls: 0
In case you skipped every paragraph and jumped right here, then listen. Once again, Dark Souls doesn’t get a zero because it’s bad. It gets a zero because the combat gives you ZERO hope. You will die, it is inevitable. No other game can get a zero.
Bloodborne isn’t quite as damning as the Souls games. It also has a faster and more active approach, so it gets a different rating.
Nier: Automata: 10
Nier Automata takes the cake for the most Platinum of Platinum games, being a title that not only has fast-paced combat but also makes you fight while making playing a bullet hell shooter.
Transformers Devastation: 9
The action is fast and furious, but not quite as insane as Platinum’s other titles. Still, it maintains the fury and finesse that makes them so special.
Batman Arkham Series: 5
It strikes the perfect balance between being aggressive to exercising caution. You face enemies head-on or through the shadows, but you must still keep moving, otherwise, you’re a sitting duck.
This game had a very slow and methodical combat system that some Souls veterans found to be not so challenging. The game lacks the depth that Souls has to offer, but if you encounter a boss you’re unprepared for, you’re gonna get wrecked until you either leave completely to level up or just face them and chip away at their health for 20 minutes.
Hyrule Warriors: 7
In Warriors games, you lay the smackdown on waves of enemies, often killing grunts in the higher double digits in single blows. Although you can mash buttons at the base enemies, you’ll encounter miniboss characters who require a nuanced but aggressive approach.
The Surge: 2
What if Dark Souls but sci-fi and shitty?
That is but a few examples. I fully expect to use the From Platinum™ scale of melee gaming for future releases. What do you think? Am I onto something, or full of shit? Tell me in the comments.
I say it all the time and I’ll say it again. Metal Gear Solid is the best franchise of all time. End of rant. The other thing I say all the time is I love the healthy competition between the two behemoth brands. And in my honest opinion, at the time of this writing, Xbox is bringing some heat this month.
May Games with Gold 2018
Super Mega Baseball 2 (Xbox One) Available free from May 1st – May 31st
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Xbox One) May 16th – June 15th
Sega Vintage Collection: Streets of Rage (Xbox One, Xbox 360) May 1st – May 15th
Vanquish (Xbox One, Xbox 360) May 16th – May 31st
Can’t wait to play yet another Platinum Games game since I’ve now declared them the best developer of all time. -chet
I have two sets of counterfeit Amiibo card I got on Wish:
-11 for Splatoon, and
-18 for Zelda
That’s 29, which is a number I failed to grasp while recording. But after the counterfeit cards were finished I had a handful of real Amiibo to finish the job. This video will show you just how much coin you can unclock if you scan 32, the maximum daily limit for for Bayonetta 2.
The original Bayonetta was one of the first titles that Platinum Games brought to the table as their first offering. Along with that were games like Vanquish and MadWorld. They showed everyone that when it comes to brawl-em-up types games, they were a serious force to be reckoned with. Although initially a mildly successful multiplatform release, the series was bought by Nintendo of all companies, and a sequel came out several years later. The only problem was that it was released on the WiiU and nobody had that. Nintendo’s decision to re-release both titles for their Switch was a brilliant idea to give the series the breath of fresh air it deserves. And with a sequel in the works, this definitive version of the games is all the more welcoming to be played.
Bayonetta originally came out in 2009 and looked a bit drab, having not escaped the then-popular design philosophy of making everything brown. It has its moments but they are far overshadowed by the sequel. It had color in spades. Early on in the game is a city with a rich old European style cityscape with pools of water reminiscent of Renaissance-era Venice. It’s very… aesthetic. Once the game takes a turn for the supernatural, you will find yourself in a vast space like you just landed right in the middle of a nebula. That’s just the quality of the locations. Character design is also off the charts, with friendlies and enemies frequently looking more like they just got back from a fashion show rather than a battle between the forces of an ersatz heaven and hell. But it’s not just beauty, as many of the bigger boss enemies can edge from queasy to the downright grotesque. You can’t find another game with character design put into the likes of Bayonetta.
I couldn’t be less interested in a story about mysticism, fights between demigods, witches, demons, and angels, etc. It’s a testament to the quality of the storytelling that the plot of the game genuinely piqued my interest. I scoffed as I started the first game, initially dismissing it as a load of nonsense. But as you play more and more, the plot actually starts folding together quite nicely. This is doubly so when you play the sequel and find out even more truths about some of the events from the previous game. What also makes this so good is that sometimes, the presentation takes a backseat for the story to play out. There are full-fledged cutscenes, but for every cutscene or so you also get sections with a load of still shots with effects and voice-overs dishing out a lot of the exposition. This would be a bad thing if it weren’t for just how damn stylish the game remains, even when resorting to this technique, which is more indicative of a low budget than lack of talent. Either way, this game knows how to keep itself compelling, and will push you forward boss after boss after boss.
A non-stop dance party. That’s what the OST is like for Bayonetta. Running around on the map between fights is just your garden variety background music. As soon as the way closes off and the enemies teleport in, the music crescendos into a dancing bit. The most used fighting themes not only feature groovy hooks and riffs but some fun vocal performances. Having lyrics to fight themes can get annoying depending on what game you’re playing. But here in this title, you’ll never tire of hearing those opening bars while you whip out your guns/blades/whips/flamethrowers and boogie. I mean, one of Bayonetta’s fighting moves is literally just breakdancing (but with guns). Hell, many characters start breakdancing for no reason, it’s like every character can actively hear what song is playing and adjust accordingly. Oh yeah, and the sound is good too.
With a game like this, you come for the gameplay and you stay for the gameplay. Bayonetta is one of many games designed by Platinum that have finessed the art of creating fast and frenetic brawling action games. They’ve done this with many other titles like Nier: Automata and Transformers Devastation. All feature some similarities in their control schemes, yet all are different enough to feel like distinct games. Being able to practice combos in the loading screen was a great idea (albeit not as useful in the Switch port where loading screens are so short you have time for about one or two combos tops before you’re back in action. They had to add a “Practice Mode” button to fix this). The weapon variety all felt different enough to the point where various techniques are viable, so long as you still try to be fast on your feet, (or on your back if you’re breakdancing again). There’s not much more that can be said. All games developers who make brawling games should see Bayonetta as the pinnacle of the formula.
Once again, the first game was a bit rough around the edges. It punishes you greatly for dying- and you’ll die a lot. And you’ll be graded on your performance. And you’ll do poorly on your first run, guaranteed. But the sequel fixed that and made the game far more balanced and gave you more to do with your abilities to really expand and perfect the gameplay formula. Now, whenever I start playing this game, I think I’m just going to sit down and play a couple of levels. Instead, I nearly marathoned almost all of Bayonetta 2 only to slow down just towards the end. Actually, during the penultimate chapter, I accidentally skipped an area I wanted to explore and couldn’t go back to it, so I started the whole chapter over. And I didn’t care one bit that I basically had to fight like 4 minibosses all over again because the level was just that fun and interesting anyway. It’s an absolute blast from start to finish, and I haven’t even gotten into all the wacky mini-games you play. There are bits from both games where you’re riding on a few things and it sort of becomes an on-rails shooter, ranging from a motorcycle, a fighter jet, a biplane, and an ICBM. That’s not even a joke. That happens. Once you’re done with the sequel you can move on to challenge room levels or replay the levels in a variety of different costumes and characters as well as some decent multiplayer, which I didn’t even know the game had nor was it necessary, but it was nice all the same.
Bayonetta is a wild ride from start to finish. Some may find the over-sexualization of Bayonetta off-putting, but that’s likely because the game is so over the top that it’s probably trying to make you feel uncomfortable on purpose. Either way, it’s a game with amazing combat, amazing music, amazing plot, and amazing amazement. If you haven’t played this game and want to know what it’s all about, the Switch port is absolutely the best system to check it out on. I will lament having to move on to other titles as I want to just keep playing it, but alas, I have to move on to other games. Such is the sad life of a reviewer. Absolute must-have for brawler fans.
It’s really hard to review a port like Bayonetta 1 & 2 on the Nintendo Switch. Do you review the games individually, or do you review them together as a package? I am electing for the latter. Especially because of the age of the first Bayonetta, the game I’ve almost finished before moving on to the sequel.
The game has several flaws that are subject to the age of the game. Being one of Platinum Games’ first few releases, it came out in 2009 with all the good and bad from that era. You have a great, straightforward, linear experience that has now become a rarity, and that’s a good thing for this game because it’s a start to finish experience full of thrills. The game has cutscenes featuring outrageous over the top shenanigans, including simultaneous breakdancing between two characters on more than one occasion. But you also have spots where the game ditches full motion for a series of heavily animated still shots of characters in different poses with exposition being delivered via VO overlay. Did they have enough time or money to finish these sections? There’s no way to know for sure, but even still, the still shots are stylized in a way that makes them entertaining even when important plot points are being delivered.
The first game also doesn’t have the best graphics- but once again, the game is too old to have had spectacular graphics. That and Platinum Games isn’t typically known for their graphical prowess, as they often reach for style over realism which almost always does the trick. The levels don’t look like real places, but they look good enough, and that’s all that’s needed.
Plus, the reason you buy a game from this developer is the gameplay, which is almost universally a good time so long as you ignore that Ninja Turtles game they farted out once. Combo mastery is essential to this particular brawl-em-up, and you’ll find yourself dying repeatedly if you don’t act with precision. Unfortunately, you will most likely learn this the hard way as the game scores how well you did during every chapter, and I have no idea how they expect you to die less than five times per level on your first try. So, it’s a little disheartening to watch as the game mocks you level after level because you didn’t perfect it. But it’s not so discouraging that it will keep you from trying your best. The only major mistake is that the game has a handful of QUICK TIME EVENTS, the cancer of older games. These QTEs usually pop up without much warning so you never really know when you can relax and watch the cutscene or if you have to brace yourself to push a button. That’s a shame because you’ll usually need a breather between all the bouts of fighting action this game boasts. The QTEs should have been removed from the game for the better, but alas they are still there.
In case the earlier parts didn’t give it away, it must be pointed out that Bayonetta is an absolute blast, and the handheld experience is definitely an enhancement. I beat one of the bosses on my lunch break at work, and what a spectacular lunch break it was. The game looks and runs great on the small screen, and in this case, runs better than when the original version was out. In fact, it runs so well that the normal loading screens where you can practice your combos are now so short you don’t really even have time to get more than one or two attacks in before the next section is ready to go. All in all, the Nintendo Switch version of Bayonetta is the best version of the game, and I can’t wait to finish and play the sequel.