The third installment in the popular Bayonetta series is about to be released. You know exactly what to expect from this game in advance and that’s not bad at all. We get a sketchy story, over-the-top fights with pistols on legs and arms, demonic attacks made of hair and a camera that regularly slides over main character Bayonetta’s breasts and ass. Still, the witch will get more clothes this time, if you so choose.
When you play Bayonetta from PlatinumGames everything that happens on screen makes complete sense, but that stops as soon as you show the game to anyone. This is not only due to the inimitable action full of visual violence. It is mainly the exaggerated sexualization of main character Bayonetta that makes the game uncomfortable at those moments.
Regularly the camera is just between Bayonetta’s legs or behind her ass and all her clothes disappear. These are definitely not games that you show your parents in an argument about how mature the medium has become. Yet there is more to Bayonetta than just another sexualized female game character.
Bayonetta embraces her sexuality. She celebrates it in every move. The camera doesn’t always move to her crotch, but she moves her crotch to the camera without ever being a victim of that camera. It is not portrayed as if you are not actually allowed to look at it. She wants you to watch. She enjoys it when you might blush a little.
During the battles she constantly flirts with the enemies and with you as a player, because she knows that you are watching and enjoy what you see. Yes, I was just doing a break dance with bullets flying from the pistols at my ankles and then I lay down on the floor with my ass up and gave you a wink. Delicious huh?
Tight clothes made of hair
The difference in which men and women are portrayed in games is a well-known phenomenon. More and more game developers are aware of this difference and are trying to do something about it. Yet it is abundantly clear that women are more often sexualized. Consider, for example, the armor in fantasy games, where the female characters only just have a piece of cloth or metal over their private parts, while the men wear practical armor that protects them completely from attacks.
Bayonetta sometimes doesn’t even have a piece of fabric on. Her tight dominatrix suit consists of hair. During battles, she can attack with this hair, leaving herself naked and thus completely unprotected. But Bayonetta is anything but vulnerable at that point.
Often sexualized women in games and art are portrayed as weak. Their beauty and innocence must be protected by a man. Bayonetta goes straight to the point, as she needs neither armor nor a protector. Bayonetta is strong and defeats countless enemies without a drop of sweat. If things go wrong, it’s up to you as a player, not her.
It is strange with games to talk about the self-determination of a character. The best example of that awkwardness is Quiet from Metal Gear Solid 5. This character has hardly any clothes on, because she breathes through her skin. That concept is given as an excuse for the character to be dressed like that, because you don’t want her to choke, do you? Still, developer Hideo Kojima created that reason himself to let Quiet walk around almost naked.
With Bayonetta you can look at this in the same way. Bayonetta embraces her sexuality and is never ashamed, but is that a sign of a strong character, or is that also an excuse to show extra boob, ass and crotch shots?
In Bayonetta’s case, it seems to be more than that. Her sexuality is only part of a more in-depth character. Bayonetta is also strong in the way she fights, she is smart in the way she talks and always has a response and she has compassion for her friends and family. Bayonetta knows she’s sexy, but won’t let herself be treated like a sexual object.
Bayonetta 3 now does something remarkable: the game has a special chastity mode. The Naive Angel Mode prevents Bayonetta from becoming naked when summoning demons or weapons. That feels weird. While Bayonetta’s overly sexual nature is only part of who she is, it is inextricably linked to her character. Bayonetta is a warrior, a witch and she is dripping sex.
But not everyone plays these games alone or with people around who feel the same way. For example, if you live with your parents and want to play Bayonetta 3, you’ll probably be very grateful for this mode.
After the unveiling of the Naive Angel Mode, there were some grumbles here and there that this new mode is censorship. In the past there has certainly been some cleaning up with localization, mainly in the somewhat prudish America. For example, when Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water came to Wii U, sexy outfits (a bikini that just barely keeps everything inboard) were removed from the game due to the age rating. In the original version of The Witcher, the naked Dryads got some clothing for the US release, including longer hair to cover the nipples. Later this was straightened (or pulled out) with a patch.
And who can forget the ‘vagina bones’? In Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, the female characters got some more clothes for the Western release. Lines at the bottom of a character’s belly have also been removed. Someone on Twitter responded with: “Not only did they remove her cleavage, but also her vagina bones”.
But rest assured, the Naive Angel Mode in Bayonetta 3 is literally an optional feature. If you don’t enable the option, nothing will be covered that wasn’t already covered in the previous games. In the trailers for Bayonetta 3 it is at least clear that the witch does not compromise on her sexy appearance. Her legs part and the clothes come off, just as we are used to from her.