Both Shinji Mikami and Hideki Kamiya had their breakthroughs at Capcom during the '90s while working on the Resident Evil franchise: Mikami was the director of both the first Resident Evil and Resident Evil 4, while Kamiya headed the work on Resident Evil 2, where he also conceived some of the ideas for what would later become Devil May Cry.
In 2004, both Mikami and Kamiya joined the newly established Clover Studio, a Capcom subsidiary. Clover only lasted for three short years, but their track record consists of Viewtiful Joe 2, Okami, and God Hand, which is quite a resume. Unfortunately, Capcom didn't think the same, and Clover Studio closed in 2007. Most of the employees chose to leave Capcom, and under the leadership of Mikami and Kamiya many ended up joining PlatinumGames the same year, where Mikami would stay until creating Tango Gameworks in 2010.
PlatinumGames is a studio characterised games filled with craziness, creativity, excellent visuals, fast-paced action, and extremely precise gameplay. It's easy to be impressed by the studio's track record, where you'll find games like Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, The Wonderful 101, Nier: Automata, and last year's excellent Astral Chain. Many of the studio's traits were defined in those first games, and two of these defining titles are now available in the Bayonetta & Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle for both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Bayonetta was first released in Japan in late 2009 before making its way here early in 2010, and it's a game where Kamiya further polished the ideas seen before in Devil May Cry. The result is a game where you play as titular character Bayonetta, a less-than-subtle dominatrix witch who'll kick your butt to kingdom come with her guns and magic, with a flirty smile on the side. Bayonetta has no recollection of her background and history, and you'll join her on her journey to Europe where she ends up fighting divine beings while digging up more information about her past. This is a game where quick and precise combos are the keys, and with a control system and design to match these keys, it's no question that Bayonetta's still the queen of gun-blazing hack-and-slash games.
Vanquish, on the other hand, is Mikami passion project released in late 2010, and it's a third-person shooter where the game mechanics according to Mikami himself are solely based on western action games of that era. If you've played sci-fi or cover shooters like Gears of War, Halo or Mass Effect, it's not hard to recognise some of these elements, but Vanquish is way more intense and fast-paced than all of these games put together. Here you play as Sam Gideon in a near-future setting where the United States is under attack by the rebellious Order of the Russian Star, which fries San Francisco to pieces with a satellite weapon at the start of the game.
With an experimental DARPA-developed exoskeleton, Sam is added to a force of marines charged with recapturing the satellite weapon before the Order of the Russian Star can torch New York. The story is riddled with clichés, cringy dialogue, over-the-top voice acting and characters full of the kind of masculinity that hasn't exactly become less toxic in the last ten years. On the other hand, the game offers a quick pace, an incredibly satisfying combat system, and an armoured suit that lets Sam glide along the ground with rocket speed (we suspect director Guillermo del Toro played this game before directing Pacific Rim because the Jaeger combat suits in the movie are quite similar to Sam's armour).
If you've never played either of these games before and don't have the option of buying the PC versions, this is a bundle well worth getting. We're talking about two of the most entertaining action games of the last console generation here, and Bayonetta, in particular, is still quite impressive with its combat system, design, sound editing and soundtrack. Vanquish has aged a little less gracefully, but it can still pack a rocket punch and provide excellent entertainment as well. This bundle contains two games showing off what Platinum does best: game mechanics with an insane tempo. At the same time, the games also remind us that story isn't always the studio's strongest suit, with Vanquish as the best case in point. Then again, this makes us appreciate Nier: Automata even more, a game where the developer handled the design while leaving the writing to the incredible mind of Yoko Taro.
During our time with the game, we only had a standard PS4 available, but a quality 4K TV improved the experience. The utilise the 4K/60fps experience to the max it's recommended to play on a PS4 Pro or an Xbox One X as well as on a 4K screen. With that said, owners of the standard versions of the consoles will still find a greatly upgraded experience here, and the bundle offers two remasters that improve the originals greatly. This is even more evident if you play the original PS3 versions on the same screen, something we took the time to do. For those unfamiliar with the PS3 version of Bayonetta, it's a famously bad port of the game that drops under 20 frames per second, and playing the 4K version on PS4 reminds us just how bad the PS3 version really was. The PS3 to PS4 transition of Vanquish might not be as evident at first glance, as the game was originally created with PS3 in mind, but switching over to the PS4 version shows some necessary quality improvements here as well.
The control setup is way better in the PS4 version, the colours are greatly improved, and the framerate is higher and more stable. Whether the image runs at a steady 60 frames per second on both games is hard to tell, but as far as we could tell it's not far off. Bayonetta runs smoothly with little input lag and excellent battles, and Vanquish feels full of high-paced action thanks to the upscaled graphics and framerate.
The colour range is also more vivid in this bundle, even on a regular PS4 (if you have HDR mode on your TV, this will come in handy too). Even so, both games can't escape the fact that the basic colour palette is rather brown and grey. This was a common problem with games during the last console generation, so the problem isn't unique to these two. The bundle does what it can to breathe more life into the picture, and Bayonetta benefits greatly from this. Despite these improvements, the cutscenes could have used a little more love and care. The divide between the old and new versions is smaller here, both in terms of picture quality and framerate. Vanquish in particular has several noticeable problems, with the picture slowing down and almost stopping during some of the cutscenes. This isn't a common problem and could be related to a heated PS4, but it's still worth mentioning.
If you hope to get a lot of bonus content with this bundle, you're out of luck. The games are released with all DLC included, which includes some extra weapons in Vanquish for example, but beyond that, there's little extra material here. You get the games and some online scoreboards, but that's it. The games don't offer a lot of settings either. On the plus side, though, the loading times are reduced to almost zero even on a standard PS4, which is a blessing. If you're among those who missed the Japanese voice acting in the original release of Bayonetta ten years ago, we're pleased to announce that this is now included in the options too.
Most of the setbacks are still just minor setbacks, and all things considered, this is an excellent bundle filled with quality entertainment (just make sure to turn off your brain for a little while during the most cringy parts). These two last-gen titles have aged surprisingly well, and the remasters are so well done that even owners of the standard consoles will enjoy this technical upgrade. After hours of button mashing and challenge after challenge, we still want more (we smell a reunion with Bayonetta 2 on Switch shortly). Whether this is your first or tenth time with these games, you're guaranteed hours of solid entertainment with this bundle.
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