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Where is Bayonetta?

In memory of Bayonetta. She's not dead, I just like thinking about her.

Earlier this week in a Famitsu interview, PlatinumGames designer and Bayonetta director said, “Bayonetta 3‘s development is progressing smoothly. Actually, there’s a lot of info hidden in the teaser announcement in 2017.”

Upon reading this, I heard something. It was quiet but clear. It was the sound of my heart breaking.

At the beginning of January, Kamiya had shared in an issue of Weekly Famitsu that he was aware fans were anxious about Bayonetta 3 updates. “First of all regarding Bayonetta 3, there hasn’t been any new information at all ever since the first reveal so I feel like a lot of people are getting worried about it, but the inspection for new systems is going well, and the development is also progressing very smoothly, so please rest assured and wait for it,” he said. “There are also many other interesting things I want to talk about, but it’s a super secret so I can’t say.”

This has been, more or less, all the news we’ve gotten for Bayonetta 3 since its one-minute reveal at the 2017 Game Awards. We know it’s currently in development, and that it’s slated exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. So one has to wonder: Where Is She? Where is Bayonetta, mother of dragons (or witches) and savior of video games?

Bayonetta has been a popular character in Super Smash Bros. 4 and Super Smash Ultimate, but that’s about all she’s done since Bayonetta 2 was released all the way back in 2014.

PlatinumGames has steadily been revealing new projects through its Platinum 4 website, with all but the last one being unveiled. Bayonetta fans are hoping and praying it’ll be the first footage we’ll see of the third installment, but what it remains to be seen. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be Bayonetta 3, fans will still be patiently and eagerly waiting for her return.

It’s because there’s little to not love about Bayonetta games.

For one, they’re just ridiculously fun to play. PlatinumGames excels at creating dynamic battle systems. While the original NieR had an emotional story that resonated with its players, one of its main criticisms upon release was its unengaging and uninteresting battle system. One might argue that, in addition to just being more ambitious overall, NieR: Automata was able to achieve its cult popularity because PlatinumGames was responsible for the gameplay, and made it genuinely fun. That feels like an empty descriptor, especially because “fun” means different things to different people, but mixing chips that drastically altered your playstyle was fun. Its three protagonists had wildly different styles that kept gameplay fresh and exciting. While you only play as Bayonetta in her games, there’s an equal amount of depth and joy to be found in all the different ways you can play as her.

And then there’s Bayonetta herself, who’s an incredibly complex character. She’s been adored and criticized almost in equal measure — and for many valid reasons.

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I’ve understood her criticisms; she’s often semi-naked and the game’s camera angles love to emphasize this. She’s sexual in a way that often feels like — and does — pander to the assumed majority straight-male audience that plays her games. Many would argue that she’s an “unfeminist” character. But, by 2020, I’m hoping we’ve moved on from analyzing whether a piece of media — or a character in one — meets an arbitrary degree of feminism; that, instead, we’ve grown to analyze it as a spectrum.

While I’ve understood and even don’t wholly disagree with some criticisms, I’m still eagerly waiting for Bayonetta 3 despite the crumbs of updates that would’ve exhausted me by now. It’s because I love Bayonetta, and what she means to me and many other women. I felt my normally anxiety-ridden self filled with confidence when I first played as her in my uncertain high school years. She’s bold, courageous, and empowered in ways I dreamed, and still dream, of being. She’s one of the few women with glasses in video games who aren’t pigeon-holed into a quiet and reserved personality type. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, for I am one of those kinds of women with glasses. But I do wonder how seeing a self-assured, boisterous, and unapologetic woman who wears glasses would have affected my impressionable personality growing up.

I also wonder how she might have impacted the internalized misogyny I struggled with for several years. Bayonetta expresses a love for a mix of the traditionally feminine and masculine. She adores makeup, fashion, and dancing as much as she loves weapons, motorcycles, and arcade games. She doesn’t particularly see a distinction in them or see “feminine” things as what she should enjoy. She’s an extremely powerful and brutal fighter who doesn’t forsake her femininity; who struts onto a battlefield in heels and blows a kiss to the last person she’s destroyed. She’s sexual in a way that feels like it panders just as much as it feels like it’s about her, for her, and no one else. In a world that still demands of women to diminish ourselves, Bayonetta is unabashedly over-the-top, authentic, and rejecting of any and all notions that attempt to restrict her. I’ve learned, and continue to learn, a lot from her.

Also, come on, she’s queer as hell. Have y’all seen the way she looks at Jeanne?

Which is why I sit here, reminiscing on how wonderful she is, wearing my heart on my sleeve, begging. Where is miss Bayonetta? We miss her. Please come back, queen.

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Natalie Flores

Natalie is Fanbyte's Featured Contributor, with bylines at places like VICE, Polygon, PC Gamer, Paste Magazine, and more.

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