Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U have come with an influx of downloadable content in the form of characters as well as stages. As such, these late additions into the game change the surprisingly deep metagame. However, the latest and arguably most notable addition to the Super Smash Bros. pantheon of video game icons is the ever-controversial Bayonetta.
For those unaware of the inclusion of Bayonetta and how this came to be, let me lay some knowledge on you. Bayonetta was included as part of the “Smash ballot” initiative by game designer Masahiro Sakurai. She was voted for the most and therefore added to the game. Bayonetta was touted as a “combo-centric” character that could easily string insane combos together in the hands of the right player.
Initially, fans were excited at the prospect of a brand new character with a brand new set of moves and combos to learn and take advantage of. But, after a couple of weeks of work shopping and practice, players were able to find a slew of different potentially game-breaking combos and strategies that are hard to counter. Bayonetta is a character that can get quite a lot of momentum, damage, and even kills off of a well placed hit, causing enough frustration to lead to the decision to ban Bayonetta in Spain. However, there are still players who decry these claims and say that this latest iteration of Super Smash Bros. is as balanced as ever with the new 1.1.5 patch. I want to take some time to touch on key points, focusing on her weaknesses as a character, records in competitive play, and more using available support to show why she may not be the unbeatable umbra-witch after all.
Bayonetta is often extolled for her strengths, which include her ability to run away with stocks and convert solitary low percentage hits to low percentage kills early on. But, while her strengths have unarguably been focused on, little research has been done on her weaknesses. It becomes very apparent that Bayonetta has very slow moves, especially her smash attacks. Her fastest move is a 7-frame down tilt. For perspective, Captain Falcon’s grab is seven frames per second and is often spammed to start combos. Even the site KuroganeHammer, which shows comprehensive stats for all character in the game, shows a character that has very high offense and defense, and brilliant recovery. However, it also shows a character with very average speed and low weight. Bayonetta, however, has very few combos that can be launched easily by this move. Also apparent is Bayonetta’s only safe option out of shield, her back aerial, with all other options being extremely punishable.
Furthermore, part of Bayonetta’s arsenal that is touted as invincible are her Witch Twist (up special), Afterburner kick (side special), and Witch Time (down special). While all of these moves are relatively safe, they all have their individual costs. Witch Time is what most Bayonetta players use to reduce landing lag and safely avoid danger from oncoming attacks. However, patient players, if given time, can exploit witch time because of its diminished return if missed. This means that for 15 second increments (the amount of time it takes for Witch Time to become viable again after a miss) Bayonetta players must employ a very aggressive style of play. Another easily exploitable fault in Bayonetta’s movepool is the aforementioned Afterburner kick. When this move misses, if Bayonetta is off the stage, it takes away one of her potential recovery moves. Wise players will stand to the side of the stage in order to draw out this attack and cause Bayonetta to fly off the stage. Many players do not exploit these native faults to their full potential, and can abuse patient play to force Bayonetta users to take more risks in the neutral stage, which they can be punished for easily.
Another key aspect to combating Bayonetta is to master the directional influence (DI) necessary to get out of her combos, as well as having constant situational awareness in terms of character positioning as well as combo breaking. Through DI’ing in different directions, a player can manipulate their character’s trajectory in ways that force Bayonetta players to guess where they will be, allowing for constant escape from Bayonetta’s deadly combos.
As for her tournament record, it’s not what you might think. While many people feel that Bayonetta is an overpowering menace that presents a negative environment for competitive play, hard numbers and data of her tournament record tell a very different story.
Smashboards has shown that given all the weekly and daily tournaments and events, Bayonetta hasn’t taken very many tournaments, only 29 in fact. Just to help gain perspective, Palutena has taken 38 tournaments in the time since Bayonetta’s release. The numbers will rise, obviously, but this statistic alone shows how Bayonetta as a character doesn’t guarantee victory for her players. While her combos and advantages seem daunting at a glance, a little concentration and study of patterns and combos is necessary for the Bayonetta player and opponent.
After careful consideration and crunching the numbers, I’ve come to the conclusion that Bayonetta is not unbeatable. Bayonetta is a tough character to pick up and even harder to master in my own humble opinion. Her recovery is amazing if you know how to properly utilize it, however, if you’re like me and are used to Sonic’s easy recovery, it takes a lot of getting used to. Rather than deeming her “broken” or “SS Tier” in the same vein as Brawl’s Meta Knight, players should focus on learning how to beat this character and shape their strategies for defeating this potent character. Deeming a character broken results in a broken meta-game, and worst of all, it brings about restrictions. In a game that has been patched so many times in order to keep things balanced, it seems foolish to think that Sakurai would add a broken character at the end of the game’s DLC cycle. If you learn all the proper exploits and nuances to Bayonetta, she is a mountain that can easily be climbed.