Late last week, whether to test the waters to see if people would be for the idea, to hint at something hopefully in the works, or just thinking out loud, Bayonetta 2 director Yusuke Hashimoto stated he would love to make a game in the Spider-Verse, specifically starring the breakout character from the Edge of Spider-Verse series, Spider-Gwen. This news, as you can tell from someone who has written over five hundred articles on games based on comic books, got me incredibly excited. Not only do I love comic book games, but also Spider-Man, and after the last Spider-Man game as well Marvel’s new-found love of the mobile space, the prospect of getting any spider themed character in an amazing game seemed very dim. The mere idea that someone at Platinum wants to work in that universe is reason enough to be hopeful for the future of Spider-Man in the interactive medium, but at the same time, there are some pitfalls that could derail a project such as this.
For anyone who doesn’t know how the studio in question is, Platinum were once called Clover Studios and part of Capcom. There they developed such games as Viewtiful Joe and Okami before breaking off from that publisher to go independent. Since leaving Capcom, they’ve crafted some of the best games from any studio, including MadWorld on the Wii, the multi-platform sci-fi cover shooter Vanquish, and the series of games from which they’re probably most famous for, Bayonetta, which received a sequel last year exclusive to the Wii U and published by Nintendo.
I’ve had Bayonetta 2 since before Xmas and being a fan of the original, though not as hardcore as some, I didn’t jump in right away. This weekend however I both started and finished the game and without getting into a full review, Bayonetta 2 is a lot of things: Firstly, it is a much better game than its predecessor; It has more love for Nintendo than Nintendo does lately for themself in my opinion, and this game is not only something you should own if you have a Wii U, but something that you should go out and buy a Wii U for. It’s just that good of a game. It’s in Bayonetta and its sequel that I see the potential of a great Spider-Gwen game.
Platinum knows action, something very important for any Marvel Spider character as they’re very hyper kinetic characters. Before becoming Platinum, original Bayonetta director Hideki Kamiya was the lead designer of the original Devil May Cry, the game that started the character action genre of games that was followed by classics like God of War and Ninja Gaiden. In playing either Bayonetta or its sequel, you can see the potential of an amazing Spider-Gwen game. The title character runs on walls, flies through the air, and moves so fast at times that you could almost lose track of her. Honestly all you need to do is slap her in a white mask and hoodie and you’ve got your game right there.
What Platinum also proves with Bayonetta is their ability to make a strong, confident female protagonist. Without a lot of context Bayonetta can appear on the surface as sleazy and pandering, but in playing both games and learning about the character, you find that she is the single best female character in a video game to date. Bayonetta doesn’t act the way she does for attention, she does it because it’s what she want to do, what she likes to do; She just happens to look good while she does it. Bayonetta also has a very sharp wit with not only her supporting cast, but with the enemies she fights as well. Like Dante before her, she won’t shy away from some smack talk before shoving a stiletto equipped with a pistol into a giant monster ten times her size. This trend would not be out of place in any type of Spider-Man game, as the character not matter what the incarnation is always quick with the quips.
Where the developer doesn’t inspire much confidence in me at least is from a story development standpoint. Why we love comic book characters and why we fell in love with Gwen Stacy as Spider-Woman was because of the story that was written for her and of all the Platinum games I’ve played, which have been a lot, story has never been the strong point. Bayonetta and its sequel have a story, and a lot of lore was created for the universe in which she lives, but if pressed for details I couldn’t tell you a thing about it. It could be that it’s just not my style of story. Platinum is a Japanese studio and Bayonetta would not be out-of-place as an anime, a form of entertainment I’ve long since moved on from. I play Bayonetta not for the story though, the same thing with Vanquish and other games from the studio, but for how the mechanics will develop and what challenges will be thrown at me.
This can be fixed though, all they need is someone more familiar with writing stories for American comics to compliment their style of game. This is something that is not foreign to Platinum Games, as this is how they went about developing last year’s The Legend of Korra game: Platinum worked on the mechanics while a writer of the TV series worked on game’s story along with series creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino. Of course a problem with that game, as well as with a potential Spider-Verse title is that they have something in common: Activision as a publisher.
Under the watch of Activision, there have been some, pun intended, amazing Spider-Man games, but that was Activision around a decade ago, not Activision now. If Platinum approached the publisher about wanting to reboot their Spider-Verse series of games, they would allow them to do so only because of how much it would sell. They would allow it to be just good enough to sell a few units, but not of the quality that you would expect from say, WB Games and the Arkham series; One wouldn’t expect Activision to grant an over half of year extension for the sake of quality. If you look at all that came in Bayonetta 2: the full game, the complete first game with new Nintendo themed costumes, tons of collectibles, unlockable costumes, and all in one package at one price. Should a Spider-Gwen game happens, expect a Silk pre-order bonus at Best Buy, a Jessica Drew per-order bonus at EB games, etc.
I have no doubt in my mind that if Platinum was given the chance to run with the Spider-Gwen license tomorrow, we would all be getting a treat when they finished up. The studio has proven that not only can they make the best character action games on the market, but also titles in the genre starring an empowered, female protagonist. It’s in none of these areas that are up for debate, but the developers ability to meld their talent for game making with a strong narrative worthy of Marvel’s Spider-Man license. This is an even greater challenge under license holder Activision who could equally both make, or break, an original Spider-Verse game with a lot of untapped potential.