Not going to do one my big breakdowns for this one, but I enjoyed it enough to say some stuff about it. As usual, I’m going to assume you basically know the details about the game, try reading another review or something first to get up to speed. Or play the game, it’s pretty good!
I’m a big fan of Platinum. They’re loaded with talent I like. Hideki Kamiya is a pretty boss mo-fo and Clover never did me wrong (I <3 you, God Hand). I'm also a huge Metal Gear fan -- bigger than my other gaming opinions might apply. So once reviews made it clear that the game had overcome it's production problems and wasn't a trian wreck, it immediately became a 'must buy'.
I love Bayonetta, full stop. Rising feels like it’s made from Bayonetta’s basic components. Comboing has the same sort of rhythm to it, you execute moves in the same way and overall it has a very similar feel. It even has Dodge Offset on the one dodge move you can unlock.
The big realization in Bayonetta though was that it was a game about defense. The dodge and witch time really influence how the game feels. Dodging has secretly been the core of 3d action games for some time, from Monster Hunter to Dark Souls.
The goal of Rising was clearly to make defense ‘aggressive’. In Bayonetta, you could madly roll around until you got a lucky dodge. In Rising, you must parry in the direction of enemies, so you can’t stall nearly as easily. While I still find parrying to be fairly easy (once you know what the game wants), it is, compared to dodging, very attention and timing intensive. The game is also much more grounded. Raiden lacks even a double jump (which drives me nuts when I see him jump 100 feet in a cutscene but can’t climb a relatively low wall). Raiden is like a truck — he can be very fast and powerful, but he can’t just fly around like crazy, so the game actually ends up playing very grounded. The parry is cool — the game is still technically largely about defense (especially since a perfect parry is one of the few ways to kill enemies in a timely manner. More on that later), but the purposeful act of pushing an opponent’s attack away makes the game feel a lot more aggressive. Even the ‘dodge’ is an attack.
You also have Blade Mode. It’s a cute gimmick but I feel conflicted. The game seems to designed to give excuses to use this system but it rarely gives a good reason to use it. The game wants enemies to die from blade mode. As such, many enemies are unreasonably beefy and almost require a perfect counter to defeat in any reasonable time, making speedy fights a matter of luck, hoping the enmy does the right attacks. This is offset by Jack-the-Ripper mode, which is basically an armor breaking Devil Trigger. The game hits it’s stride when your JTR moding through big enemies only to pop smaller enemies like little energy packs. The pacing is great as long as you don’t slip up. Sadly limb and weapon cutting isn’t terribly interesting. The only interesting application of blade mode outside of bossfights I found in the game is slashing a blocking Broad Sword cyborg to break his guard. It’s not a bad system, but I can’t help but to feel the game is too far balanced toward Zandetsu. The fact that it fills all health and blade mode completely with one grab I think is a concession that Platinum didn’t have enough time to truly balance the system. Their solution is less elegant but very safe and still fun so I can’t complain too much.
Two additional nitpicks. The games secondary weapons are lacking. Most aren’t very good, and the SAIs are oveprowered and boring. This could be salvaged if they could be quickly transitioned between, Devil May Cry style, or if the menus were truly Metal Gear style, but switching is just tedious enough to discourage it in all but a handful of occasions. Atop that, I’m a annoyed that optimal DPS seems to be doing Raiden’s back-foward launcher over and over again. I guess it’s not that big of a deal, since usually it’s not an optimal way to fight groups of enemies, but it’s kinda silly looking where applicable.
Still, combat wise, I feel like Rising almost has the edge on Bayonetta and I hope to see a Revengeance 2 where Platinum can polish this wonderfully aggressive system.
As for the content — some people complain about short games. I love short games. Especially mastery driven games that I can play through over and over again. Once JTR mode is unlocked semi-immediately on NG+, the game flows much better. To salvage the original Rising content in a reasonable time frame, Platinum made a really lean game. Some of the of the visual content gets recycled a lot, but the enemy related challenges keep ramping up appropriately.
Another random note: The music. Oh my god the music. Not the sounds themselves. Most are okay at best (though there are one or two gems), but the manipulation of music so things like the vocals kick in, or the music crescendos when big moments in boss fights happen? That’s AWESOME and I wish more games would do it. The game also uses QTEs quite well. There is a bit of ‘press X not to die’ but it does a great job of legitimately making you feel awesome. Ending a lot of these segments with blade mode also add a deal of expression to the action. I kinda always wanted more ‘analog’ QTEs where the players input influence the action more, even if the results are largely the same. Blade Mode segments after QTEs are close.
The plot is hilarious. It’s like an Arnold Palmer of 50% Metal Gear and 50% DMC. Some of the exchanges have a level of corniness that can only be describes as Devil May Cry. The game is hammy as hell. The only real disappointment is I wish it struck a balance better. Metal Gear is great at taking it’s self seriously, while not taking it’s self TOO seriously. It’ll laugh with you at it’s self, but it never acts like it’s a joke. Rising does. Which is okay. It made me laugh a ton (the last boss says so many amazing lines that he’s basically a walking ball of memes. Monsoon would be proud). Not much to say about the plot. It’s hard to follow and barely matters. There are a few good segments. The Sam sequence where Raiden hears the voices of the cyborgs he’s fighting is pretty cool. It seemed very Metal Gear-y (even down to the soldiers saying the most corny stuff as it happens, just like in MGS3’s The Sorrow sequence). It seems a little oddly misplaced in Rising, but whatever. It’s better there than not there, but I’d love to see more tonal consistency in a sequence.
So basically it’s a pretty great game, but it does show some seams from being a salvaged project. The fact it does so good despite these hardships is a good sign. I hope Platinum is allowed to continue the series.