The Bayonetta honeymoon was incredibly short. It only took about a day after the character’s release for competitive Smash Bros. players to realize not only that she is one of the strongest characters in the game, but also that she has safe combos that can KO opponents from 0% damage.
ESAM was probably the most notable player to draw attention to this, discovering Bayonetta’s insane witch twist combos while the rest of the scene was preoccupied with how powerful the witch time counter was.
Soon, a deep rift in the Smash 4 competitive scene was created.
As Bayonetta rose up the tier lists, more and more competitive players decided to learn the character. Because she is such a strong character, and because her moves are difficult to punish effectively, these players quickly started placing higher in major tournaments.
People started noticing.
Players who put in countless hours practicing with more difficult characters like Shiek and Diddy Kong were understandably frustrated by being beaten by players who put in less time learning Bayonetta’s combos and mechanics.
Tensions flared between Bayonetta mains and the rest of the Smash scene, with players dismissing the skills of Bayonetta mains, claiming that they were “carried” by Bayonetta, and would not be placing nearly as highly if the character were nerfed or banned.
This backlash caused more backlash when people realized that no matter how true those statements might be, no matter whether or not these players were getting carried to greater heights by Bayonetta, it’s kind of a dick move to point it out publicly.
In April, tournament organizers started seriously discussing the possibility of banning Bayonetta from competitive play. The argument was that Bayonetta was as strong, if not stronger, than Meta Knight was in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, so to protect whatever competitive balance was left in Smash 4, Bayonetta must be banned.
Spain’s scene was the first to weigh in, saying that they were seriously considering banning the character (though as of yet, no official ban has been put in place). Since then, two competitive scenes in the USA (Tampa and St. Louis) have banned the character, with many more giving a ban serious consideration.
Many regions, Spain included, however, are presumably choosing to wait and see what happens. Balance patches for Super Smash Bros. 4 have been fairly regular, appearing about every 2 or 3 months since the game’s release. Most tournament organizers seem content to wait for the next one, hoping that it solves many of Bayonetta’s inherent issues.
The Argument Against The Ban
Obviously, not everybody thinks Bayonetta should be banned. A recent video from ESAM has shown clearly how most of Bayonetta’s kill confirm combos can be avoided. In essence, this means that the combos that made Bayonetta a problem in the first place are weaker than previously thought, and players have tools to deal with them.
Further, many people believe that banning a character in Smash 4, no matter who it is, will lead to the death of the competitive scene in general, making games seem less authentic since players’ options are being limited arbitrarily.
Top Players’ Opinions
ZeRo, the consensus best Smash 4 player in the world, has come out against the ban (for the time being, at least), but his opinions on the character are telling.
In offering strategies on how to beat Bayonetta, ZeRo gets at the heart of the Bayonetta issue. ZeRo suggests playing a very slow, campy, and defensive game to counter a Bayonetta player, and the simple truth is that this is not fun.
Many top players around the world have been calling Bayonetta “toxic.” Before reacting to that claim, it is helpful to explore what exactly “toxic” means in this context. The term is used in reference to the Smash 4 scene in general. Top players hate playing against Bayonetta not simply because they lose more often, but also because the effective strategies for dealing with a Bayonetta are not fun. Given this fact, the more people pick up Bayonetta, the less fun everyone else has.
The tricky thing, and the thing that many Smashers don’t bring up, is that there’s no guarantee that a nerf will fix this. The general strategy for defeating Bayonetta will not change too much if her kill combos are taken away. Unless massive changes are made to her ending and landing lag frame data, players will still need to camp Bayonetta out.
As of now, we’re all in the same boat, waiting for what Sakurai’s next patch will bring. At that point, the hammer will likely fall one way or another. But until that time, it doesn’t appear as if this controversy is going anywhere.