On the surface, at least, Platinum Games' two finest works don't have an awful lot in common. Vanquish is an unusually elegant third-person shooter in which your enamel-coated super-soldier turbo boosts between spars of cover, occasionally stopping to backflip off an enemy's septum. And Bayonetta? Well, Bayonetta's a bizarre Wiccan fantasy where your hair-coated witch - it's better than it sounds - summons huge spectral fists to beat up angels, and finishes off any stragglers with the guns strapped to her stilettos.
Two classic games, one great developer, but putting aside genre, storyline and directors, they do at least share a single crucial element: with their spectacular combat systems and astonishing feats of animation, they both allow you to play through those high-colour moments that other titles would have to reserve for cutscenes.
So it's no wonder Platinum's the outfit that Hideo Kojima turned to when development on Metal Gear Solid: Rising started to get a bit wonky. After all, Rising was initially created to let players enact the kind of pinwheeling hyper-violent spectacle that was only visible within the lengthy cinematics of Metal Gear Solid 4. You know, whenever Raiden, the cyborg ninja, chopped up huge bipedal Gekko mechs with his high-frequency katana, stabbed vampires with a dagger stuck through the meat of his own foot, or dispatched endless rooms of war-hardened commandos, seemingly unaware that he'd lost both his arms somewhere along the way.
Raiden was the true star of the show, in fact, rebuilt as a biomechanical badass after his foppish, childlike debut in Metal Gear Solid 2 made players feel like they were stuck in an elevator with a lame wet-suited version of Christopher Robin. For Rising, the idea was simple: deliver the Raiden that the fans wanted, and make him playable.
Not easy, apparently. Rising was announced at E3 in 2009 with the subtitle 'Lightning Bolt Action'. Inaction might have been closer to the truth, however, since by 2011, with seemingly intractable problems emerging over the implementation of the stealth elements that would slot in alongside action sequences, and difficulties presenting themselves when it came to the showboating free-cutting swordplay, the game was on the brink of cancellation.
You can't keep a cyborg ninja down, though. Instead, Kojima Productions sent him on a little holiday, shifting the project from the team's Tokyo studios down to sunny Osaka, where Platinum Games is located.
"When Kojima Productions decided to send the game to Platinum, it was definitely a dark period," admits creative producer Yuji Korekado. "People had put a lot of effort in, and they were in a dark hole. When Platinum visited the studio to get an update on the game, I was asked to present the current status to them. It was a very complex emotion: I wanted to keep developing the game internally, but Kojima wanted to move it forward.
"It was frustrating but I had to move forward with it. Fortunately for me, I was able to participate in the development even after it went to Platinum," he continues with a smile. "After I realised it was going to go forward, I cut off all my sour feelings and just got on with the work. When I saw the first Revengeance trailer, I realised it was something that Kojima Productions couldn't have done - and that was something I felt great about."
Quite. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is looking stunning, frankly, and an hour or two with a preview build reveals that it plays even better. Kojima Productions is still on board to handle the storyline, the characterisation and the endless glossy melodrama of the cutscenes, but in between all that you now get the pin-point precision and histrionic bloodletting that only Platinum seems able to pull off. It's the Metal Gear universe re-arranged to provide the basis for an exceptionally challenging action game with all the stealth cut out, and it's wildly convincing stuff.