When I first heard about Bayonetta Origin: Cereza and the Lost Demon, I thought it looked gorgeous, but I was concerned about the gameplay for Cereza and Cheshire. After all, someone is controlling two characters at once to not only solve puzzles, but explore and deal with opponents. After spending a few hours kicking off the start of the duo’s journey, it is clear that PlatinumGames put a lot of thought into this. The execution is spot-on.
To start, it doesn’t just drop a person into dealing with Cereza and Cheshire simultaneously in Bayonetta Origins. Things begin with explaining why the young Cereza is training under the Umbra Witch Morgana and ends up tempted to explore the Avalon forest. A number of routine chores introduces players to her capabilities, her controls, and using her Witch Pulse dance to perform certain sorts of magic. This means by the time someone heads into the Avalon Forest to possibly find the power to save her mother, they’ll be accustomed enough with her actions to be set. And, just in case they’re not, you spend a bit of time alone before Cheshire makes his appearance.
What I noticed throughout my early hours with Bayonetta Origins is that it is a shockingly comfortable game to play alone due to the way PlatinumGames handles Cereza and Cheshire’s gameplay. You’re always using your left hand and the left Joy-Con to control Cereza. The right hand is dedicated to Cheshire. Actions are uncomplicated and tend to rely on the analog sticks and shoulder trigger buttons. This meant no fumbling, as well as tending to easily identify certain actions with L, R, ZL, and ZR.
It also keeps managing two characters at once from being daunting with Hug Mode. Cereza can carry Cheshire in a stuffed animal mode with a tap of the L button when the “Lost Demon” is full-size, then send him back out by hitting R. But even when I’d often happen upon areas where they needed to separate, the level design in these early spots is such that it’s easy to keep track of both at the same time and never taxing to manage both characters’ navigation. For example, I didn’t find myself needing to start a dance with Cereza at the same time Cheshire might need to attack.
Though at the times when I did need to control both Cereza and Cheshire at once in Bayonetta Origins, the gameplay makes managing both relatively stress-free. During such portions, Cereza is typically dancing to tie down an opponent with magic. This involves a brief rhythm game, though an accessibility option is present to automate the input elements for Witch Pulse. This means someone could just hold down ZL for her to perform her actions. That means you could prioritize keeping her safe and out of harm’s way, or send her to freeze an enemy so Cheshire can focus on others. Meanwhile, Cheshire’s attacks can often let you just spam his attack to swiftly assault opponents, quickly moving around to address issues and protect Cereza.
I think it also helped in these early hours that even though this is a highly stylized game, Cereza and Cheshire both look so distinct. There’s real attention to detail early on. But even with the fairytale, watercolor aesthetic, it’s very easy to see points of interest, what pops out as an item that can be interacted with, possible hazards, and enemies. It’s appreciated, especially when it seems like there can be a lot going on.
I know the word “approachable” ended up thrown around a lot in the marketing for Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon, but it’s really great to see how true is. The game really does go out of its way to keep something that could be quite complex handled well early on. Especially since there are other games that explored this concept and mechanic and executed it poorly. It’s still early on, but it seems like it will be an accommodating and never cumbersome adventure.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon will come to the Nintendo Switch on March 17, 2023.