Bayonetta is both a character and game series dedicated to style and substance, and one that relishes in the sort of suggestive situations that offer sly sexiness. Risque? Of course, but in a way in which its heroine holds all the control. Which is why everyone who knows and loves Bayonetta will be pleased to know Bayonetta 3 is as glorious as ever, taking time to review all you love while adding fantastic new elements and bits of lore to build up an already wonderful world.
Multiverses are everywhere in media as of late, and Bayonetta 3 is the latest game to embrace the concept. The story begins with Bayonetta in the midst of a fight against an overwhelming foe, matching her blow for blow. A young woman named Viola watches, desperate to help make any sort of difference. But while she can’t do anything in this world, a quick jump finds her falling into another world and meeting another Bayonetta. (Though really, she’s dropping into Enzo’s lap.) These other worlds are being wiped out, which means Bayonetta and Viola head to Thule to see if something can be done to save different worlds while Jeanne heads to find a scientist named Sigurd who is also critical to the witches’ success. What follows is an opportunity to see what might have been, while also trying to save what we know and love.
While Viola is the new kid on the block, her personality works well alongside the established characters. Especially since she’s the sort of person who is trying to be strong and is definitely skilled, but a lot of that comes across as teenage bravado. As grown-up as she’ll try to be, she’s definitely not as suave or confident as someone like Bayonetta, which allows the two to play well off of each other. Plus, there are some fun geeky moments, such as her basically performing a Stand Cry a la Jotaro’s “Ora Ora Ora” when Cheshire is fighting alongside her and she’s barehanded.
Right off the bat, it is an accommodating and accessible game. The way the story is handled is one way in which it never leaves people out. Appearances and teases are extra fun if you do know who folks are. If you don’t, there’s enough context through character interactions, imagery, supplemental information, and dialogue to help get you up to pace. The accessibility also comes through in gameplay, with three difficulty levels you can choose between at any time. Naive Angel is basically a family-friendly mode that will do things like replace Rodin’s cigar with something to eat or keep Bayonetta’s clothes on while she’s performing a Demon Masquerade dance to control one of her demons. I also feel like the Immortal Marionette accessory will be great for people with mobility issues, due to it essentially allowing you to button mash to perform combos instead of use specific inputs. There’s a lot here that feels like it says, “We want you to enjoy yourself, no matter how young, old, new, or familiar you are with gaming and the series.”
It’s easy to Revel in Bayonetta 3’s Gameplay on the Switch.
As always, Bayonetta 3 gameplay relies upon timing, knowing what inputs correspond to helpful attacks, chaining together combos, dodging accurately to trigger Witch Time to slow time and counter-attack. The more time you spend thinking about what you are capable of and knowing input strings so you can react appropriately, the better it will be. As usual, you are given ample opportunity to test out possible combos, with things like loading screens letting you see how strings are implemented and can change. However, the loading times are so short that you can’t rely on that time to test things out. Attacks feel like they have heft to them, with strikes feeling satisfying as you build up combos and your overall score.
I’d also say the range of weaponry also feels like it’s designed to make things feel more suitable for every player. For example, Bayonetta’s Colour My World guns are the traditional, swift option. When equipped, you can briefly transform into Madama Butterfly to glide while jumping. The Ignis Araneae Yo-Yo is far more speedy, with a jump that swings into position when temporarily transformed into Phantasmaraneae. G-Pillar is slower and hits hard, though blasting off has the benefit of extending Bayonetta’s range and height while not offering the sense of positioning as Colour My World. You pick what feels best for you in most situations, tailoring the experience to ensure your success. Viola’s segments also fit right in, with her swordplay and barehanded fisticuffs allowing for similarly intricate combos.
Speaking of satisfying, the demons are so much fun in Bayonetta 3. There are times when Bayonetta is the Kaiju beat’em up I didn’t know I wanted. Madama Butterfly is always a big help, thanks to melee and ranged attacks that always feel like they deal admirable levels of damage. I was amazed that Phantasmaraneae is so dexterous and capable, especially since I was concerned the wall-crawling capabilities could lead to some disorientation and maybe even motion-sickness. I also loved using Baal. Starting up a Demon Slave dance, especially knowing that the gauge is easy to refill and I don’t need to “save” those attacks for big moments, is a joy. Not to mention that certain segments in which they play a large part means that the gameplay can feel a bit different when they’re around.
Bayonetta 3 isn’t Afraid to Switch Things Up
I also loved how there’s more to chapters in Bayonetta 3 than you’d expect, inviting you to return to completed areas. The path you “should” probably take might often seem rather obvious. However, if you keep an eye out, collectibles, additional challenges, and new ways to get where you are going often present themselves. You might even get a Bewitchment “achievement” acknowledging that “Hey, you find something secret” when you do. I especially loved how some of these involve manipulating time to solve a puzzle to earn a reward, since it means you aren’t always trying to get from point A to point B or beat the hell out of a horde to do well. Not to mention, the visible shadow under a character no matter the form means it is easy to see if a safe landing on a stable platform is possible, meaning any platforming elements or challenges don’t become unnecessarily frustrating.
The sense of diversification goes beyond these large scale fights and supplemental challenges. Jeanne stars in side-chapters, for example. In her 2D segment, the priority will be to navigate floors in a building and ideally avoiding being caught. Stealth kills are a necessity, there are places to duck into, you can come across great weapons or even a “special” ability, and need to use wits to get to a goal in time. It breaks things up, while still being challenging in its own way.
As fabulous as characters like Bayonetta and Jeanne are and Bayonetta 3 can be, there are times when it isn’t completely flawless. For example, there are certain set pieces that don’t run as smoothly as others due to the level of activity occurring. This particularly applies to segments during which players find themselves constantly on the move while dealing with oversized opponents and smaller minions. I found I misjudged a jump at one point as a result, which can be an issue since scores might matter for some. This didn’t turn out to be a frequent issue for me, but it can come up in specific chapters.
Speaking of portions of Bayonetta 3 not being at their best, there are times when some Demons may not feel as fluid and enjoyable as others. I’m not the biggest fan of Wartrain Gouon, given the need to swiftly lay out tracks and determine when it will attack to maximize its damage, though in application it makes you think about effectively using its range and strength. This doesn’t mean there are obvious inequalities. Rather, there are some demons that might not “click” with a player. Given the number available, it’s not too much of an issue, especially since someone typically can equip up to three and switch between them on the fly. If you are “forced” into using one during a stage, it usually is more of a “tutorial” example to help someone get acclimated to the new character.
Bayonetta 3 is Simply a Beautiful Game.
The thing is, even though there might be a brief hitch or minor moment during a flurry of activity, there is never a moment in which Bayonetta 3 doesn’t look stunning on the Switch. It is a beautiful game that takes full advantage of the hardware. Especially on an OLED model, as I felt like the colors standing out even in areas that might have been slightly darker or filled with similar sorts of textures. The character models are all quite detailed, with personality popping based on outfits and subtle animations. Jennifer Hale does an admirable job with the role, especially considering everything happening in the story. The soundtrack is also spot-on and perfectly suited for the adventure.
It feels like Bayonetta 3 is a chance for the series to stretch its wings, what with its well-told story, generally tight gameplay, and incredible cast. It is so easy to get lost in its world. I’d long to return to it, to see how to earn medals I’d missed during the first run through a stage, beat my previous scores, and just savor certain segments or boss fights. Bayonetta 3 is over-the-top in every possible way, and I get the feeling newcomers and long-time fans of the series will appreciate that.
Bayonetta 3 will come to the Nintendo Switch on October 28, 2022.