After eight long years, Bayonetta fans can celebrate the release of the newest installment in the Bayonetta franchise. Nintendo provided hints on and off that they still cared for our favorite little sexy witch, but Bayonetta 3 was first teased during The Game Awards 2017 – five long years ago. For Nintendo fans, Bayonetta 3 is an important franchise because it’s one that is fashionable unlike any other Nintendo exclusive. Its first installment was a multi-platform release published by Sega. More importantly, PlatinumGames Vice-President Hideki Kamiya stated in a series of tweets that Bayonetta 2 was originally intended to be a multi-platform game until the project was halted then rescued by Nintendo. With much at stake, can Bayonetta 3 enchant its way to success?
Bayonetta 3 opens by introducing a new character, a witch named Viola who travels through the multiverse to warn Bayonetta about the Homunculi (man-made agents that belong to neither Paradiso nor Inferno as other foes have in the past). In a similar fashion to Bayonetta 2, after the initial chaos winds down, we find Bayonetta driving with her friend/informant Enzo once again. Before long, the whole city is falling apart, and Bayonetta starts on her battle against an entity threatening the multiverse known as the Singularity who is singularly responsible for the havoc Homunculi are wreaking.
The development of the story through the multiverse feels like a natural progression given the previous installments, and fans are likely to find it satisfying. The beginning of it feels much like Bayonetta 2, and some might meet this with mixed emotions. To some, scenes like the one pictured above might help them reminisce on the previous installment if they’ve played it. To others, it might feel as if it’s repetitive. It’s not until later that the changes embolden the gameplay and Bayonetta 3 begins to feel like its own beast. Someone who hasn’t played the previous installments might feel very lost at first but could probably fill in the gaps as it continues.
The latest installment stays true to the witch’s hack and slash nature, and fans are likely going to love most of the new complexities introduced. As an example, demon slaves are a new mechanic that allow Bayonetta to summon giant demons to join the fight. She can also fuse herself with “infernal demons” (Demon Masquerade) to use their abilities in battle and even in traversing different stages as some have small puzzles that unlock subsequent areas. None of these things were awfully difficult to learn, but some require more strategy and thinking than others. After dodging enemies for a few seconds or slamming walls with a train, one can easily gather what sort of magic Bayonetta needs to employ to make some progress. I anticipate most players will enjoy most of these new additions to Bayonetta as they feel genuine to its world.
If one unjustly compares the first installment to Bayonetta 3, one may conclude that Bayonetta had smaller yet more intricate maps. Bayonetta 3 has vast, seemingly empty maps. This is not necessarily bad as it incorporates new mechanics that make traversing these maps easier to keep the rhythm up. In one mission, you must ride a spider demon who temporarily becomes your “slave demon” to help you swing through (and walk along the walls of) buildings while the map is disintegrating around you. On another, Bayonetta pole dances on a machine to reverse/fast-forward through time, effectively changing the map through the direction of her dance. But what I enjoyed the most was turning into the beautiful redesign of Madama Butterfly (first introduced in Bayonetta 2), which helps you swiftly cover land and even jump further distances. The complex world of Bayonetta is now pushing the limits of what the hardware of the Nintendo Switch currently offers. Admittedly, I played handheld most of the time, but if anyone needs an excuse for a “Switch Pro,” this is one of many.
I have always loved the battles in the Bayonetta series because they always begin right before a cutscene where Bayonetta shows some sass. It’s as if the world is falling apart and she could be in the middle of the chaos simply dancing before taking care of the threat – and the threat is always of epic proportions. Much like the previous games, your progress through these epic chapters is graded based on your performance. There are certain factors that play a role in your grade such as how much damage you take and how resourceful or stylish you were throughout the battle. After all, Bayonetta is all about fashion. However, there are a few changes in the way battles look.
For the most part, the game retains its hack-and-slash components from previous games. You run around using combos that you can practice in the loading screen, and you try to dodge monsters and/or bosses when they attack. The way it differs from the majority of hack-and-slash games is that there isn’t an unusually high amount of foes running around with you. The enemies in Bayonetta are measured and meant to engage you in meaningful battles. In addition, certain monster weaknesses warrant changing weapons or using different “demon slaves” to clear the stage.
A new mechanic to Bayonetta introduced in Chapter 1 is that of “Demon Slaves.” They’re “Infernal Demons” that you unlock throughout the story and help you. Some of them may be familiar from previous installments, but they look different. Additionally, every Infernal Demon has its own set of attacks and special abilities, some of which also allow you to traverse the map. I enjoyed how easily one can swap them because it allowed me to test different ones, even if it was usually obvious which demon was most useful for a battle (usually the last one you unlocked). Surprisingly, the battles appear very smooth and aesthetically pleasing even though you are zooming in/out a great deal to make up for the massive battle as Bayonetta dances as a puppeteer.
Most of the time, I played Bayonetta 3 on tablet-mode, and I kept thinking Bayonetta is pushing the Switch’s hardware already too much. Aesthetically, it is the kind of game that demands power for the many dynamic aspects in the environment including lights and structural breaks. The floor under you is crumbling, there’s lights flashing, and Bayonetta’s outfits/demons use a wide array of extravagant textures, colors, and attacks. I often found myself thinking “this would look much more amazing on a newer console or PC.” With that said, the game does run smooth. I never noticed any frame drops, and the game looked even better docked. Still, I would argue against another installment before a newer console.
The Bayonetta franchise is rich in art, and each game is full of beauty in its own way. Whether it be gliding with the powers of the redesigned Madama butterfly through dimly lit grasslands inhabited by glowing plants, leading a Godzilla-type fight with Gomorrah in a city, or riding the ghost spider Phantasmaraneae through building-tops, Bayonetta 3 delivers beauty in visual design unmatched. If one was to compare it to the other installments in the franchise, the style of the game has understandably evolved. However, it still retains Bayonetta’s core, classy and sexy fashion.
Shortly before the game release, voice acting became one of the most controversial aspects of the game due to the publicized dispute between the actress who voiced Bayonetta in the previous games, Hellena Taylor, and PlatinumGames. There seems to have been a misunderstanding about how much she was offered at first before declining to take on the role. Jennifer Hale, who is well-known for her 150 video game voice performances dating back to 1994, took her place in Bayonetta 3. Controversy aside, all the voice acting throughout Bayonetta 3 is top tier.
The soundtrack for Bayonetta 3 is very similar to that of the previous installments, but that is not to say that it disappoints. There is the typical pop-like main theme that infuses classical instruments to appeal to Bayonetta’s style, the all-too-familiar epic instrumental featuring violins and some light vocalization, and a new rock song to accompany the “rocker chick” Viola. All in all, the soundtrack is a memorable success.
After Nintendo saved Bayonetta, I was afraid that its fate may be hanging by a thread like the one the multiverse was hanging on in the game. However, the excitement around Bayonetta 3 from its initial tease to its release combined with its relatively successful reception (despite the controversy) reassures me that Bayonetta has found its home in the hearts of Nintendo fans. Bayonetta 3 is just as fun as the previous games yet innovative in all the right places. Still, it highlighted the need for a new console by pushing the visual limits of my Nintendo Switch OLED.
Bayonetta 3 gets a 9/10.