Bayonetta 3 Review
With Bayonetta 1 and 2 coming out on the Switch, I was surprised to realise it has really been over seven years since the second game originally came out. Bayonetta 3 is finally here, and I’m sure it’s felt like being stuck in witch time waiting for this one. After so long, can PlatinumGames deliver the game fans have been waiting for?
Bayonetta 3 takes the series into the multiverse. Someone is killing Bayonettas and destroying the universes one by one. In traditional Bayonetta fashion, the game goes all out from the start. It’s up to Bayonetta/Cereza and newcomer Viola to stop a new threat from extinguishing all life from existence. You still get to beat up some angelic beings for those halos; however, the new Homunculi threat takes centre stage.
Across the adventure, you’re introduced to new Homunculi forms throughout the different worlds. More importantly, you get to meet the alternate Bayonettas with their own demons and weapons.
The story around the multiverses feels like Bayonetta has arrived a little late to that party, with multiverses galore. This one serves to throw Bayo and friends at various locations, each with a different take on Bayonetta. Like the other two games, there’s a story here, but it quickly takes a back seat to the action. There are plenty of bombastic action sequences throughout the 10+ hours of game time. It walks the tightrope of balancing over-the-top ridiculousness while still making it look so cool. The ocean liner sequence early on is a fitting reintroduction to the world of Bayonetta as you fight a bunch of enemies on the deck as the ship rides a tidal wave.
The combat has changed slightly over the last seven years. The Magic meter for the Umbran Climax is now for Demon slave summons. Punish finishers are present but are “blink, and you’ll miss it” moments compared to the previous game. As long as you have magic, you can summon one of your equipped demons to control to do some massive damage. Bayonetta is vulnerable and unable to attack during this time, so it’s making good use of these heavy hitters while being mindful of incoming attacks.
Across the story, Bayonetta picks up new weapons that correspond with the demons she obtains. These vary from the large and slow G-Pillar to throwing around the flashy Ignis Araneae Yo-Yos as they whip around. There are enough weapons that only having the two weapon/demon loadouts doesn’t feel enough to make the most of them. The new weapons mix up the combat enough that I never found myself returning to the signature “Colour my World” pistols.
Series regular and Bayonetta bestie Jeanne also has something to do in her little side adventure. These are a 2D platformer/stealth/shooter that reminded me of Elevator Action, as you work through a top-secret base to find someone vital to the mission. They serve as a fun aside from the main story for a few minutes while also keeping Jeanne involved.
Then there is Viola, the new addition to the Bayonetta series. Viola is a brash punk armed with a Katana, which comes with its own demon summon in the form of Chesire, a large demon cat. After being more familiar with Bayo’s flurry of hits, it takes some getting used to Viola’s slower Katana hits. Instead of dodging for Witch time, you now have to time a parry with different timing to get that slow-motion window to punish your enemies. Once you get used to the timing of attacks and parries, you’ll be able to make your way around the battlefield without even touching the ground with Viola’s aerial combos.
You’re still scored per act within the chapter, with scores you can post online if you choose. To get the best chance at the Pure Platinum ranking for the chapter you’ll need to make sure you’re finding every battle/verse. Most are encounters as you progress through the chapter, and some have to be entered as portals to another arena. It can be easy to accidentally miss some if you tend to go off the beaten track and manage to miss the trigger point, but then that’s where some of the more out-of-the-way verses are! It can be a little annoying to scour the world and still have missed some, but with the bewitchments, there’s already an incentive to revisit chapters. If you want to enjoy the story and wild action moments, you can also bump the difficulty down – you won’t get ranked, but the game won’t keep you from completing it either.
It should be no surprise that Bayo 3 is full of big cool action sequences, never knowing when the next exciting moment will happen. It would be impossible to expect this level of energy constantly throughout the game like it was one big sugar high, sometimes you need to catch your breath. As Bayonetta and Viola travel across the multiverse some locations are spread across more than one chapter which gives enough time to build up to the next big boss, but it also drags out some of the less interesting places. For some reason the game will slow down and let you move around these open areas without putting anything interesting in them. This is when the game slows down a little too much and will leave you wondering how much longer until the next big moment happens.
While running on the Switch hardware Bayonetta 3 there will be limitations with the visuals. PlatinumGames sticks with its stylised character designs, which is fine by me. The designs across the different Bayonettas, their weapons and the demon summons all stand out amongst some more ordinary scenery. Prepare for people to point at screenshots and compare them to older-generation games, but when everything is in motion, you have to be looking to grumble about something. If I were going to have a gripe about the visuals, it would be about how the Homunculi enemies feel bog standard, given some of the angelic creature’s designs of Bayonetta 2.
Bayonetta 3’s performance is better than I expected. In handheld and docked mode, there were some rough frame rates at the very beginning of the game which continued through the cutscenes. However, I found that it either lessened past the first few chapters or I adjusted to it. Importantly the combat never felt impacted by the performance. I do recommend playing on a Pro controller or a good split pad, the button combinations can feel pretty uncomfortable in handheld mode or even using the packaged Joy-Con controller.
Bayonetta 3 brings plenty of the series charm and excitement back after all these years. It meanders a little more than the previous game but still keeps the pace with the wild bombastic (and silly) sequences to keep you on your toes. It may have been a long time between games, but there’s enough to keep fans busy for some time.
+ Bayonetta is back and action packed
+ Combat is more varied than ever, more weapons and demon summons
- Big open spaces slow the pace down
- The Homunculi can’t live up to enemies of Bayonetta past