Title: Bayonetta 3
Developer: Platinum Games
Release Date: October 28, 2022
Reviewed On: Switch
Genre: Character Action
I’m not going to assume you know how to forge a katana. The basic theory is that Japan is an island nation lacking natural resources for steel and iron. So instead, blacksmiths used what they had on hand and folded the resulting steel in on itself to produce a blade that was useable but more flimsy than anything their western counterparts could make. If you stood with me this far on this pointless history lesson on the katana, then you have an idea of how I felt playing Bayonetta 3.
This stems from the campaign, which revolves around multiverse theory and the new character Viola. In essence, Viola comes from a world where Bayonetta has failed to defeat the big bad, the never-there but ever-present Singularity, who plans to swallow each universe for something. Unfortunately, the details of his master plan are never really revealed nor memorable enough, as Singularity is only around a few times to taunt Bayonetta before the inevitable clash between the two.
Viola isn’t the strongest character, but I was excited about her design and wanted to see what she could bring to Bayonetta’s journey. Sadly, she dashed my hope when she caught her ass on fire. Players play an auto-runner for a few minutes as she screams about her ass. Unfortunately, these moments litter Viola’s sections. While intended to make her feel inexperienced, instead, she comes off as incompetent and eerily similar to another character, Luka.
Luka Redgrave has always been a lovable oath, a man so sure of himself even as he is falling into the trash can that it makes him endearing. Unfortunately, Platinum failed to capture this energy with Viola, and Luka seems to be missing from the game. He does appear in a few missions, but he barely interacts with the duo. This problem is a recurring theme with Bayonetta 3, especially regarding the leading diva herself.
Bayonetta has essentially been thrown to her own devices, flinging herself to different dimensions with the draw of her meeting variants or herself and her friends. Platinum first established this idea in the original Bayonetta, where she could avoid getting captured for a few thousand years due to her past self traveling into the future. This single event creates a whole new universe with a Bayonetta who has a slightly different perspective on the world.
Unfortunately, Platinum split each character into different game sections as quickly as possible. Even Bayonetta doesn’t get to interact with her different versions, instead, think of it as if somebody was talking about a hero you wanted to meet, but he was always a block down the street. That’s Bayonetta 3, players get to see a few cool things that the different variants do, but they won’t interact with each other until the closing missions of the game.
I think the total time Bayonetta spends talking to anybody is around a half hour in length in a title that can take twelve hours to beat. This is abysmal, considering some of the most memorable moments come from Bayonetta interacting with her enemies, friends, and everyone else. Combat plays a critical role in what makes this series work, but the heart of it has always been Bayonetta and her interactions.
Finally, moving on to gameplay, the game employs similar combat from the previous entries. Bayonetta mixes combos between punches and kicks and summons her demons for finishers. Everything feels fluid, and even neophytes of the series can easily pick up Bayonetta 3 from a gameplay perspective and get a feel for it.
The newest mechanic is the demon slave technique Bayonetta has to employ to have her demons finish off the Homunculi that she finds herself facing. Previously demons were finishers for boss battles that, in essence, were glorified Quick Time Events. However, it was a flashy way for a significant fight to end. Players will now get complete control over any demons with which Bayonetta makes a contract.
Each weapon represents a single demon, and when used, Bayonetta will take on the appearance of that demon. She can also equip three different demons that she can summon at any time. When called, she will be vulnerable to any damage.
Summoning is an excellent idea that needs some more time to be refined. Most demons feel clunky to control when compared to the witch summoning them. The camera also stays on Bayonetta so players can see incoming attacks and dodge as needed. Still, I often found myself whiffing demon attacks as it was increasingly difficult to track where they were in relation to Homunculi and the world.
Instead, there was more success in summoning them for a quick attack or two, then switching back to Bayonetta to continue a combo. Eventually, players will unlock the ability to end a combo in a demon summon for a more robust finish, making the demons feel much better. The primary issue comes from enemy design and encounters, where most enemies are big, strong types.
These enemy types aren’t new to the series by any stretch of the imagination, although it is over-saturated here. This design turns most enemies into health sponges intended for players to use their demons to even the playing field. As a result, I don’t find these encounters very fun. Instead, I feel like there needed to be an equal amount of enemy types of varying sizes or more gimmicks for the demons to do.
Later in the game, some enemies will develop shields that the demons can break, but I wish this happened sooner to act as a rival enemy type to Bayonetta, forcing players to use the demons and combos in conjunction with each other.
Weapons are also less versatile now as equipment changes punch and kicks. This approach simplifies gameplay, especially for those who find a weapon to their liking. I miss the ability to equip a sword in my hand but keep pistols on my feet, but this system works and feels beginner-friendly.
This philosophy also flows down into the split currency with three different categories Halos, Blue Orbs, and Red Orbs. Each one allows players to purchase various items with Rodin. Halos are for treasures that can change the way Bayonetta looks or add extra items to Viola’s room. Blue Orbs are for items and accessories that can help players get through fights that might be too tough. Finally, Red Orbs purchases upgrade Bayonetta’s abilities with each weapon and demon.
This split simplifies decision-making from needing to choose between items and skills. Players can get everything they need without worry. The split currency will also cut down the time required to grind for everything, as players will, by the end, be able to get about half of everything on offer in a single playthrough.
The final aspect of gameplay is the two other playable characters, Jeanne and Viola. Jeanne plays like a side-scrolling stealth mission, with her magic sealed by some device in the building she is exploring. Each of her missions will only take players five minutes to complete, feeling more like a minigame than anything else. Nevertheless, it’s a fun diversion that doesn’t overstay its welcome and is over before players realize it.
Viola plays entirely differently from Bayonetta, and the first significant difference is that she only gets her katana, some darts, and her demon Chesire. However, Viola is handy with her blade, and when she parries will enter witch time. Combat with her can take a minute to get used to but feels good when getting multiple parries.
Her summon works differently as well, as she throws her sword and instead starts to throw hands with enemies. This simple change also means that players have no control over Chesire as he does what he wants. However, his AI is simple enough and will attack the same enemy that Viola is striking, so players won’t have to worry about him being useless once summoned. Viola feels like she was designed with the demon slave technique in mind, as fighting with her demon feels good and makes sense.
However, she isn’t going to be a new favorite character for many, and while the ending spectacle is a joy to witness, the contents of said ending won’t do her any favors. Viola is a mixed bag, and if players had more time with her, she could have easily won them over, but as it stands, she might leave a bad taste for most.
There seems to be an apparent disconnect between what fans loved about Bayonetta and what Platinum thinks fans loved about Bayonetta. Whether it’s the story that feels compelled to make sure the entire cast is by themselves or the gameplay that overly relies on giant enemies, everything feels like it could have used another pass. The game is enjoyable but isn’t an experience I’d like to return to, like the first two entries of the series. This is disappointing as dancing with Bayonetta has always been a wonderful time before now.
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