Bayonetta Origins – Game Review


Bayonetta Origins

(available on Nintendo Switch only)

Bayonetta Origins is a brand new spin-off developed by Platinum Games with the subtitle ‘Cereza and the Lost Demon’. It attempts to tell a short origin story for Bayonetta when she was a child, tying back in briefly to some of the events of other Bayonetta games. We got a small hint of this in Bayonetta 3, at one point during the game you could buy the fairy tale book from Ronan’s shop, and during the time I was playing it, you would have to get 3 keys to unlock the preview to this game. At the time we didn’t know whether it would be a full game or just DLC. If you play Bayonetta 3 now, it has been patched so that you don’t have to get the keys to unlock the book, you just have to get the book itself.

At the game awards, it was revealed that Bayonetta Origins would be a full game that would release in March.

The best way to describe Bayonetta Origins is as a dungeon crawler with light environmental puzzles. The game has you controlling Cereza most of the time, though you will occasionally have to bring out Cheshire to solve certain puzzles. The map is interconnected, but it won’t be until later chapters that you’ll be going back and forth to gain extra items, rather like a traditional Bayonetta game, there are also trials along the way to get extra rewards which are often used to power up Cereza or Cheshire – the big difference is that Cheshire (the demon first introduced in Bayonetta 3)  will be doing all of the combat. Because Cereza is a witch in training she doesn’t have too many combat abilities at this point, but she does have the ability to affect the environment and she can pin enemies in forms which makes combat a bit easier for Cheshire.

That being said, you don’t have to explore the environment too much if you don’t want to; if you’re interested in the story you can just go from start to finish on a more linear path, though the game is still pretty short either way, it comes at around 10-12 hours.

Now I will stress that Cereza and the Lost Demon is pretty ambitious and for the most part it does succeed in its ambition, though it’s not to say that the game is without fault, you won’t start to notice those faults until you’re quite deep into the game.

PROS

  • Aesthetics

Graphically, Bayonetta Origins is not going too far in terms of power with the Switch, but it does look amazing. The game goes for a storybook aesthetic and takes a lot of inspiration from story tales – not that you have to do much ever to reimagine that this is part of the Bayonetta universe, but they do a good job transferring the more abstract art style to the older games. For example, Cereza translates into different art styles, and her design mostly resembles her Bayonetta 3 design. The only other character that needed to have the design changed was Jeanne, who gets a small cameo in the game (and in retrospect, this kind of messes with the Bayonetta timeline, but considering how many retcons have been implemented, this is no surprise).

The world itself has a real otherworldly fairy tale aspect to it, which is unsurprising considering pretty much all of the enemies in the games are fairies since the game’s primary plot point is that Cereza wanders into the fairy forest to gain the power to save her mother. The fairy types are kind of interesting, they’re not as distinctive as the angels, demons, or homunculi from the other Bayonetta games but they do have some interesting aspects to them. Mainly in the fact that they do come with various different equipment like shields, sword type, or even underground drills- there is a good enemy variety here.

It also looks stunning, even in handheld mode. If you have a Switch OLED, this game will look amazing on that.

  • Gameplay and Controls

I’m not in the camp of people who have said they don’t enjoy the gameplay of Bayonetta Origins. Puzzle solving isn’t really my favourite genre, but I don’t mind it if the game is incredibly focused on it.

Combat, as I mentioned before, is mainly focused around Cheshire. You bring him out in his toy form (which is because Bayonetta screwed up a demon-summoning spell and puts him into her stuffed plushie), but he can take full demon form to perform attacks. You do this by pressing the R trigger to bring him out and using the ZR button to perform a basic attack. There are a few combos that you can do by holding down the ZR button but most of the combat is done using the right side of the controls, the left side is what controls Cereza. You’ll use the ZL trigger to trap the enemies in forms. There isn’t too much strategy involved until you break the elemental cores, which is the main driving point in the storyline. They imbued Cheshire with several different elements which are used for certain puzzles and combat- for example, several enemies can only be defeated when Cheshire is imbued with certain elements or using a certain element which will give you an advantage in battle. For example, shield enemies come with a hook that can be attacked when Cheshire gets the wood element. It’s the first element that you will get, and therefore the easiest to learn.

The way that I’m describing this feels very similar to an indie game I reviewed a few months ago called Blanc, and for that, I said that the controls were clearly designed with co-op in mind and made the single player play experience miserable. This game takes that control scheme and makes it much better, For one thing, the environments are designed to make both characters move at a pace where you can control them simultaneously. Unlike Blanc, where the environments are slightly more open, these are a little more boxed in. The controls have been more thought out for a single player here.

There is no co-op in this game, which is quite good for this purpose, so having a good control scheme works quite well. There were only a few times where I screwed up because I got the controls wrong, I did struggle occasionally pressing the right button to choose which elemental core I wanted, but as a whole, the controls work quite well.

The combat itself is quite enjoyable, I would say don’t go into this game thinking you’ll be getting the typical Bayonetta-style combat- this is much more simplified, which is something that I could say about the whole game in general…

  • Story

I actually like the story of this game! It centres around Cereza seeing a boy in her dreams tell her that she can have the power to save her mother if she travels through the deep forest to get a new power, which she will obtain by following a white wolf, which directs her and her new demon Cheshire to four elemental cores. Meanwhile, she is being urged to travel back b her strict teacher Morgana.

The one thing that I like about the game is the excellent story structure. You also don’t indeed to know too much about the Bayonetta games to know what the significance of some of these moments is, and it’s kind of separate in a lot of regards to the other games. Cheshire will be very recognizable to people who have played Bayonetta 3, but as an origin story, it does tell us a lot about Cereza and how she will become Bayonetta. The storybook aesthetic works well in giving a kind of Grimm’s Fairy Tales look to it.

I won’t tell you much about the story since there’s a lot you should discover for yourself, especially considering that the trailers have been rather cryptic about the general storyline. But I will say one thing, if you feel like the story is slowing down, it gets really good towards the end.

MIXED

  • Skill Tree

At some of the various save points, you gain a skill tree – one for Cereza and one for Cheshire. The skill tree is fine but because combat isn’t very challenging or as in-depth as other Bayonetta games, I didn’t see the point to put much effort into this. It’s fine overall, but it does what a lot of other skill trees do which artificially extends the game’s run time. Especially considering that most of the skills were locked behind late-game items which require extra exploration. If you are just going from start to finish with the story, that skill tree is going to stop being relevant or even useable to you very quickly.

The trials that are used to gain or even find a lot of these items are plentiful. You obviously get a few of them by doing the main story, but the optional ones don’t provide that much of a challenge and aren’t exactly frequent.

CONS

  • Repetitive nature

I will say that this game doesn’t really change up the gameplay too much from beginning to end. There are obviously new challenges but after a while, you’ll start to notice a bunch of puzzles repeat themselves – especially in times when Cereza and Cheshire have to be separated because areas are blocked by rosemary (which demons hate) or there will be a challenge that involves getting it from one area to another using an elemental core that you’ve already been using. You start to feel the grind of the game this way after a while.

While the storyline picked up after a while which motivated me to keep playing, gameplay-wise it started to drag. If you’re not captivated by the gameplay, you won’t want to revisit some areas, which you will need to do to get some of the extras- it has some very Metroidvania-like qualities.

On top of that, it does feel like Bayonetta Origins is kind of a bit too simplistic for its core audience. The thing that really drove people to Bayonetta was the flashy combos of the combat, and this feels like it clashes with the audience for this game. The team at Platinum have said that they want to expand upon this idea, and I think that if they do then it will be really interesting, but I’m also looking at this game and wondering how much this can be expanded and if anyone is going to play this and be driven to play the original Bayonetta trilogy.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is a very ambitious game and I really enjoyed my time with it, but the repetitiveness of the combat, puzzles, and skill tree held back my enjoyment somewhat. The storyline is excellent and the voice actors have done a great job with their performances.

I think that this is a really good game, particularly if you like dungeon crawlers and puzzle-solving. If you’re coming into it for the combat of the Bayonetta games, you’re going to be short-changed because it isn’t here. But if you’re interested in the lore and story of Bayonetta, this is one you should check out.

I will say that Bayonetta Origin’s mileage really depends on the player, and some may not enjoy it as much as I did. I think that this will be a polarising game.

FINAL SCORE: 8.5/10

Calvin
Director of Axia ASD Ltd.
Self-proclaimed Nerd Consultant
and Head of Axia’s Film Society.

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The Next Axia6th March 2024
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