Bayonetta 3 Review

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One of my favorite action franchises is Bayonetta. The action is fast-paced, fun, and stylish, the stories are entertaining and a little out there, and the major characters are memorable. Bayonetta 2 rectified some of the issues I had with the first game and I eagerly awaited the release of Bayonetta 3. The game was initially announced in 2017 and it was a while before any further information dropped. But I made sure it was on my radar. Developed by PlatinumGames and published by Nintendo, Bayonetta 3 was released for Switch in October, 2022. As of this review, Bayonetta 3 is a Switch exclusive and a month before it released, a physical edition of the first Bayonetta was released for Switch in limited quantities.

The plot revolves around the multiverse. Bayonetta teams up with another witch named Viola to prevent an entity known as Singularity from eliminating all multiverse worlds in an effort to conquer the Trinity of Realities. The story opens with an alternate universe Bayonetta getting killed by Singularity as Viola watches. Viola then escapes to another universe to seek help and meets up with Bayonetta and her friends. Together, they set out on a quest to different alternate universes to retrieve the multiple Chaos Gears needed to access the Alphaverse where Singularity resides. Several characters from the previous games return but you don’t need to play the prior games to understand what’s happening here. For the most part, I would say Bayonetta 3 shares a similar tone and atmosphere with that of its predecessors along with the same type of humor which I can’t say always landed for me. But overall, I think it tells an entertaining tale.

As for the gameplay, on the Standard difficulty level, I would say Bayonetta 3 might just be the easiest or most forgiving game in the series yet. It’s certainly not as challenging or cheap as the first game. I felt Bayonetta 2 was more forgiving than its predecessor and I would argue Bayonetta 3 is even more so. Maybe it’s just me but I can’t say I struggled at any point. Some battles are certainly tougher than others but I was able to get through the game without dying in a battle. Luckily, there are multiple difficulty levels including one that needs to be unlocked and the combat is still great fun. Racking up combos for high scores is still an essential part of the gameplay. The story plays out in Chapters with multiple Verses per chapter. Each Verse is basically a battle and you are awarded a medal at the end of each one based on your performance, and you’ll also receive an award at the end of each Chapter. So much of the replay value comes trying for better medals, awards, and scores and the game does support Online Rankings.

Veterans of the series should be able to jump into the action in Bayonetta 3 fairly easily and the game will force you to play as other characters besides Bayonetta. You’ll get to play as Viola who does have a different style and as Jeanne in the side chapters. Bayonetta can perform many of the same stylish moves and maneuvers as before. Witch Time, Climax finishers, and concocting items all make a return and Bayonetta can unlock and equip accessories which provide benefits and numerous weapons that all feel distinct and come with their own move sets. And if you have saved data from the previous games on your Switch, you will get immediate access to certain weapons. Each weapon comes with a different Demon Masquerade. In other words, a different transformation. Bayonetta can transform into different demons or creatures which results in typically faster ways to get around the environments and makes certain challenges easier.

One of the big new things here is controlling demons or Demon Slaves. At the press of a button, you can summon a demon and control it during the battle. They can inflict a lot of damage and basically add a whole new layer to the combat system. You will unlock different demons as you progress through the game, all of which have their own unique moves and attacks and with the right timing, you can utilize them to perform counter attacks and additional combo finishers. Demons are also not invincible. They can be defeated in which case you’ll have to wait for them to be ready before you can summon them again. You can assign demons to multiple slots and switch between them during gameplay. I did find that controlling the demons does take some getting used to mainly because you have to hold down a button to control them.

The action in Bayonetta 3 is fast-paced and can get very hectic and the camera can be problematic at times. Although, I can’t say it’s the worst offender in the genre. Far from it, in fact. For the most part, it’s fine. It’s just that sometimes it ends up positioned in a spot that makes it easy to lose track of what’s going on. You’ll often be outnumbered and all kinds of shit is happening and if you can’t easily see what’s going on, you can get hit or fuck up a combo and that can be annoying. Luckily, you can manipulate it manually. I think the biggest challenge in the game for me was playing as Viola. As mentioned before, she does have a different style than Bayonetta. She uses a sword and to enter Witch Time, she needs to block at the right moment. The developer made the block button different than the dodge button and that was the biggest obstacle for me to overcome. I lost a lot of health during certain battles as Viola simply because I kept pressing the wrong button. She can only summon one demon or creature to aid her and she doesn’t have access to the same weapons as Bayonetta. Ultimately, I found her to be less enjoyable to play as. Not that playing as her is terrible, it’s just that you don’t have the same amount of tools and options.

Another big thing here is Skills. You can spend Orbs, which are earned from defeating enemies, to unlock new moves and abilities, otherwise known as Skills from the Skills menu. There’s a skill tree for each weapon and demon. The Skills menu is also where you can increase Bayonetta and Viola’s maximum vitality and magic as long as you have the Witch Hearts and Moon Pearls to do so. I actually prefer this system to how acquiring new moves and techniques was done in the prior games. One reason is the sheer amount of Skills on offer which means a lot of moves and techniques to unlock. Another reason is, you can access the Skills menu at any time. You don’t have to wait until you can access the shop.

As mentioned before, the game plays out in Chapters and if you manage to find all the Umbran Tears of Blood in a chapter, you unlock an alternate version of that chapter, and completing those grants you special rewards. The campaign will also force you to play through the game’s Side Chapters where you control Jeanne in a side-scrolling style of gameplay that encourages stealth and completing all of these unlocks a minigame which plays in the same style. I didn’t like the side chapters at first but once I got the hang of things, I grew to enjoy them a bit more. Sneaking up behind foes and taking them down is kind of cool but these chapters certainly don’t offer the same type of fun, crazy, hectic action as the standard chapters and as a result, didn’t hold my interest for very long.

One of the great things about Bayonetta 3 is its replay value. Besides trying for better scores and medals and trying different weapons and approaches, there’s a lot to unlock in the game including the numerous skills, costumes, the Jeanne minigame, Bewitchments which are like in-game achievements, and Witch Trials which is a mode unlocked after beating the campaign. Witch Trials comes with multiple trials featuring a series of battles you must complete in succession and some of them are a great way to earn a lot of Haloes. Much like the previous games, you can spend currency at The Gates of Hell, also known as the shop, on items, accessories, and costumes or cosmetic items. And Haloes are one of the game’s forms of currency. They are primarily earned by defeating Angels.

Angels and Demons are not the primary enemies you’ll be facing in Bayonetta 3. The Homunculi, which are agents of neither Paradiso or Inferno, are the new big threat here. However, Angels do make an appearance from time to time. In typical Bayonetta fashion, the Homunculi come in different types that have unique names and are often weird looking. They come in different sizes and each one comes with it’s own unique move set. If you’re going for those high scores, you’ll want to memorize each enemy’s attacks and patterns and that applies to the bosses as well. Battles and navigation are often broken up by set pieces and many of them are really cool. But others kind of mess with the pacing and can be a slog on repeated playthroughs. You’ll get to ride demons and destroy and evade obstacles, there’s some rail shooter sequences, and a couple of fights play out like what I’m calling Kaiju battles.

One of my favorite things about Bayonetta 3 is the locations. You’ll not only travel to different universes but also different parts of the world including Paris, New York, Tokyo, Egypt, and China. Each location looks and feels distinct and come with different hazards and obstacles and the environments here are pretty huge. They are mostly linear but with a lot of space to explore and secrets to find. Certain enemies, when defeated, allow you to rewind time, usually allowing you to reach certain areas to collect something. If you take the time to look around and try to collect everything, you’ll discover the game features a decent amount of platforming. You may have to use demons to reach certain areas or to break through certain walls and most chapters offer plenty to see, do and collect. As mentioned earlier, Verses are basically the battles. But that doesn’t just mean the enemies you encounter along the intended path. If you look around, you’ll often find Verses with Angels and missions or what I call Challenge Verses hidden or out of the way. These Challenges require you to defeat enemies or complete a task with specific restrictions or limitations.

Visually, I think Bayonetta 3 is a great looking game and it is more detailed than it’s predecessors. It’s colorful, the visual effects look cool, and the action is often a visually stunning spectacle. On the audio side, I can’t say I enjoyed the soundtrack as much as that of the previous entries. It continues the use of pop and jazzy tunes which fit the style but I didn’t find many of the new songs here to be that great. On the technical side, the frame rate does noticeably dip when there’s a lot going on which can happen often, unfortunately. Other than that, I encountered no major issues.

I love Bayonetta 3. I think it’s the most accessible game in the series up to this point and luckily, there are numerous difficulty levels which is great for those looking for a tougher challenge. If you didn’t care for the gameplay in the previous entries, I don’t think this will turn anything around for you but if you are a fan of the series, there’s a lot to love here. The combat is fun, there’s depth to it, and the game offers plenty of reasons to keep the player coming back. I do think playing as Viola and Jeanne in the side chapters are the weaker parts of the game. Playing as Viola would be a lot better if she had access to the same tools and options as Bayonetta and the side chapters just didn’t hold my interest for long. I would have honestly preferred just playing as Jeanne in the typical style of gameplay. But I can see the focus on stealth being a nice break from the typical action I suppose. I just don’t think the side chapters are anywhere near as fun as the main ones. Luckily, Bayonetta’s brand of action is still front and center here and there’s plenty of it.

I would absolutely recommend Bayonetta 3. It’s a lot of fun and is very accessible to newcomers. It delivers more of the same great gameplay we’ve come to know and love and comes with cool new features. There is depth to the combat and mastering everything and achieving high scores will take practice, especially on the tougher difficulties. Bayonetta 3 retains the unique style and action the series is known for and there’s plenty of substance to it. Ultimately, it’s an amazing action game. Definitely check it out.

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