Nintendo first teased the existence of Bayonetta 3 way back at The Game Awards 2017, alongside Nintendo Switch ports of the first two entries in the series. While the ports saw their release just a couple months later, there was years of radio silence in regards to the threequel. So much stuff has happened within the gaming industry during those five years, hell, almost an entire console generation has come and gone, and now that Bayonetta 3 is only a few days away (or perhaps already out by the time you’re reading this), that leaves a very important question… Did PlatinumGames make it worth the wait?
PlatinumGames is a very valuable asset for Nintendo; they are the developers behind games such as The Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2, both of which were former Wii U exclusives and would have never seen the light of day if it wasn’t for direct funding from Nintendo themselves. While the first Bayonetta was published by SEGA, since then, their involvement in the franchise has been reduced to merely being the copyright holder, with Nintendo now handling publishing. Basically, if you’re hoping to see Bayonetta 3 on other platforms in the future, you’re out of luck. Hideki Kamiya, the creator of Bayonetta and executive director of Bayonetta 3, has said outright that at the end of the day, it’s Nintendo’s decision, but “if I were you, I’d simply buy a Switch.”
Bayonetta is the exact opposite of what you would expect from a stereotypically family-friendly company like Nintendo, making it just so damn special and unique. Pretty much everything your parents warned you about is present here, from cussing, smoking, sexual innuendos, partial nudity, blood, violence, and religious themes. If raunchyness isn’t your thing however, or if you’re worried about your little ones walking by the TV and seeing something they shouldn’t, fortunately, Bayonetta 3 offers a new “Naive Angel” mode to censor some of the explicit content. It’s worth noting that removing these elements does not take away from the gameplay and storytelling experience, as Bayonetta holds an identity for itself outside of skimpy clothing.
Being on the sidelines of one of the biggest voice acting related controversies since Chris Pratt being cast as Mario (although for entirely different reasons), the Guinness World Record holder for “most prolific video game voice actress,” Jennifer Hale, executes Bayonetta’s personality and sensuality perfectly, with a superb vocal performance that makes her a worthy successor to Hellena Taylor. While it’s unfortunate that the same voice couldn’t be used across the entire trilogy, there’s somewhat of an in-game explanation that makes the situation easier to swallow.
In fiction, the concept of the “multiverse” is more popular now than it has ever been. Bayonetta now joins the likes of Rick and Morty, Spider-Man No Way Home, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, Multiversus, and Everything Everywhere All at Once, to tell an engaging and complex story revolving around the theory that there are infinite parallel universes of our own, and although that’s an oversimplification, I’m sure you get the main idea. Bayonetta 3 takes the multiverse concept in an interesting direction, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
Bayonetta has always been a very narrative-driven series, and Bayonetta 3 isn’t any different. The character development, world-building, and outlandish supernatural lore is stronger than ever before, with enough to satisfy the hardcore fans without alienating potential newcomers. The quality of writing is excellent as well, having just the right combination of humour and seriousness. Beloved side-characters such as Jeanne, Rodin, Luka, and Enzo make their welcomed return, and of course, Bayonetta, a shapeshifting Umbra Witch, once again acts as the protagonist. A brand new character, Viola, is also introduced, and her badass personality fits right in with the rest of the cast. She also plays an important role in setting up the high-stakes plot, and even becomes playable later on with a unique moveset and a demon companion known as Cheshire.
As for the story itself, Viola travels to an alternate universe in search of Bayonetta and Jeanne to seek help in stopping a massive threat that could destroy all of reality. This time around though, the villainous creatures running amok are not of Paradiso or Inferno origin, but rather, Homunculi, bioweapons created by a mysterious entity known as Singularity, whose goal is to tear apart the multiverse. Bayonetta and Viola venture to a strangely familiar island where they discover a multiverse portal generator, and this is where your journey begins.
Bayonetta 3 is split up into chapters, with each chapter containing multiple “verses” where you must defeat a set amount of enemies or beat an action sequence in order to progress. You’ll be graded based on combo, time, and damage taken, with a medal then awarded depending on how well you performed. Some verses are required to move forward with the story, but others are hidden in secret areas. Bayonetta 3 is a very linear experience, with many cutscenes to tie everything together, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any room for exploration. Searching around for collectables, various forms of in-game currency, and special boss battles with clear conditions is a big part of the fun.
Every chapter has achievements known as “Bewitchments,” which adds a major level of replayability to the game. You don’t find out what they are until after the chapter is completed, so it feels good when you tackle one without even knowing about it yet. There are multiple checkpoints in a chapter, so you don’t necessarily have to always start from the beginning. Additionally, there are Side Chapters and Remnant Chapters with different gameplay styles. I won’t get into the specifics of those though, as discovering them for yourself is more exciting.
The core combat consists of all the fast-paced hack-and-slash action that fans of the Bayonetta series are familiar with, including the return of the ever so iconic Witch Time mechanic, temporarily slowing down time when executing a perfect dodge from an enemy attack. Bayonetta can punch, kick, shoot, jump, and dodge, with dozens of crazy combo technique possibilities, and even more to be unlocked with an upgradable skill tree. There are also special abilities like Torture Attacks and Punishments to deal devastating amounts of damage to your opponents. Your reliance on learning combos will greatly depend on the difficulty level you choose at the start.
There is one major difference that makes the gameplay of Bayonetta 3 stand out from its predecessors, as the “Beast Within” mechanic has been completely reworked into what’s now known as “Demon Masquerade” weapons. Depending on the weapon you have equipped, Bayonetta will gain the ability to transform into a different demon with special abilities and combos. Bayonetta also has the ability to summon and take full control of Infernal Demons, powerful beasts with insanely imaginative designs, by using magic power from a metre that regenerates over time. Additional Demon Masquerade weapons, as well as Infernal Demons, will be unlocked as you progress through the game. Two Demon Masquerade weapons and three Infernal Demons can be equipped simultaneously and can be swapped between at will. These new mechanics do take a bit of getting used to, but once you do, you’ll feel unstoppable.
What’s an action game without some sort of shop to spend the points you’ve earned? Welcome to The Gates of Hell, where you can purchase health and magic-increasing lollipops for a quick boost during battle, equipable accessories that provide passive abilities, and even costumes and costume colours to further customize Bayonetta’s appearance. From the get go though, there are a multitude of hair colour options that can be accessed from the menu, including black, silver, red, blonde, green, orange, purple, and pink, so select the style that’s right for you. There is a lot to buy, unlock, and discover, so be sure to gather as much currency as you can.
Bayonetta 3 was built from the ground up for Nintendo Switch, pushing the increasingly outdated hardware to its absolute limits, and the result is astonishing. PlatinumGames must have used some real-life witchcraft to get the game running at 60fps, and although there are some occasional dips in framerate during graphically intensive segments, it’s understandable that some corners had to be cut to make the visuals look as incredible as they do. As a tech nerd with a high-end gaming PC, I walked away not only totally satisfied, but very impressed.
Bayonetta 3 is one hell of a good time. There is never a dull moment in this action/adventure threequel that’s sure to take your breath away. Even if your only knowledge of Bayonetta is that she’s one of the many characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, now is the perfect time to see what this extraordinary franchise is all about. With polished combat mechanics, gorgeous visuals, and masterful storytelling, Bayonetta 3 is simply bloody brilliant.
Bayonetta 3 launches for Nintendo Switch on 28th October 2022.
A copy of Bayonetta 3 for review purposes was provided by Nintendo UK.