Review: Bayonetta 3 [Nintendo Switch]
The witch is back — and back in style.
It almost seems a little silly in hindsight that we were worried about Bayonetta 3 launching. It was announced during the first year of the Nintendo Switch, and while PlatinumGames was mostly silent on the game during the next few years, our patience was eventually rewarded in 2021. It’s then that we got the first look at the game, and just over one year later, we’ve got it in our hands.
Promising a bold new look for the titular protagonist and a smattering of new features, it seemed like the franchise’s most daring outing yet. And all through the year, many have been looking forward to jumping into this series once again.
Though for me, Bayonetta 3 marked my jumping-on point. I’ve never played a Bayonetta game before, and it made me cautiously optimistic to start here. It looked fun as hell, to be sure, but would it be a good place for a Bayonetta newbie to begin?
The answer is: yes! But that’s not to say that returning fans won’t get a kick out of this either, as it’s a joyride from beginning to end with only a couple of hiccups that slow things down.
So many Bayonettas, so little time
We’ve known for a little while that Bayonetta 3 would involve multiple timelines and dimensions merging together. So for this humble reviewer who was only slightly familiar with the series story, it was daunting to say the least.
The game begins with the titular Umbra Witch hanging out in New York when a new threat enters the World of Chaos: the Homunculi. These monsters, neither angel nor demon, have apparently been tearing apart other dimensions thanks to a being known as Singularity. They plan to merge all dimensions together into a single universe, which would destroy all life in the process. Teaming up with Viola, an Umbra Witch in training from another universe, Bayonetta and her companions Jeanne, Rodin, Luka, and Enzo (well, maybe not Enzo) set off to face this new menace.
If you’re a newcomer to the Bayonetta series that plans to start with this game, then fret not: the story is surprisingly friendly to newcomers. It may involve alternate universes and interdimensional travel, but really, that’s just a device to send Bayonetta and the team from one location to another. Even with this complexity, you should be able to follow it just fine.
The second reason, unfortunately, is that Bayonetta 3 doesn’t pay enough attention to getting the story fundamentals right. I’m thinking primarily of the alternate versions of Bayonetta that we meet along the way. They’re also facing off against the Homunculi and briefly partner with our version of the witch to deal with them. Yet for every single one, we know so little about them before we move on from them. I’d love to know what French phantom thief Bayonetta is all about! But sadly, the game never gives us that opportunity.
Perhaps my opinion would be enhanced were I more familiar with the series. Obviously, I’m not in a position to judge whether or not series veterans will enjoy the story. Yet for a newcomer, it was a pleasant if not completely satisfying story.
Kicking some Homunculi butt
While the story kept me slightly engaged, it was the gameplay that really got me hooked into Bayonetta 3 once it started to click. I previously wrote about how it took a little while for me to fully get into the game’s combat. But I want to reiterate: when the gameplay does get its hooks into you, it gets in deep.
The fast-paced combo-centric gameplay from previous Bayonetta games is back and in full force. Bayonetta can punch, jump, kick, and shoot her weapons in combat, giving us a very versatile moveset to sink our teeth into. Dodging at the right time lets you slow down time with Witch Time so you can seriously pile on some damage.
It was easy enough to understand the basic combat as a beginner, though getting it all down pat took a little bit of time. Bayonetta 3 moves very fast, and that’s certainly to be expected from a PlatinumGames title. There’s tons of combos you can learn, which vary depending on your equipped weapon.
All that is to say that Bayonetta herself is extremely capable of dealing with threats. Which is great, because the Homunculi don’t pull any punches. There’s a huge variety of enemies that you’ll encounter, from big to small and everything in between. The game introduces them to you at a very frantic rate, but not so fast that you feel unequipped to handle it. Despite the Homunculi’s shared color scheme, you can easily identify what strategies your foes are likely to lose just by getting a quick peek at them.
Of course, when the going does get tougher, Bayonetta’s got plenty of power on her side.
Facing your inner (and outer) demons in Bayonetta 3
One of the highlights of previous games are the demons which Bayonetta occasionally summoned to lend a hand in battle. For the most part, the Infernal Demons were relegated to single attacks during combos. The only time these demons ever showed up in their full splendor was during climactic events at the end of chapters.
Now, however, you can summon demons whenever you want in battle, so long as you have magic. Each demon has their own attacks, and thanks to the Demon Slave ability, they’re at your beck and call. You’ll take control of them momentarily, leaving Bayonetta open to attack. But with a giant beast on the loose, you can still dish out the pain with these creatures.
Bayonetta can also call upon them to help maneuver around areas with the Demon Masquerade ability. This gives you new ways of moving through levels, such as climbing up walls with Phantasmaraneae or gliding around with Madame Butterfly. It’s certainly a thrill getting to use these demon powers more often, especially when they’re able to tackle larger enemies with ease.
Perhaps disappointingly, however, is that Bayonetta 3 might have less of a sense of spectacle with these demons. When you’re summoning demons left and right, seeing them show up in cutscenes or transforming into massive versions of the demons doesn’t have quite as much impact as perhaps PlatinumGames might have hoped.
They’re cool sequences, no doubt about that. But when you’ve essentially got a giant kaiju fight as part of a boss battle and I just go “yeah, alright, let’s see how this goes,” you feel like something might have been lost.
Passing on the torch
Bayonetta might be the star of the game, but Bayonetta 3 also gives other characters their time in the spotlight. First is Viola, who acts as the secondary playable character. She’s more focused on raw power than speed and agility, with Witch Time activated via blocking instead of dodging. And rather than having a host of demons by her side, she’s only accompanied by her cat demon Cheshire.
Without getting into her character arc to avoid spoilers, I can say that I’m not a huge fan of Viola. Not because of her personality or anything, but rather her fighting style which doesn’t feel as tight. Viola’s emphasis on blocking over dodging makes for a character that isn’t as fun to control. Cheshire also acts independently when summoned in battle so Viola can still fight, which helps keep the action constant. Yet it also means you have less command over how the battle goes, which doesn’t feel nearly as nice.
Then we come to Jeanne, Bayonetta’s fellow Umbra Witch who goes off on her own little side mission. She’s infiltrating a laboratory to rescue Dr. Sigurd, a scientist who supposedly knows how to stop Singularity. In order to reach him, however, she has to sneak past Homunculi guards and navigate the corridors of the facility.
Jeanne’s levels are short interludes in between major chapters and they only take about five minutes or so to complete. (Compare that to a normal level which takes around 30 to 40 minutes.) The 2D stealth gameplay works well enough, and successfully getting the drop on enemies is a lot of fun. Yet these chapters end far too quickly for you to really get invested in them, unfortunately.
Final thoughts on Bayonetta 3
Bayonetta 3 continues the same action-packed gameplay you’ve grown to expect, with new foes and new dimensions to experience. With a number of awesome gameplay additions and a bigger focus on summoning demons, it’s an incredibly fun time. It’s occasionally brought down by story and character hiccups, but the core adventure is still a rip-roaring good time.
Bayonetta 3 is available now for Nintendo Switch. You can order the game on Amazon here via our affiliate link.
Have you been playing Bayonetta 3? If so, what do you think of it? Let us know!
Bayonetta 3 continues the same action-packed gameplay you've grown to expect from the series, with new foes and new dimensions to experience. With a number of awesome gameplay additions and a bigger focus on summoning demons to deal damage in combat, it's an incredibly fun time — that's occasionally brought down, sometimes harshly, by story and character hiccups.