Bayonetta 3 is the latest Platinum game in collaboration with Nintendo. Potential controversy over the voice actors aside, while the game may have issues talking the talk, let’s see if Lady B can still walk the walk.
Multiverse of Madness
Bayonetta 3 starts somewhat differently from the previous two. We find Bayonetta getting stomped down by a mysterious force, while newcomer Viola looks on helplessly. It isn’t until this chapter is done that you find out this isn’t “our” Bayonetta, but one from another multiverse.
Yes, Bayonetta 3 is following the curve. It’s introducing the concept of a multiverse into a series that already has a confusing relationship with time travel.
Following this initial chapter, you’re greeted with a much more familiar scene. Bayonetta’s shopping is rudely interrupted by this new mysterious force. Rodin makes an appearance, and of course the source of comedy material and unfortunate soul Enzo also sees more misfortune by the time the introduction settles.
Bayonetta 3 sets you against a big bad called Singularity. They have discovered a means to travel freely through the multiverse and want to destroy them all, so they can declare their multiverse the “Alphaverse”.
Viola who we met in the intro informs Bayonetta and Jeane about this and they split off to cover two objectives. Bayonetta needs to travel through the multiverse to find 5 “Chaos Gears” which allows the user to freely choose which multiverse they land in. Jeanne is tasked with finding a Doctor integral to the plan.
While the story is good, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous two. They felt a little tighter and better-paced with their narrative and twists.
All The Bayonettas
The idea of a multiverse of Bayonetta is a great concept, despite being the current flavor of the week. There are high points when you meet a Bayonetta from other universes too. Unfortunately, the moments are fleeting and act more as skill-acquiring moments than anything more.
Newcomer Viola and her summon beast Chester are good additions, if not criminally underused. Bayonetta tends to just leave her at any opportunity, and it isn’t until much later in the story you get any exposition.
Rodin and Enzo also suffer from a lack of screen time. Luka, while seemingly very important to the plot, also suffers from a lack of screen real estate.
A little confused by all these names? Don’t worry! You don’t really need to have played the previous games or know the characters to understand what’s going on.
Bayonetta 3 has an enjoyable but almost fast-food story where it doesn’t want to linger on anything too long before it gives you your next “wacky” multiverse experience. This is something that a lot of titles dealing with the concept struggle with.
All that and the Kitchen Sink
Bayonetta 3 much like the two that came before it is a “Character Action” game. It’s a sub-genre from the “Beat Em Up” genre with a focus on combos and over-the-top attacks. This is paired with set pieces and brief flings with other genres such as Shoot Em Ups or Rail Shooters. Some other examples of this are Devil May Cry, Metal Gear: Revengence, or The Wonderful 101.
Platinum goes way back with this genre, getting their toes wet with Viewtiful Joe (under the name Clover Games) through to Astral Chain, the ill-fated Babylon’s Fall, and that small niche title known as NieR Automata. Platinum knows the genre and that shines through in Bayonetta 3.
Bayonetta and Viola control as you would expect from any third-person action game. You have a weak and strong attack, ranged shots, jump, dodge, and dash. Viola has a “Block” on top of those, which when timed well has the same reaction as Bayonetta’s dodge in that it activates slow motion or “Witch Time” as it is dubbed here.
Combat is the shining jewel in the crown as always. It comes with a plethora of combos to learn, as well as many new weapons such as the Yo-Yos which are quick and deadly, or the devastating “Train Hammer” which while the slowest in Bayonetta’s arsenal packs one helluva punch.
Viola has her katana as her sole weapon, but she is also plenty handy with her fists and her feet too. She doesn’t have any additional weapons, and changing her main defense to carefully timed blocks means that she does play quite differently from the spritely and energetic Bayonetta. While this is not a problem, it does take a little adjustment at first. You play as her considerably less than the star of the game.
Jeanne also gets in on the playable action. Her stages are in 2D and very reminiscent of the old action-platformer “Elevator Action”. She has to sneak her way through a military complex, with only 5 hearts of health instead of a bar. Jeanne usually relies on stealth takedowns from vents or hiding indoors, but there are sections where you’ll be given guns for twin-stick shooter action also.
I genuinely wish Jeanne’s stages were longer and more plentiful. They ooze charm from the introductions and have a punk aesthetic that you’d expect from Grasshopper Games and Suda 51. Unfortunately, there are less than a handful of these stages and they never clock in at more than five minutes each. To compare, some of Bayonetta’s can go on for around 50 minutes.
A Face You Could Just Punch
The new enemies that are invading on behalf of Singularity are bio-weapons with a White and Green color scheme. Frankly, I didn’t know how much I’d miss the angelic foes from the previous titles until I started facing off against this uncharismatic bunch.
While the Angels and Demons do make sporadic appearances, mostly in the bonus missions strewn across the stage, I didn’t find a single new enemy as fun or as memorable in this Bayonetta title as the ones that came before it. This hurts the game a lot more than I initially expected.
Fun with WitchCraft
Fortunately, Bayonetta 3 has expanded the combat to allow you to use Bayonetta’s signature summons freely in combat. This adds even more ways to put the hurt on the green-and-white blob menace. Similar to Astral Chain, these summons are fully controllable, but at the expense of Bayonetta’s movement until you either stop the summon or your magic meter depletes.
Initially, this feels quite clunky, but you’ll soon get used to them. It’s certainly worth it too; When you unlock the ability to summon them as combo enders, the fun soon ramps up to 10.
The mini-games are back too. You’ll frequently be thrust into on-rails shooting sections in the vein of The House of the Dead, with a cheeky little nod to the series. These kinds of deviations are always fun and tend to be the more memorable sections outside of the boss battles.
A Sometimes Excellent Adventure
The level design in Bayonetta 3 feels weirdly unbalanced. The initial few stages where you’re tearing through Shibuya with reckless abandon stand out compared to the rather open island you travel between to get to other multiverses. There is also a great section on the Great Wall of China, followed up by a rather open and boring jaunt in Cairo.
It honestly feels at times the stages are too open and empty, almost like they had the idea of an open-world Bayonetta but didn’t quite pull the trigger on it. This is to the detriment not only of level pacing, but also the performance of the game.
There are around 14 chapters. You can find plenty of hidden fights and unlockable extras to find and adorn Viola’s room with, a skill tree to sink into for Bayonetta and Viola, summons and accessories to unlock. There are even four difficulty modes for you to stomp through, carrying across the three different currencies. This means that you can grind for items to help you with tougher sections.
The scoring system is also back, so perfectionists can achieve the lofty “Pure Platinum” on every section of the game. There is a lot of content here, possibly the most in any of the series, and will see yourself tapping away long after the story has closed.
Finally, each stage has a set of achievements called “Bewitchments”. These range from finding secrets to not taking damage in certain sections. Each offers a reward for completing them, which is yet another reason to venture back to the completed stages.
Grinding Chaos Gears
The performance of Bayonetta 3 on Nintendo Switch is rough. The frame rate tends to slow to a crawl in particularly larger battles with more foes on the screen or when you are in the larger more open areas.
It’s obvious that the Switch is starting to very much lag behind what developers want to do with it. While it’s possible that a patch is in the works to help smooth performance, I don’t think docked or handheld Switch will ever provide the kind of smooth experience that Bayonetta 3 deserves.
Visually Bayonetta 3 either has so much going on it’s going to blow your mind or it’s like a barren canvas of weak textures and space with very little in between.
The graphics seem to be on par with Bayonetta 2, though the cutscenes and character models for the main cast seem a little better. It still flags behind games like Devil May Cry V, but it’s carried by a strong art style.
Bayonetta excels with its art direction, especially with its twist on Angels and Demons. The contrast with her occult world bleeding into the real world which wasn’t explored too much in previous titles is realized here with mixed results. Things like Bayonetta fighting alongside the Japanese defense force is just the right amount of goofy that it works. It’s just a shame that system limitations really don’t allow the series to go further.
The music as expected is again top-notch and is almost tongue in cheek with how cheery and pop it is, especially when raining death upon skyscraper-sized Bio-weapons.
The voice acting while a touchy subject with this title is again brilliant. Bayonetta is still as sassy as ever and the delivery while slightly different still hits just as hard. Enzo still sounds like a Joe Pesci knock-off and Luka is still a charming goofball. While there is some drama surrounding this aspect, it doesn’t damage the game at all in this department.
Bayonetta 3 is the best and the worst in the series at the same time. I feel that it manages to reach the highest points of the series yet, but is also paired with some of the lowest.
The over-the-top cutscenes and combat have never been better and the gameplay is truly diverse throughout. Unfortunately, the performance, the weak story, and some horrid open-level design really harm the product from what initially on paper could have been the definitive Bayonetta experience.
Bayonetta 3 for better or worse is a culmination of everything Platinum has created up to this point. Even on its darkest day, Bayonetta 3 is still a must-play for not only fans of the series but fans of the genre.
BAYONETTA 3 IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Nintendo UK for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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