After initially being teased in Bayonetta 3, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon aims to offer fans of the flirtatious witch a deeper look into her childhood. This is no action-fest though; we instead explore it with the help of every child’s bedtime best friend, the storybook. So grab a blanket, warm some milk, and snuggle up as we take a look at Bayonetta’s origins.
A Forbidden Love
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon tells the story of a young Bayonetta, currently going by her actual name Cereza. Cereza is an outcast due to being born of Umbrian and Lumen union. Sadly, she doesn’t have family there to support her either. Her mother has been locked away for committing such a forbidden act and her father has been exiled to a far-off land.
Cereza makes several attempts to see her mother. Fearing that she may succeed, the guards move her mother to a solitary cell where no one can see her and no light can touch her. But not all hope is lost. Cereza dreams of a White Wolf who is deep in the Avalon Forest that says they can give her the power to rescue her mother.
Making her way into the forest, she’s promptly attacked. Sadly, she’s not quite the witch she later becomes just yet. Trying to summon a demon ends in somewhat of a failure, with the demon trapped inside her stuffed animal “Cheshire”. Convincing the demon that she can return him to whence he came when she has the power from the White Wolf, the pair head further into the woods with hopes of finding the White Wolf to return the Demon and Cereza’s mother to their homes.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon places a much stronger focus on narrative than that of the games that came before. It focuses on the origins of the witch that would become Bayonetta, her feelings about her Umbrian upbringing, and her estranged relationship with her parents.
The Cereza you see in this game, while still often optimistic and cheeky is a far cry from the often sexualized and strong-willed character action superstar. But much like in Bayonetta 3, you see more of a human side to her. We see a character who longs to return to her mother’s side and one who struggles as she gets to grips with her growing Umbrian power and status as an outcast due to her Lumen blood.
A Fairy Tale Buddy Cop Story
It’s an unusual but welcome change to see this series and its titular character in a way that makes them mysterious and vulnerable. While she still has an air of confidence, Cereza’s young age and inexperience come across as endearing and a complete contrast to her in Bayonetta 1 and 2. This links in well with the third title, which started to show some of the cracks in Bayonetta’s armor, again related to the relationship with her mother.
While Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon lacks the bombastic set pieces and over-the-top grandeur of the other titles, it’s held together by the relationship with Cereza and Cheshire. Plenty of back and forth between the unlikely duo of the young witch and the demon who would like nothing more than to kill her for accidentally enslaving them creates an unmistakable charm that works well with the storybook-style presentation. It does have a settling-in period for those coming from the mainline titles. Despite this, I found myself engrossed in the story.
In a departure from previous titles, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon presents gamers with an adventure game combined with mechanics seen in previous Platinum Games titles such as Wonderful 101 and Astral Chain.
Utilizing Cereza’s powers and Cheshire’s shape-shifting ability, the game is littered with various puzzles to solve, platforming sections where you use Cheshire like a grappling hook, and sections where the duo needs to split up due to flowers Cheshire cannot pass and sections Cereza cannot climb.
When it comes to combat, Bayonetta Origins has less of a focus on combo building and high-octane action. Instead, it has a split between controlling Cereza who moves and entraps enemies, and Cheshire who attacks.
Cereza only has a few limited magic spells which are mostly used for platforming and puzzle-solving. She can entangle enemies in thorns to freeze them in place, but she has no direct attacks. We’re not yet at the days of her dodging out of the way and busting out a 40-hit combo before blowing a kiss.
Cheshire is your main way of dispatching threats. He controls independently in his “combat” form, directed with the right analog stick while Cereza is controlled by the left. Cheshire has a few basic attack strings by hammering on the shoulder button and can also parry attacks with a well-timed press of the block button.
Cheshire cannot be killed, merely turned into a smaller version that cannot attack for a certain amount of time. On the flip side, Cereza is far more vulnerable. She cannot attack enemies but can take damage and die, resulting in a game over. Unlike previous games, while there is a good bit of combat, it doesn’t have the depth or focus the series is known for. The attention is more on the actual adventure.
More Flow, Less Flow Chart
The lack of dramatic shift in narrative focus, combat, simplistic puzzles, change to adventure-style gameplay, and “Metroidvania” style map progression are going to create a divisive split between fans of the series.
Some aspects of the originals have bled into this title though. Crafting has made a return as have a number of collectibles ranging from Gallery items to Health and Magic meter expanding collectibles. The “Challenge” areas are back as well to truly test your mastery of controlling Cereza and Cheshire.
Bayonetta Origins seems like it was designed with younger or inexperienced players in mind due to its lack of combat focus and the relative ease of the puzzles. I found myself engrossed in exploring the forest and wanted to see everything it had to offer, but I can fully understand someone coming in with certain expectations when it comes to a title called Bayonetta.
A Tale As Old As Time
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is presented as a storybook, much like a Grimms tale being told to a child. It has a soft art direction, fitting this style.
The game has a unique-looking cel-shading style. While it looks great in screenshots, it needs to be seen in motion to see just how beautifully animated everything is. I cannot overstate just how unique this title looks. It really manages to encapsulate what older storybooks looked like, but infused with the motion your imagination would include.
The forest does have several different biomes, but for the most part, this is going to be your sole location. This never becomes an issue, but to those coming off of the back of Bayonetta 3 and its diverse environments, it can seem a little constricting. It’s not something I have an issue with though. I often enjoy titles that do this like Ys Origins in which your adventure is contained solely in Darm Tower.
Sounds of the Forest
The music in Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and The Lost Demon is beautifully whimsical and helps builds the magic of drawing you into this storybook world. It lacks anything standout, like the earworm renditions of “Fly Me To The Moon” or “Moon River” from the previous games. It works well, but it’s mostly forgettable.
Voice acting is fantastic here. Cereza and Cheshire are real show stealers and despite her age, Cereza doesn’t come off as irritating at any point which was a genuine concern I had when this title was announced. I did find myself missing some of the cast from the previous games, but the voice cast in this title did a fine job with the limited members involved in the tale.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is a fantastic and unexpected entry in the Bayonetta series. It has all the hallmarks of an experimental title from Platinum Games but sadly lacks the over-the-top action they have become synonymous with alongside their genre mixing.
What is on offer is a charming tale with a unique art style, an addictive world to explore, and acceptable combat. It may feel initially daunting to series fans, but will soon warm to those willing to take a gamble on a Bayonetta title that feels more like a different title, wrapped in Bayonetta lore and namesake.
BAYONETTA ORIGINS: CEREZA AND THE LOST DEMON IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Nintendo UK for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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