Incredibly fast, tight gameplay. Wide variety in enemies, weapons, and summons. Great characters. Genuinely hard to put down.
Bayonetta herself plays so perfectly that switching to other characters feels underwhelming. The Villain is somewhat forgettable.
October 28th 2022
Disclaimer: Copy was provided by developer for review purposes.
Bayonetta 3 is what you get when you take bombastic combat, exciting new ideas, beloved characters, and shake them up in a PlatinumGames aerosol can before spraying them back out in flamboyantly-colored graffiti. Which is to say that it’s damn fun. My dozen or so hours with it were filled with tight, fanciful weapons, and romps through a collapsing Bayonetta multiverse I never knew existed.
We’re introduced to the new witch, Viola, early in the game. After witnessing the death of her universe’s Bayonetta, Viola escapes to a new timeline, where she encounters the game’s main timeline Bayonetta. The two are sent on a quest to find Chaos Gears, while Bayonetta’s returning sister witch Jeanne looks for a man named Dr. Sigurd who can supposedly use these gears to stop the homunculi from collapsing the multiverse.
The desire to give players a bit of everything is where Bayonetta 3 gets things both very right and somewhat wrong. Enemy variety is a standout in this game. The introduction of each new enemy type comes with a splash screen, artwork, and the name of the creature (usually a homunculi) being fought. Every time a new enemy made a grand entrance – stomping or sloshing their way onto the level and towering over Bayonetta before we freeze for their flashy info page – it imbued even smaller fights with a sense of danger and purpose.
Weapon variety is equally impressive. At one point I was wielding an enormous weapon that was basically a train I could both smack baddies with and ride around the battlefield, another time I was spinning around a set of infernal yo-yos and taking advantage of a genuine web-swinging mechanic. Such weapons were often cleverly introduced through an alternate Bayonetta from a different time or universe. I would see the weapon used by that universe’s Bayonetta before getting the opportunity to wield it (and its accompanying demon) myself.
Bayonetta 3 also changes the way you interact with summoned demons, allowing you to take direct control while Bayonetta herself focuses on her ritual dance. This was an incredible power trip as I summoned kaiju-sized demons to sweep away enemies like fleas. While at times this felt overpowered, Bayonetta herself is completely vulnerable during this time, with just one hit knocking her ritual off-rhythm and sending the demon away. To re-summon the demon, you’ll have to do a bit of fighting yourself while the demonic energy gauge refills.
While summoning an enormous tarantula to take out a room of enemies is a power trip, it also serves to speed up the action. These rooms of enemies are where things threaten to become monotonous. You hit homunculi, hear Bayonetta say “you’ve been naughty” and rinse-and-repeat until the level is finished. Summoning these demons helps end low-level encounters swiftly and stylishly, breaking up the way each encounter feels. It’s one of the many clever ways that Bayonetta 3 seeks to keep the players engaged with every tap of the controller.
Crucially, all of this ridiculous variety is matched with plenty of depth. All of these new weapons and demons come with their own skill trees to enhance and level up. The option to invest in any demon/weapon combo made it feel like any of my favorite options were viable. I also had unprecedented access to the demons, as I could have any three assigned to my d-pad for quick use. The variety is there to enjoy, and you’re encouraged to use it to your heart’s content.
Bayonetta 3 is such a jubilant celebration of the titular character that it can fall flat when it looks away from its titular character.
One of the highlights of this game is traveling through the Bayonetta-verse and encountering other Bayonettas. There’s a unique thrill that comes with shooting homunculi from the back of a demon-train while another Bayonetta effortlessly commands said train, navigating the level through her signature witchery. Levels like this also help to keep things feeling fresh. Not every encounter consists of the same running, gunning, and getting off combos. At various points you’ll find yourself on a turret, or controlling a kaiju-sized demon in a city-sized brawl, or in a desperate race through a world as it collapses around you.
Bayonetta 3 is such a jubilant celebration of the titular character that it can fall flat when it looks away from its titular character. Some chapters take place from the perspective of the new witch, Viola, who is a brash punk in contrast to the cool, calm Bayonetta.
In these sections, Viola’s combat felt somewhat underdeveloped. Instead of summoning a variety of demons, she summons one oversized cat-demon named Cheshire. To do so, she has to give up her sword, which moves her into hand-to-hand combat that rarely feels gratifying. Compared to Bayonetta herself, her combat feels clunky, and her chapters feel longer for it. I didn’t dislike Viola as a character, but it’s telling that the times when I most often put the controller down for a break were during her chapters.
Jeanne’s “side missions” (which are unskippable) suffer from a similar issue, though they take a decidedly unique approach. As Jeanne, you must slink your way through facilities in order to find and capture Dr. Sigurd. These bits are mostly presented as 2D stealth missions. Instead of summoning demons and fighting through everything, you’re encouraged to remain unseen. Later Jeanne chapters will have you fighting through a crashing elevator and escaping on a motorcycle, all presented in a 2D style. While I applaud the creativity involved in crafting these levels and appreciate the attempt at genre-mashing, these chapters often felt out of place. They even get their own end-credits sequence when you finish them, further cementing them as an almost entirely different game.
Bayonetta 3’s story and final boss also end up being a little lackluster. In a world where characters have such dramatic flair, Bayonetta 3’s villain ends up feeling fairly forgettable. It’s a shame, because otherwise the climax of the game is filled with jaw-dropping moments befitting of the multiverse built throughout the rest of the story.
When all is said and gunned, Bayonetta 3 is a triumph. The story and characters stand on their own, making this entry enjoyable for newcomers and veterans alike. Bayonetta 3 has one of the fastest, tightest, most fun combat systems I’ve ever played. Weaving through incoming attacks, dodging perfectly to constantly activate the slow-motion “Witch Time,” and summoning demons to punish enemies is as smooth on the controller as it is on the screen. Even my gripes with Jeanne and Viola’s chapters have less to do with them being bad (which they aren’t) and more to do with Bayonetta’s chapters feeling like perfection.
After eight long years of waiting, Bayonetta is back with all her flash and pomp intact. And while I expect this entry to hold my interest for quite a while, I hope we don’t have to wait another eight years before we see one of the biggest names in gaming return.
NEXT: Bayonetta 3 – Bayonetta’s Backstory Explained