The meanest witch of the East returns, in a game that is both endlessly entertaining and completely insane.
The past few weeks seem to have exposed us as being overly cynical when it comes to video games. We were convinced that The Resident Evil 4 remake would be a disaster and yet what we’ve seen so far is perfect. It may not be unusual in these post-pandemic days, but the lack of hype for Bayonetta 3 and, more importantly, developer PlatinumGames’ poor run of recent games made us fear the worst there too. But Bayonetta 3 isn’t the worst of all, it’s one of the best action games ever made.
Previously we would have said that Platinum was one of the best developers today and one of our personal favorites, after games like Vanquish, Metal Gear Rising, NieR:Automata and Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2. However, their recent output is considerably less illustrious. , with duds like Sol Cresta and the incomprehensibly bad Babylon’s Fall.
They were never completely reliable as a studio, but since they started talking about self-publishing, the quality of their work has plummeted. Maybe that’s just a coincidence, or maybe the studio became a tough place to work for for a while, but you’d never guess from playing Bayonetta 3, which feels like a developer at the very top of their game.
While the quality has remained remarkably consistent, every Bayonetta game has had a different director, starting with Devil May Cry creator Hideki Kamiya on the first and this time featuring the little-known Yusuke Miyata. You’d never really guess though, because while Bayonetta 3 is easier to master in terms of combat, and there’s a bit more emphasis on larger open world areas to explore, this is broadly the same style of play as the previous two .
Storytelling isn’t one of Platinum’s strong points (that element was handled by Square Enix and Yoko Taro in NieR:Automata), but other than some self-indulgent long cutscenes at the beginning and end, Bayonetta 3 is thankfully short on the plot. All you need to know is that Bayonetta is an extremely powerful witch and martial artist, and there is someone trying to destroy/rewrite the multiverse which leads to her fighting many monsters and meeting different Bayonettas from the alternate universe.
The minor subgenre to which Bayonetta and Devil May Cry belong has never had a widely accepted name (character action game is almost as meaningless a term as immersive sim), but it’s essentially a beat ’em up, with complex combat fighting game style married to free movement and exploration. The staggeringly long lists of moves can be off-putting – which is why this item generally hides them – but you can get by just fine with just random punches and kicks, plus a ranged attack and the special abilities of whatever weapon you’re using. .
It’s okay to keep the combos as simple as hitting the punch button endlessly, as most of the depth of the game comes from managing crowds of monsters, using your summoned demons, and using enemy attacks to kill witch. Time to activate – just dodge if someone is about to attack and you’ll slow down time for a few seconds, which is vital for most encounters.
Bayonetta has always been able to summon demons for finishers and other special moves, but this time she can instantly take them over. Once summoned, they hang around for a long time as long as Bayonetta herself, which becomes rooted to the spot, is not hit. This seems to be inspired by Platinum’s work on their canceled Scalebound project for Xbox, and it works amazingly well for reviving the series as you essentially control giant demons with a remote.
The variety of these demons, like everything else, is staggering, from a Godzilla-esque monster to a web-slinger spider and a bat that can split itself in two, they all have their own unique abilities and moves, even while the simple operating system makes they are surprisingly intuitive to operate.
Our immediate temptation is to talk incessantly about all the weird and wonderful demons, weapons and monsters, but we really don’t want to spoil them because it’s so much fun discovering them for yourself. The weapon diversity is also much greater than before, from rifles to razor-sharp yo-yos and a music stand that is not only a spear, but can transform you into a frog woman who uses sound waves as a weapon.
You can buy jewelry that grants extra abilities, including a late game that allows monsters to master themselves, but extra moves are all gained through different skill trees for the characters, the weapons, and the demons. While it’s worth pointing out that on standard difficulty, these are all essentially optional extras and aside from increasing your max health and magic (primarily from competitive special challenge arenas), don’t worry about that if you don’t want to.
As admirable as this variety and accessibility is, it is the inventiveness of the set pieces and boss battles that are the game’s piece de resistance. Again, it would be a crime to spoil the best, but one of our favorites is preceded by the introduction of a robot-dancing old Chinese Bayonetta riding a demonic train, which, believe it or not, is absolutely sane and normal compared to what happens when the real boss fight starts.
Many of the set pieces feature tributes to other genres, including space shooters, racing games, on-the-rail shooters, and a particularly fantastic rhythm-action boss fight. There’s also an entire subgame for Bayonetta’s friend Jeanne, which takes place as a cross between Elevator Action and a 2D version of Metal Gear Solid, except with an anime intro that parodies Cowboy Bebop.
In addition to Bayonetta and its many variants, you also occasionally get to control a second character called Viola; it is suggested that the young punk is a witch, but it is never really stated who she is until the very end. She’s not nearly as obnoxious as you’d have feared from the trailers and although she plays the same way as Bayonetta, the only weapon she can use is a sword and she can’t attack Witch Time by dodging, but only by blocking. .
Accompanied by a hilariously brash rock soundtrack, Bayonetta 3 channels the soul of ’90s arcade games and action movies in a life-affirming inventive interactive experiment. It’s great to see Platinum at its insane best again, but the same goes for any game that can be so free and easy with logic and the laws of physics, sacrificing everything in the pursuit of a more entertaining game.
When it comes to flaws, the only real problem is with the open world areas, which aren’t really much more than hubs, but can still take a long time to explore. While not overly uninteresting, this isn’t nearly as exciting as the combat and there are relatively few additional enemy encounters along the way, which can lead to some tempo issues, especially in the middle part of the game.
However, this could be worse for those familiar with the previous games, which hid vital extras, such as new weapons, in the strangest of places. That’s generally not the case in Bayonetta 3, though, as almost all rewards are simply more health or magic upgrades. So those new to the series will be less afraid of missing out if they’ve had enough of research.
From concerns that it would be the final nail in Platinum’s coffin to whether it might not be the best game of the year (we haven’t decided yet), Bayonetta 3 is literally a revelation. It’s also huge – at least 20 hours on a first try and with a long endgame and a lot to discover that you missed the first time around.
Bayonetta 3 isn’t just one of the best games of 2022, it’s one of the best action games of all time – just like its ancestors. Both endlessly surprising and entertaining, this title is a shining example of all that is unique and wonderful about video games, but especially when you’ve been exhausted by so many games devoted only to realism and seriousness. Bayonetta 3 offers the opposite: pure unadulterated fun, and it’s great.
Bayonetta 3 review summary
In short: One of the best action games of recent years and an irresistibly entertaining celebration of all things fun and imaginative about video games.
Advantages: Fantastic battle system, as simple or complex as you want. Wonderfully imaginative bosses and set pieces. The new demon system works very well and is highly customizable.
cons: Somewhat poor pace at times depending on how much you decide to explore.
Formats: Nintendo Switch
Release date: October 28, 2022
Age Rating: 16
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