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Bayonetta 3
Bayonetta 3

Nintendo Switch
Genre: Action
Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Nintendo Classification: MA15+
Release Date:
October 2022
Bayonetta 3 Review
Review By @ 02:47pm 27/10/22

In Bayonetta 3 my prediction is that it will service two types of audience -- the titular character’s fans and their weebish obsession with watching her hair dress and undress her at a button’s notice, revealing low-poly shades of skin ever-so-obscured by something or other, and those who want to know what I just wrote actually means. The Bay-curious types, if you will.

For others, getting past the game’s intro might be all they wrote, as Bayonetta 3 -- even by Bayonetta standards -- is truly, truly over the top. Within just a few short minutes an inexplicable amount of chaos happens, not the least of which is a (un)Holy tsunami that not only floods Manhattan, New York, but also helps serve as a wave for Bayonetta to surf using a cruiseliner as her board.

This is batkaijushit crazy stuff.

There’s been some furore in the build up to the game’s release and our review embargoes lifting overnight, with OG voice actor for Bayonetta, Hellena Taylor, revealing a lowball amount of money offered to her to reprise the role, which sparked a lot of “he said, she said” back and forths between herself and team members of developer Platinum Games (with the undisclosed third-party that is Twitter chiming in for disruptive measure). Hellena turned down the role in the end, and that public dispute is still bubbling along in the background in Twitter’s cauldron, and while it hasn’t affected the product before you today, the spat has certainly soured the behind-the-scenes of it all.

"In Bayonetta 3 she’s now fighting a new force known as the Homunculi who are bent on her destruction, in all walks of life...”

For the uninitiated, Bayonetta was introduced as an alternative to Devil May Cry by original DMC creator, Hideki Kamiya. It stars a witch who is in constant battle with varying forces across multiple planes of existence, but for context and brevity, you just need to know she kicks ass, is sassy and confidently sexual, and her hair is her clothes. In Bayonetta 3 she’s now fighting a new force known as the Homunculi who are bent on her destruction, in all walks of life, which is to say they’re hunting down Bayonettas from different dimensions, further cementing the modern media love affair with the multiverse.

This setup has allowed Platinum to explore different variations of Bayonetta, each with their own demons to confront and slay. On any other given sheet of white paper, this might sound like an exploratory playground rife with possibility, but in Bayonetta, as has been the case in all outings starring her, everything takes a backseat to combat, which is centrestage here once again and I must say a little less enjoyable than in previous iterations. Though also quite deep for the Bayophiles out there -- you know who you are.

"One named Violeta is even a Blink-182 fan sporting a giant cheshire cat. At least her pop punk aesthetic led me to that assumption...”

Combat is deep because it’s so chaotic and frenetic, if you’re not proactively paying attention to what you’re doing you’re probably mashing out of confusion and guilt (guilt being the notion you’re an adult, a gamer and a fan of big action and therefore should know better). And that’s okay. Bayonetta 3 is deep, but is also accessible to those unfamiliar with the franchise or DMC style of game or brawlers in general. One of the big additions in Bayonetta 3 is her ability to summon giant demon ‘pets’, which is also a trait that carries over to the other Bayonettas from other dimensions you’ll come across in a friendly fashion. One named Violeta is even a Blink-182 fan sporting a giant cheshire cat. At least her pop punk aesthetic led me to that assumption, for all I know she could be more of a NOFX fan -- there’s nothing overly concrete about each character’s backgrounds in this series.

A much-lauded trait of Bayonetta from the first two games is witch-time, which is enacted with perfectly-timed evades, and that’s true again of Bayonetta 3. In witch-time you can gather your bearings in the oft gravity-defying skirmishes that permeate the playspace and it’s in these slowed down sections of play that you can actually appreciate some of the work that has gone into game, its character designs and animations. In real-time it’s all so flash-in-the-pan it can fall by the wayside, but with witch-time in motion (heh), you can take a breath and enjoy the game in its finest form.

"It’s my main gripe with the game overall, that you never feel set in a moment-to-moment sequence of play...”

However, witch-time is now a smaller percentage of play here, with not all Bayonettas being heady hands at it. To that end veterans might feel like the series has found its expansive moment, not relying solely on Beyonetta’s moveset to sell the action, but I feel in Bayonetta 3 it’s just another ingredient in an ever whisked bowl of frenzy. In fact it’s my main gripe with the game overall, that you never feel set in a moment-to-moment sequence of play, which is something Bayonetta 2 did so well, while still serving up hefty doses of bombast. And all of the cool stuff -- Bayonetta’s stylised decision-making and confidence-bearing -- is handled in cutscenes by the developer. We kick and shoot and summon, but rarely do we have a chance to interact with the world in a meaningful way.

And there’s an antiquated sense of design that comes with that sentiment. Bayonetta 3 has been in development multiverse for a long time, and while the hardware is established as limiting when stacked against the other machines out there, that time in development still feels a bit wasted in the grand scheme of things. I mean, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild defies those limitations and it was a launch title.

Of course that is chalk and cheese, and Bayonetta isn’t that style of game, I get that. There are moments throughout where the chaotic cadence of it all is broken up with a nod to old Metal Gear Solid 2.5D style games of stealth and infiltration. These are, in my opinion, some of the more tangible tangents of play, but like so much else in Bayonetta 3, blink and you’ll almost miss them. Nothing feels settled here, and sometimes it feels like the developers want to just layer the OTT onto already-established OTT for the sake of it, without really letting the game or character land on their own two stilettoed feet.

That said, those diehards mentioned in the opener above will be happy to know that the level grading system is back, and locked to the higher difficulty setting, which ties into those that want to learn the intricate and subtly deep nature of things. For everyone else who’ll still be scratching their heads at the ludicrousness of it all, from go to whoa, at least you can rest easy on the idea that it’s okay to mash your way through here, and that for Bayonetta, this is all pretty standard stuff -- OTT served with a side of sass, sexuality and style.
What we liked
  • A great concept, from a story and setup perspeective
  • Different Bayonettas makes for a fun shift in things
  • Combat is still great, now with summonable beasties to add to the grandeur of it all
  • Highly stylised
  • The stealth breaks in play are fun and the most consistent part of the game
What we didn't like
  • That stylisation detracts, often, from the ability to double down more on Beyonetta's very interesting game-universe
  • Incredibly chaotic, also often to its own detriment - you never feel quite settled in a gameplay loop
  • Frane-rate woes in handheld mode, and even in the dock it isn't always a seamless experience
  • A lot of messy, lazy background imagery that looks incredibly dated
We gave it:
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