Bayonetta is a franchise that gamers expect certain things from. Its hack-and-slash gameplay, demonic double entendre and perfectly delivered sass define the series just as much as the vibrant visuals and marvellous music. That’s why it was a surprise to see the launch trailer for Bayonetta Origins: Cereza And The Lost Demon depart from what fans have come to expect from the series.
Bayonetta Origins is a prequel to the trilogy of Bayonetta games. To help understand things a bit easier just know that Cereza is young Bayonetta. She is living as an outcast among the Umbra Witches when she has a dream and wanders into Avalon Forest, a den of the faeries. Not being a fan of witches, the faeries attack and kill any that enter their domain.
Engaging Art Style
The game is presented in a storybook fashion, with cutscenes playing out like a flipping pages as a woman’s voice narrates the cutscenes like a parent reading to a child. Beautiful watercolours splash over the screen as the story progresses. Bayonetta Origins has engaging and eye-catching environments that feel distinctly different from each other.
The music fits each location perfectly. From the whimsical melodies when meeting the Wisps (spirits of children that had wandered into the forest) to the menacing tones of the faery fortress, players feel the aura of an area.
The Journey Begins
As Cereza starts her journey, she summons the demon Cheshire who posess her stuffed kitty. This gives us one of the more interesting control schemes I’ve seen in a while. Reminiscent of the DS title The World Ends With You, players control both Cereza and Cheshire at the same time. Cheshire with the right stick, Cereza with the left. Cereza can call Cheshire back to her with hug mode and carry him around, making movement easier. In the journey through Avalon Forest players will have to use both Cereza and Cheshire to progress.
Combat in Bayonetta Origins is a different matter. Cereza is the main character. If she dies, it’s game over. But she can’t attack enemies only bind them. On the other hand, Cheshire can’t die but if he takes too much damage he’ll revert to his stuffed kitty mode and need to be picked up by Cereza to recharge.
Abilities For All Occasions
Progressing through the game unlocks elemental abilities for both characters. These new abilities allow players to reach new areas while also offering more options in combat. They also grant abilities to get treasures players couldn’t access earlier. These are usually small things like potion crafting materials, but sometimes are currencies to purchase upgrades for either Cereza or Cheshire. Sometimes they are rarer items required for certain upgrades, such as Infernal Fruit for Cheshire and Moon Pearls for Cereza.
Rescuing Wisps sends them back to a large playground area. Seeing that area fill out filled me with joy. Players are also rewarded with more materials. Honestly, I could spend so much time watching the Wisps running around. Then I remember that these are the spirits of dead witches killed by the faeries. When you rescue them they’re not just in a cage, they’re being tortured. Even after that you realise that their facial features are things like screws and nails, turning the Wisps from joyful children to tortured souls. Occasionally players come across things like this to remind them that despite coming across as a children’s story, this is a game in a franchise with much darker undertones.
Elemental abilities provide an edge in combat. Certain enemies require specific elemental abilities to counter, meaning players are always thinking and adapting to the opponents they’re presented with. That’s a good thing because there is a lot of combat. Bayonetta Origins contains areas called Tír Na Nóg, a sort of trial to unlock the way forward or to gain resources. Similar areas have appeared in other Bayonetta games as a way to get items to level up, almost exclusively through combat challenges. I can see that developers Platinum Games were trying to keep some of that feel in Bayonetta Origins but it could have been so much more. There are a few puzzle Tír Na Nógs scattered around and I much preferred these to the combat ones.
The Duality Of Bayonetta Origins
That’s the duality of Bayonetta Origins. It’s billed as an action-adventure game and there are a lot of those elements here. This is a Bayonetta game after all. But I can’t help feeling that it would have made an amazing puzzle game. Tír Na Nógs are a great spot to scatter little puzzles but are wasted on combat challenges that almost always involve dodging enemies to work out a strategy, then binding said enemies with Cereza and going nuts with Cheshire.
While combat is fun it is reasonably easy. I’m not normally one to complain about difficulty (I’m usually more here for story or moments that feel epic) but the game felt like it was trying to push me to an easier setting early on. Looking back on it I think it was more the tutorial showing me the robust difficulty options but at the time it seemed like Bayonetta Origins was trying to get me to make the game easier despite barely taking any damage.
Just on the difficulty options, there’s some really good settings. Rather the standard easy, normal, or hard options players start the game on the standard difficulty. Once in game players can alter settings to change the amount of damage taken, enemy strength or how much magic abilities use. Players can even make some moves automatic and turn guiding lights (a sort of quest tracker) on and off.
Is Bayonetta Origins Fun?
Bayonetta Origins does at times feel like a game that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, but at its core it is fun. After all, fun is what we’re here for. The story is engaging while the environments and music are ridiculously charming. I am aware that I am simultaneously saying that combat is fun and that there’s too much of it (that’s my own duality on display) but the strategy involved in fights kept me on my toes.
Overall Bayonetta Origins: Cereza And The Lost Demon is an endearing and enjoyable experience that adds to the franchise is a positive way.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza And The Lost Demon is out now for Nintendo Switch.