Bayonetta 3 might actually outdo its predecessor | Hands-on preview

by on October 13, 2022

Whether you’ve been keeping up on all things Bayonetta 3 or not over the last few years, there’s one thing I can confirm after playing it myself: it’s a real game that’s really coming out this month, and it’s exactly as over-the-top as you’d want it to be. Having played Bayonetta 2 multiple times, I was worried it might do a Saints Row on us. When you’ve flown so close to the sun with wings of wax, how much further can you truly push the envelope? Thankfully I don’t make the games, Platinum does, and it turns out the developer was holding back on us all along. It’s a bold statement perhaps, but even in the limited amount I can reveal here, outdoes the “crazy” that Bayo 2 brought, and then some.

It may have been nearly ten years, but Bayonetta 2 was ludicrous in its set pieces. Skyscrapers would fall around you as you slalomed around constant destruction, demonic enemies, and pulled off combos that made you look like you’re good at games. Bayonetta as a series just nails the feel of third-person action adventure titles like this, and thankfully Bayonetta 3 also feels like it’s here for Platinum to remind everyone who carries the crown. In fact, while much of what I’ve just said about the second game could be repeated for the third, there’s one crucial difference: you’re now able to summon Demon Slaves and control them at the same time. Yes, it’s ridiculous, and yes, it is a bit like Astral Chain.

Bayonetta 3 might actually outdo its predecessor | Hands-on preview

After my first session with Bayonetta 3, my head was spinning. There is so much to take in from a control perspective, but the ability to wield Gomorrah or Madama Butterfly (and there’s more I could mention, but I don’t want to spoil it this far from release), and have them part of your combos, with their own unique movesets and combos themselves… well it’s almost maddening how brilliant it is.

Take Gomorrah, for example. Controlling the gigantic beast means you can attack with the same face buttons you’d use for Cereza herself, but its special means it can bite an enemy. All of this is achieved by holding the left trigger, and you then control Gomorrah like you’re Bayonetta, as she dances around behind it. These Demon Slaves have their own health bar, and a magic meter you deplete as you summon, and they can timeout due to being beaten back, or if you run out of magic. Even a quick hit of the right trigger allows you to remove them from the battlefield and get back to kicking the life out of the new enemies in Bayonetta 3 as the titular Umbran Witch. 

Bayonetta 3

It’s hard to put into words how magic this is in person. There’s no loading, no frames dropped: you just summon these Demon Slaves at will and suddenly you’ve a friend that’s bigger than the already gigantic enemies you’re facing. Demon Masquerade means you can use the likes of Madama Butterfly to basically morph into the demon and move quicker, get higher, etc. I’ve seen things to suggest there might even be some like MetroidVania elements involving the demons, but until I’m sure, I don’t want to say too much there. 

Each weapon has a demon bound to it, so when you switch between then (Left Bumper) the Masquerade form can change, as well. Otherwise, you can select which demon you’re summoning with the D-Pad. It’s remarkable to see this all happening in front of you at a smooth 60fps, But there’s so much more to talk about, and not enough time to do it. The story seems intriguing, the combat is meticulous and satisfying, the mechanics laid over the top seem to enrich the experience, and every set piece seems to be more bonkers than the last one.

Bayonetta 3 switch screenshot

One thing I will say is that there really is a lot to learn. Aside the combat you might be familiar with, the addition of the Demon Slaves means you’re now remembering additional movesets you normally wouldn’t. Add on to that there being other playable characters like Viola, who might be a fast moving, agile character, too, but one that feels different to Bayonetta, and you sometimes feel like you’re at a rave with all the lights specifically being shone into your face. That said, nothing so far has seemed insurmountable, and I’d rather a game like this treat me with respect than have to babysit me the whole time.

It’s just that, when you play as Viola, she almost feels more like “old” Bayonetta (despite being a youngster, it seems), as she controls a little more simply. Without the direct control over Demon Slaves, it feels a little more manageable, and I was quickly racking up Platinum and even a few Pure Platinum medals with Viola. Time really will tell if it settles into a rhythm, however.

If Bayonetta 3 can keep up the pace for the rest of the game without over-egging the pudding, and if it can keep introducing new things for me to play with, without becoming overly complicated, it’s going to be a very difficult game to displace from the top echelons of people’s game of the year lists. It may have been a long time coming, it may have even felt like, at times, it wasn’t ever going to come at all. But it’s nearly here, and once again: it’s real, and it’s astonishing, and that’s before we even talk about all the little nods to things fans will lap up.

Bayonetta 3 is out exclusively for Nintendo Switch on October 28th.