March 17, 2023.
There’s a magic inside Bayonetta Origins that never wears off. From the opening scenes that reveal a more vulnerable Cereza, while also introducing the main players of Cereza and the Lost Demon, to the the voice actors, the painterly storybook aesthetic and setting, mechanic aspects, and soundtrack, it grabs your attention and never lets go, twisting and turning as the story unfolds. In case you were wondering, I’m enamored with Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon.
Here, Cereza is an adolescent, under the watchful guise of Morgana, a powerful Umbran Witch trying to coach her to becoming the Bayonetta we know from the previous games. But Cereza is clumsy and awkward, lonely, and just wants to make friends and impress her peers. After a brief introduction, Origins sends you as Cereza into the forest on a quest to find a power that will return someone she holds dear to her, but the forest is full of danger and Faeries. And what a lot of them there are.
I lost count pretty early on how many enemies Bayonetta Origins introduces. The main games are pretty good about keeping things fresh this way, but the sheer volume of enemies on offer here is beyond impressive. You control Cereza with the left stick, while her newfound Demon friend, Cheshire, is on the right side. In fact, the controller will be split down the middle for the entire runtime, with the trigger and bumper on the left making Cereza do things, while the right side is, again, dedicated to Cheshire.
As a young Witch in training, Cereza cannot yet directly attack the Faeries, but she can produce some magical effects via her dancing. She can bind enemies in place, while Cheshire goes to town. Later on, upgrades via a skill tree can produce whirlwinds of colour, or charged effects while enemies are bound, and it’s incredible to behold, with the art style singing before your very eyes.
Part of the journey is about destroying elemental cores, and as you do so Cheshire gains their power. Each of the elements (wood, ground, water, fire) not only give him a new set of attacks, but also abilities. For example, the first you get will allow you to open up large pea-pod style pieces of flora which get you more goodies to upgrade with. It can also grab hold of certain enemies’ shields to fire them back, or pull platforms that Cereza is standing upon. In that way, it’s a MetroidVania, as you can go back to earlier locations, finding treasures and collectibles that would be otherwise locked to her.
Exploring the forest is an absolute joy. Every nook and cranny hides a secret, whether it’s a treasure chest or just a bush you can swipe at with Cheshire in his cuddly-toy form to get potion concoction items. A chest might play the familiar joyous music only to warp into a twisted version of the tune to instead reveal hidden Faeries to fight. These Faeries are devious, and attempt to twist the beauty of the forest at every turn, scaring Cereza and blurring reality to their ends.
On that note, there are mini-dungeons called Tír na nÓgs. Each of these will be either a puzzle (akin to Breath of the Wild’s Shrines) or a combat arena. You will have to venture into them and break the Faerie spells to unblock progress, open the map up, and reveal new locations. These would be brilliant, but the vast majority of the story-based ones are simple combat encounters. It’s often here that new enemies are introduced, and while this makes the few puzzle-based ones all the more sweet, it would have been great to have a more balanced amount of them.
The combat itself is rewarding and never overly complex. Bayonetta Origins allows you feel like you’re teetering on the edge of losing control, but never quite allows it to happen. There are moments later on when a lot is happening, and it’s easy to lose sight of Cereza under all the bluster of the colour and sound, but even just doing the forced Tír na nÓgs along the story-route should mean you have enough health to withstand the harder fights, and there are four different potion options to help you, too.
There’s definitely a chance some will find the idea of controlling both Cereza and Chesire a bit much, but there’s a wealth of options to make the game more accessible, including one that allows you to fully turn off enemy damage and therefore just enjoy the story. Whereas mainline Bayonetta games can feel like a skill test, and the chance to get high rankings, Cereza and the Lost Demon feels like PlatinumGames wants everyone to finish it, however the player feels like doing so.
Bayonetta Origins isn’t perfect, though. There’s a tendency to have some moments be over-animated. When you finish a fight and see Cereza and Cheshire celebrate in an unskippable scene, it’s nice at first, but hours in, you probably don’t need to see the full thing. This sort of thing happens a lot, whether it’s opening chests, entering or finishing a Tír na nÓg, and that’s just off the top of my head. It’s not a deal breaker, of course, but there’s a possibility fans of the main series might find Bayonetta Origins a little slow in places.
That said, all is forgiven when the superb narrator pops up to voice Cheshire. There’s just so much charm and character in Origins, and combined with the gorgeous soundtrack and visuals, it’s hard not to fall head over heels for it. In fact, when the credits rolled, I jumped back in to go find items I’d missed earlier.
But the biggest takeaway from Bayonetta Origins is that I wanted more of this kind of thing. Make no mistake, this is PlatinumGames A-Team at work. There’s plenty of scope for more origin stories, and I’d play another one of these tomorrow. The stunning storybook art, the moreish gameplay, the superb relationship building: if you didn’t know better you’d think this was the main Bayonetta title, and Bayonetta 3 was the side project. Absolutely glorious, a wonderful surprise, and something any Bayonetta fan should try. More of this, please, Platinum.
Interesting, unique gameplay
Exploration is wonderful
Sometimes the combat can confuse
A little over-animated at times
Bayonetta Origins is PlatinumGames bringing its A-game to the table, delivering a beautiful adventure with some wild ideas, unique combat, and a superb game from start to finish.