Bayonetta 3 Review: Worth The Wait
The queen is back. Players have waited nine long years for a sequel to perhaps the best pure action game of the last decade, but Bayonetta has returned with a few new tricks up her sleeve. Bayonetta 3 is perhaps less focused than the previous game, with a variety of new additions that range from brilliant to not quite working as well as they could. Bayonetta still has it where it counts, though, with some of the tightest action gameplay ever. Fans who mostly care about that side of the game can rest easy; Bayonetta 3 has been worth the wait.
Old Friends, New Faces
We start Bayonetta 3 by watching Bayonetta die. Well, we watch a Bayonetta die. You see, Bayonetta 3 is focused on the multiverse and an entity moving throughout it, trying to murder versions of Bayonetta and steal their power. Beyond those basics, things get a bit confusing, but that’s nothing new for this series. Perhaps the most coherent part is the ending which will divide fans, but I’ve never come to Bayonetta for the story, and nothing here bothered me. The important thing is that Bayonetta 3 is still filled with all the characters and attitude fans have grown to love through the first two games. Everyone from Bayonetta herself, to Jeanne, Rodin, Enzo, and more are here, and they all feel right, with excellent voice acting helping deliver their characters. Those concerned by the switch to a new voice actress stepping into the title role can breathe easy. Jennifer Hale isn’t reinventing this character, she inhabits her beautifully. As someone who last played Bayonetta 2 about three years ago, I doubt I’d have even noticed the difference if I wasn’t looking for it.
All of your old favorites are joined by a new character as well in Viola. After watching that first Bayonetta die, Viola jumps into the multiverse using her own Umbra Witch powers to warn the crew you’ll actually be playing as in Bayonetta 3. She has a very different vibe from the rest of the cast, far less glam and more punk rock, but she’s a cool character who helps to provide some welcome variety.
Variety Spices Things Up
Stages in Bayonetta 3 are split between three main characters. Jeanne has her own cool 2D stages, which play like a mixture of Elevator Action and Rolling Thunder, but they’re brief changes of pace. Viola is the main side dish here. She controls entirely different from Bayonetta, fighting with a sword, which means you spend a lot of time up close and personal with enemies. She can throw her sword as well to summon a demon who will fight on their own, leaving Viola to fight with her first instead. Viola even activates witch time, the slow motion mode, which lets you really tear into enemies, differently from Bayonetta. Instead of dodging attacks, she has to parry enemy attacks to start it. This requires far more precise timing and can be a real challenge at first, but it is satisfying when you make it work.
Viola is a real change of pace, and her stages didn’t click with me at first. The first couple of them actually left me simply wanting them to be over as quickly as possible. As time went on, though, I grew to enjoy them more, and by the end, I was actively looking forward to them. Viola is a big part of an increased level of variety found in Bayonetta 3. Between her stages, Jeanne’s stages, and some one-off sections of even Bayonetta’s levels where things can rapidly transform into a game of traversal on a giant spider or a rail shooter, this is a far less focused game than Bayonetta 2, but its also quite a bit longer and the increased variety helps to keep things fresh. Platinum clearly wanted to increase the scale of things here, and they’ve accomplished it, with far larger levels that give you a lot more ways to explore, even if you can mostly play them in a linear fashion while simply missing a few side challenges if you prefer.
Can You Go Home Again?
Even playing as Bayonetta comes with a few new twists as well. Sure, the action at the center of things is what fans will expect, but Bayonetta has a major new twist up her sleeve. This time around, Bayonetta can take fully control of her demon servants, not only using them as finishers at the end of a combo but summoning them to the battlefield, where you’ll take full control of them. This mechanic may be another that will split fans. While these demons are powerful, they also feel pretty essential, and they significantly change the flow of combat. Without them, everything still feels like the Bayonetta fans remember, but now you have to seek areas to keep Bayonetta safe while she controls these demons, as enemies can still attack her directly. Some of the demons are more fun to actually control than others, but on the whole, I quite enjoyed seeing them, particularly some old favorites from the earlier games, fully realized as agents of chaos.
Considering how long in the tooth the Switch is at this point, it’s impressive that performance is rarely an issue, whether you’re playing docked or in handheld mode. It mostly targets 60 fps, and while I noticed minor drops now and then, I found myself impressed with how it handles. It won’t win any awards for its visuals, but they serve the game as needed and keep the focus on the action, which is as strong as ever.
There’s a lot more to Bayonetta 3 than there was to the series’ prior titles. A lot of it works really well, offering a game that’s far larger in scale while still nailing the core action the series is known for. While the lack of focus may stop it from being quite as strong a total package as its predecessor, the high points here are as good as the series has ever been.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: Switch (Reviewed); Publisher: Nintendo; Developer: Platinum Games; Players: 1; Released: October 28th, 2022; ESRB: M for Mature; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Bayonetta 3.