Within five minutes of the start of Bayonetta 3, our titular heroine is flat-out vibing in front of a giant monster, and that’s probably about all you need to know about this long-awaited entry in the weird, wonderful and witchy world of the Umbran sisterhood. If you’re not entirely sold by some strong dance moves, they’re backed up by an opening that sees tattooed barman Rodin driving a pizza truck while wearing a cute penguin outfit, wisecracking lackey Enzo trying to protect yet another new car, and a terrifying new big bad called that is causing devastation across multiple dimensions.
As exclusives go it’s hard not to imagine one less in keeping with the stereotype of Nintendo’s child-friendly schtick. Bayonetta 3 goes hard on the sexiness and violence, thoroughly entangling the two at times, and while it’s thus far as enthralling as its two predecessors, I still find myself wondering just how far the series might have come if it wasn’t tethered to Nintendo’s less than cutting-edge tech.
Maybe it doesn’t matter when all the cutting edges you need are in the arsenal of new playable character Viola. She’s found herself in our world after hers has been turned to rubble by Singularity, the new villain of the piece. Singularity is aided in this by the Homoculi – enemies from neither Inferno nor Paradiso, and thus part human. Let’s face it, if anyone was going to find new ways to make a mess of the world it was humans.
Viola is all set to be a new fan favourite, with her punk rock stylings and lengthy katana providing some key differences to both Bayonetta and Jeanne’s movesets. She’s also brought the slightly insane form of Chesire the cat with her, a giant, thoroughly manky demonic creature that aids her in battle. Fans of the series will note the odd connections between Bayonetta and Cheshire, what with it being one of her childhood toys and the nickname she gives to Luca in the first game. It’s clear that there are major links between our favourite Umbran witch and the newcomer, but they’re ones we’re not yet privy to.
First off though, you find yourself whisked away to Thule, a secret island that was created by the Umbrans and the Lumen as a place to study the unknown. With the assumption that this is a good place to start, Bayonetta and Viola are transported by Cheshire on a giant unicycle – seriously, you have to see it to believe it – but they’re met by a deeply violent welcoming party as the Homunculi are there already, waiting for them. Cue the battle music.
The combat in Bayonetta 3 is both reassuring and reinvigorated, with Platinum’s penchant for Devil May Cry-esque action thoroughly excercised once again. There’s a host of new features though, with the ability to summon Gamorrah and other demonic forms in the midst of battle one of the key additions. This immediately adds a new spin on Bayonetta’s brawling, but it does feel a bit messy, leaving Bayonetta… exposed while this screen-filling creature does the heavy lifting. Then again, Astral Chain was much the same at the start and my fingers and thumbs soon got over it in that game.
Giant creatures and insane set pieces are all par for the course of the Bayonetta experience, and the new summons certainly add to the drama. There’s a gauge for this, so you can’t just stay in the form of a giant demon dog, and have to rely on Bayonetta’s own not-inconsiderable skills to build it back up again. Being able to jump between the two is refreshing, but a question mark hangs over anything that reduces the precision that Bayonetta is known for.
If you’re not already tired of yet another grand narrative that has an amusingly apt multiverse at its centre, Bayonetta 3 is set to continue with the dimension-hopping. While it might just be the current en-vogue story macguffin, like time-travel or world-ending viral agents before it, it makes perfect sense in Bayonetta’s chaotic universe. We can’t wait to see where this particular multiversal adventure takes us.