Bayonetta 3 Review

The witches.
Bayonetta 3 Header

Riding on the back of a giant demonic arachnid as it leaps between crumbling buildings, you scarcely have time to wonder what else Bayonetta 3 has in store for you. At the close of this maniacally enjoyable section, barely surviving being flattened by a slab of falling concrete with nary a hair out of place, you have but a moment to remember that these sort of shenanigans are really just par for the course for Bayonetta. That doesn’t stop them being any less potent. Since the release of her second outing, PlatinumGames’ Umbran witch has only grown in people’s estimation, and Bayonetta 3 leans further into the over-the-top spectacle than ever before.

Have you had enough of multiverses yet? PlatinumGames hopes not, as Bayonetta 3 sees our magical heroine embarking on a dimension-hopping adventure that has her fighting to protect a bunch of different realities. Each of these worlds has their own Bayonetta – the ‘Arch Eve’ – bringing with them a variety of new looks, new weaponry and new demons with which to despatch their enemies.

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Our Bayonetta – the Arch Eve Origin – acquires these new additions to her armoury along the way as she attempts to stop Singularity, a shape-shifting entity whose turn-ons include giant creatures, breaking buildings and Armageddon. And not necessarily in that order.

Bayonetta does this in the only way she knows how, by using her magical armoury to punch them in the head with a very large demonic hand. Or foot. There’s still a great focus on dodging enemy attacks at just the right moment so you can enter Witch Time, but now you can draw on your demonic friends as in-the-moment summons, using your magic power to bring forth a giant combatant to aid in your battle. Bayonetta is still vulnerable during these sorties, meaning you now have to juggle keeping an eye on any incoming attacks to Bayonetta while pummelling bad guys with your bigger bad guys.

Bayonetta 3 Demon Summon

It can feel a little disjointed at the start, messy even, but you soon acclimatise to juggling Bayonetta’s steadily growing array of weaponry, two of which you can switch between at will, and the three Demon Slave summons you have access to at any one point. Each of these is a delight, starting with Bayonetta’s iconic demonic dragon Gomorrah and only getting bigger, more vicious, or more insane from there. Hell, one of them is a train! Occasionally they might make some battles feel a little too easy, but overall the standard difficulty offers up a decent challenge while still getting to enjoy the story.

And what a story it is. This is a narrative that does its best to give you an array of possibilities for Bayonetta’s character, expanding our ideas of her and what she’s capable of, all the while throwing screen-filling enemies at you. It’s also all just so damn stylish. From Bayonetta’s impressive dance moves moments after surfing on a cruise liner, to Jeanne’s faux-anime introduction to her 2D stealth side-mission, the diverse visuals, music and gameplay ideas keep you from ever getting too comfortable, constantly pushing the boundaries of who Bayonetta is and what this game can be.

Bayonetta 3 Homunculi

It’s a shame then that the Homunculi, the enemies that you’re facing throughout, are lacking in character. Their white, grey and turquoise colour scheme extends across every last one of them, and while the boss characters are unerringly cool and often imposing, the colour palette just detracts from creating any true sense of individuality. It’s fortunate that Bayonetta and her compatriots do plenty to make up for it, but when the occasional denizens of Inferno or Paradiso appear, the difference is stark.

Besides the return of Jeanne, newcomer Viola is a punk-rock witch with a horrific grinning cat called Cheshire in tow. While they’re part of the dimension-hopping brigade, they’re tied to Bayonetta’s past in a number of ways, and series fans will relish taking her for a spin with her graceful katana and darts serving as a clear counterpoint to Bayonetta’s more varied skills. The sections where you play as Viola require your fingers to relearn what they’re doing too, shifting the focus to parrying attacks in order to enter Witch Time. Viola uses a different button to Bayonetta’s dodge as well, making her feel like far more than a re-skin.

Bayonetta 3 Viola Katana

There’s a cavalcade of replayability here, if you’re so inclined. Every chapter has an overall rating, and every encounter plays into that, forcing you to aim for perfect battles where you take no damage and rack up huge combos. Challenge areas also make a return, adding in custom rules and a time limit to make you fight in a particular way, with hugely helpful rewards available if you can beat them.

Some of these are excruciatingly tough, but you can’t help but keep trying over and over again. In some cases I’d still be trying now if I hadn’t had to finish this review. There’s also a bunch of collectibles to find and unlock too, from character models to giving plenty of reasons to return once you’ve seen the credits roll.

However, Bayonetta 3 suffers from its host console’s lack of power in a few key ways, and depending on how sensitive you are to them, this may determine whether you’ll want to come back. Playing in handheld mode sees the return of the Nintendo Switch’s typical Vaseline-like smear of lowered resolution tied to some heavy-handed anti-aliasing, and there are occasional dips to the framerate in both docked and undocked modes.

Add in some rudimentary textures and basic background details and you sometimes wonder just how modern a title this is. It’s a real shame when the visual design is often fantastic, packed with imagination as you hop from one alternate timeline to another. If ever there was a Switch title that would benefit from a PC port, this is it.

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Summary
A crazy, over-the-top spectacle that’s uproariously enjoyable, with its only restraint being Nintendo’s handheld hardware.
Good
  • Just the right kind of insanity
  • Lots of combat options
  • A bevy of Bayonettas
Bad
  • Some frame rate issues
  • Low resolution when undocked
  • Enemies aren't always characterful
8
Written by
TSA's Reviews Editor - a hoarder of headsets who regularly argues that the Sega Saturn was the best console ever released.