When people first saw the reveal trailer for Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon, everyone had the same collective reaction of “Ahhh, what a classic Nintendo move!” Not only did they remove the overtly sexual elements of adult Bayonetta (thank goodness here) and make her look like best dinosaur Yoshi, but they also completely changed the gameplay style into something comparable to Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. What were they thinking? Surely this wasn’t going to land? I was of course, shocked too. But lo and behold, Bayonetta Origins turned out to be a surprisingly surreal spin on the series.
It Takes Two to Tango
Being a puzzle adventure game at it’s core, Cereza (before she was known as Bayonetta) and her demon doll/pet companion, Cheshire must team up, twin-stick style and explore a wackily whimsical world akin to Alice in Wonderland. While the dual movement controls might take some time to master, the puzzles and combat maintain a nice balance of difficulty and fun factor, often requiring a different approach or strategy as new enemies and obstacles are steadily introduced. Since Cereza can’t physically attack (with some rare exceptions) in this game, she’s all about opening up and binding things in place. Whereas Cheshire is a versatile, multi-elemental creature who’s packing all of the muscle.
There are no outrageously over-the-top combos like in regular Bayonetta, but you can learn new skills like countering blows, charging attacks, double casting and more to keep the combat from becoming too stale, while also taking part in several optional brainteasers and battle challenges for handy rewards like extra vitality (HP) or resources for upgrades. Plus, even though this game is designed as a single-player experience, you can still pass over a Joy-Con for a cheeky co-op session. Bayonetta Origins also caters to gamers of all skill levels and makes it super simple to streamline it’s rather tedious sections in the accessibility settings. The Witch Pulse being a prime example, where Cereza has to regularly time button presses to activate magical objects. Just change it to ‘automatic’ and give your eyes a break while Cereza does all the work. However, it doesn’t stop them from being a royal pain.
As players progress through the Metroidvania-esque world of Avalon Forest, they’ll find journals for more exposition and rest points where Cereza is able to concoct several items. These can grant temporary invincibility, AOE shockwave enemies, reduce her spell cool-downs and allow Cheshire to use unlimited magical energy for certain skills and elemental attacks. Normally, Cheshire needs to be picked up or summoned back to Cereza to restore his MP mid-battle, so these concoctions really help players strategise for a rainy day. And yes—in case you were wondering—the whole game is not played in a twin-stick fashion. Those concerned about getting a concentration headache can rest easy now. As at almost any time, Cereza can tap the L button for Cheshire to return, restoring his MP and letting Cereza grab/pull nearby objects by extending Cheshire’s doll form with the right stick.
An Age-Old Tale
I’m surprised that Bayonetta Origins received a Mature, M-rating in Australia since the fable-like story isn’t super dark or violent, in my opinion. The whole journey starts with Cereza being fed up with her second-rate spell prowess and constant scolding by her overbearing teacher, as she coincidentally has a vision of a white wolf beckoning her into the dangerous Avalon Forest. In an attempt to save her mother who was an outcast, Romeo & Juliet style when she first had Cereza, the young witch takes it upon herself to enter the foreboding forest and save her.
While the story plays into the adage of ‘curiosity killed the cat’ with textbook, childlike story narration to boot, it doesn’t offer anything especially interesting besides it’s fairy tale-inspired presentation. The on point British voice-acting and dynamics between Cereza and Cheshire make for some amusing moments though, and it is cool to see the contrast between the young and older Bayonetta, even if the gameplay is a far cry from the previous three entries.
In terms of performance, the game runs at a variable frame rate, as I was experiencing anywhere from 24-60FPS when docked and in handheld mode. It’s not the best-looking game on the system, even as the gorgeous storybook art style does a lot of the heavy lifting, but it’s very easy on the eyes nevertheless. The sound effects use spacial audio very well, and the sonic/visual crunch of Cheshire’s claw strikes and teeth gnashing are particularly satisfying, I must say. Same goes for the music. The whimsical sounds of it’s 4-composer team are a delight to listen to and really complement the game’s visually-striking atmosphere.
It’s true that some fans may be disappointed with the direction of Bayonetta Origins, though if they give the game a chance, they may find themselves oddly amused. It doesn’t take long for the twin-stick control scheme to sink in, as you bind objects and enemies with Cereza then bash them to death with Cheshire’s claw combos. There’s something so satisfying about guiding these two characters at the same time that makes this relatively basic gameplay system so addictive. The fanciful Metroidvania-like map and eye-catching storybook graphics also help to elevate an otherwise mediocre narrative about childlike wonder, alongside some repetitive, mindless busywork that dampens the experience. Regardless, Bayonetta Origins comes highly recommended and can even be enjoyed with a friend—just hand over a Joy-Con and you’re both good to go!
By Anthony Culinas – Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
Bayonetta Origins is wildly different from the main series, however it still somehow hits the mark. This puzzle adventure game features a control scheme similar to Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons which may take some getting used to, but it is a joy to play through once everything starts to click. While there are some tedious elements and a story that doesn’t offer much of note, Bayonetta Origins remains a spellbindingly good time.
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