Bayonetta 3 – Review
Follow Genre: Action-adventure, hack-and-slash
Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Switch
Tested on: Switch

Bayonetta 3 – Review

Site Score
9.2
Good: A fantastically elegant but complex combat system
Bad: Occasionally wonky camera
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Well, this has been a long time coming, hasn’t it? Eight years have passed since Bayonetta 2 graced the screen of our Wii U, and fans have been clamoring for the return of the Umbra Witch ever since. The wait is finally over though, as Bayonetta 3 is finally here, five years after it was first announced and we couldn’t wait to get our hands on the game to see if it could live up to the hype. Now that we’ve spent some time with Platinum Games’ latest title, it’s time to answer the question of whether or not it was worth the wait.

Story

As evidenced by the previous two Bayonetta games as well as the anime movie, this is a series that isn’t just about mindless action. Bayonetta and her friends are well-rounded characters that live in a world that is steeped in rich lore. Bayonetta 3 continues to expand on previously established conventions but it does so in a way that allows newcomers to follow the story without having to resort to a recap or tons of exposition. In a certain way, Bayonetta 3 could even be considered a soft reboot of sorts. At this point, we’re going to give you a quick heads up: there are minor spoilers ahead, so if you want to go in blind, skip the rest of this paragraph. The game’s opening cutscene wastes no time getting to the point and shows us how Bayonetta is killed, in front of the eyes of her confidante Viola. This dramatic event prompts Viola to travel to a different reality where Bayonetta still is alive. Viola hopes that the alternate universe version of Bayonetta can help in defeating the enemy that killed her “original” self. Yes, we’re getting a multiverse story here, with multiple Bayonettas, and although the dramatic impact of seeing the protagonist die is diminished by having a different version of her appear just seconds later, the way the multiverse angle plays out turns out to be genuinely fresh and interesting, and as it turns out, nothing is what it seems. We won’t spoil anything further, as the cinematic story is best experienced for yourself.

Graphics

The Switch doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to visual performance, even though we’ve seen what the device is capable of with titles like Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and Monster Hunter Rise. Bayonetta 3 is another title that can stand proudly among the best-looking titles on the Switch. Of course, things aren’t going to look as good as they would on PS5 or Xbox Series X|S. Within the limitations of the Switch though, Bayonetta 3 looks fantastic, both aesthetically and in terms of performance. The frame rate is consistent, even when there is a lot going on. The only gripe we had was that the camera occasionally felt slightly wonky while fighting, as if it couldn’t keep up with the pace of combat. The Bayonetta series has always been about delivering over-the-top action, and the story is mostly delivered through cinematic cutscenes, which look absolutely fantastic. The multiverse storyline allows the game to display a wide variety of environments, and Bayonetta 3 definitely takes advantage of this to deliver some fantastic vistas. One thing to keep in mind is that this is a game that benefits from a bigger screen, so we recommend playing this one in docked mode…. Sorry, Switch Lite owners!

Sound

We can’t talk about Bayonetta 3’s soundscape without at least mentioning the controversy surrounding Hellena Taylor being replaced as the voice of the Umbra Witch herself. We aren’t going to go into detail about the drama; if you want the dirty details you can find them easily enough by googling the voice actress. What we can tell you, however, is that Mass Effect‘s Jennifer Hale does a fantastic job as Bayonetta’s new voice. It’s not a complete match, but thanks to the multiverse plot, it actually even makes sense within the context of the story that there are slight differences between the different Bayonettas. The remainder of the cast returns from the previous titles, and hearing the banter between Bayonetta, Rodin, and Enzo never fails to entertain. Likewise, the game features a fantastic soundtrack from Naofumi Harada, who worked on the previous title in the series as well as NieR: Automata and Astral Chain.

Gameplay

Strip away the gorgeous cinematics and compelling story and what you’re left with is perhaps the best hack-and-slash action title that the Switch has to offer. Among fans of the genre, the preceding two Bayonetta games are highly regarded, but what Platinum Games offers up here blows those previous titles out of the water. The core experience remains the same of course. Bayonetta 3 challenges players to take on all kinds of angelic monstrosities in a series of chaotic non-stop battles. The series’ signature mechanics are all present here and anyone that played the previous titles will feel right at home carefully timing dodges to trigger Witch Time and executing combos to rack up damage. That alone would be enough to satisfy most players after an eight-year wait, but Bayonetta 3 goes above and beyond by introducing a slew of new mechanics. We were afraid that adding more layers to Bayonetta’s elegant-but-complex combat system would make the game feel like a bloated and convoluted mess but somehow Platinum managed to strike the right balance.

The biggest new addition comes in the form of Infernal Demons, which are massive creatures that you can summon to fight alongside you. These Kaiju-esque monsters are an incredibly powerful tool but they need to be used sparingly and complement Bayonetta 3’s core combat mechanics rather than overtake them. The second major shakeup comes in the form of having multiple playable characters rather than just the titular witch herself. Players can take to the battlefield as Jeanne or Viola as well, with each of them offering a different playstyle. Jeanne’s sections of the game are a massive departure from the gameplay we’ve come to know and love, as the action shifts to side-scrolling, stealth-based gameplay. Meanwhile, Viola sticks closer to Bayonetta’s gameplay template, although she feels tankier and less elegant to play than the series’ lead.

Other changes to the gameplay are less noticeable but still welcome. Everything about Bayonetta 3 feels tighter and more streamlined, from being able to switch weapon loadouts on the fly to a redesigned interface system that is a breeze to navigate. The various environments that our heroines find themselves in feel more open too, and exploration is a joy as there are secret collectibles and extra battles seemingly around every corner of this multiverse. Playing through the main story takes around 15 hours, but as you keep unlocking new weapons and Infernal Demons right up until the end of the game, there is plenty of incentive to return to the game after your first run. This is a game that was designed with multiple playthroughs in mind, as evidenced by the metric ton of achievements that can be earned as well as the additional content that unlocks after you complete the game. Higher difficulties also come with online leaderboards, further reinforcing the idea that you’ve only barely scratched the surface once the credits roll for the first time.

If there is one thing we can complain about when it comes to Bayonetta 3’s gameplay, apart from the aforementioned slightly wonky camera, then it’s probably that the game isn’t very accessible for more casual players and newcomers. Yes, there are several difficulty levels here, including a so-called casual mode, but it takes some time to really familiarise yourself with the combos. The game can feel chaotic and challenging even at the most forgiving difficulty because there is a lot going on at any given time, and there isn’t any room for a breather. Prolonged sessions of Bayonetta 3 end up feeling very intense as a result, although this is something that becomes less of an issue the more you play, as muscle memory sets in and the combos start to become second nature. Just be aware that there is a method to the madness. If you’re a mindless button masher, this might not be the game for you.

Rounding things out is a high degree of customizability to fit your preferred playstyle. The appropriately named Gates of Hell is a hub area where you can pick up specific items from Rodin that allow you to tweak the game’s difficulty beyond the preset levels. You can make things easier, of course, but if you’re a glutton for punishment, you can find items here to handicap yourself as well. There is also a practice mode that allows you to build up that muscle memory, and finally a ‘Naive Angel’ mode for those that want to play a version of the game that tones down the suggestive content, although you could ask where the fun is in that. All in all, we couldn’t think of any additional features that would make Bayonetta 3 feel more well-rounded. What you’re getting here is a fantastic game wrapped in a feature-packed package that is a must for any Switch owner that enjoys action games.

Conclusion

With Bayonetta 3, Platinum Games took our expectations and blew them away. Apart from a very minor handful of niggles, the game is a triumph, and we cannot recommend it enough to fans of the genre. The lower accessibility level makes it a bit more difficult to call Bayonetta 3 a must-have for more casual players, although we’d argue that the game is worth overcoming the learning curve. Once everything clicks, Bayonetta 3 becomes a joy to play, so you’d be missing out if you were to skip this one.

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