Umbra Witches in the Multiverse of Madness
After an almost unbearable wait, our favourite Umbra Witch is back! Whilst she’s still as fun and flirty as ever, this time our gal's taken a page out of a Dr. Strange comic and is going multiversal!
As a character, Bayonetta doesn’t seem like she’d fit in on a family friendly console, but three releases in, she’s still going strong and unfortunately so are her enemies! The 6th PlatinumGames Action / Adventure title to grace the Switch is a tour-de-force of frenetic battles, quips and style.
The game starts with an unfamiliar voice. At first I thought it was the outcome of the unfortunate controversy surrounding this instalment's release, however it turned out to be the newest addition to Bayonetta's motley crew: Viola, a young sword wielding punk. She fits in with the cast perfectly, even though her soon-to-be comrades don't take her seriously at first. Her character is really intriguing, though admittedly she does sometimes feel played over seriously, like an edgy main character from an anime in both voice and her animation. Circling back to the voice acting, Jennifer Hale does a fantastic job as our leading lady. The accent is spot on, her intonation is solid, and it's such a good performance I almost couldn't tell the difference, even after playing through both the prior instalments as a refresher!
The intro sequence is intense. Very intense. A mysterious being battles Bayonetta and seems to beat her at every turn, breaking everything of her down but her spirit, before gifting some parting magic to Viola before the latter disappears. At first I thought this would be a situation similar to Devil May Cry 5, where the flagship character was replaced for a short while by the scrappy newcomer. I also thought this was a time travel story, I was wrong on both counts.
The now-familiar classic Bayonetta combat system returns and is easily the most accessible and fluid we've seen in the series thus far. Bayonetta comes armed with a new set of snazzy magical guns, and other unique weapons. I can't overstate how Bayonetta 3 revolutionises its battle system. The addition of being able to freely summon her infernal contracts in battle is brutal and fantastic. Demon's from previous titles, Gomorrah and Madama Butterfly, are joined by even more underworld denizens. Each can be called at will for a set duration tied to a unique magic gauge, and a cool down on the unlikely event your demons are slain. Sometimes with the demons stomping about it does leave you vulnerable and can sometimes make the otherwise fantastic battles a bit visually noisy. I did sometimes lose track of Bayonetta during the more cinematic encounters, but I did find her again by jumping around a little.
Another brilliant mechanic the team have brought to the table is akin to Devil Trigger from occult hack 'n' slash star Devil May Cry. Bayonetta now has the ability to perform a Demon Masquerade, which depending on her equipped weapon, she can merge with the demon associated with it. Whether it's a boost in mobility or sheer carnage, Demon Masquerade was loads of fun and a welcome layer to the combat and exploration.
Also, as a bonus, those with Bayonetta 1 and 2 save files can unlock their respective guns for use in Bayonetta 3. These replace your demon masquerade movement abilities with the panther and bird forms from the previous games
My immediate thoughts on this game were just how good it looks. Bayonetta 3 is absolutely beautiful, both the character, and this game. I think this is one of the best looking Switch games released this year, maybe ever. It’s easily on par with Breath of the Wild and Astral Chain, the designs, textures and effects all deepen the experience within Bayonetta’s multiverse. Each chapter of the story is a different location, inhabited by an alternate Bayonetta; Each of whom have their own unique style and personalities, and occasionally we get to play as them! Sadly though, our Bayonetta has little to no interaction with her other selves, aside from the occasional quick team-up.
Bayonetta's newest costume is lovely as well. It really suits her, and it's fun to have a new style to wear whilst beating up creatures. A nice thing to note is that upon completing a chapter, you can unlock a Super Mirror that lets you take the visage of one of your multiversal counterparts. Everything about this game drips visual delight, from the new characters, and enemies to the environments. Even running around aimlessly looks good, with butterflies bursting from the floor wherever Bayonetta steps.
Jeanne's new outfit is sleek and stylish and makes her look even more posh than I thought possible, and Viola looks like she's stepped out of a completely different franchise, but somehow they totally make it work.
The opening chapter has an almost serene cinematic of Bayonetta and her begrudging manservant Enzo, travelling through a lovely New York street in a fancy car, living her best life before something out of Sonic Adventure happens. Massive floods and chaos abound and it's phenomenal. The cinematics make it feel like I'm watching a Marvel blockbuster with a good effects budget. Even during the massively impressive set pieces where Bayonetta finds herself fighting a giant boss on half a yacht whilst falling between two cascading waterfalls, or sliding along buildings that warp beneath you as though like a helter skelter, the texture quality remains good, and there’s little in the way of screen tearing. It is, however, one of the few times we’ll have a cinematic that isn’t purely focused on shooting and smacking enemies around. Despite the fun premise of the story, it does tend to take a bit of a backseat. Whilst not a huge departure from previous series entries, it is a shame considering the scope the creators are tackling here.
Bayonetta really enjoys every second of the action before we start seeing the tables turn slightly and things get a bit more out of hand. I adore the new enemy designs. They're sleek and alien looking, and in a way they remind me of the enemies from previous Platinum release Astral Chain (which is worth checking out if you haven't already). They’re fast and aggressive, almost animalistic, and they have a lot of variety. It’s a welcome change after pummeling heaven’s finest for the last two instalments. They do look slightly angelic like our previous enemies, but something looks off about them. Rodin points out they don’t leave behind Halos, a currency used in the previous titles, which only adds to the intrigue. One notable change in Bayonetta 3 is that there are even more currencies to manage. Admittedly, it does feel a little bloated, managing orbs for skills, cores for items and the suddenly rare halos for cosmetics, but luckily they’re all in-game currencies with no real-world purchase required.
Not only are there multiple universes to explore in this game, but there are multiple characters too! You can play as the fledgling Umbra Witch, and the last hope of the prologue timeline, ‘Viola!’ As Viola, your toolbox is a bit smaller. You have a katana for your attacks, which can be thrown like a boomerang for range. It also summons her only demon: an unruly cat called Cheshire. The major difference between Bayonetta and Viola however, is in their battle flow. Viola is not as fast - or as slippery as Bayonetta, but she can block with her katana. Now this may sound small, but it does revolutionise her combat with a slightly more forgiving defensive option, which is nice because Viola doesn't have guns or other demons to help her defeat her foes. Viola's battle theme is a punk-rock bop that I have indeed been playing on repeat while doing household chores. She plays like a Devil May Cry character, or like Bayonetta from the first game, if you only used the katana.
Jeanne also joins the playable cast in a series of side-scrolling stealth missions, where she sneakily explores compounds, beating up Homunculi and unravelling a mystery. It's a fun change of pace from the flashy monster fighting side of saving the multiverse and a nice way of breaking up the individual segments of the game.
This third instalment follows the formulae of her precursors, with each chapter set as a location on the map which the player is free to visit. Completionists will be over the moon to see that Bayonetta 3 actually includes a list of chapter-specific bewitchments, a small checklist of missions, once you've conquered the chapter. If you're looking to 100% this game, it saves having to look up a list online, or memorise them, or write them down. There are also new challenge levels called Phenomenal Remnants which unlock more orbs to buy treats, as well as some demons from previous games. Each chapter also rewards Bayonetta with another weapon and demon which are used to phenomenal effect in end-of-chapter kaiju-style battle. These effectively pit a world boss against a super-powered version of one of Bayonetta’s demons.
Bayonetta 3 has a greater amount of exploration in the chapters than previous games in the series. There's more branching pathways, larger areas with different power-ups, and secret "verses" with Angels and the like where you can acquire more halos. Some areas are even completely skippable by exploring around, and the different Demon Masquerades you can use activate let you skip over some areas and hazards, like the spider form being immune to lava for example.
The battle locations themselves, whilst larger, are not usually decorated. They are more akin to large circles with some furnishings added in occasionally. In short: exploration has been expanded upon a lot, but the battles are very true to the originals in terms of locking the player into a bubble,and needing to fight enemies to get out.
Even though Bayonetta is as "sexy as ever" in her newest adventure, the developers have added a new family friendly option called Naïve Angel mode. Mercilessly, this meant I didn't have to explain to my family or partner why there was a naked lady dancing on the screen, barely covered by hair while a giant dog dragon punched a weird blue fish monster. Naïve Angel mode essentially means Bayonetta is never showing skin during the big climaxes and doesn't dress down to her one-piece bikini when calling upon her demons in combat. It also turns Rodin's cigars into some sprinkle covered pastry which I found rather amusing. It's actually a really nice option if you feel the overt sexualisation detracts from your enjoyment of an otherwise brilliant game.
Now let’s discuss performance. There were times whilst playing docked where some character animations looked a little choppy during cinematics, almost like the game runs them on a lower framerate. Despite this, you'll be pleased to know that I didn't experience any dropped frames during gameplay, docked or undocked. They're a far cry from the animatics of the first title, and much more expressive than the second. Some of the environmental textures are a little basic, but it's not too noticeable when you're sprinting through each of the worlds. Nevertheless, they can be a bit muddy and glaring, such as during the third chapter where I noticed a few particularly low quality textures in the background. Again, it was only noticeable due to it being one of the quieter moments between battles, and it was a relatively linear path.
The music in this game is perfect once again. Between angelic hymns, girl power ballads and thumping rock music, it all exemplifies the mood and themes of the levels and the enemies our trio of witches face. I want to gush about Viola’s theme once again as it gave me such a feminine power trip, while she stylishly mowed through some Homunculi. Bayonetta's battle theme is fun once again, "Moonlight Serenade" comes with a tone similar to Bayonetta's previous theme songs, "Mysterious Destiny" and "Tomorrow Is Mine". They each give off a flirty atmosphere which perfectly matches Bayonetta’s personality, and helps bring it to the forefront during core gameplay.
Bayonetta 3 is PlatinumGames at their peak! The directors of this game have delivered on their mission to give the player a great time. It has good action, comedy, and a great presentation. It’s the perfect third chapter in Bayonetta's journey and definitely worth picking up. A fast-paced, fun-filled journey from start to finish, with more than enough innovation and variety to keep you glued to the screen. It's another fantastic addition to the growing Nintendo Switch library.
Where to Buy
My Nintendo Store
Written by Luke Young
Edited by Mark McAllister, Jen Griffiths and Paul L. Russell
Graphic by Paul L. Russell