Bayonetta 3 was kept waiting, as is good manners for every third chapter of a self-respecting series: rumors, announcement with great fanfare during an important event (The Game Awards 2017, when Reggie was still with us) and then a beautiful holiday made of deafening silences and statements inviting players to forget the title – which, sooner or later, would come.
However, it is difficult to keep the handbrake on while you are on the hype train a franchise among the few to still represent something unique, original and exclusive on such a very successful platform like Nintendo Switch, even more so if we think that with the first release of 2009/10 PlatinumGames has literally given shape to the dreams of fans of action titles, creating a game to say the least iconic – as well as its protagonist.
Already in 2014, with the advent of the second chapter, the enormous power of an unstoppable character for skill and charisma was perceived, so much so that he was able to snatch a series of perfect scores that they could never have imagined an unfortunate console like Wii U. Although it was an extremely derivative production, and in many respects inferior to the original, the Witch of Umbra had succeeded again in the enterprise: glue to the screen those who were looking for a dynamic, exhilarating and over the top experience.
Over the years, Bayonetta has conveyed a digital escapism worthy of the experiences of her fathers, distant from the simple transposition of reality as if they were refractory to it. Clover , Seeds Inc. and finally PlatinumGames they are the banner under which Japanese development has been able to express itself without brakes and reservations, for the sole purpose of shaping the vision of pioneers like Shinji Mikami o Ideki Kamiya. And Bayonetta 3, in 2022, represents the litmus test for a team characterized by many ups and downs, but also from an enormous desire to amaze, bending conventions and rules at will.
So I come to put my hand on this third chapter with some enthusiasm, having followed the series from day one on Xbox 360 and then falling back on the purchase of the second chapter (with port of the first) on Wii U, as well as the re-proposition of the package with the first two games on Nintendo Switch in 2017. It's kind of like our witch actually froze in time for 8 years and she needed something to get herself and the universe that revolves around her back in motion.
Bayonetta 3 was able to capture me from the early stages thanks to its willingness to try to mix the cards on the table, proposing the combat system that many of us are fond of with the introduction of mechanics that make the experience much fresher. Reminded on the fly how to run a Temporal Sabbath (dodging an enemy attack at the last possible moment, before contact), so as to hit the defenseless enemies who move in slow motion, it's time to find out what's new.
It's normal to feel at home when after a few hits it seems you only put the controller down yesterday, because Bayonetta is as fast, powerful and responsive as I remembered. Just enough time to settle into muscle memory and I realize that something, however, has changed: leaving aside for a moment the enemies, who seem to telegraph their attacks in a very different way, why on earth can i only equip one weapon, and not one for arms and legs respectively?
This is the game's turning point, its irrepressible will to make scenes spectacular by altering the scale of the fights introducing Bayonetta's demons to the field at every possible opportunity. Maybe (but also without maybe) a decision born out of Kamiya's love and the team towards the Super Sentai superhero genre and for oversized fights against colossals Kaiju.
Let's talk first of the Demonic mimicry, a new ability that allows our favorite dark heroine to assimilate the abilities of equipped weapons (and the demon associated with them) to obtain new skills in battle. Holding the guns"Color My World”, for example, you get the powers of Madama Butterfly, With whom I fluttered with a certain prettiness around the enemies to then unleash the devastating combos that end with the summoning of a punch or a kick of the demon.
The final effect on the strokes is the same, for those who remember them, as the Wicked Weaves di Bayonetta 1 e 2, thus maintaining that sense of familiarity for returning players, but the possibility of juggling between the various demons and exploiting the peculiarities offered by the Demonic Mimesis it allowed me to approach so many challenges and exploration in search of collectibles and secrets in a whole new way – flying, climbing and jumping with a Spider-Man swing when necessary.
The other big change introduced in the combat system is the possibility of summoning – literally – the gigantic creatures onto the field that in the previous chapters the Bayonetta dined on the bodies of the enemies only at the end of the clashes. Thanks to the technique of Succubus Demon, we can in fact use the magical power of the witch to directly control Madama Butterfly, Gomorrah e Phantasmaraneae (and many new arrivals), to balance battles against big opponents or deal extremely high damage when needed.
Although in the throes of enthusiasm, however, I could not let my guard down, because during the summoning the witch is extremely vulnerable, being engaged in a frenzied ritual dance in which she maintains control of the creatures. While feeling a little self-conscious at first, I learned that demons have shots in their arsenal to ward off troublesome enemies, so I focused on attacking and worrying about canceling and dodging attacks only when strictly necessary. And beware: if they take too many blows the demons can turn against us, forcing us to be on the defensive until they calm down.
Demon management is an intriguing novelty, of course, which I admit, however, that I have exploited in a limited way, rather relying on central dynamics such as the Temporal Sabbath and the Wicked Weaves to then suddenly call them back on the field, to sow chaos and interrupt enemy actions - even more so when the summon can be actively inserted at the end of the combos or used as a counter.
The use of demonic energy for evocations has the side effect of transforming or completely abandoning some historical skills: Tormenting Attacks, for example, are now contextually triggered when a foe is stunned or armor broken, with no magical cost. Instead, it disappears altogetherUmbran Climax, devastating enhanced mode that in Bayonetta 2 allowed the player to tinker a little randomly and deal extreme damage – but I always hate and love – getting out of complex situations easily by simply accumulating items to restore magical power.
Bayonetta 3 changes, and how, also and above all for the introduction of Viola, the young rebel punk rocker who finds herself catapulted into a multidimensional battle, destined to put her sword skills and her synergy with the funny cat to the test Cheshire. This is not the time or place to delve into the genesis and identity of the character, but it is undeniable that it is a different complementary figure than the mature and charismatic Bayonetta: a little clumsy, touchy and in constant need of being recognized as an independent and capable figure.
Pad in hand to guide Viola, I experienced positive sensations, also because in terms of responsiveness to commands and speed of execution, we are not too far from the systems set up to manage the protagonist. However, I had to work a bit to get carried away with the activation of the Temporal Sabbath, which in the case of the young woman is not connected to the dodge on ZR, but to the execution of a parry at the right time, by pressing the R key.
Years of dodging are hard to forget, so I found myself having to realign synapses for the new character before I could actually feel confident using it. Once you've mastered the basics of parrying, understood how charged shots work and learned how to manage distance using his magical bolts, it's time to give space to Cheshire, the demon who follows Viola and who can be summoned in battle as is the case for Gomorrah and similar in the case of Bayonetta.
Here we find another small divergence: during the summoning of the big cat, we have control of Viola, who will fight with bare hands, and not of the demon, again shuffling the cards on the table. Even more so than previously, I found Cheshire to be very effective as the final blow of the combos, as it performs quite powerful finishers that tend to cover a wide range – a bit like wanting to wipe out all enemies.
Basically then the experience of Bayonetta 3 can be defined as multifaceted, multifaceted, capable of combining tradition with many innovations, then going to shake the foundations with the introduction of a second character significantly different from the main one. With Bayonetta I felt at home and I found the news intriguing, while with Viola I felt a little pressure, but also euphoria, having to learn so many new things. Overall though, all extremely fun.
Not to mention the willingness of the developers to offer many gameplay alternatives, with verses dedicated to Phenomenal set pieces like riding on Gomorrah's back doing Tony Hawk-worthy tricks as the city of Tokyo falls apart under enemy attack. Adrenaline, chaos, fantasy: nothing is missing a a product that is a video game in the purest sense of the term.
It's time to reassure all those players intimidated by the Nintendo Switch's capabilities, worried that they can't do justice to PlatinumGames' out-of-scale staging. Well, know that we have in our hands one of the best titles ever for the console (if not the best) from a technical point of view, capable of maintaining an always high framerate when needed – there are uncertainties, mind you, but they are painless – with always adequate video cleaning.
I even find the way the programmers pushed some scenes swashbuckling, almost as if they wanted to bring the horsepower under the console's engine to the limit and still demonstrate that they can manage them properly, in spite of the doubters. The video/audio synergy is then as always impeccable, with every topical moment emphasized by a screaming soundtrack, showing off among the many tracks a brilliant cover of Moonlight Serenade capable of giving just grace to our mighty and brutal demonic beatings.
There is so much more I would like to say about Bayonetta 3, having completed the main storyline and started sifting through the extras and secrets, but now is not the right time to do it. The approach to the release (and to our review) must be as gradual and neutral as possible, allowing you to fully enjoy a title that dances between familiarity and amazement.
PlatinumGames and Nintendo, together, are a certainty, and even just the first part of the experience is enough to sweep away any doubts about the goodness of the production that may have caught those who have passed from the heights of NieR: Automata to the profound darkness of Babylon's Fall, or have lived the long silence with fear who sat on the project from 2017 until last year's trailer. Polish your weapons and put on your best dress, the time of the witches awaits!