Bayonetta 3 review: the only multiverse saga you need

Bayonetta 3 review: the only multiverse saga you need

Bayonetta poses in the air with a red background.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find an action game that has as much fun as Bayonetta 3.”

Benefits

  • Exciting set pieces

  • Outstanding match

  • Flexible difficulty level

  • Viola is a show-stealer

Cons

  • Some supplementary chapters

  • Frustrating camera and technology

Prologue to Bayonetta 3 is more exciting than the grand finale of most Hollywood blockbusters. The camera zooms in on a quiet day in New York City as the titular Bayonetta is out for a casual stroll, bag of bread in hand. Of course, everything goes to hell in minutes. A punk rocker with a katana falls from the sky, a massive kaiju barrels toward the city in a tidal wave, and Bayonetta is left kicking the crap out of a cruise ship full of mysterious creatures as chunks of buildings float by. And that’s just the beginning.

The over-the-top hack-and-slash game almost feels like developer PlatinumGames’ bombastic parody of Marvel movies. In 15 hours, I’d hear all about the multiverse, notice a visual homage to Captain America, see characters swing around with grappling hooks like Spider-Man, see a city turn into a Dr. Strange-esque kaleidoscopic illusion, and to and catch a few pointed references to the Avengers movies. It’s as if Platinum set out to build Hollywood’s biggest popcorn machine and assert itself as the true master of acting—which it accomplishes in no time.

Bayonetta 3 is the series’ wildest entry to date, blending PlatinumGames’ knack for fast-paced combat with incredibly entertaining set pieces that only get bigger and bigger. The sheer scale of it all makes for some sloppy moments, both technically and narratively, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an action game that has as much fun as this one.

Across the multiverse

Bayonetta 3 is gaming’s own multiverse saga, which beats the MCU to the top. After New York is attacked by a plague of man-made bioweapons called the Homonculi, Bayonetta learns that a mysterious villain called the Singularity is out to destroy the layers of the multiverse, leaving only their own Alphaverse. She agrees to team up with Viola—the rebel girl who fell to Earth and claims she met Bayonetta in another realm—to search for items called Chaos Gears hidden in other universes.

It’s hard to be bored inside for too long Bayonetta 3.

The dimension-hopping narrative is a clever trick, as it gives the threequel a good excuse to change the environment every few chapters. It begins in New York City, but Bayonetta is later dropped into Japan during a kaiju attack, a war-torn period of Chinese history, the deserts of Cairo and more. It’s hard to be bored inside for too long Bayonetta 3 when the adventure keeps dishing out visual surprises until the very end.

The multiverse premise is admittedly a little underutilized. Instead of spinning up inventive locations that play with the idea of ​​alternate reality, it’s mostly used as a way to transport players to locations on Earth throughout history. It’s more of a time travel gimmick than a multiverse, which ends up feeling like a bit of a missed opportunity in the long run. This is the longest Bayonetta game to date by a few hours, but some of the extra chapters end up feeling like narrative fillers as the game enters its back half.

A demon runs across the surface of a building as debris fills the air in Bayonetta 3.

Instead of going all-out with locations, Bayonetta 3 swings for the fences when it comes to gameplay, going beyond the series’ normal hack-and-slash action (though there’s plenty of that, which I’ll get to shortly). A sidequest has me playing a 2D version of Metal Gear Solid where I have to sneakily explore a facility as Bayonetta’s witch friend Jeanne. Another chapter tells me I’m riding a demon spider as it scales the rooftops for a mid-monster attack. A few moments like that with the series’ already larger-than-life battles, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a character-driven action game that lets off a pad on the gas pedal and does spin-kicks in the backseat as cars barrel down the highway.

Not all of the small gameplay diversions are as polished as the core combat, but I was rarely bothered by that fact. Even the sloppy ones are still delightfully ridiculous left turns that do Bayonetta 3 a thrill to play from start to finish. If you’re looking for the perfect popcorn experience, one that’s 100% confident in its stupidity, you might want to look at the Switch screen instead of the big silver one.

Let us dance

As with all Platinum games, combat is still the star of the show. Like previous games, Bayonetta 3 delivers plenty of fast-paced hack-and-slash combat. What’s always particularly impressive about the series is how deep the combat systems go, as players gain access to what often feels like an unlimited amount of moves and combos. It is as true as before Bayonetta 3especially thanks to a variety of new weapons that each have their own unlockable traits.

Witch Time also returns, and remains the crown jewel of the series. When you dodge at the right moment (and Platinum is generous with when that moment is), time slows down for a few seconds, allowing Bayonetta to land some free combos on her Homonculi enemies. As usual, it’s an immensely satisfying system that turns every successful dodge into a tangible reward.

Whether you’re a series veteran looking to turn up the heat or a newcomer just here to watch the fireworks, Bayonetta 3 have your back.

The threequel goes one step further to expand on the proven formula. This time, players can hold down the left trigger to summon a hell demon as long as they have enough magic stored. While active, Bayonetta stands still while giving orders to a giant monster capable of dealing massive damage. The creatures range from a huge frog that can sing as a way to summon poison rain to a literal train that can run through enemies as Bayonetta draws a path for it.

The system can be a bit difficult to get the hang of, as it goes against some of the muscle memory the series has instilled up to this point. During some of the game’s later battles, I would find myself often summoning a demon for just a few seconds before accidentally recalling it because my evasive instincts kicked in. Still, the extra twist helps bring even more depth to the action. When my health was low in a tense battle, I could summon Gomorrah and tell him to rip my enemy up in his jaws and launch them into the air, giving me some room to back up and get some breathing room.

Madame Butterfly battles the Homonculi in Bayonetta 3.

Bayonetta has always been a series about showing off, turning every fight into a sacrilegious ballet of bats and bullets, and the third installment only steps it up. It offers more opportunities than ever to stomp demons to a fine powder thanks to unlockable residual missions and optional challenges that offer some of the game’s toughest battles. It also offers nice flexibility, allowing players to reduce the difficulty or even equip an accessory that will boil the complex combat down to two attack buttons. Whether you’re a series veteran looking to turn up the heat or a newcomer just here to watch the fireworks, Bayonetta 3 have your back.

The shadow remains cast

While it’s easy to forgive some of the game’s less graceful moments, there are some technical distractions that eat away at the spectacle. The camera is the main offender, as it has trouble keeping up with all the action and often pans to oversized enemies. The technical limitations of the Nintendo Switch are also noticeable, as cutscenes tend to feel a bit choppy and images aren’t particularly sharp.

If this ends up being an expulsion for the Umbra witch, Bayonetta 3 will become the textbook definition of ‘going out in style’.

Of course, there is another shadow cast over the whole project. There would be the controversy surrounding Hellena Taylor, Bayonetta’s original voice actress, who was replaced by Jennifer Hale in the sequel. Taylor made waves when she claimed PlatinumGames only offered her $4,000 to reprise her role, and urged fans to boycott the game. A wave of support would tarnish public perception of the game and developer, though a report from Bloomberg would later dispute Taylor’s account. She would later clarify her story, confirming most of the report’s accuracy, though she claims some of its finer details are false.

Regardless of the actual story, I want to emphasize that the business drama has no impact on the quality of the final product here. Taylor’s performance is missed, especially during one key plot beat that doesn’t land the same without her in the role, but Hale does a perfectly fine job here. You can tell she’s imitating Taylor’s iconic voice, but I honestly don’t think it’s something that would have been scrutinized without the controversy.

As for characters and the voice actors who portray them, I want to take a moment to celebrate Viola, because the new katana-wielding witch steals the show here. The goofy punk rocker is a perfect foil for the ultra-confident Bayonetta. As a young witch trying to find her footing among the coolest heroes in the multiverse, Viola brings a human element to the historically over-the-top series. Her vulnerability leads to both some of the game’s most tender moments and its harshest slapstick comedy.

Viola stares forward in Bayonetta 3.

It helps that Viola’s chapters are also quite radical. Her playstyle is slightly different from Bayonetta’s as she blocks to activate Witch Time, can use a grappling hook to swing, and is able to attack freely when her demon, Cheshire (a delightfully crazy, gothic spin on Alice in Wonderland’s iconic cat ) is active — all to the tune of an absolute banger of a pop-punk battle theme.

I understand that PlatinumGames may be looking to pass the torch to her, whether it’s in the main series or a future spinoff. At this point, it might be for the best considering both the messy situation surrounding the series now and the fact that she just rocks as a main character. If this ends up being an expulsion for the Umbra witch, Bayonetta 3 will become the textbook definition of ‘going out in style’.

Bayonetta 3 was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch OLED in handheld mode and on a TCL 6-Series R635 when docked.

The editors’ recommendations




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