Review: Bayonetta 3 – A Threequel Without Equal

Bayonetta 3 is good. Go play it now. What? I have to say why? But that’s time I could be using to play more Bayonetta 3!

Well, alright. Bayonetta 3 is a high speed reflex action adventure game from Platinum games. Or rather it is except when it decides it would be better to be a side scrolling stealth action game, a top down shooter, or an on rails flight sim depending on whatever would fit the most recent set piece. Bayonetta 3 is spectacle of epic proportions and it is acutely aware of this fact at every second.

This weapon and demon became my favorites for most of the rest of the game.
This weapon and demon became my favorites for most of the rest of the game.

The story is simple, direct, and ridiculous, much like that of the first two Bayonettas, and several games in Platinum’s “pre-Platinum” days as Clover studios. The action and the specific set pieces are on point, and the plot is more of a reason to get people in the right place than a heavy hitting narrative, which is not to say there aren’t some good moments here and there or that the voice actors don’t give their best performances, just that the plot is in service of the action rather than vice versa.

Bayonetta 3 begins with Bayonetta, appearing identically to her Bayonetta 1 look, facing off against a villain called singularity as an unnamed trooper and a young woman – new deuteragonist Viola – watch on. Shockingly, Bayonetta loses and dies, and the young woman makes an emergency escape into a flash of light. You then jump immediately to Bayonetta, enjoying a lovely day of shopping and torturing her informant Enzo in Manhattan while she waits to meet someone. After a sequence in which Bayonetta crashes a wedding on an ocean liner and catches the bouquet, Manhattan is attacked by a creature that is neither infernal or angelic, and Viola literally falls into Enzo’s car. After the first epic action sequence in which Bayonetta takes control of an ocean liner and fights a giant demonic squid with the aid of fellow Umbra witch, Jeanne, Byonetta and Viola go to an ancient Umbran nexus of realities to find Macguffins. Meanwhile, Jeanne goes to find a doctor named Sigurd so they can find their way to a specific spot in the multiverse and fight the big bad. What proceeds from there is Bayonetta and, for select levels Viola, travel to different themed universes to find the macguffins. But more importantly, they’ll also meet the various multiversal Bayonettas, including Shibuya Bayonetta with Yoyos and a spider servant,  Chinese Bayonetta with a giant axegun and a demon train, Egyptian Bayonetta with deadly fans and a giant demon bird, and several other variants. In addition to her standard four guns and Madama Butterfly, Bayonetta gets each of these other Bayonetta’s weapons and demons added to her arsenal and each of them is fully featured, with unlockable moves and sometimes even specific challenge stages. Each of the alternate Bayonettas you see in the game can also be unlocked as a skin.

Viola uses a zipline to move around quickkly. This is the game's idea of a "subtle" nod to her family connections.
Viola uses a zipline to move around quickkly. This is the game’s idea of a “subtle” nod to her family connections.

Of course, Bayonetta is only one of three playable characters. You also have to play as Jeanne and Viola. Jeanne you get to play in her own special type of level, a side scrolling stealth action game where you must stealth kill enemies to unlock which time, with special weapons strewn about the stage for quick dispatches. These happen once every three standard levels, and are a fun, quick diversion from the regular game. You also unlock a minigame based on these levels later in the plot. Once you defeat the game, you unlock Jeanne for play in challenge levels, where she’s functionally the same as Bayonetta.

The third playable character, and the person getting the most screen time after Bayonetta and her alternate selves is Viola, a young woman who dresses and moves in a punk style as contrasted with Bayonetta and Jeanne’s Haute couture model stylings. The differences are more than just skin deep, as she plays quite differently as well. Unlike Bayonetta and Jeanne, who both have a variety of weapons and demon assistants to choose from, Viola only has a single weapon set and demon set, and though you can unlock new abilities for her, she cannot change these during gameplay. Instead, Viola attacks enemies with a large sword. kicks and throwing darts, or if she throws her sword away to summon her demon, with her fists. Viola as a character is rough and tough on the outside, but using it as a mask for her very legitimate fears and embarrassment. For me, the biggest difference in playing as Jeanne as opposed to Bayonetta is that her which time is activated on blocks, rather than dodges, which made them much more difficult to pull off. Not because of timing, but because it throws of my instinct just enough, and because double tapping the block button does a combat dash, and I found myself doing that a lot before I got myself under control.

Yes, the Demonic Opera lady who kills bugs with her voice gets a lighter tribute. Because of course she does.
Yes, the Demonic Opera lady who kills bugs with her voice gets a lighter tribute. Because of course she does.

While in previous games, Bayonetta could summon her demons at key moments in a fight, or as combo finishers, in Bayonetta 3, she can just call them out to fight at any time, and have them fight instead of her, or alongside her. Though, they require magic to do so and can be taken out of the fight or turn against Bayonetta if they take too much abuse. Bayonetta gets several new demons throughout her adventure, one or two new ones per three stages, roughly, and each has its moment to shine. She also can equip three at a time, switching between them via the left d-pad, replacing the quick item buttons from previous games (don’t worry, you can still use them from the menu at any time). Viola is again playing by her own rules, as instead of collecting and switching between demons, she has  a single demon cat named Chesire who she cannot control at all apart from summoning and dismissing, but who hits very hard and aggressively and draws a lot of aggro to make up for it.

All three heroes can also use Wink attacks, which can either be used right before an enemy would hit you to negate it and hurt the enemy, or right at the end of a combo attack to continue it and add to the enemy’s stun meter. Tortue/ Climax attacks are still in the game, with each demon getting its own variants. There are almost multiple segments where Bayonetta takes direct control of a demon and you play as them to conclude an arc, including a sequence where Madama Butterfly emulates the Bhudda fighting Son Wukong, and another where a new frog themed Opera Singer demon homages the fifth element to destroy a swarm of thousands of mind control insects. Did I mention the set pieces are insane in the best way? Because they are. I want to tell you all about them, but I also don’t because I don’t want to spoil all the insanity and the feeling of seeing them for the first time unspoiled.

This isn't the climax. It's not anywhere close to the climax.
This isn’t the climax. It’s not anywhere close to the climax.

Let’s briefly discuss the plot again. There’s not much to it beyond what I described above. Luka Redgrave is hearing voices and learning truths about a mysterious past even he is not aware of, Viola has secrets she doesn’t want to reveal to anyone but both Luca and Bayonetta find her familiar for some reason. There are technically twists in this game, but none of them were surprising, nor, I suspect, were they really intended to be. All of them were telegraphed, even the ones that have gotten a lot of people very upset. In the consideration of spoilers I will not go into any detail here, but honestly, even if you don’t like certain plot decisions, the gameplay is just so good. The final chapter is incredibly epic and rewarding, a treat to play and watch, with some serious call backs to the previous two games.. Also, there is a final climactic battle in Bayonetta 3, but it’s literally not the end of the game, as there are multiple battles and even an epilogue during and even after the credits, so don’t set the controller down until the dance sequence. No, I am not joking. Why would I be?

I guess I’ll finish this review off saying that, despite a very serious change to the status quo in the ending, the Bayonetta 3‘s epilogue does promise a continuation of the Bayonetta story, and I for one am willing to wait eight years if that how long it takes for another game as bombastically insane and awesome as this one.

Tim played Bayonetta 3 on Nintendo Switch with a review code.

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