I've always been a Bayonetta Appreciator, less so an outright Bayonetta Enjoyer. Bayonetta's trilogy is a nonstop action-packed banger, a never-ending fun and furious gauntlet starring a witch who has way too many awe-inspiring combat moves to remember.
Yet despite the aforementioned 'banger' status, I've always struggled a bit with the Bayonetta trilogy. I've always found the action came at the detriment of any character moments, and I wished I could've just spent a little more downtime with the Umbra Witch herself. Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is just what I needed.
Release date: March 17
Platform: Nintendo Switch
The new spin-off takes place years before the Bayonetta trilogy, starring a young Cereza picking up the pieces in the aftermath of her mother's exile, struggling with her Umbral magic studies. This a decidedly more chill adventure, following Cereza and the demonic Cheshire as they uncover more about themselves, each other, and their destiny in the wider world.
It's a lovely little adventure. Bayonetta Origins actually gives Bayonetta time to stop and have a normal human conversation, without reality falling down around her or a small Italian American man having a midlife crisis. The spin-off lowers the stakes and ups the intimacy, letting Cereza and Cheshire develop and grow as characters over the course of 20-odd hours.
A lovely change of pace
Bayonetta Origins is a far more personal adventure than anything that's come before. This change of pace and approach really pays dividends for Cereza here, rounding her out into a character you can truly root for after just a few hours. I really enjoyed spending time with this version of Bayonetta, a reimagining of the character that's smaller and less capable, but by no means helpless.
Cereza's a more novice witch, and so Bayonetta Origins' chief focus isn't entirely on combat. The game splits its time between puzzles and action, putting Cereza and Cheshire through a little mentally taxing scenario, before thrusting the pair into a brief combat gauntlet. Encounters, whether it's puzzles or combat, rarely take more than a few minutes at a time, keeping the pacing relatively upbeat and any frustration to an absolute minimum.
Combat is a tricky beast to master at the outset. Cereza operates via the left Joy-Con controller, and Cheshire the right, and you're always controlling both companions at once in combat. It takes a little getting used to – the first few hours had me frustratingly moving the wrong character and dodging with the wrong Joy-Con – but after this phase passes it's a relative breeze, a system that functions surprisingly well for operating two fighters at once.
Well, calling Cereza a fighter is a bit generous. The young Umbral Witch is restricted to binding enemies with her magic, hooking them in place temporarily for Cheshire to lay into them with a few swipes. You'll end up spending most of your time running screaming from outstretched swords, arms, and gnashing teeth as Cereza, while waiting for Cheshire to move into a position to save you via a well-placed claw to the face of some horrible monster.
This is really Bayonetta Origins' true Achilles Heel in combat – Cereza is the brains, and Cheshire is the brawn. Cereza is restricted to immobilizing foes, and can't outright kill them, so without Cheshire in your corner, the young witch is a tad helpless. Bayonetta Origins is all about Cereza overcoming her personal fear and vulnerability, and combat fails to live up to this narrative promise by having Cereza constantly incapable of holding her own against any foes whatsoever.
The flipside of Cheshire being the muscle is that he's also largely expendable. It's game over if Cereza's health plummets to zero, but if Cheshire takes a hit too many he merely reverts back to his stuffed toy form, shackled there for a few moments while his health regenerates. Gracefully dodging and countering is key to combat, but this ultimately feels pointless when Cheshire is such an indestructible force of nature in the heat of combat.
The somewhat missed potential is actually a real shame, because otherwise the combat is a nice step back from the breakneck pace of the Bayonetta trilogy. Without the threat of combat ratings and time-sensitive pressure, you can take everything at your own pace, planning out which enemies to shackle first as Cereza, and which to lay into as Cheshire. Any initial frustrations over the dual Joy-Con system is quickly a faint memory after a few hours, and Bayonetta Origins hits its stride as a sturdy action-packed affair.
Alongside combat is the occasional puzzle, and they're a pleasant but forgettable bunch. These tests are generally quick, perhaps tasking you with moving Cereza and Cheshire intermittently through a small maze, or hopping between moving platforms before they disappear. It's nothing too mentally taxing, and the puzzles instead act as a nice, brief change of pace from combat, instead of standing on their own as outright memorable experiences. If you came here looking for a deep puzzler, you'll leave bitterly disappointed, but if a change of pace from combat is all you're looking for, perhaps these little tasks will suffice.
Bayonetta Origins is a neat little adventure. I've really come to appreciate the new side of Cereza, and the compelling new tale PlatinumGames has found to tell for the established hero. Combat is a fun frenzy once you really acclimate to its dual Joy-Con system, although it greatly fails Cereza after her narrative growth, and Cheshire's indestructible nature goes a fair way to undoing its more graceful notes. Puzzles don't quite leave a lasting impact, although if their job was to provide some respite and new depth to Cereza's combat, then they've served their purpose.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon was reviewed on Nintendo Switch, with a code provided by the publisher.