Since Bayonetta appeared on Nintendo consoles, the sexy hair witch has done her best to reach a wider audience. For example, Bayonetta 2 already made the smooth but calculated action of the original more accessible. Part three also thought of the little ones and, with its “Naive Angel mode,” ensured that Bayonetta’s buttocks stayed a little better covered.
Different kind of Bayonetta
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon goes one step further. It doesn’t just do that with a more kid-friendly setting and all sorts of accessibility options: it’s also a completely different, more accessible type of game than we’re used to from Bayonetta. It’s now so far removed from everything we know from Bayonetta that it barely reads like a Bayonetta game. Still, it’s an excellent addition to the main series, and a great adventure an sich.
Bayonetta Origins, as you might have expected, tells the origin story of Bayonetta. As a young witch-to-be, she was everything that adult Bayonetta no longer is. Cereza, as she was called then, is innocent, unsure of her own abilities, and afraid. Whereas later as Bayonetta she summons multiple giant demons as if they were nothing, here she struggles with the smallest baby demon. When she finally does manage to pull a one creature from Inferno, she is so frightened by this that she must be rescued by Morgana: her strict mentor in witchcraft. She finds the only solace Cereza has in Cheshire: the plush cat her lost mother once made for her.
In a dream, Cereza is promised that she can get her mother back. To do so, however, she must first go to the magical forest of Avalon – the very place Morgana told her to avoid. Of course, she goes anyway. At night she slips into the forest, where she is promptly besieged by angry fairies. To fend for herself, she summons another demon, and in panic she places that demon in her plush cat. The demon-possessed Cheshire protects her from evil, after which she promises to send him back to Inferno – as soon as she knows how. Thus a precarious alliance develops between the two. Cereza is afraid of her own demonic subject, and Cheshire would prefer to devour the little witch, were it not for the fact that he would then be unable to return home.
You can probably fill in the rest of the plot yourself. To survive Avalon, Cereza will have to lean more and more on Cheshire’s strength, and Cheshire is increasingly dependent on her magic. Logically, they grow closer, and Cheshire learns from Cereza’s compassion. In turn, Cereza learns something from Cheshire’s persistence and (excessive) self-confidence. The story won’t really surprise you anywhere, and even the twists at the end you can see coming from afar. Also, the bulk of the story is told at the beginning and at the end. Everything in between is a quest from one McGuffin to another. However, the narration is incredibly endearing, so the ending still managed to touch a nerve.
What certainly contributes to that cute, emotional story is the visual approach. The game is told as if it were a fairy tale book. In the cutscenes, a narrator takes you by the hand and you flip through the pages together. The rest of the game also has a cute, magical style. As I mentioned in my preview wrote, it looks like a psychedelic fairy tale where clean lines are colored in a jumbled fashion, often with a shifting color palette. The game feels so innocent, but also chaotic and disturbing at the same time. Rarely do visual style and story go together so well in games as they do here.
As I also wrote in my preview, Origins is more like a Zelda than a traditional Bayonetta. You explore a semi-open world, diving into dungeons and collecting treasures and items that help you explore more of Avalon. The twist here is that you control both Cereza and Cheshire at the same time. With your left joycon, you move Cereza. With her magical dances, she can grow sea plants in the environment and binds enemies with thorny roots. Cheshire, whom you control with the right controller, provides the brute force and can then attack to do actual damage.
This system works fine, and while it certainly takes some getting used to, simultaneously controlling two characters rarely becomes too much. In most situations, you even get time to perform both characters’ actions one at a time. If it does become too much for you, the game offers all sorts of options to make your life easier. For example, you can skip entire mini-games if they are otherwise too stressful. It is absolutely commendable that the game lets the gameplay be so finely tuned.
Personally, I had just hoped for a little more challenge. Don’t get me wrong: in the end, Bayonetta Origins has quite a bit of depth to offer in both combat and puzzles. Cheshire is given four forms (plant, stone, water and fire), each with their own powers, which you will also use in battles. For example, there are enemies who dig in, and Cheshire can only get above ground with a punch in rock form. Other enemies conjure up a fire shield that you must extinguish with your water jet. Outside of a few boss fights, you just need to be in particularly little hurry to do this. The enemies themselves are also unaggressive and very easy to take out – with or without an elemental gimmick.
Boss fights are thankfully a bit more interestingly designed – though there aren’t many of them here. As you’d expect from a game like this, the boss of each area tests you on using the powers you’ve unlocked so far. Again, these are not very challenging, but they do force you to string all your skills together. Thanks to the scale and visual spectacle, they are also quite satisfying to fight against. Without giving too much away, the final bosses in particular give you everything you expect from a Bayonetta boss – in more ways than one.
Apart from other post-game content I’m not at liberty to discuss, there is plenty to explore outside the main story. In fact, Avalon is full of collectibles, such as all sorts of friendly, stray fairies that you can return to their fairy village. In addition, there are items to unlock more skills and flowers that serve as the equivalent of hearts from Zelda.
Unfortunately, the world of Bayonetta Origins does not allow for very pleasant exploration. In fact, Avalon is structured like a labyrinth. Narrow, bushy paths generally lead to more narrow, bushy trails. While there are camps with fast travel points, there is no central hub to tie everything together. When playing through the story, this is not such a problem: the narrow paths keep the momentum going nicely. Without the guidance of the story, everything starts to look very similar and exploring quickly becomes wandering. On top of that, the map doesn’t handle elevation changes very skillfully.
A somewhat disappointing environment to explore, and a lack of challenge are fortunately not enough to slow Bayonetta Origins down too much. The beautiful world, interesting controls and touching story all contribute to an awesomely cute Bayonetta game that you probably never expected, but will enjoy immensely. This spin-off seemingly has little to do with the Bayonetta series, but if you’re even slightly interested in the character, you can’t pass up Bayonetta Origins. In fact, even if the main series does not interest you at all, Origins could be quite worth your time. This is a spin-off that can stand on its own feet just fine.