Bayonetta 3 is utterly ridiculous, which shouldn’t be surprising considering the Bayonetta franchise at large. From its bombastic set pieces to its reality-hopping story to its devilishly fun weaponry, you can’t say PlatinumGames is holding back with this sequel. Bayonetta 3 is a fantastic action game, one that shines despite technical hiccups and pacing issues.
This time around Bayonetta finds herself fighting reality-invading man-made bioweapons called Homunculi that seek to merge all universes into one. To stop this, she teams up with a couple of friends, including her stalwart ally Jeanne, the newcomer punk rock witch-in-training Viola, and alternate reality versions of herself.
Suffice to say, with terms like Alphaverse and Arch-Eve being thrown about with little explanation, this is a story that doesn’t take itself too seriously — most of the time. Particularly in the latter half of the game, cutscenes feel like they go on for far too long, to the point where the game starts to drag. They are bearable only because oftentimes, something that would shake up the typical hack n’ slash formula would be waiting for me on the other side.
Take the side chapters for example: they play out like 2D side scrolling stealth games, where you have to hide from enemies to take them out while searching for a way to get to the other side of the level. There are on-rail segments in the story where you have to dodge obstacles while the backgrounds explode, sometimes literally, as the world devolves into chaos.
One in particular that comes to mind involves Bayonetta riding the demon Gomorrah down a Tokyo waterway while using a pair of boats as makeshift water skis as the city collapses around it. These set pieces are as frequent as they are amazing to see in action, and they do a lot to improve the pacing.
“Bayonetta 3 is a fantastic action game, one that shines despite technical hiccups and pacing issues.”
Across the 14 hours it took to complete Bayonetta 3‘s story, Bayonetta has access to a wide array of weapons that are as silly in concept as they are fun to play. Her signature four pistol setup is present, albeit with a purple colouring this time around, and they are joined by such weapons as a chainsaw that doubles as a makeshift train engine, a hammer combined with an anti-materiel rifle, and a spear that can also be used as a stand-up microphone.
Each and every weapon is fun to play around with, all helped by the fact that Bayonetta 3 features a fantastic control and combo scheme. This was true of its predecessors as well, and in this instance not changing things up works wonders.
The biggest addition to the battle system are Demon Slaves. Before, Bayonetta summoning demons would usually occur at the climax of a boss fight or as a special, one-off attack. Now she can equip up to three demons at once that can be summoned at will to perform their own unique attacks. Madama Butterfly kicks, punches, and charms enemies for high damage, while the frog-like Baal can pounce on enemies or summon a poison rain should you manage to get her to sing enough times.
Much like the weapons, the sheer variety of demons and their abilities means that you can create some devastating combos. However, Bayonetta remains rooted in place if you control a demon for an extended period, creating a risk-reward system should you use it. Apart from some camera issues that arise if Bayonetta is in an awkward position when you summon, this is a fine trade-off.
“The other half of Bayonetta 3’s presentation — the visuals — leave a lot to be desired.”
Bayonetta is also not the only playable character: Viola is also playable. I don’t dislike Viola as a character; I find her awkward attempts to be taken seriously endearing. But whenever I play as her, I wish I was playing as Bayonetta instead. Instead of dodging to enter Witch Time, Viola must parry attacks. And instead of summoning multiple demons, she only has access to one — Cheshire, who lives within her sword that must be thrown away in order to summon him, causing Viola to resort to fisticuffs until she calls it back. These options are constraining, and in a game where the fights are defined by your creativity with an arsenal of over-the-top weapons, Viola doesn’t feel as good.
At least her music rocks. Bayonetta as a series is known for its spectacular soundtracks, and the latest entry is no different. The battle themes are great across the board, with the boss themes in particular providing a pulse-pounding rhythm that sets the perfect tone. The other half of Bayonetta 3’s presentation — the visuals — leave a lot to be desired.
While the characters and enemies look great, the environments are noticeably weaker, especially since I repeatedly saw textures and objects pop in while exploring each level. The frame rate is at least consistent in gameplay, save for a few moments in cutscenes and during special gameplay sequences. Considering how long some of those cutscenes are, you can’t help but notice that their quality varies.
But that’s not enough to prevent me from playing more. The sublime action, alongside the utter insanity of what happens in the course of the story, make me want to dive back in and see what crazy combos I can make and what other secrets I can uncover. Fans of the series will love what PlatinumGames have introduced in the eight years since Bayonetta 2, and newcomers will be enticed by the frenetic weirdness on display. Bayonetta 3 is one hell of a ride, one that I don’t want to end anytime soon.
This content was originally published here.