After nearly eight long years of waiting, fans will finally get the highly anticipated release of Bayonetta 3 next month. With the franchise having brought some of the best gameplay in the action genre, as well as a notably overlooked story, my biggest question going into this latest installment was how developer PlatinumGames could going outdo itself this time around.
While I only got to play a mere 15 minutes of the opening section of its campaign, those questions were absolutely obliterated from my mind as I was continuously blown away by an incredible presentation of set pieces and new intuitive mechanics that bring Bayonetta’s historically fine-tuned gameplay to a level I never thought possible.
Bayonetta 3 Screens (Nintendo Direct – Sept 2022)
Bayonetta has had many different threats in the series so far, including angels and demons, but this time around the main antagonists are the homunculi, a species who can erase things from existence. The level that I played took place in Tokyo, beginning on a subway train that was quickly cranked up to 11 in the natural fashion you expect from a Platinum title. Before I knew it I was on top of a giant demon sliding down skyscrapers and warping into a spiral as if it came out of Interstellar or Doctor Strange – only to then jump into a water ski section where my demon rode motor boats on each of its feet to stay afloat. Equally ridiculous as it is charming, just as Bayonetta is known for. There is even a brawl on top of a rooftop that was reminiscent of something you’d see out of a monster action flick.
Combat has been finely remixed from its predecessors making it simply better in every way based on my initial impressions. In previous entries, Bayonetta was able to equip weapons on different appendages, but Platinum has replaced that with having general weapon sets, thus allowing you to switch between weapons on the fly. Outside of her iconic pistols, I was equipped with a giant demon club that also served as a caliber rifle, giving me the freedom to attack at short and long range. With how smooth Bayonetta 3 ran – from what I was told was a targeted 60 FPS during normal combat sections – it felt incredible to bash enemies about, even if the visuals take some hits for it at times.
Instead of gaining moon pearls by executing combos, there is now a magic bar in its place that allows you to summon a demon to fight in your stead. This is reminiscent of the climax where Bayonetta unleashes her biggest and baddest creatures into the fray, but now it is also implemented seamlessly into battle. That isn’t the only use your demons will bring, however. In the past you could transform into a panther to gain speed and leap across wide gaps, but now you will transform into a smaller version of whatever creature you have equipped. With Madam Butterfly you will take form into the insect gliding across the ground and Gomorrah will turn you into a pouncing beast that can thrash your opponents or help make for a fast getaway when needed.
Based on its reputation, I went into playing Bayonetta 3 with high expectations and wonderfully, it immediately surpassed them. Core combat has gained quality of life improvements that make it feel better than ever before, and with the number of resources under Bayonetta’s arsenal, I felt more powerful than at any other point in the series. It is definitely too early to say that Bayonetta 3 is shaping up to be an action-game masterpiece, but if the small amount I’ve got to play reflects the overall experience then I believe it’s well on its way.