Bayonetta 3 (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 11.11.2022 3

Review for Bayonetta 3 on Nintendo Switch

Bayonetta 3 was one of the first titles announced for Nintendo Switch, yet it has taken over half a decade to reach its release. The original Bayonetta and its sequel quickly became cult classics with hack-and-slash fans thanks to their in-depth combo system, challenging difficulty curve, and a sexy sense of style most studios wouldn't even dare to acknowledge. With time only making fans froth at the mouth for the franchise's next entry, Bayonetta 3 has the tall task of living up to outrageous hype.

Unfortunately, PlatinumGames' latest outing doesn't share the same consistency as its predecessors and will leave more than a few dedicated fans disappointed. Bayonetta 3's issues stem more from a "big picture" perspective where the sums that make up the whole fail to coalesce as well as the first and second titles. There are genuinely great bits of gameplay throughout, but they're often bogged down by unnecessarily padded level design, non-stop gimmick sections, subpar presentation, and the series' worst story yet. It's jarring how much of a downgrade Bayonetta 3 is at times, because isolated from everything else, it arguably has the best core combat in the series.

Bayonetta controls great. Her actions are snappy, responsive, and fluid. Every beat of gameplay has weight to it, from how she moves, to her jumps, and basic attacks into long combos. Enemy telegraphs are clear without being too obvious, and bloated enemy health just encourages players to fight more creatively and take advantage of everything at their disposal. Bayonetta's tool kit is the widest it's ever been, offering an incredible amount of combat variety and customisation options. There are more mechanics, techniques, and weapons than ever before. As far as playing as the eponymous leading lady goes, Bayonetta 3 is actually a step up above its predecessors.

The core controls are still more or less the same. Bayonetta uses guns/long-ranged attacks with the Y-button, Punches with X, Kicks with A, and Jumps with B. She uses different techniques by inputting directional inputs. R changes her stance and L swaps between weapons. ZR dodges and dodging the second before an attack connects activates Witch Time. Witch Time slows down gameplay and gives the player an advantage where they can safely string combos or kill enemies. ZL is dedicated to the brand-new Demon Slave ability. Bayonetta can now control large demons during battle. She becomes immobilized, but the player gains full control over their Demon Slave, each one unique in terms of gameplay.

Summoning a Demon Slave actively drains the magic meter, so there's a limited window to chain combos or deal damage while they're active. They can be used as regular attacks, though. Pressing ZL at the end of a full combo activates Wink Slave. The Demon will end Bayonetta's combo with their own much stronger attack. Pressing ZL right as an enemy attacks activates Assault Slave, which is essentially a parry attack conducted by the Demon. Torture Attacks are now tied directly to Demon Slaves. Enemies and bosses will get stunned if damaged by enough Demon attacks, allowing Bayonetta to torture them. While superfluous, the Demon Slave system adds a lot of fun depth to the combat.

Screenshot for Bayonetta 3 on Nintendo Switch

Weapon and skills have undergone minor adjustments, as well. Bayonetta now learns new techniques from a Skill Tree inside the menu. This lets players upgrade Bayonetta whenever they want instead of having to find Rodin's shop. This makes progression feel like a more continuous process and opens up her skill set even sooner than usual. Equipment loadouts have been simplified so players only equip two weapons on Bayonetta's hands, instead of four including her feet. This limits her overall attack pool to an extent, but there's more than enough gameplay depth to go around between distinct weapon play styles and the Demon Slave system. Each weapon even has its own associated Demon that changes Bayonetta's dash and glide.

Unfortunately, it's everything surrounding Bayonetta's gameplay that's the problem. Enemies are well designed mechanically and fun to fight, but their visual designs leave a lot to be desired. While angels and demons make a few appearances, Bayonetta primarily fights Homunculi this time around: man-made creations that honestly feel like a step back in scale. Nothing feels threatening when Bayonetta has already fought her universe's version of god and won. Homunculi have an ugly green-and-white colour scheme that pairs poorly with the art direction's already drab palette. The vibrant colouring that topped the first two titles from top to bottom are regularly replaced with brown and grey tones three generations out of date.

Gone are the tight stages and arenas that previously made up each chapter's level design. Bayonetta 3 opts for exploration-heavy open fields full of secrets and side content to indulge in. In practice, the open level design does not play to the gameplay's strengths. Settings are unremarkable and unmemorable. Stages are unnecessarily long and simply do not play to the Switch's strengths. There is too much going on and Bayonetta 3 can't handle it. Worse, the side material feels like filler. Optional battles and unique challenges are fine enough, but the timed platforming set pieces are an utter chore and most secrets aren't that well-hidden to begin with, making exploration less rewarding than in 1 & 2. Collecting every Umbran Tear in a chapter unlocks a side stage if nothing else, and every chapter has a set of achievements called Bewitchments to add replay value. It's a fine idea in theory, but gimmick sections make it very hard to want to replay any chapter.

Screenshot for Bayonetta 3 on Nintendo Switch

Bayonetta has always played around with gimmick stages and one-off play styles that have no real bearing on the gameplay loop. For the most part, these segments are meant to serve as pace-breakers while embracing arcade-esque design conventions the medium has since walked away from. They're certainly interesting and reflect an important aspect of series creator Hideki Kamiya's love of the medium, but they're the worst they've ever been in Bayonetta 3 and more abundant than ever. The core combat is excellent, but it feels like Platinum had zero confidence in the rest of the title's design. The gimmicks are relentless and constantly steal focus away from Bayonetta's stellar gameplay loop.

There are scripted walking sequences where Bayonetta slows down for the camera to focus on something in the distance. It is awkward every time and feels two generations behind the trend. Some chapters will just have the player start walking for no good reason. A baffling amount of chapter 7 is just walking. Demon Slaves are fun as a combat mechanic, but the sections where control swaps from Bayonetta to her Slave are some of the worst set pieces in the entire series. Demon Slave battles and platforming sections feel like a punishment. They are slow, boring, and ugly with little sense of style or depth. The rock-paper-scissors Godzilla-inspired boss fights in particular are an absolute embarrassment of game design and downright antithetical to Bayonetta's fast and frantic approach to gameplay.

Jeanne's stealth levels aren't much better. Rather than simply letting players use Jeanne - one of the most popular characters in the series - in normal gameplay, all her chapters are timed stealth side scrollers. It's frankly baffling how bland these chapters are. They're ultimately pace-breakers and will serve as jumping off points for more than a few players. The only gimmick sections with actual depth are Viola's chapters. She's a fully functional character like Bayonetta, but even she's not as in-depth or as fun to control. Viola feels like a poor man's Nero from Devil May Cry 4. Shoehorned in for no good reason, she's taking away game time that could have been dedicated to Bayonetta instead. The worst part is that Viola's core combat really isn't that in-depth. She has a few unlockable techniques, and her gimmick is blocking instead of dodging, but she basically has the depth of a single weapon. She's just not as fun as Bayonetta at the end of the day.

Screenshot for Bayonetta 3 on Nintendo Switch

Bayonetta titles have always been unusually story heavy for an action franchise, but third time is not the charm when it comes to the series' narrative. Cutscenes lack the quick wit and energetic pace that made the first two titles fun despite their interruptions. Bayonetta 3 goes too overboard with long, boring cutscenes that exist more so for exposition than to entertain audiences with a fun plot. The story's multiversal shenanigans are not as well utilized as time travel from the first two titles, but it also feels like PlatinumGames following the leader. Multiverses are popular in pop culture right now, so Bayonetta 3 follows suit. It feels like pandering, doubly so since alternate versions of Bayonetta play a shockingly small role in the actual story. Each one is essentially a cameo shoved in so Bayonetta can unlock a new weapon.

Otherwise, Bayonetta 3 is just a deeply unsatisfying conclusion to Bayonetta's story. The focus on Viola feels misplaced. She's essentially the co-lead, but contributes very little to the plot, has an extremely annoying personality, and looks like a filler character out of Bleach. Jeanne feels like an afterthought despite essentially being the series' deuteragonist, essentially conceding her role to Luka and Viola. Bayonetta herself barely has an arc and her characterisation is the least bombastic it has been.

There are instances where glimpses of the "real Bayonetta" shine through, but her personality and mannerisms feel off thanks to stiffer writing and generally poorer voice direction. Not helping in the voice department is the fact Hellena Taylor has been replaced with Jennifer Hale. Hale's performance is fine, but her take on Bayonetta very much sounds like someone trying to replicate Taylor. Which Hale does do a good job at, but she lacks Taylor's emotion and raw comfortability in the role. It's a perfect storm scenario of recasting and a weaker script severely hurting Bayonetta's personality.

The overall presentation is also a disappointing step down. Animations are wonderfully fluid, but character models look a generation behind. The overall art direction is nowhere near as pretty as Bayonetta 2, either, which can give the impression that Bayonetta 3 actually looks worse. Cutscenes are occasionally choppy, and the frame rate is in no way consistent. The performance is not so bad that it's unplayable, but it's not smooth enough for how much action Bayonetta 3 has going on at any given time. PlatinumGames clearly wanted to go big for Bayonetta 3, but the end result is an action title that desperately needed to know its limits.

Screenshot for Bayonetta 3 on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Despite featuring what's arguably the best combat system in the series, Bayonetta 3 is nothing short of disappointing. Bayonetta's core gameplay is outstanding, weaving fluid controls together with incredible weapon variety and tons of fun mechanics to play around with. The combo potential is high and battles just feel great to play… as Bayonetta. An unforgiveable amount of playtime is dedicated to newcomer Viola, stealth segments that make poor use of Jeanne, and relentless gimmick stages that wear out their welcome immediately. Tossing in mediocre level design, lacklustre performance, and a flavourless story that panders towards the current multiverse craze, it's clear PlatinumGames has lost its magic touch when it comes to the Umbran Witch. Bayonetta 3 is simply mediocre, at best.

Developer

PlatinumGames

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Brawler

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I heavily disagree with the voice critique here. I think Bayonetta's voice is great, and looking back at the performance in 2 I am almost in favour of the new in terms of delivery.

Nothing has surpassed Bayo 1 though.

Hale isn't bad, she just doesnt sound like Bayonetta. Her accent isn't convincing to me. Hale is Canadian and has a more nasaly voice. Helena Taylor wasn't doing a voice for Bayonetta- it was her natural speaking voice.

Hale sounds just like her MGS1 Naomi Hunter. It's not bad- but it isn't Bayonetta. 

Insanoflex said:
Hale isn't bad, she just doesnt sound like Bayonetta. Her accent isn't convincing to me. Hale is Canadian and has a more nasaly voice. Helena Taylor wasn't doing a voice for Bayonetta- it was her natural speaking voice.

Hale sounds just like her MGS1 Naomi Hunter. It's not bad- but it isn't Bayonetta. 


Yeah that's true, it mean Taylor had more range to work with too. I just mean I think Hale hits the characterisation fine but she is deffo lacking the natural accent.

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
Renan

There are 1 members online at the moment.