A Spoiler-Free Bayonetta 3 Review

Note: A more in-depth, spoiler-laden review will be forthcoming as I digest the details a little bit more.

So, after all the drama and spoilers and assorted nonsense, this (perhaps overly) anticipated game finally reached the mitts of the general public. It almost feels pointless to even have a spoiler-free review at all at this point, as quite a few things were already spoiled long before people outside of a handful of media outlets played it, but in this case, I think it might help to detach the story from the game for the time being.

Let’s be honest, if you were playing these games for the narrative… you were probably playing them for a different reason than Platinum Games and their head honcho made them.

Firstly (and let’s get this out of the way), it is not the same Bayonetta that you play in the first two games; thank you convenient narrative multiverse devices. In fact, the only character that is actually the same, as far as I understand, is Rodin. So, in that sense, a lot of things that might seem like ass-pulls at first glance in fact do have a story-based explanation. Not a particularly good one, but an in-game explanation nonetheless (we’ll get into more detail on that in the spoiler-ridden review, which might take me all month at the rate I compose blog posts).

Secondly (and let’s also get this out of the way), Hellena Taylor is a lying sack of human excrement who tried to manipulate what was, and is, a very real problem in the industry. It disgusts me how she will inevitably make it even harder for voice actors to get what they deserve in the future.

So, with that out of the way…

Mechanically, the game plays as well as it ever did. Combat is tight, yet fluid, and is probably the most gameplay-rewarding Bayonetta of the three. It feels really good to hit those combos just right, and the superficially similar foes (the homonculi and the angels really don’t play all that differently) still feel different and fresh; giving you benefit of a new experience that still rewards your muscle memory.

The more open world (because it is by no means open) is a nice touch to the linear experiences of prior games, and also serves to pad the length of a series that normally could be “full completed” in a handful of hours. As a result, the game doesn’t feel as fast-paced, which may be jarring for some but I found personally welcoming. Being able to backtrack (in a limited sense) was a welcome feature, especially to someone like me who hates just missing something a second before.

The new combat elements do take some getting used to. Directly controlling the demon beasts has a pretty rough learning curve, and the game doesn’t give you that much time to figure it out before making it really complicated. Someone not particularly used to managing two separate characters simultaneously will likely struggle.

The new character added to the game also takes some adjustment. Viola herself as a character isn’t the problem, and I don’t share the general sentiment of her being grating or unwelcome (I suspect that has a lot to do with her origins, which will be discussed in the spoiler-laden review). Mechanically, she is quite the deviation from the norm, and again, Platinum really doesn’t give you much time to get used to her idiosyncrasies before throwing you neck deep in some difficult fights.

The spy missions featuring Jeanne are a nice attempt to give her something unique to do within the story other than be a palette swap for Bayonetta, and while I appreciate the attempt, I think it’s a case of trying a little too hard to make her impact on the story and the game play different. Giving her some missions in the same way they handled Viola’s I think would have been fine.

The one part that is going to be rather wholly negative, and this really isn’t Platinum’s fault, is that we are definitely hitting the absolute limits of what the Switch’s hardware is capable of. Platinum does their best with what they have, but the graphics and frame rate do take some pretty heavy hits at times where there is a lot going on. Perhaps oddly, I think the game is more stable and pretty in handheld mode.

At the end of the day, if you’re not particularly playing this for the story, you’re probably going to enjoy the experience immensely. In terms of its play, it really is kinda like a Bayonetta+; it doesn’t sacrifice terribly much to give you more of what you already liked over two games, either by adding wrinkles to old systems or expanding the world to give you more to explore.

But if you were invested in the story and/or the characters… we’ll discuss that at a later time.

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