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"Bayonetta 3" in review: My first time with the thrashing witch

As a complete "Bayonetta" noob, I dare to play the latest hack-and-slay game from Platinum Games. Can I have fun with the latest part of the witch trilogy even as a newcomer?

Bayonetta fans have had to wait a whole eight years for a new game in the cult franchise. I am not one of those fans. I only know the witch casually from trailers and screenshots. I have also never played other games by the Japanese games company Platinum Games. I'm plunging into the third part of the "Bayonetta" saga on the Nintendo Switch completely blind and without any prior knowledge, and I hope that even as a newcomer I will enjoy the crazy brawler game.

Multiverses, witches and homunculi

With the story I am completely overwhelmed from the first second of the game. I can remember that much: Not only do I have to save the world with the witch Bayonetta, but I have to save several universes from destruction at once. Giant "Homunculi" monsters have set themselves the goal of wiping out all known worlds until only one universe, the Alpha-Verse, is left. Unfortunately, I don't know the characters and their back stories. The fact that variations of the same characters also appear in the different multiverses confuses me even more.

Despite the absolute confusion, the absurd cutscenes entertain me wonderfully. The dialogue is delivered by the voice actors and actresses in a kitschy-cool way, the quick cuts provide plenty of pace and the absurd scenarios regularly make me laugh and marvel. One moment Bayonetta is dancing half-naked in front of a Godzilla-like monster and the next she is surfing on a cruise ship on a tsunami wave above the skyscrapers of New York. What reads like a crazy fever dream is just normal everyday witchcraft in "Bayonetta 3".

Auch Tsunamis können Bayonetta nicht davon abhalten, die fiesen Homunculi so richtig zu vermöbeln.
Auch Tsunamis können Bayonetta nicht davon abhalten, die fiesen Homunculi so richtig zu vermöbeln.

I especially like how cool Bayonetta and her supernatural friends are. The game is bursting with style, coolness and kitsch and isn't afraid to show naked skin from time to time. The quick-witted witch always has the situation under control, flirts incessantly with the camera (or is she flirting with me?) and always has an appropriate line to say. If you find the whole thing a bit too sexy and too cool, you can activate the "Naive Angel" mode. With this function, the characters smoke donuts instead of cigars and Bayonetta's naked skin is covered with plenty of clothes.

Wenn Bayonetta Spezialangriffe startet, ist für kurze Zeit viel nackte Haut zu sehen. Der «Naive Angel» Modus kaschiert die Nacktheit mit zusätzlicher Kleidung.
Wenn Bayonetta Spezialangriffe startet, ist für kurze Zeit viel nackte Haut zu sehen. Der «Naive Angel» Modus kaschiert die Nacktheit mit zusätzlicher Kleidung.

Chaotic combat with addictive potential

Besides the story, the complex combat system also gives me quite a headache at first. I understand the basic principle quickly, but have trouble remembering and implementing all the possible combinations in battle. But first things first.

With the A, X and Y buttons I attack enemies on the battlefield with ranged and melee weapons. With the B button I can jump and with the ZR button I dodge enemy attacks. By timing my dodges perfectly, I activate "Witch Time". This allows me to beat up the homunculi in slow motion and boost my score - it feels very satisfying and is instantly addictive.

Auf den Schlachtfeldern in «Bayonetta 3» ist ganz schön viel los.
Auf den Schlachtfeldern in «Bayonetta 3» ist ganz schön viel los.

New, Bayonetta can also summon various Kaiju - giant monsters - in battle. With the ZL button, I send giant spiders, Godzilla lizards and demonic trains at enemies, among other things, or I use them at the end of an attack combination for a devastating final blow. The various weapon sets that I unlock in the course of the game provide even more variation in the combat. The sets range from small, agile weapons to cumbersome giant weapons with which I have to time my attacks very precisely. The weapons, Kaijus and Bayonetta's abilities can also be continually upgraded as new skills are unlocked.

From time to time, I also take on the role of Bayonetta's companion Viola. The punk witch plays completely differently to Bayonetta, especially on the defensive. Instead of scoring points with perfectly timed dodges, I have to block enemy attacks with Viola. A small difference, but one that has a big impact on the flow of the game. Personally, I prefer the more fluid dodge mechanic because it brings more movement and dynamics to the fights.

Der Neuzugang Viola spielt in der verrückten Multiversum-Geschichte von «Bayonetta 3» eine wichtige Rolle. Gameplay-technisch kann sie mich nicht ganz überzeugen.
Der Neuzugang Viola spielt in der verrückten Multiversum-Geschichte von «Bayonetta 3» eine wichtige Rolle. Gameplay-technisch kann sie mich nicht ganz überzeugen.

With all these options, the combination possibilities in combat are almost endless. If you know the numerous key combinations by heart and can dodge perfectly, you will quickly play yourself into a high-score frenzy. For beginners like me, however, the whole thing often degenerates into frustrating chaos on the battlefield. This is mainly due to the game's ambiguous visual communication. The battles are a real sensory overload - something is constantly crashing, flashing and exploding everywhere. Visual cues for the correct timing of attack combinations are thus quickly lost in the chaos.

Theoretisch zeigt mir das Spiel mit visuellen Signalen, wann ich den finalen Schlag in einer Angriffskombo durchführen muss. In der Praxis erkenne ich oft nichts im Chaos.
Theoretisch zeigt mir das Spiel mit visuellen Signalen, wann ich den finalen Schlag in einer Angriffskombo durchführen muss. In der Praxis erkenne ich oft nichts im Chaos.

The annoying camera work also makes it difficult for me to get into the combat system. Especially with larger opponents, Bayonetta often disappears somewhere in the thick of the fight and my attack combinations are interrupted by unfair attacks that are not visible to me. The precise blocking of attacks with Viola is also frustrating with the sometimes very distant camera and the poorly assessable distance to the opponent.

Wo ist Bayonetta? Die riesigen Gegner verdecken meine Spielfigur zu oft.
Wo ist Bayonetta? Die riesigen Gegner verdecken meine Spielfigur zu oft.

Not a feast for the senses

"Bayonetta 3" also offers plenty of variety away from the battles. The game is bursting with crazy ideas. The levels are visually varied and take me to ruined cities, sprawling deserts and fiery hellscapes. I am repeatedly surprised by elaborately staged set-pieces - i.e. particularly action-packed sequences - in which I compete with Kaijus against other giant monsters or have to fight my way through collapsing levels in sensational chases. There are even some small 2D stealth levels to complete in the course of the game.

Despite the high density of ideas, the game feels repetitive at times. This is mainly due to the tediously designed tube levels and the sometimes unspectacular designs of the never-ending hordes of Homunculi enemies.

Die aufwändig inszenierten Set-Pieces gehören zu den Highlights des Games. Hier verfolge ich gerade ein riesiges Homunculi-Monster durch eine zerfallende japanische Grossstadt.
Die aufwändig inszenierten Set-Pieces gehören zu den Highlights des Games. Hier verfolge ich gerade ein riesiges Homunculi-Monster durch eine zerfallende japanische Grossstadt.

The biggest weak point of the game for me is the graphics. The crazy ideas and ambitious action scenes are thwarted by the limited graphical display capabilities of the ageing Switch hardware. Washed-out textures, clearly visible pop-in effects and framerate drops massively spoil the overall picture. In addition, the game runs at a very low resolution, especially in handheld mode. The environment, characters and enemies look blurred and the strong edge flickering annoys me after just a few minutes of playing. Depending on the game environment, the technical deficits can be compensated for by the harmonious art design. In some levels, however, the game looks like a game from the early PS3 era.

Einige Bereiche im Game sehen ziemlich unschön aus.
Einige Bereiche im Game sehen ziemlich unschön aus.

Conclusion: Stylish sensory overload with addictive and frustrating potential

. After about 13 hours of play, I have reached the end of Bayonetta's multiverse adventure. I need a short breather first. The crazy hack-and-slay adventure is like a wild rollercoaster ride, flooding me non-stop with new stimuli. As a newcomer to the genre, it was not easy for me to find an approach to the complex combat system and the frustrating camera. The moments when I successfully performed combos and slaughtered rows and rows of enemies felt all the more satisfying for it. . The cool production and the high density of ideas in the game are partly slowed down by repetitive gameplay elements and an old-fashioned graphical presentation. All in all, however, the game left a thoroughly positive impression on me. The unique mix of coolness, kitsch, crazy storytelling and chaotic action is unparalleled, and not only on the Switch.

After I've recovered a bit, I'll definitely give the two "Bayonetta" prequels a chance and also fight my way through the rest of the games from the Platinum Games catalogue.

"Bayonetta 3" is available for the Nintendo Switch. The game was provided to me by Nintendo for review purposes.

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My love of video games was unleashed at the tender age of five by the original Gameboy. Over the years, it's grown in leaps and bounds.


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