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November 3, 2022

Which witch is which? Explore the wonders that await in the Bayonettaverse in our Bayonetta 3 review.

Since its founding 15 years ago, developers Platinum Games have become a staple of the action genre, earning a reputation for creating absurdly over-the-top and no holds barred experiences. Created by game industry veterans Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil), Atsushi Minaba (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney), and Hideki Kamiya (Devil May Cry), the team immediately began working on three initial projects in partnership with SEGA: MadWorld for the Nintendo Wii, a gory and violent hack & slash in the visual style of SinCity, Infinite Space, a sci-fi RPG on Nintendo DS with massive scope, and the crowning glory of the holy Platinum trinity: Bayonetta.

Bayonetta 3 review original bayonetta gameplay

The original Bayonetta helped set a new standard among action games.

This would be the single game to launch Platinum into stardom. Coined as an evolution of the Devil May Cry series that Kamiya had so lovingly created, Bayonetta featured a titular main character oozing with raunchy sexual appeal, fighting through the forces of heaven and hell by harnessing the power of demons and… clothing made of her own hair? The game was an instant fan favourite and years later sparked controversy when the sequel was announced as a Wii U exclusive. This sequel was saved thanks to Nintendo, who we can thank that the series still exists to this day.

Now 8 years after the Umbra Witch’s last outing, Bayonetta returns and offers its players a tantalising climax to the trilogy in Bayonetta 3 on Nintendo Switch, this time featuring a whole multiverse of beautiful buxom Bayonettas for your viewing pleasure. So strap in and experience the most exhilarating and bombastic Bayonetta has ever been in our Bayonetta 3 review.

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Story

Wasting no time to focus on foreplay, Bayonetta 3 immediately thrusts the player into the game’s climax, with the Umbra Witch locked in battle against an otherworldly foe, an interdimensional Homunculus who desires to destroy all dimensions but its own. Charging into battle, a new protagonist appears: Viola, who has travelled across dimensions to stop this foe in their tracks. Their clash though ends prematurely, with Bayonetta’s life extinguished before the player’s eyes. Driven by her rage, Viola launches one final assault, and deftly leaps to another multiverse before uttering a final mantra: “I’ll be back for you, asshole.”

Bayonetta 3’s beginning is the beginning of the end.

But all hope is not lost – a new portion of the multiverse means a new Bayonetta, and the player once again greeted with the familiar sights of New York City. Accompanied by Enzo and Rodin and her shopping spree so rudely interrupted, this universe’s Bayonetta comes face-to-face with the same interdimensional threat that felled her in an alternate reality. With Viola quite literally dropping out of the sky and the threat of Homunculi leaving the city in ruins, the team make the decision to retreat to a safe haven that Bayonetta fans will be well acquainted with: The Gates of Hell.

Bayonetta 3 review Gates of Hell

This is what Bayonetta means when she tell you to go to hell.

With Bayonetta, Jeanne, and the newbie Viola finally together in a brief respite, the team convene and decipher a plan to save the multiverse. Jeanne is tasked with locating a brilliant scientist by the name of Doctor Sigurd, whose research holds the key to opening interdimensional portals. The only catch? Bayonetta and Viola must first locate five mysterious Chaos Gears, said to hold the secret of unlocking the multiverse. To obtain each Chaos Gear, the duo must jump to a new branch in the multiverse, team up with a new Bayonetta, and dispatch any demons that stand in their way. Let’s dance, boys!

Bayonetta 3 review Chaos Gear

Chaos Emeralds are overrated anyway.

Gameplay

The celestial supanova of the show – Bayonetta 3’s gameplay shines brighter than the series has ever shone. Combining its polished fast-paced combat and elevating it to even greater heights with massive action sequences, almost every moment of Bayonetta 3 will leave you needing to peel your jaw off the floor. So how exactly does the game manage to achieve such phenomenal gameplay?

It all begins with combat – this is the pillar that Bayonetta is built around and supports the massive set pieces thrown at the player in every single episode. If you’re a returning player, you’ll immediately be treated to the same degree of polish and responsiveness that made the previous two entries so great. But everything established in earlier games is made even more absurd and over-the-top in Bayonetta 3.

Bayonetta 3 review cutscene

Wielding an ever more formidable arsenal, Bayonetta brandishes not just a shiny new set of guns, but this time has the power of demons directly from the depths of hell. Where previous entries integrated demonic summons into Bayonetta’s combos, they’re now a pivotal part of combat  that are controlled simultaneously alongside Bayonetta. Deftly activating Witch Time, chaining massive combos as Bayonetta, and obliterating an enemy with a devilishly delightful finishing move has never been more satisfying.

The more you play, the more satisfying the combat gets.

Each level offers a different take on the Bayonettaverse, dropping the player into real-world settings with a fantastical Bayonetta twist. You’ll be given the opportunity to explore iconic settings like Paris, Egypt, war-torn China, and the stylish streets of Shibuya all through Platinum’s unique and stylish lens. But it doesn’t end there! Every location has its own version of Bayonetta and Jeanne, horrific unique demons, and even a new set of weapons with a tonne of skills to unlock. The replayability is phenomenal and even after multiple playthroughs you’ll probably still encounter elements of gameplay you’d previously overlooked.

Egyptian Bayonetta (or 🦅☀️🔥🐪) was my personal favourite.

But it doesn’t end there. At the end of each chapter, the combat morphs into massive standalone demonic battles adopting the gameplay from a variety of genres. Instead of duking it out as Bayonetta, you’ll become colossal demons in kaiju battles, fighting games, shoot ’em ups, rhythm games, rail shooters and even… a soapy demon bubble bath!? Platinum have not held back in creating some of the most ridiculous boss fights ever made. Given creative control, they’ve gone wild with ideas and you’re going to love every moment.

This is probably the most tame of all the boss fights. Which is certainly saying something.

In addition to the flawless gameplay as Bayonetta, players are given the opportunity to play as the returning side character, Jeanne, and the game’s loveable punk/rock side-kick, Viola. The segments as Viola essentially play out the same as Bayonetta’s missions, albeit with modified combat. Rather than controlling hordes from the underworld, Viola wields an enchanted katana that turns into her companion, Cheshire, a horrific feline demon that fights alongside her. Witch time is also no longer activated by dodging, and instead requires a perfectly-timed parry which can be quite difficult to pull off.

Bayonetta 3 review viola

Viola’s chapters, like her character, are light-hearted and delightfully whacky.

The only real drawback in terms of Bayonetta 3’s gameplay is Jeanne’s segments, which feel tacked-on and completely break the flow of the game. Rather than exploring each world freely and slaying enemies in fluid combat, Jeanne’s levels are ~10 minute side stories played entirely in a side-scrolling view and focus moreso on stealth. It’s obviously a tongue-in-cheek homage to the spy genre and meant to be humourous, but the gameplay feels unpolished and clunky compared to the remainder of the game. It would have been preferable for these levels to feature as unlockable side missions, rather than mandatory for the game’s completion.

Visuals

This is where things really get interesting. Bayonetta 3 is a beautiful game with stunning art-design, superb animation, and incredible characters and environments. It’s also, however, a disappointing visual nightmare. Why? The Nintendo Switch. In aiming for a consistently smooth framerate on limited hardware, sacrifices must be made, and unfortunately that sacrifice is resolution.

Bayonetta 3 review visuals

The game looks passable from a distance, but zoom in and you’ll see how pixelated it becomes.

Gameplay targets 60 fps, which feels fluid when this is occasionally achieved, but is unfortunately at the expense of the game’s graphical detail. Playing in docked mode is certainly preferable, offering dynamic 810p and retaining as much detail as possible, but handheld lowers the bar to a mere dynamic 480p, showing the dated hardware of the Switch. It’s unfortunate, as the game really does look phenomenal at times, but struggles to achieve the visual fidelity expected of modern games.

Fighting off hordes of enemies while flying on the back of a demon? Only in Bayonetta.

Despite its low resolution and drawbacks in terms of detail, Bayonetta 3 thankfully makes up somewhat in its impressively dynamic action sequences. The video above demonstrates just a brief snippet of this, and utilises movement and camera angles interspersed with cutscenes to keep the game looking fresh and engaging. At times, it still manages to deliver visual delight if you’re able to overlook its shortcomings.

Audio

In contrast to its visuals, Bayonetta 3 delivers nothing but the best when it comes to its audio. The soundtrack in particular, like the gameplay itself, achieves a perfect blend of numerous genres to deliver a unique aural experience. Incorporating elements of jazz, big band, classical, punk/rock, techno, and synth, the music was primarily directed by Naofumi Harada (Bayonetta 2) but impressively features no less than 15 separate composers! The sheer variety of music is incredible, with a track to match every single scene perfectly. Just take a listen to these three below for an idea of how distinctly different the music can be:

The game’s main theme, Moonlight Serenade, an arrangement of a Frank Sinatra classic.

Viola’s battle theme, Gh()st, channels angry punk/rock with vocals by Aussie Mikaila Delgado.

Fantastical funk in “Queen Magick” accompanies the most ridiculous scene in the game.

And despite the controversy surrounding the voice acting in Bayonetta 3, our new Umbra Witch, Jennifer Hale (Mass Effect, Metroid Prime 3) delivers an outstanding performance that cannot be faulted. Alongside Anna Brisbin as Viola and anime veteran Yuri Lowenthal as Luka, every line is delivered with snappy timing and just enough seriousness to keep the story from derailing into a divine comedy. You can really appreciate just how excellent the voice acting is when Bayonetta interacts with an alternate-reality version of herself and it’s somehow completely believable.

What Else?

This is a completionist’s dream. Although a single playthrough will take approximately 15 hours, the amount of added gameplay dispersed throughout every single level will have most players diving back in for more for a second helping. Scattered throughout each level are bonus combat challenges, unlockable items like character models and concept art, and hidden areas containing treasures that can be viewed in the game’s gallery.

Bayonetta 3 review demons

Additional weapons are unlocked post-game to offer more replay incentive.

And in case that wasn’t enough extra content, during each level you’ll stumble across a trio of animals containing Umbra Tears of Blood. Capture all three in a level and a new alternate route will be unlocked, providing the player with an extra bonus challenge to test their combat or platforming skills. Combine this will worldwide leaderboards for every single mission and the replayability is some of the most impressive ever featured in an action game.

And, of course, any self-respecting game deserves a photo mode. Although Bayonetta 3’s visuals aren’t quite up to the same standard of many other games, you’ll still be able to capture some attractive shots worthy of being ogled by your friends online like the ones pictured above.

Conclusion

Bayonetta 3 is the definitive Bayonetta experience polished to near perfection over the last decade of the series. Despite being held back by the technical limitations of the Switch, this latest entry delivers some of the most bombastic, ridiculous, and extravagant gameplay featured in any videogame. Platinum have taken their distinct action game style and turned it up to 11 at every given opportunity. So whether or not you’re a fan of action games, or whether or not you’ve played any of the previous Bayonetta games, if you enjoy fun, you won’t want to miss the Umbra Witch on the Switch.

So, why should you play it?

  • You love incredibly over-the-top action sequences
  • Some of the most polished combat ever made
  • Engaging story and characters from beginning to end
  • Huge soundtrack spanning and blending multiple genres
  • Looking for replayability? Bayonetta 3 has you covered

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Sucker for HD visuals? This might not meet your standards
  • Can’t deal with silly humour? The Bayonetta series isn’t for you

A review code was kindly provided by Nintendo Australia for the purpose of this review. Enjoyed our Bayonetta 3 review? Check out another of Platinum’s over-the-top games in our Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Retrospective and explore this fan-favourite Platinum cult classic.

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