Catching Up on the Bayonetta Trilogy
The myth, the legend, the hair...
The gaming backlog. You probably know what I'm talking about. We all have this cursed list of games that we want to get around to playing, but oftentimes can’t find the time for it. Rather it’s because we bought them at discounts and left them to collect digital dust, or because we just slept on them for one reason or another.
Sometimes the opposite happens and you end up throwing yourself into a new game that was never on your radar. Maybe you got it as a gift or you just happened to click with the box art while looking through a store, but it’s not out of the question to just start playing something that wasn’t even on your list and caught you by surprise.
Bayonetta is a franchise that is basically both for me. On the one hand, the games were always interesting to me and yet I never got around to them. Lack of time, money, and until recently a console. Yet all of a sudden, I was sucked into the recent prequel game, Cereza and the Lost Demon, by complete coincidence and without even knowing it was related to the series.
After experiencing the prequel I realized that it’s finally time to get myself acquainted with the dancing witch and take you on the journey with me.
Upon its release, the original Bayonetta was praised by every review site I’ve known, every YouTuber I happened to follow, and my friends were also sharing their amazing experiences with it. The game was on my list, but I just never managed to get around to it. Maybe the money was tight, or I was too busy at the time, but it was definitely a title I missed out on back then.
When the sequel was announced as a Wii U exclusive I figured I just wouldn’t bother with the original since I had no interest in Nintendo’s previous console. But with my recent acquisition of a Switch, and the first two games bundled on it, I can now hate myself for sleeping on this one because it is a blast from beginning to end!
Bayonetta is a hack n’ slash adventure where you control the titular character as she fights demons and monsters with her wide array of combos, guns, hair, and most famously, sex appeal. If you played a game of the genre, and especially Capcom’s Devil May Cry, you’d feel right at home from the second you grab the controller.
Bayonetta's gameplay is very similar to DMC, seeing as the two games share a director in Hideki Kamiya, and as one who’s familiar with Dante’s wild adventures, I got the hang of the controls very quickly. You have a jump button, a button to use your long-term guns, one button for punching combos with another button for kicking combos, and a dodge button. Pretty standard for the genre, I’m aware, but it doesn’t stop Bayonetta from being a fun thrill ride from beginning to end.
Despite the loveable witch's wide moveset, the game is immensely approachable. If you haven’t played similar games there may be a learning curve to get through at first, but with some practice and determination, I’m sure you'll get results. On the other hand, veterans of the genre might find that the moves Bayonetta fights with are very original and unique to her, which helps the combat feel unique, even if the core mechanics are similar to other games.
What I found to be a fun innovation to the hack n’ slash gameplay was what would become Bayonetta’s Witch Time ability. Whenever you dodge an enemy attack at just the right time, Witch Time will be activated and the game slows down for a bit while Bayonetta remains at her default speed. Not only does this help in taking care of groups of enemies, but it also makes your own attacks stronger, which gives great reward to those who are willing to master the combat and figure out the timing of each attack.
Sadly, there isn’t much else for me to say about the original title. This is not a detriment at all; it’s just hard to explain why the game is so good beyond what I've described. Nitpicks would be that the window for the quick time events feels very short and almost impossible to get without knowing what’s coming. The story was also nothing special. The cutscenes are well-directed and animated, not to mention full of style and amazing fight choreography, and yet they’re attached to a story that is honestly a bunch of nothing. But as I mentioned earlier, these aren’t big problems in the long run.
The first Bayonetta is still a blast to play and I’m glad that all these years later, I finally got a chance to experience it and all of its style and glorious action! Needless to say, I was more than excited to jump into the sequel!
In retrospect; I remember the controversy which sparked over the announcement that this game was originally a Wii U exclusive. While it is understandable, considering Nintendo funded the game and without the Japanese giant’s wallet we may have never gotten it I can’t say the outrage from some people wasn’t understandable or justified. The Wii U just didn’t appeal to many, and the idea of getting one just to experience one sequel to a game they played wasn’t an idea people would immediately be on board with. It was also a reason why I ended up skipping the original until now.
Years later, however, all three games are on a console that people actually own and like. I’m very happy to say that the statement regarding sequels in the video game world being undeniably better than the originals remains true regarding Bayonetta 2!
Everything which made the original game a cool and fast-paced thrill ride of combat heaven is here and accounted for, with some minor tweaks which do make for a better experience. Bayonetta is still as agile as ever and she’s rocking the same moves she had in the original so if you played that right before jumping into the sequel, like I did, you’d feel right at home.
You can still punch, kick, use a weapon, jump, dodge, and activate witch time. All of those are here and accounted for, but now your special meter will grow the more combos you use in battle and when that’s full, you can use Bayonetta’s hair in order to dish out even more pain against your foes. This was an element that was relegated to finishers against bosses in the original game, but now you can use it on any enemy as long as your meter is full.
Boss battles are still the highlight of the package and they’re bigger and better than before. The first game's bosses were really cool but there's a lot more spectacle and scale on offer here. I’m also happy to report that the sequel got rid of the tight quick-time events and they’re no longer an issue. In general, I think the game is easier and shorter than the first Bayonetta.
I don’t know if it’s because I played Bayonetta 2 right after finishing the original, but the fights felt a lot easier this time around. Not to say that they’re boring by any means as the spectacle and fast pace of the combat still makes for an exciting adrenaline rush, and I did need to be on my toes whenever enemies would pop up. But if you found the original game too hard for some reason, Bayonetta 2 will most likely be a comfier ride.
Overall, I think Bayonetta 2 is superior to the original. Everything that made the first game great is here and in better form. It may be shorter and some might find the lower level of difficulty takes away from it all, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is one quality product that comes with my recommendation!
The story might still be lacking in substance, which is more of a shame here since I can see they’re aiming for some emotional moments, but they end up falling flat because there’s no real substance to anything. Bayonetta is about style and having fun, so please drop the serious stories since it’s not working with a game like this, but the silly moments are still a lot of fun.
So far Bayonetta doesn’t stop impressing me! Now I’m curious about the third game since I heard through the grapevine that this one is less favorable among those who've played it…
The third entry in a trilogy. A fandom’s biggest fear, not to mention a challenge for the developers. Some third entries are well-beloved and seem to be the shining achievement in a game series’ library. Others fail to impress and leave on a bad note with a side of disappointment. From what I’ve heard from my social cycle, Bayonetta 3 seems to fall somewhere in the middle, which already made me interested to try it out right after the excellent second game.
Honestly, though, Bayonetta 3 is a weird one for me. On the surface, it does almost everything a third installment should do. It takes what worked in the first two entries, makes it better where it needs to be, and adds new things to make sure the experience won’t go stale. The last part is the sticking point, as the game felt very stale at some points and left me wishing the credits would roll already.
To remove any doubts, the game is still a blast to play! Bayonetta remains the same acrobatic and quick badass who can dish out the combos and look great while doing it. I’m glad to report she’s still a lot of fun to control and watch as she demolishes demons in lots of cool ways. The problems start when it comes to the new demons she can summon in the middle of battle.
On the one hand, this is a cool addition that allows for more attack options and keeps the gameplay fresh, adding to the spectacle. On the other hand, it’s executed poorly. While summoning a demon in the middle of a fight, Bayonetta is locked in place while control switches to the demon, which is slow and clunky. In a fast-paced game like Bayonetta, slow and clunky is a big problem. Obviously, I can’t expect a giant kaiju monster to be as nimble as Bayonetta, but the slow pace with which those monsters move destroys any kind of combo potential you might have been able to get from them.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the demons, as sometimes you get to control them in fights and challenges that cater to them specifically. These could be a lot of fun because they broaden the movement options Bayonetta already has, resulting in thrilling set pieces. It’s just a shame that their other uses, the combat the whole game revolves around, leaves plenty to be desired.
Further additions come in the form of two new playable characters, the familiar Jeanne and newcomer Viola. Jeanne is relegated to these 2D stealth levels which are as brief and uninteresting as any side mode can be. Viola is very similar to our title witch and thus she gets more fulfilling levels. She also uses a grappling hook which is fun to use and her sole demon, Cheshire, is attacking stuff automatically when used so it’s an improvement over Bayonetta’s clunky demon helpers.
But when it’s all said and done, despite the overall fun I was having, something about Bayonetta 3 felt tiring and not as fulfilling as her first two adventures. Maybe it’s because I was playing all three games in a row and I was getting burnt out, but this game exhausted me. Not to call it a bad game, as it’s still plenty of the same over-the-top and fast gameplay I’ve come to love. I just started to get tired of the whole thing, and maybe it’s because of the fatigue, but I have a feeling it once again comes down to the less-than-impressive story
While there were a few moments that grabbed my attention this time around, I still can’t get into those events which are presented and directed to be as insane and cool as possible with very little substance. And three games in, they once again try their hardest to reach some sort of an emotional payoff. I’m just tired of the whole thing and I believe it impacted my gameplay experience. The game and the characters in it don’t seem to care much about what’s going on or what their motivation is, so why should I?
Leaving Multiple Worlds
So that’s it. My journey through the Bayonetta franchise has come to an end and wow, what an adventure this was! Despite how tired I felt by the end of Bayonetta 3 and how I think it had the most problems, I can still confidently recommend each and every one of those games to any fan of the hack n’ slash genre! They’re fast, cool, unique, and the lead character will most likely steal your heart even if her story isn’t anything special.
I’m glad I finally got the chance to play those games and whatever the future holds for this franchise, you can bet that I’m no longer sitting on the sidelines. I want more… but let me rest and try out some new games first. I need a break from dancing and killing hordes of enemies.
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