Bayonetta 3 Hands-On Impressions – Captivating Kaiju Combat

Nathan Birch
Bayonetta 3

After cruelly denying us the pleasure of a sequel for nearly eight years, Nintendo and Platinum Games will finally deliver Bayonetta 3 later this month. Needless to say, fans are excited, but does the series still offer up the scintillatingly silky combat it’s known for? Or is it not as bewitching as it once was?

I’ve had the opportunity to go one-on-one with Bayonetta 3, and while I can’t talk about everything I’ve experienced just yet, I can give you the lowdown on the game’s combat (the core of any Bayonetta game). So, let your hair down and scroll on for the details…

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Bayonetta’s latest isn’t that fundamentally different from her past adventures. Bayonetta 3 is a stylish action game that carries forward most of the core mechanics fans know and love. Players can unleash combos by inputting the proper button sequences and enter slow-motion “Witch Time” by dodging attacks at just the right moment. Stun an enemy, and you can inflict extra damage with a grisly Torture Attack.

Wicked Weave attacks, “Beast Within” animal transformations, and the weapon system of past games have now been combined into the new streamlined “Demon Masquerade” system. Weapons still come with their own unique movesets, but now each is tied to a specific demon and allow Bayo to transform into a new form. You can unload with the “Color My World” pistols, which allow you to take flight ala Madama Butterfly, the “G-Pillar” cannon/club combo that lets you transform into a Gomorrah-inspired scaly beast, the “Ignis Araneae” razor-edged yo-yo that turns you into a scuttling spider, along with several others I won’t mention. Combos still culminate in powerful attacks, but unlike the Wicked Weaves of the past, you now unleash destruction by morphing into whatever Demon Masquerade form is tied to your weapon. You’ll also frequently transform outside of battle in order to traverse and explore the world.

Ultimately, the biggest change Bayonetta 3 offers is the Demon Slave system, which allows you to summon various kaiju-like demons to fight by your side. Go big or go home as you launch attacks with the towering Madama Butterfly, Gomorrah, or Phantasmaraneae, amongst others. What elevates the Demon Slave system above a mere gimmick is the seamlessness with which you can summon your badass backup – push the ZR button to unleash your demons and release the button to instantly call them back. While you can stand back and let your Demon Slave do the heavy lifting until your magic bar runs out, you can also call them in for just a second to land a single blow to cap off or extend a combo. It’s when you start fluidly switching between your regular and Demon Slave attacks that the system really starts to click. This is likely where most new opportunities for high-level play will be found.

The combination of the Demon Masquerade and Demon Slave systems give you new leeway to choose your own playstyle by mixing-and-matching weapons and kaiju sidekicks. Personally, I’m a big fan of the combination of the Ignis Araneae Yo-Yo, which has great range and combo potential, and Madama Butterfly, who isn’t as strong as some other demons but is capable of popping in for quick hits.

Bayonetta 3 also introduces a second major playable character, Viola, whose playstyle differs from Bayo’s in a few key ways. Viola enters Witch Time by blocking and parrying rather than dodging, and she can still move and attack independently while her Demon Slave (a big freaky cat named Cheshire) has been summoned. Initially, playing as Viola feels a bit off, as her parries just aren’t as elegant as Bayonetta’s dodges. That said, once you understand that Platinum is trying to force you to play aggressively with Viola rather than sticking to Bayonetta’s usual game of keepaway, everything starts to fall into place. I wouldn’t say Viola is ever quite as fun as Bayonetta, but her chapters don’t derail the game either.

Of course, Bayonetta 3 isn’t entirely about combat. Without getting into too many specifics, Platinum’s penchant for spectacle is intact, as they serve up plenty of big set pieces in which players usually take control of one of Bayo’s demons. It’s during these moments, such as the early sequence in which Gomorrah chases a giant boss through a collapsing New York City while dodging subway cars, that Bayonetta 3 comes closest to pushing the Nintendo Switch to its breaking point. There are some occasional performance hiccups during these sections, although don’t worry – combat holds a steady 60fps. For the most part, Bayonetta’s sense of style remains intact.

Current Thoughts

Bayonetta 3 retains the series’ trademark accessible yet deep core gameplay, although it will be interesting to see how the Demon Slave mechanic is received by hardcore fans. The system is fairly obviously designed to make Bayonetta more approachable for casual players, and sure enough, you can use demons to muscle through the game’s challenges to some extent. That said, in the right hands, the system ought to generate the series’ most dizzying combos yet. And really, if you can’t find some joy in pummeling baddies with a giant lizard of bikini-clad demon lady, you might be taking this all a bit too seriously. I suspect Bayonetta 3 will smash most wary fans’ inhibitions.

Bayonetta 3 launches on Nintendo Switch on October 28. Expect a full review from Wccftech before then.

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