Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon - Switch Review
While we were enamoured with the third entry of the Bayonetta series, others may not have felt the same way. Many were left confused about the directions Bayonetta 3 took, with some common arguments stating that the titular hero's actions and decisions were somewhat out of character to what fans had expected. However, with the announcement of Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon at the 2022 showing of The Game Awards, series creator and Platinum Games vice president Hideki Kamiya promised that this prequel would shed some light on the events prior.
And yet, Bayonetta Origins is not like the trilogy that came before it. The game is played from a topdown/isometric perspective and has you control both Cereza and her feline companion Cheshire, a doll that her mother, an Umbran Witch currently imprisoned for her love of Cereza's father, a Light Sage, had knitted for her when she was a girl. And it is with this setting that Cereza and her companion set out to become strong enough to free her mother from imprisonment.
The game begins with a picture book recounting Cereza's origins up until her teenage years, and the game carries this visual motif with a fantastical sombrance that is simply wonderful to play through. And with the striking juxtaposition between the 3D settings and the 2D painted backdrops, coupled with the strange and wonderful creatures Cereza encounters, it all feels like something from a gothic fairy tale akin to Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass.
As the story continues and a summoned demon latches onto Cereza's stuffed toy Cheshire, the demon remains stuck in the same dimension and demands her help to return her to Inferno. However, Cereza must find the White Wolf to learn this spell and as Cheshire soon discovers, he is unable to stray too far from her presence and thus, the puzzle and combat mechanics take shape. You control Cereza with the left analogue stick along with the ability to grow plants and halt enemies with the ZL trigger, and simultaneously, you control Cheshire with the right analogue stick whilst performing a strong melee attack with the ZR trigger. It feels cumbersome at first, almost like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time, but once you get the hang of it, the game opens up to a world of puzzle and combat opportunities. And lastly, you can also switch between being together or moving apart, which in itself creates plenty of combat and maneuverability options.
As you continue with the story, and especially if you venture off the beated path now and again, you'll come across other worldly areas that act as mini challenges, very similar to those found in the mainline Bayonetta games. In here, you may just simply fight a boss that's referred to as a Tír na Nóg, or you'll solve a series of puzzles (and quite commonly, both). These help to break up the pace of exploring the forest, as well as provide you with upgradable goodies to boulster your arsenal for the true challenges.
The main challenge of the game is to destroy the four elemental orbs (insert ProJared four elements joke). As you do so, you'll unlock a new variant for Cheshire that will provide new abilities for combat and puzzle solving. I'll reframe from going too heavily into spoiler territory, but by simply using the first variant as an example, you unlock the Wood element variant which allows Cheshire to extend his tongue like a frog and pull on branches and other objects in order to progress and unlock secrets. Cereza also receives abilities this way, which tend to be around her passive magical abilities. This is a great way to keep the gameplay fresh, evolving as you progress through the game and allowing for further puzzle variety.
- Story book art style
- Unique dualstick gameplay
- Boss battles and puzzle challenges
- Elemental variants
I found the pacing to be the main issue in Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon. The chapters feel uneven in length, and the longer chapters could've been reduced in order to create a more streamlined experience. For the game's 10 hour length, 30% of that felt like unnecessary padding for the sake of slapping on a premium price tag.
Isometric gameplay can sometimes be tricky. More often than not, it works fine, but there are moments in Bayonetta Origins where due to the gorgeous detail of the forest, you can sometimes lose track of where things are in relation to your perception. It never caused too much of an issue, but it is something that caused me to fall off a ledge here and miss an attack there.
- Pacing issues
- Occassionally wonky depth perception
Final Score: 8/10
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is absolutely magical. The entire game feels like you are exploring a fairy tale, much in the same vein of Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz (there's even a direct reference to the latter within the first couple hours, and consider Cheshire for the former, so they knew what they were doing). As much as this entry into the series can be viewed too drastic of a departure for traditionalist fans, it's arguably a much better fit than the mainline entries for the Nintendo Switch's target audience - and this is coming from someone who considered Bayonetta 3 as a running for Game of the Year in 2022.
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