Bayonetta’s back in action, and in Bayonetta 3, she has never been cooler. Over the past 13 years, the games have been loved for their high-octane, hack-and-slash combat just as much as they’re infamous for being exceptionally racy. At the center of it all is a gun-toting super witch with charisma so magnetic that even the demons of hell follow her.
Bayonetta 3 somehow cranks everything up beyond 11, and it’s unapologetically, extremely, absurdly over the top in every aspect. The combat is a loud, chaotic, boisterous carnival of carnage. The story and its characters are melodramatic, campy, horny, and endearingly gaudy. It’s not all great though – the story leaves the future of the IP in a shaky place. Additionally, with the way Bayonetta 3 struggles on the Nintendo Switch, we can only hope that any future entries in the series are on more powerful hardware.
Within the first hour, PlatinumGames gave itself a free pass to do pretty much anything by making Bayonetta 3 a multiversal story. There are multiple Bayonettas across various settings, and there isn’t a coherent thread that connects ancient Egypt to modern-day Paris or Three-Kingdoms era China. All you need is a shrug and the word, "multiverse."
The big bad, aptly named Singularity, wants to destroy all of the multiverses, harness the resulting energy, and then control all of existence. It’s up to Bayonetta, Pharaoh Bayonetta, Phantom Thief Bayonetta, Lu Buyonetta, and other supporting characters to save all the realms.
Any fan of the Bayonetta series knows, of course, that the story isn’t really the primary reason to play these games. Narrative is more like the backdrop for insane action sequences, which Bayonetta 3 delivers in spades. Cutscenes shine brightest when they show off the ludicrously choreographed action, from gritty hand-to-hand sequences to humongous kaiju fights.
When you’re in control, Bayonetta 3 builds on its legacy by iterating on the gameplay from previous installments. The nine main weapons feel unique from each other, but they’re all equally capable of unleashing pure chaos. The G-Pillar is a mix between a gigantic club and a powerful rifle, which Bayonetta can slowly swing around to shatter the enemy homunculi. Tartarus is a pair of gauntlets that can combine together to form a gateway, from which she can summon maces and mechanical claws. Suffice to say, creativity was top of mind when it comes to her arsenal.
Despite the huge array of weapons, the combat language remains pretty consistent across them. Once you learn how to do forward lunges or circular sweeps with one weapon, it only takes a little bit of experimenting with similar inputs to figure out another. The resulting animations and effects are different depending on the style and weight of the weapon, but it’s easy to quickly get used to.
Additionally, each weapon comes with a summonable demon. Unlike previous games, where big demons were relegated to cutscenes and quick-time events, these can be unleashed – and controlled – any time. Madama Butterfly is a gigantic woman-demon hybrid who can sweep the battlefield with kicks and jabs. Meanwhile, Malphas, a giant three-tailed bird, can dive onto enemies and grab them with its talons.
To round things out, these weapons come with an ability called Demon Masquerade, where Bayonetta fuses with the demon. This transformation kicks in while she’s dashing, opening up more traversal options. Turning into a frog monster gives you a high vertical leap, and as a train demon (yes, you can transform into a train), you can rush forward on fiery ghost tracks. They come in handy when you’re searching for collectibles around the map, which there are more than plenty to distract yourself with.
Bayonetta also goes into Demon Masquarade at the end of combos, adding this satisfying mid-combat beat you can hold onto amid the particle effects. These attacks cover wide areas with high damage, and they look as flashy as they are effective.
Perhaps one of the best, most fun things to do in a fight is the Wink Slave skill. When you finish a combo with a Demon Masquerade, Bayonetta will flash for a split second, and if you summon your equipped demon in time, they’ll follow up with a huge attack. It truly feels like the peak of what Bayonetta’s combat system can do, by marrying the big monster fights with the (somewhat) down-to-earth human-scale combat.
While PlatinumGames have really fine-tuned the combat in Bayonetta 3, the studio went out of its way to really shift the gameplay style throughout the playtime to keep things fresh. Most major boss fights are radical departures from the rest of the game. One is a straight-up side-scrolling fighting game featuring two kaijus in Tokyo. Another is an operatic rhythm game. While fighting a huge boss on a flying cloud, Bayonetta summons a huge Madama Butterfly, who then bathes in the clouds and blows bubbles at the enemy.
In some ways, you could argue that these changes in gameplay take away from the skills you’ve been practicing in the rest of the game. However, they really feel more like refreshing breaths of air, and these wacky segments more often than not succeeded at putting an incredulous smile on my face. Plus, there’s no shortage of other challenging, huge enemies to face with the usual combat system.
Bayonetta 3 also features two other playable characters: longtime bestie Jeanne and series newcomer Viola. Jeanne features primarily in side chapters, which, despite the name, are actually required to roll credits. Her gameplay might be the weakest across the 12 to 15 hours you’ll spend here.
Jeanne’s chapters play a lot like watered-down stealth segments, and she’s a lot weaker than you’d expect because of story reasons. You have to rely on weapons you pick up in the level or sneaky kills to get around enemies. Unfortunately, with how slowly and sluggishly she moves, these can feel more like a chore. These side chapters also start with the same opening cutscene, which gets old pretty fast.
Viola, on the other hand, feels like a step up from Jeanne’s stealth missions. She doesn’t have a ton of weapons like Bayonetta; instead, she relies on her katana and giant cat familiar named Cheshire. Using Cheshire works similarly to how Bayonetta summons demons, though with a few caveats: The big cat acts autonomously, and Viola loses her sword while he’s out. That doesn’t matter to her though — she’s a punk-rock girl with a punk-rock attitude, and she’ll punch anything that stands in her way.
Unlike Bayonetta, Viola goes into Witch Time when she parries an enemy at the right time, instead of dodging. It feels a little clunky at first, but overall, Viola adds a fun new twist on the Bayonetta formula and thankfully doesn’t overstay her welcome.
Viola also plays a crucial role in the story. She’s been traveling the multiverses, trying to help various Bayonettas stop Singularity. So far, she hasn’t found success. However, she shows your Bayonetta how to go to other multiverses, all while asking her to collect five fancy artifacts to stop the big bad guy.
Going to alternate realities and seeing new Bayonettas had the potential for lots of fun, but unfortunately, Bayonetta 3 squanders the opportunity. Each variant only gets a short amount of screentime, and they can’t help but feel more like gimmicks than anything more meaningful. Granted, this is a Bayonetta game — it’s not like I expect a deep, meaningful character study. Yet, it all falls into a predictable pattern that gets dull, despite the intriguing “what if” questions.
The ending of Bayonetta 3 also feels a little self-indulgent, almost at the expense of the player. It takes the phrase “post-credits scenes” to a new level, and it just goes on. It also ends in a place that all but confirms that PlatinumGames wants to make a new game in the series. Without spoiling anything, it gives you a good idea of what the future of the series could look like. However, I can't say I'm excited about where it seems to be going.
Quite a few recent Nintendo Switch games have shown that the hybrid console has its limits, and Bayonetta 3 is no different. For the most part, the frame rate stays above 30, with occasional fluctuations and dips. After all, there’s a lot happening on screen, especially during the big, bombastic fights.
However, the graphical style simply looks dated and, in the worst cases, straight-up ugly. The technical limitations of the Switch are on full display here, and they’re holding back Bayonetta 3 from being as spectacular as it wants to be. Textures can look low-res, character models can look muddy, and the lighting can be unflattering. Perhaps the most confusing part of all this is how the photo mode simply doesn’t work. Once you zoom out too far, all the characters look incredibly blurry.
All in all, it would’ve been a dream to play this game on a platform that could do the game more justice. All the varied locales, as vibrant as they are, look drab on the Switch, and those slick action sequences are brought down by the subpar graphics.
Bayonetta 3 Review | Verdict
While Bayonetta 3 has a few pain points when it comes to its overall graphical presentation, PlatinumGames more than delivers on expectations. The third entry in this series is bigger, bolder, and grander than its predecessors. If you’re expecting more top-tier hack-and-slash action, Bayonetta 3 is absolutely a Switch game worth getting, without question. Even after rolling credits for the first time, there’s so much more gameplay to experience, like perfecting each chapter, attempting new combat trials, and even exploring new weapon combinations. It’s a fantastic playground for all your action-game dreams—just don’t pay too much mind to the story.
TechRaptor reviewed Bayonetta 3 on the Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.
- High-octane combat feels better than ever
- Wide variety of weapons, summons, and locales
- Everything is unapologetically cheeky and campy
- Unflattering, distracting, dated graphics
- Story leaves you worrying about the franchise’s future