Bayonetta Origins: Cereza And The Lost Demon

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Platinum Games
Release Date: March 17, 2023


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Switch Review - 'Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 30, 2023 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Bayonetta Origins: Cereza And The Lost Demon is a new take on the Bayonetta series starring Cereza, a young apprentice witch before she would come to be called Bayonetta.

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Bayonetta is perhaps one of the strangest franchises that's exclusive to Nintendo. In it, you play as a gun-wielding dominatrix witch who uses torture, stripping and graphic violence to brutally murder angels, devils and everything in between. If you remember '90s Nintendo, it's a weird thing to picture being in Smash Bros. alongside Mario. Perhaps even weirder is to take that game and shift it back into a charming and mostly tame storybook tale about a young girl lost in a fairy forest. That is what Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon does. Even more surprisingly, it does it successfully.

At first blush, one may even wonder why Bayonetta Origins has the Bayonetta title. The story follows a young Bayonetta, still known as Cereza, long before she becomes a confident witch. She lives outcast from the other umbra witches, with only her teacher Morgana to guide her. However, she longs to find a way to rescue her mother Rosa, and a perplexing dream of a "great power" in the nearby fairy-filled woods tempts her into exploring it. Soon lost and alone, she risks summoning a demon for the first time, leading to a grumpy and sour demon possessing her stuffed animal Cheshire. With no way to return home without Cereza's help, Cheshire is forced to team up with his unlucky summoner to get her the power to send him home.

It is difficult to describe how immensely charming this game is. The storybook atmosphere permeates every aspect, from the just-grim-enough plot to the pleasant storybook narrator and beautiful visuals. In many ways, it's a more enjoyable story than Bayonetta 3 was, and it feels like something the developers were engaged with. It's got a lot less cursing and overt violence than the series is known for, but it absolutely captures the magical tone that made Bayonetta such a distinctive franchise. It may start off simple, but by the end, there's no doubt this is a Platinum game.

Cereza is not the cool and confident Bayonetta we know, but she is incredibly likable, a fantastic portrayal of a young girl with a good heart and a terrible life struggling against terrifying monsters. Seeing her slowly develop from cowering and weak to confident and capable is a wonderful journey, and the game does a lot of little things to highlight that this is still Bayonetta at her core. Cheshire is a delightfully grumpy sidekick and makes me retroactively like his appearance in Bayonetta 3 more. Indeed, this game recontextualizes so much of Bayonetta 3 that it's bizarre it came out after that game.

The easiest way to describe the idea beyond Origins is that it is Bayonetta meets Zelda. Rather than raw combat, the game focuses on a lot of exploration, puzzles, getting new abilities, and using those abilities to find items like heart pieces and upgrade items. While you're dealing with interconnected locations instead of a more wide-open world map, it feels a lot like exploring a Zelda dungeon. There are tons of little secrets and collectibles, and the game manages to have a variety of locations, ranging from spooky forests to magical amusement parks and beyond.

Cheshire and Cereza need to be controlled at the same time. Cereza is bound to the left stick and Cheshire to the right. Likewise, Cereza's actions are mapped to the left shoulder buttons and Cheshire's to the right. It's a simple control scheme that works shockingly well. By default, Cereza can carry Cheshire around as a stuffed animal in Hug mode. Pressing the right bumper will unleash him and allow him to act on his own. However, he can't get too far away, or he runs out of magic power. While unleashed, Cheshire can use the right bumper for a special move. By default, this is a "reflect" that can parry attacks and reflect projectiles, but as the game progresses, you'll gain elemental forms that let you do things like create vine whips or water blasts. Cereza can't really fight, but she can use her magic to bind enemies and alter the environment.

The bulk of Origins involves solving puzzles by using various abilities — and usually by controlling both characters at once. Cereza might need to find a way to get Cheshire past rosemary to repel the demon, or Cheshire might need to block laser blasts while Cereza rushes past them. As the game progresses, the puzzles get more complex, and while they're never brain-bending, they are usually quite fun and clever. Again, the easiest comparison is a Zelda game, where using your ever-increasing arsenal of tools to solve puzzles is the name of the game.

Combat is similarly simple but engaging. Cereza and Cheshire work as a team, with Cheshire being the brawn and Cereza being the brains. Cheshire can attack with fairly basic combos — he unlocks more moves as the game progresses — and Cereza can bind foes to open them up to more powerful attacks from Cheshire. Cheshire can't die, but if he takes too much damage, he'll revert to stuffed animal form, forcing Cereza to bring him back in Hug mode to charge him up. Cereza can absolutely die and can't defend herself. You need to control both characters at once, keeping an eye on both of their respective health bars and positions.

This might sound overwhelming, but the simplicity of the control scheme works in its favor. You don't need to master specific button combos, as what you need to do can mostly be done with presses or holds of a single button for each character. This gives you more room to focus on the characters and how they are positioned. Enemies are not as aggressive as Bayonetta classic foes, so that keeps things from getting too overwhelming.

The combat in Origins isn't reminiscent of Bayonetta 3, but it's shockingly fun nonetheless. It starts off simply, but by the end, you're performing perfect dodges and combination attacks, and everything flows together in a way that feels cool. While it may lack the depth of Bayonetta 3's Demon Slave system, it is probably a lot easier to wrap your head around. The boss fights are engaging affairs that feel extremely fun, and I never felt like I was battling the controls or the concept.

I can't heap enough praise onto Origins for taking a difficult use concept and making it shine. Transitioning between Cereza and Cheshire feels so natural that I never realized how many things I was pulling off at the same time. It even makes some traditionally boring things, like pushing a box, more enjoyable because I can have Cheshire push the box while I have Cereza complete another part of the puzzle. It's not a super-complex game, but it is a great example of how simplicity isn't a bad thing.

It helps that Origins is jaw-droppingly beautiful. The aesthetic and art style are phenomenal, and the game goes all-in on the storybook aesthetic in a way that arguably makes it the best-looking Bayonetta title. The use of colors and visual effects goes a huge way toward making it stand out, and while it may not have the highest polygon count, it manages to be one of the most beautiful games I've played this year. Excellent voice acting and music bolster the whole package. It's a fantastic-looking game in motion and a delight to watch.

As much as I enjoyed Bayonetta 3, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon feels like the game that the team wanted to make. There's a level of raw love and care in this game that I associate with Platinum's best, and it made me smile as much as Wonderful 101 and Okami did. It's good enough that I can recommend it to people who aren't fans of the Bayonetta franchise. While it has a lot of story and gameplay callbacks, it stands well enough on its own merits that it can easily be enjoyed by those who couldn't get into Bayonetta.

Score: 9.0/10

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