It’s hard to believe, but Bayonetta 3 is very close. Arriving eight years after the first game, Bayonetta 3 is an entirely different beast to the original two games. And perhaps I mean that literally – as a lot of the combat has been redesigned to center around Bayonetta’s infernal beasts this time. But is it still the Bayonetta 3 that we know and love? It’s no doubt up for debate, but with the time that I’ve had with a few chapters plucked from the final game, it’s still as cheeky and as charming as ever, and I can’t wait to get to the rest of the game when it launches later this month.
The game still follows the same format as the other games. You play mainly as Bayonetta, as she combats various enemies using a combination of outlandish weapons and devastating melee attacks. All of the abilities that you are familiar with return in some form to Bayonetta 3. Wicked Weaves, which sees Bayonetta summoning carry out devastating attacks from demons of other dimensions are still here and are perhaps more common than ever. Even torture attacks, which sees Bayonetta using a garish torture device to inflict more-than-normal damage to weakened enemies. She can even still climax (stay with me) to summon the demons she has contracts with to finish off enemies in a grand display.
But the infernal demons themselves play a much more active role in battle now. While there’s story reasons for why that is, which I won’t reveal here, it does change up the flow of Bayonetta 3’s combat entirely. At any point in combat, you can hold a shoulder button while attacking to summon one of Bayonetta’s demons to attack for her. The demon then stays on screen, as Bayonetta dances (yes, dances) to enslave it as she issues it commands. It’s understandably much slower than she is, and you lose control of Bayonetta herself when actively enslaving the demons, but they deal a lot more damage than her.
As you’d expect, this mechanic really changes up how you approach battles. For one part, you can summon the demons for a prolonged period to deal massive damage. But some enemies might have harder outer shells that need smashing, and your infernal demons will be able to do that for you. It might sound like it ruins the flow of battle, but the shoulder button can also be tapped at the right time during a combo to summon the demon for a single attack without abruptly ending your combo. Working out the best time to summon one of your demons is the key to mastering the flow of combat in Bayonetta 3, and while it’s different to the previous games, it makes the game feel like a fuller-fledged sequel than an iterative one.
I say “one of your demons” because there’s a few that you’ll be able to use in Bayonetta 3. During the chapters included in this preview, I only had access to three. Gommorah is the dragon-like beasts who moves slow and hits heavy. He can also breathe fire on command if you have multiple enemies to deal with. Madama Butterfly is much faster and more or less mimics Bayonetta’s moveset, only she’s bigger. Phantasmaraneae is a lava filled spider and easily the fastest of the three beasts and can attack with his arms or scorpion-like tail. He can also spit web to slow down enemies. Each of the three have a unique set of skills you can utilise in battle and can be hot-swapped at any point using the D-Pad during combat.
The other new mechanic is Demon Masquerade, which sees Bayonetta merging with the demon she’s channelling to pull off attacks that she normally couldn’t. This essentially replaces the weapons system of the previous two games – each weapon is equipped as a full set now rather than being able to set Bayonetta’s arms and legs separately. Instead, you equip a weapon and it’s associated demon and Bayonetta’s entire moveset will change accordingly.
As an example, Bayonetta’s new pistol set, Colour My World, are bonded with Madama Butterfly. That this means is that during certain moves, Bayonetta will fuse with that demon mid-combo to deliver devastating attacks. It’s admittedly a largely cosmetic change – but it’s so much flashier than anything seen in Bayonetta before. Your equipped weapon, then, affects your traversal options as well as a super move that you have access to during combat. Colour My World offers Madama Butterfly, who Bayonetta can fuse with to offer a longer jump thanks to her fluttering wings during demon masquerade.
Other weapons (and thus demons) offer something else. G-Pillar is a gigantic club that is incredibly slow but powerful but can also be flipped around to function as a highly penetrative anti-materiel rifle. It’s bonded demon, Gamorrah, allows Bayonetta to run incredibly fast (almost like a gorilla) and jump very long distances with a charge jump. The final weapon of this preview, the Ignis Araneae Yo-Yo, is bonded with Phantasmaraneae and is a set of transforming, razor-edged yoyos that gives Bayonetta the ability to crawl across surfaces like a spider when equipped.
It might sound confusing when compared to previous games, but it isn’t. The core mechanics are still here, they’ve just been expanded to be a whole lot flashier and a lot more chaotic. The flow of battle is still fantastic, and it feels like more of a sequel than Bayonetta 2 did. Adding to that is yet another playable character in Viola, who did nothing but give me concerns when I first saw her in trailers.
Viola is cringe on paper. She’s an edgy, brooding witch in training who looks like she exclusively shops at Zing or Hot Topic. But she’s actually pretty fun and subverts pretty much all your expectations of her as a character. Like Nero to Dante, she has a single weapon to master, though this doesn’t mean she’s less fun. Rather, she feels a bit more technical to Bayonetta. Her witch time is triggered by parrying rather than dodging, and when she summons her own special demon named Cheshire, he fights alongside her rather than taking away control from Viola. It’s early days, but for now, I’m keen to play more of Viola in the rest of the game at the end of the month.
All in all, the new mechanics in Bayonetta 3 only seek to cement this game as a worthy sequel to the games that came before it. So much here is new and thusly unknown, which might lead to some apprehension from fans who aren’t sure what to expect. But while Bayonetta sounds different and plays differently this time, it’s clear that Bayonetta 3 features the signature charm and wit we’ve all come to know and love.