Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is a pleasant surprise. Released mere months after Bayonetta 3, the game offers a pseudo origin story for the coquettish witch. It does so differently but similarly to the games that came before it. I wrote at length about how the game’s opening chapters felt simplistic but held high hope that it would turn around as the game progressed. Now, having finished the entirety of the experience, I’m pleasantly surprised. Yes, Cereza and the Lost Demon is a different experience from the Bayonetta games as we know them, but it’s a direction that I wouldn’t mind seeing more games borrow from in the future.
Definitively, Cereza and the Lost Demon takes place before the events of the original Bayonetta. You play as Cereza, an Umbran Witch in training, who sees her mother locked up by the coven for cavorting with a Lumen Sage. Cereza is thus raised by Morgana, a strict teacher who only wants the best for her pupil. Following visions coming to her in a dream, Cereza heads into the mysterious Avalon Forest, looking for power to save her mother. Simultaneously, she summons a demon named Cheshire, who needs something in the forest to find his way home. The two head off into the woods and form an unlikely alliance.
While this is a prequel to the trio of games that came before it, Bayonetta Origins does a great job of adding much-needed context to the events of Bayonetta 3. There are many references to the other games and characters directly referenced between the two. Putting that aside, the game exists as a standalone experience too. Regardless of what you know about Bayonetta, in Cereza and the Lost Demon, it’s a joy to see Cereza start off lacking confidence and eventually become the Bayonetta we know today. Cheshire is similarly a fun foil to Cereza’s inexperienced nature. I was surprised to find myself caring so much about both of them towards the end of the game’s story.
As you’d probably know by now, Cereza and the Lost Demon isn’t a typical Bayonetta game. Instead, it plays most like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. A third-person game presented from an overlooking camera, each of the thumbsticks controls Cereza and Cheshire independently. Cereza can use her entry-level magic to interact with elements of the forest and temporarily debuff enemies. Cheshire is the primary damage dealer and can utilise a wealth of abilities to protect himself and Cereza from damage. It doesn’t sound straightforward, but it comes together relatively intuitively.
When you’re not exploring the many areas of the Avalon Forest, you’ll be in combat. During combat, Cereza can use her magic to bind enemies – slowing them down or bringing them to a halt entirely. On the other hand, Cheshire can attack with melee attacks and even perform flashy combos if he’s attacking enemies already bound by Cereza. It can get a bit intense, but it’s a serviceable combat system that perfectly complements the simplistic nature of the adventure. I spent most of the time in combat watching Cheshire, so you won’t always feel overwhelmed having to control both characters in battle.
But as you progress through the game, more abilities are doled out to the duo that keeps things interesting. Without ruining anything, Cheshire gains abilities associated with the elements such as projectiles or heavy hitting slam attacks. Cereza also gets more abilities, which I won’t ruin here, but the brunt of the combat focus is on Cheshire. He has a nice range of abilities to unlock, and a surprisingly large and detailed skill tree helps unlock more abilities for both Cereza and Cheshire.
What surprised me even more about Cereza and the Lost Demon was the breadth of enemy types you encounter and even the boss battles. While they’re not as numerous as Bayonetta or as bombastic, they come close. Some of the set pieces feel closer to the first three games than anything else in terms of their action and intensity. It’s almost intentional that as Cereza progresses through the story and starts to resemble Bayonetta from a skill perspective, the game she’s in begins to resemble the games she will be in.
But outside of combat, Cereza and Cheshire can use their abilities, often together, to navigate the forest. A semi-open world, the forest is filled with collectibles that enhance abilities or health and many of them can be found after unlocking a new upgrade for the pair. Cereza can throw Cheshire to others areas as a miniature doll to open up new areas. Cheshire can use his water form to move around bodies of water while his fire form melts ice. There’s more, too, and the puzzles you encounter are by no means complex. However, it’s still satisfying to backtrack and find a new area to explore after obtaining something new.
If you’re connecting the dots, then you’ll probably think that Cereza and the Lost Demon borrows a bit from Metroid. And it does. The Avalon Forest and its surrounding areas can all be freely roamed to find collectibles and eventually unlock costumes for the duo after completing the game. “Sanctuaries” act as little spots for Cereza to rest but also as save and fast travel points. It’s a semi-open world that invites you to explore it if you wish, mainly to improve abilities and stats, but you can be engaged with as much or as little as you want to.
However, things get a bit more involved with the Tír na nÓg areas. These are otherworldly locales that are peppered throughout the map. Some are essential to continue, and others are optional. They’re essentially puzzle trials that Cereza and Cheshire must complete to “purify” the area and highlight other activities near the Tír na nÓg. Sometimes they’re combat trials, similar to the Alfheims from the original Bayonetta. Overall, they’re a great break from exploration and combat to offer a more honed puzzle experience.
Putting this all together, Cereza and the Lost Demon is a comprehensive action-adventure title. There’s a wealth of accessibility options if you’re struggling, but I’d estimate most players could get at least twelve to fifteen hours out of the adventure. Upon finishing, there’s still more to find in the forest and even a secondary story to unlock and play through. My only real complaint, and even then it’s not a huge one, is that this could’ve benefitted from some co-op functionality in some way, though it’s by no means a deal breaker. My first impression of this game was that it might be one-and-done, but with so much to unlock and see, Cereza and the Lost Demon is anything but phoned-in.
This notion can especially be applied to the game’s presentation. Most of the story is told through a mix of lore-filled collectibles and storybook-style cutscenes that, while static in their approach, are meticulously voiced by a strong cast of actors. Combine this with an artistic style that looks like a hand-painted watercolour painting, and you have something distinct and special. Performance-wise, the game runs close to sixty frames while docked and closer to thirty frames while portable. It’s by no means the worst running game on the Switch, but it’s not the best, either. It sits firmly in the middle.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is a fun and unexpectedly fleshed-out experience that seeks to only better illustrate the potential of what Bayonetta can be beyond action games. Its combination of engaging puzzles, simple but enjoyable combat and inviting exploration more than outdoes its slow start and simple combat. While it's a story that didn't need to be told, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is a bewitching experience overall.