The White Wolf dodges from the thick foliage of the forest, leaving only its footprints for the black-haired young girl and her demon-possessed stuffed animal to chase. Against common sense, the two suppress their fear and venture deeper into the forest. At least they don’t have to worry about witches – after all, the young girl is one.
As I navigate this beautiful, fairytale-inspired world, I have to stop and remind myself: This is a Bayonetta game.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is an unconventional prequel to Nintendo’s iconic action franchise developed by PlatinumGames. Released less than five months later bayonet 3, there are few similarities to its predecessor beyond the name. However, the transition from bold, mature action game to family-friendly puzzle-platformer is made with surprising style and sincerity.
With the bitter aftertaste left by the end of the trilogy, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is the perfect sweet treat to convince lapsed fans that the series can still be special.
In the forest
Bayonetta is synonymous with high-octane action combat and camp stories brimming with sexual humor. And it’s all held together by the flawless protagonist, who is the titular Umbran witch.
Bayonet origins has none of that.
Instead, the story follows a young Bayonetta (named Cereza) who finds herself on an unexpected adventure that requires her to form a temporary partnership with a demon she names Cheshire (after the stuffed animal he owns).
Stylistically, the game establishes a unique visual identity, that of a picture book. From the title screen, reminiscent of the openings of the Disney princess films, to the watercolor world and character design, everything oozes with artistic intent. This continues with flourishes like the game’s narrator putting on a monster voice as he reads Cheshire’s dialogue, and beautiful cutscenes rendered as moving illustrations on the pages of a book being flipped through.
The Bayonetta franchise has always borrowed vocabulary from various pieces of history and art, especially Dante’s Divine Comedy and Norse mythology. Bayonet origins continues this trend by evoking the Grimm fairy tales as well as Germanic fairy mythology. Like so many other fairy tales about the innate fear of the forest, Cereza’s journey takes place on a night where she finds herself trapped in the Avalon forest, the domain of the fairies. This narrative and artistic cohesion is downright masterful.
Nobody is alone
As mentioned in the title, Cereza and the lost demon, our story has two protagonists. The story of Cereza and Cheshire’s forest adventure leads to the main mechanical focus of the game. The player controls both characters with their respective sides of the controller – Cereza on the left and Cheshire on the right.
Similar to the indie puzzle platformer Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Bayonet origins challenges you to use the strengths of both characters to navigate the puzzles of Avalon Forest. Unlike the powerful witch she will grow into, Cereza is not a fighter Bayonet origins. Her main ability is to use Witch Pulse to grow crops and open new paths or tie enemies in place during battle. Cheshire is the muscle that unleashes its claws and teeth on enemies or pesky barriers blocking the couple’s path.
Avalon Forest itself is terrifyingly large. It’s full of secrets to solve, collectibles to find, and friends to rescue. As I rolled the credits, I was approaching the twenty hour mark. There are also Tír na nÓg stages throughout the forest, which act as small dungeons. These can be highlights Bayonet origins, especially the phases that really challenge the player to use the tools at their disposal and to develop intelligent cooperative solutions for the future. Unfortunately, too many of these stages are just battle arenas where you have to defeat a small wave of enemies. There is no greater disappointment Bayonet origins than to reach a tír na nÓg and realize that it is a combat encounter. Which highlights one weakness of the game in general – combat.
In combat encounters, I never used Cereza in the way the game suggested, but it never seemed necessary. Cheshire can effectively defeat 99 percent of enemies Bayonet origins Without Cereza’s help, she only becomes really useful in combat during boss fights that require her Witch Pulse at crucial moments. There’s also an extensive skill tree for both characters to gain new abilities in battle, even encouraging you to use special combos. While this may be an attempt to maintain a connection to the main series’ plot, it’s not deserved Bayonet origins. It can also be quite difficult to perform a combo on one side of the controller while trying to do something else on the other side. Outside of combat, however, the synergy between Chesire and Cereza works beautifully and makes for some really joyful puzzle solving.
Despite all these differences Bayonet origins manages to feel connected to its predecessors. Cereza is portrayed as a confident (if often stubborn) witch in training who has something to prove to her teacher and mother figure, Morgana. The cheek that fills Cereza’s dialogue is a believable prequel to the main trilogy. It’s a personality that works so well when placed next to Cheshire.
The growing bond between the two is far from original, it’s another instance of the baby-kid bigfriend dynamic. Still Bayonet origins twists this formula by making the truth that neither of them is really the big friend, they are both scared kids who only have each other. This leads to emotionally resonant moments where both put aside their own struggles to be strong for the other in times of need. Without spoiling anything, it also leads to an incredible mechanical and narrative payoff near the game’s finale that had me screaming with delight.
As someone who felt burned by the franchise after the disappointing finale bayonet 3, I didn’t see that I would ever get excited about the franchise again. While the initial announcement of the unconventional follow-up is that Bayonet origins interested me, I had no way of knowing what this game would become. It’s a complete breath of fresh air that managed to win me back thanks to its stunning art style, fun puzzle platforming, and heartfelt narrative that all feels cohesive.
Bayonet origins is a storybook adventure filled with childish wonder and is exactly what the franchise needed.
Bayonet origins will be released on March 17th for Nintendo Switch. The opposite reviewed the game on Nintendo Switch.
REVERSAL VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: Everyone The opposite Video Game Review answers two questions: Is this game worth your time? Do you get what you pay for? We have zero tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or bugs that dilute the experience. We care a lot about the design of a game, world building, character arcs and storytelling all come together. The opposite will never strike, but we are not afraid to strike. We love magic and sci-fi alike, and as much as we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real-world context in which these games are made.