Eight years. That’s how long we’ve waited for Bayonetta 3. Eight freaking years. But, unbelievably, it seems like the wait might’ve been worth it.
I got to play an extremely brief snippet of Bayonetta 3, the newest joint from the action game aficionados at Platinum Games, at a Nintendo preview event this week. It’s a Nintendo Switch exclusive that launches on Oct. 28, an agonizingly long time after the 2014 release of Bayonetta 2 on Wii U.
Fans (myself included) have been wondering just what the heck could be taking so long to get this game out the door. Well, after a tantalizing 10 to 15 minutes with it, I think the answer is “duh, it’s Bayonetta, so it’s super excessive and ridiculous.”
Like its predecessors, Bayonetta 3 follows the titular witch as she does battle against all kinds of weird supernatural creatures. All of her trademarks are still here: Bayonetta still dual-wields pistols while rocking another pair of pistols in her shoes, and she still transforms her hair into gigantic demon monsters to help out during fights.
It’s totally normal stuff, in other words.
The demo began in a subway train in Tokyo, but it quickly went off the rails (pun intended, of course) as a gigantic monster threw the train into the air, along with a bunch of buildings. This prompted Bayonetta to summon a huge demon called Gomorrah so she could ride it through a mostly on-rails sequence where the player's only involvement consisted of dodging wayward train cars.
That, in and of itself, was visually impressive and silly in all the ways Bayonetta has been in the past. But the partnership between Bayonetta and her demon pets (which you could previously summon for flashy killing blows in the other games) was the big standout from this demo. Once I was on-foot in the middle of monster-infested Shibuya, I was able to hold the left trigger to summon Gomorrah and control it directly, while Bayonetta was still in the field.
It carries shades of Platinum’s older Switch game Astral Chain, as all of Bayonetta’s attacks at that point were replaced by massive swings of Gomorrah’s dragon claws and tail. This came in handy for dealing with three school bus-sized monsters who decided to try me all at once; directly controlling Bayonetta didn’t deal much damage to them, but they went down quickly when faced with Gomorrah. It felt extremely cool, which was a major theme of the demo.
That said, this is still very much a Bayonetta game. One sequence in the demo took place in a room that was too small to summon demons in, forcing me to deal with the enemies regular-style using Bayonetta’s iconic trio of punches, kicks, and guns. You can string together light and heavy attacks into combos like always, and just as in previous games, holding any attack button results in Bayonetta stopping the combo string to fire her guns instead.
Is that especially useful? Not really. Does it look cool as hell? Absolutely.
The basic combat structure is mostly unchanged here, which is for the best. Bayonetta has always been among the tightest and most satisfying action games out there, and part of what makes it work is how approachable it is. A key part of combat is dodging enemy attacks at just the right moment to activate Witch Time, slowing down the world around you so you can fit in some extra hits before enemies can react. That’s still here, and the window for successfully activating Witch Time is massive. You don’t need cat-like reflexes to do it, and that’s a good thing.
With that being the case, Bayonetta 3 is a game that makes you feel incredibly cool every five seconds or so. Whether you’re deftly dodging flying subway trains on the back of a demon, commanding said demon to annihilate big monsters, or dealing with smaller grunt monsters directly using Bayonetta’s guns, the whole experience is tailor-made to activate dopamine as often as possible. I hadn’t played a Bayonetta game in years and I was activating Witch Time and doling out huge damage within seconds of taking control.
And yes, at least on the default difficulty, you can basically get away with button mashing. Higher difficulty settings will probably require and reward more technical play, but if you’ve been waiting to jump on the Bayonetta train until now, I think you can safely start here.
The most exciting part is that there’s still so much more I didn’t get to see. You’ll be able to unlock new demons, new weapons, and presumably new moves over time, and there’s even a second protagonist (a katana-wielding woman named Viola) who I didn’t get to play at all. I came away from the Bayonetta 3 demo thinking two things: This is just a bigger and better version of what it’s always been, and I can’t wait to play more next month.