Eight years have passed since the last entry in the Bayonetta series, but Bayonetta 3 still garners a great deal of attention for its unique blend of bombastic, over-the-top combat mixed with broad comedy and campy demonic scenarios.
Yes, campy and demonic are two words that you wouldn’t ordinarily consider to be easy friends, but they definitely stand hand-in-hand here, along with witches, angels and the like.
This action-adventure fighting series has long been known for its broadly colorful battling visuals in an ongoing struggle between angels, demons, witches and sages. And the central figure in this timeline-hopping squabble is a half-witch/ half-sage, bespectacled gal named Bayonetta, who unleashes pain while she struts around in high heels and skintight fashion couture.
In this current game tale, a supernatural storm hits New York City and Bayonetta is forced to take on a new enemy—a neither-angel-nor-demon collective called the homunculi. This foe doesn’t just want New York, it hopes to eradicate Bayonetta from each and every multiverse in which she exists.
The fact is, however, that the story behind this game is really only there to serve the frenetic battles, and not much else. Fast-paced gameplay is key. Players are given Bayonetta’s kick, punch and shooting abilities that can be blended and linked together in complex, visually impressive combos. A series of other abilities and elements can be layered throughout the fights, too.
Perfectly timed dodges are an important part of things, for instance, and they result in something called “witch time,” in which enemies are slowed down for a short while to aid Bayonetta’s attacks and combos.
Rock ‘em, sock ‘em and blast ‘em battle also charges up Bayonetta’s special abilities, which are typically unleashed when Bayonetta chants out spells and calls upon demons in her battles. For instance, the demon masquerade special allows her to adopt one of her demon helper’s abilities, while the demon slave special lets her call forth one of three chosen demons and unleash its special attacks on a massive foe while Bayonetta dances sensually nearby.
That sensuality is a big part of things.
There are other games in this genre style that opt for more realism or weight, but Bayonetta’s combat centers in on something closer to slightly erotic athletic acrobatics. The attacks are all performed in swirling cinematic showdowns with winks and nods toward feminine sexuality.
Players can approach this fast-paced play with a lot of quick button-mashing. But the fact is that if they don’t take the time to properly learn and time out the game’s complex fighting system, they will eventually find this game’s increasingly difficult enemies and onrushing hordes to be a bit overwhelming.
If you’re into polished, eye-candy combat, ridiculous cutscenes, anime-style elbow-nudging gags and frenetic demonic battle, Bayonetta 3 does everything it can to cover the bill. The game is undeniably colorful and stylish while easing beginning players into its rather complex combat system.
Bayonetta 3’s death dealing is broad but constant. Bayonetta uses magic, swords, guns, bizarre weaponry and demons to rip into foes that range from human-sized to massive mountain-sized creatures. People and creatures are impaled and sometimes ripped to pieces. Blood spouts from humans and the beasties spew different colored goo.
We also witness large environmental catastrophes, such as collapsing bridges, crumbling skyscrapers and engulfing tsunamis that apparently kill thousands if not millions of innocents.
The erotic element mentioned above involves both Bayonetta herself and those around her. The game’s protagonist moves sensually and suggestively during combat and dresses her curvy frame in as little as small strips of tightly-stretched cloth. She also goes through clothing and body transformations that can leave her vital areas covered only by her long hair or the angle of the camera lens.
Bayonetta’s massive demon helpers also expose quite a bit of female flesh, covered in fur or small bits of cloth or metal armor. And other human characters can be caught in next-to-naked situations. In and around that flesh-baring action there are also repeated crude references to sexuality or sexual activities.
And, of course, the surroundings and story of this game focus on many dark spiritual activities and battles. It’s all played in a broad, somewhat jokey context, but conversations about witches, spells, summoning and demonic battles can be potentially confusing for young players and damaging all on their own.
On top of all that, there’s also quite a bit of alcohol and cigar-smoking references, and someone puffs on what could be a crack pipe. Language can get quite rough at times, too, with inclusions of f-words, s-words, uses of “d–n,” “b–ch” and “h—” and blasphemes of Jesus name.
There is no question that the colorful Bayonetta 3, especially when played on a Nintendo Switch, is bound to attract the attention of younger players. But parents ought to look more closely at what this M-rated game delivers.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.