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Bayonetta’s new spinoff can’t decide what it wants to be


Last year’s edition of bayonet 3 heralded major changes for the character action series. Combat is more forgiving than in previous entries, with fewer hellish encounters and a greater variety of playstyles available. Platforming and stealth sequences are much more prominent and complement the brawling and boss battles that remain the mainstays of the series. Features like Angel Mode – which covers Bayonetta’s ultimate moves of undressing clothes – and the new, younger, less overtly sexual characters like Viola abandon Bayonetta’s provocative, sexy, and irreverent tradition in favor of a more family-friendly tone. Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon reinforces this broader, more accessible direction.

We play as Cereza, a tweenage witch (as well as the titular Bayonetta earlier in life) who rebels against Morgana, an umbra witch living on the fringes of society, absorbing the protagonist and learning her magic. Cereza has a dream about a strange boy and a white wolf that will help her develop enough strength to free her mother, Rosa, from prison. Accepting this fate, she enters Avalon Forest and tries to summon a demon to help her. Unfortunately, she is too weak to contract with the entity and ends up owning her beloved stuffed cat, Cheshire. From now on, she and Cheshire explore the forest together, fight fairies, bicker with each other and grow closer as a result. The gameplay loop is a mix of platforming, puzzle solving, and very simple combat (no elaborate combos or coffin guns here).

Image: PlatinumGames/Nintendo

This loop is repeated over the course of the 12-hour story: enter an area, explore, battle fairies in battle stages, and find the four elemental cores hidden in the forest to increase Cheshire’s power. Individual zones are beautifully illustrated with pleasant soundtracks, and some parts are skill dependent to encourage players to return later when they are stronger. Not only does exploration of the forest quickly become mundane, but so do the combat encounters, both against peons and bosses. In developer PlatinumGames’ apparent attempt to make Bayonetta more palatable to a wider range of players (which I think it succeeded in doing), the punishing challenge and excitement that initially drew me to the series has evaporated. Approachability can work wonders for bringing in new players, but there’s a hole in the middle of it Cereza and the Lost Demon careless.

As for those characters, can we really have a Bayonetta game without tight (and vanishing) costumes, overtly sexual dancing, and heel guns? I think it’s possible. But Cereza and the Lost Demon fails to bridge that gap. Platinum gives us a glimpse into the witch’s early life and unique relationship with the demons she wields, but it lacks the “fuck you” attitude and gunfights that made the earlier games so propulsive. The title feels more like a family-friendly fanfic attempting the wild finale of bayonet 3 back to the witch’s childhood. Is it sweet, frothy, and the easiest (in a mechanical sense) entry point for those new to the franchise? Absolute. But does it push the envelope, like the previous games, for better or for worse? I’m not so sure.

Cereza launches a fiery magical attack on an enemy in Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon

Image: PlatinumGames/Nintendo

All told, Cereza and the Lost Demon feels less like a new take on the series’ DNA, and more like a concession – one that’s meant to appeal to every possible denominator (and age group). There were so many other stories, relationships, and mechanics that could have been explored to make this title not only as detailed as the originals, but more rewarding for series veterans and newcomers alike. Perhaps Platinum will continue to explore origin stories in the future and strike a better balance. However, at the moment I am not optimistic.

If you’re looking for a cute, cozy platformer with simple combat mechanics and a playful story, look no further than Cereza and the Lost Demon. For those, like me, hoping to see how Cereza really gained her power and harnessed the seduction and raw magical prowess necessary to become the ultimate umbra witch, this game is a miss. And that’s fine. I wish this new approach made me as excited as the previous one. I appreciate approachability – but Bayonetta has always been a series about walking the line, and nothing about this title took a chance. I hope the next approach is worthy enough to stand alone among the best games of the series.

Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon will be released on Nintendo Switch on March 17th. The game was reviewed using a pre-release download code from Nintendo. Vox Media has partnerships. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find additional information on Polygon’s Ethics Policy here.

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