“Bayonetta 3” Review

 

If there’s one word that best describes the original Bayonetta it’s “ridiculous.” The action was ridiculous; the story was ridiculous; and the character was so ridiculously sexualized that, over the course of the game, she went from being offensively sexist to a parody of sexist characterizations to being practically misandrist (i.e., man hating) in how her overt sexuality seemed to mock those who found her behavior sexy. It was utterly, gloriously, unrepentantly ridiculous — and also ridiculously fun. Which is also where we find Bayonetta 3 (Switch), which has the same ridiculous kind of combat, story, and capering as the first game.

Bayonetta 3

Like the previous games,

Bayonetta 3 is an acrobatic, third-person over-the-top hack & slash and shoot game in the vein of Devil May Cry, complete with dual pistols that never need reloading or more ammo. Except instead of playing as some demon hunting pretty boy, you play as a demon hunting pretty lady. Or, more accurately, a demon hunting pretty witch, one with long, luxurious, Crystal Gayle-level hair she not only wraps around her body as a skin-tight cat suit, but can also be used to magically slap some monsters upside the head, even if it does mean she’s buck naked during the attack.

When Bayonetta 3 opens, we find Bay (as I call her) in Manhattan right when a massive tidal wave is heading towards the city. Except it wasn’t created by a monsoon or some other natural disaster; it was caused by some very bad monsters. Needless to say, it’s up to Bayonetta, her stylish gal pals, and her ‘roided out boy toys, to save the city, and all the others under threat.

As with the earlier games, fighting in Bayonetta 3 is mostly done through a mix of melee, gunplay, magic, acrobatics, and a deep combo system that combines them into some effective attacks. Something the game’s fluid controls make easy to pull off.

What makes these encounters in Bayonetta 3 even more engaging…

is that Bay can summon, and take control of, some Infernal Demons. She can even equip up to three of them, easily deciding which she’d like to deploy on the fly, be it the giant lizard Gomorrah, who looks like Godzilla’s BFF Anguirus, or Madama Butterfly, who looks like Hella in Thor: Ragnarok if she was as tall as Ant-Man got at the airport in Captain America: Civil War.

Now, these Infernal Demons are not like smart bombs in an old arcade game. They don’t instantly kill everyone, even when you sic them on someone human size. They’re also under your control, punching when you tell them, or breathing what looks like radioactive fire breath. You also can’t just pull them out all willy-nilly; they have power meters that wind down (though they also recharge rather quickly), and you can’t summon them if you’re somewhere they won’t fit, like in a mall or a subway tunnel.

They’re also not like smart bombs in that they, like their master, can have their skills and abilities upgraded, and can be injured during combat. Though in their case they’re just unavailable for a few moments to, y’know, catch their breath or whatever. On the plus side, they can go some places Bay can’t, such as through a raging fire that’s between her and a conveniently located water tower.

Bayonetta 3

Not surprisingly,

using Infernal Demons to fight your battles for you also gets ridiculous since Bayonetta controls the demon by dancing around like a Vegas showgirl in a revue inspired by voguing. And while you’d think her enemies would realize what was going on and just step on her, they never do.

Bayonetta 3 similarly mixes things up in where all the fighting takes place. And I don’t just mean because you start out in Manhattan and then go to some other realm and then to the Shibuya section of Tokyo and so on. It also mixes up what kinds of places you get into fights, be it an open and mountainous area, cramped tunnels, or city streets that have been so badly destroyed that it’s like that scene in Doctor Strange where he was chasing Kaecilius through the mirror universe.

There are even times when you have to do a bit of platforming, though not a lot, and most of the challenge of them is lessened by Bay’s ability to jump multiple times and use butterfly wings to glide when need be.

Bayonetta 3

Oh,

and if you’re still not convinced of how unapologetically ridiculous Bayonetta 3 gets, some of the optional mission objectives include “Pick Up a hamburger” or “Scare stray cats with Infernal Demons 3 times.”

Taken all together, Bayonetta’s own moves, the help she gets from her demon pals, and where these fights go down work together to make the combat encounters in Bayonetta 3 as exciting as, well, those in the original Bayonetta.

That said, Bayonetta 3 is not as effortlessly fun as it could’ve been. But not because of the action. No, it’s because of the cutscenes, the many and lengthy cutscenes, and the story it tries to tell. Like the first Bayonetta, this game’s narrative is convoluted, told badly, and, well, ridiculous. There’s even elements of a multiverse at work in this story. Because of course there is. Which is why, after a while, I stopped paying attention to it…and ended up enjoying the game even more than when I was struggling to not laugh at how bad the story was being conveyed.

I also wish it was easier to skip the story. Unlike some games, which jump past their cutscenes if you even look at a button, Bayonetta 3 requires you to pause the game, go down two items on the menu, and then click the button to skip the cinematic. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but when you do it all the time, like me, it becomes a bit irritating.

In fact,

only good thing about the story in Bayonetta 3 is that, despite my fears to contrary, it never made me think of Sarah Palin or Lauren Boebert. Though Bayonetta shares their taste in glasses and haircuts, she never once acted like a woman who’d ask to see the manager when she doesn’t get the preferential treatment she so richly doesn’t deserve.

Sadly, Bayonetta 3‘s momentum-killing cutscenes are not this game’s only flaw. Her pistols, for instance, barely do any damage, especially against Anguirus-sized enemies, as rational as that may be.

Bayonetta 3 also breaks a cardinal rule that I have about games (and movies, and TV shows): It sometimes cuts away from a big moment. After defeating a giant monster that stands between you and the end of a level, the game stops to display your score rather than letting you watch the creature die in what you’d expect to be spectacular fashion. It’s like if Star Wars: A New Hope or Return Of The Jedi cut away right when the Death Star started to explode.

It should also be said that the scale of Bayonetta 3 works best on a big TV, not when using your Switch as a handheld. It really loses something when played on a small screen.

Bayonetta 3

Despite all the issues I’ve raised, though,

Bayonetta 3 is still a lot of fun. Sure, it gets silly, pitting some nice lady against a giant demon. And her overtly sexual behavior could be a problem for some people…or a searing indictment of someone’s sexist attitudes. And I didn’t mention the terrible music (mostly because I quickly turned it off). But with fluid, deep, and (say it with me) ridiculous action, it’s hard not to see this as big dumb fun. Just don’t tell her I said that; I’d hate to get hair slapped.

SCORE: 7.5/10

 

 

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