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Bayonetta 3

Review: ‘Bayonetta 3’ made me lose interest in one of my favorite series

Bayonetta 3 boasts improved combat with unique weapons and stylish combos, but it falls flat in nearly all other aspects, resulting in a disappointing mess.

How does a game simultaneously feature some of the most outrageous, spectacular set-pieces while also feeling completely boring and lifeless? Bayonetta 3 somehow manages to do just that. You can fly around town slinging webs as a giant spider demon and control a huge kaiju surfing on cruise ships in the middle of the ocean, but it also feels like a total snooze-fest half the time.

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There are some absolutely insane sequences, but the storytelling and worldbuilding put me to sleep. Half the game feels like a cutscene or cinematic where we watch Bayonetta do something cool. And that’s awesome. I love when Bayonetta does cool stuff. I love it even more when I get to do said cool stuff. The cutscenes typically don’t further along the story or provide character development, they’re really just cool scenes where Bayonetta does… well, cool stuff.

When I’m able to take control and rack up cool combos is where Bayonetta 3 shines. Fight sequences — whether they’re multiple enemies rushing in at once or a cool boss fight — are the best parts of the game. As with previous entries in the series, the combat feels slick and stylish, showing off the eponymous witch’s smooth moves and confidence in style. I love stomping the hell out of angels and demons or shooting guns from my high heels and spinning around doing little tricks. Bayonetta 3 has an incredible combat system that can be as challenging as you want it to be, with tons of unique weapons and demons to summon to do your bidding.

Screenshot via Nintendo

Bayonetta is one of my favorite video game characters, and I’ve always felt empowered by her. Here’s a woman who is clearly confident in her femininity and in charge of her own sexuality in a way that felt feminist and empowering to other women. Not only does the story in Bayonetta 3 completely shatter that image, but even the way she moves and talks felt wrong. Maybe that has something to do with the change in voice actor, but I think it goes deeper. And with a plot exploring the multiverse, you’d think this would be a perfect chance to explore that strength and power in her sexy demeanor, but in reality, the developers just give alternative universe Bayonettas different colored hair or a bad accent. The story just falls so completely flat for me, especially with all the potential a multiverse storyline could provide.

I write this review with a Bayonetta amiibo on my desk. She’s posed and ready to kick some butt, guns in hand and also on foot. To me, she’s a symbol of feminine strength in video games. She’s not perfect, and any female story told from a male point-of-view is going to have some flaws, but she’s my Bayonetta. Maybe the multiverse could have explored the fact that Bayonetta means different things to different people, and across all our minds, different versions of her exist. But instead, they did… whatever they did.

To the game’s benefit, the overall character designs are fabulous as always, and the set pieces are fun spectacles with thrilling finales. The story has never been particularly coherent in previous titles, but I at least felt somewhat engaged in the first and second games. Bayonetta 3 is such a jumbled mess that makes absolutely no sense that I gave up on even bothering to understand what was going on. It isn’t even presented in a way that made sense or made me care about what was going on.

Screenshot via Nintendo

Other characters feel off, too. Jeanne is hardly featured in the game at all, and while I don’t want to dive too deep into the relationship dynamic between her and Bayonetta, I think the chemistry she shares with Bayonetta in previous games drives some of the more interesting scenes. Some of the opening sequences in both Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 have you fight alongside Jeanne or fight for Jeanne, yet she is largely left out of Bayonetta 3, which is a real shame. A new character, Viola, is obviously meant to be clumsy and unconfident in her abilities — as she’s still a witch-in-training — but she comes off as rather annoying. As for Luka, I’ve always loved his awkward charm, but in this game, he might as well be someone else entirely.

Bayonetta 3 feels so disconnected from the rest of the series, and honestly, I’m just disappointed with it. It also would have been nice to experience it on any other console besides the Switch. While the characters do look particularly crisp, the visuals feel completely lackluster. Compared to a game like Devil May Cry V, Bayonetta 3 can only really compete with its combat. Otherwise, DMC V has it beat in graphics, character development, voice acting, writing — the list goes on and on.

I feel most disappointed with Bayonetta 3 because there’s so much wasted potential. The series has built a strong foundation from its characters and themes, and there’s an ample amount of lore to be explored. Instead, while it remains incredibly stylish and improves upon its sleek combat, the story offered here falls completely flat. For now, I’ll keep my Bayonetta amiibo on my desk as a reminder of the version that lives on in my heart.

This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A copy was provided to us by Nintendo.

Bayonetta 3
Bayonetta 3 boasts improved combat with unique weapons and stylish combos, but it falls flat in nearly all other aspects, resulting in a disappointing mess.

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