Bayonetta has one of the most interesting histories in modern gaming. After the original game experienced trouble on PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, the series had issues gaining traction. Eventually Nintendo stepped up and allowed Platinum Games to make a sequel. Since then the character has seen some support, such as being included in Super Smash Bros., along with the controversial and recently released Bayonetta 3. The latest entry in the franchise, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon, takes things in a very different direction. With the unusual prequel giving players a very different look at the beloved character, is it a slam dunk or were they crazy to attempt it?
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is a rather interesting idea for a spin-off. Fans of the original games should have a general understanding of Cereza’s past. Having both Sage and Umbra blood, Cereza was an outcast that had a rather rough life. Something made worse by her mother being punished for said relationship. She got through this with the help of Cheshire, her beloved stuffed animal, and friend Jeanne.
These broad strokes give Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon a lot to work with. Cereza’s journey is undeniably emotional, with an outcome that is arguably inspirational. I might not call Bayonetta a role model, but there is no denying she is a character who beat their tragic past.
One thing I greatly appreciate about Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is their approach to Cereza herself. Simply put, she is not just Bayonetta in a younger body. Instead, Cereza is a far more relatable young woman. Her situation is hard, she wants to be close to her mother, and lacks the confidence to make a difference.
What makes this approach work is a clear understanding of the prequel nature. Instead of trying to keep players guessing, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon shows Cereza gradually transition to the Bayonetta we know. How she gains confidence, where some of her quirks came from, to even giving players an understanding of how she overcame her circumstances. It makes things enjoyable, something that is further improved by the storybook approach.
The Art Style is Really Quite Lovely
Instead of going for the more realistic look of the mainline games, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon goes all in on a storybook. Cutscenes are presented as pages in a book, there is a narrator that sets the mood, to even a more childlike art style. I actually much prefer this to what we saw in Bayonetta 3. Not only does it look better, the whimsical feel encapsulates youthful innocence present in this Cereza. It’s the perfect contrast to the mainlines serious look, which is more commonly associated with being mature.
Where things start to go south is gameplay. It makes sense Cereza is nowhere near as powerful as her adult form, though I feel like there could be better balance. Most of the adventure is linear, with the occasional alternate path for resources, and other optional goodies. Most problems are solved by figuring out the puzzle, which ranges from climbing the side, to dancing so plants reveal the path forward.
When you gain access to Cheshire, a nameless demon stuck in the body of Cereza’s prized stuffed animal, things start to open up. Cheshire can attack, open new paths, or explore different sections of the map. Unsurprisingly, later enemies require the two to work together. Cereza is good at making enemies vulnerable, allowing Cheshire to strike them down. It just never reaches the depth associated with the franchise.
Often times the solutions are obvious. Even if you don’t recognize it, trial and error will often be enough to accidentally progress. Combat also takes a while to require much effort. As you unlock more skills enemies will advance to push you to greater heights, though it never hits anywhere near as difficult as the mainline series.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon Review Verdict
At the end of the day, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is an interesting title. I don’t know if we needed an origin story for Bayonetta, though it makes a strong enough case to justify its existence. The different approach might turn some fans off, though those willing to give it a go will likely be presently surprised. With a great art revealing an even greater story, there is a lot to experience, even if the actual gameplay is not that complicated.
[Editor’s Note: Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon was reviewed on Nintendo Switch, and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]