Bayonetta 3 is the return to a franchise after eight years of waiting. Published by Nintendo and developed by PlatinumGames, this action-filled romp is all about the absurdity, with each chapter upping the ante. In the first hour of the game you get a demon kaiju using boats as water skis, I mean, come on. This is what we come to Bayonetta for, the mixture of absurdity, sexuality, humor, and the all-import button-testing combat.
Bayonetta is beautiful, wonderful, and so so deadly. The combos feel fluid, with some amazing dodge mechanics as well. While you get the signature Witch Time, it’s the ease with which you learn to perform combos no matter the weapon or demon you have equipped that is a real standout. This helps make the game easy to get into if you’ve never played a Bayonetta game before, regardless of difficulty level.
But the pinnacle combat mechanic is the sexy one that set Twitter on fire—Demon Masquerade. This allows you to channel the demon connection through your equipped weapons. Demon Masquerade takes shape automatically as you complete combat combos, with manifestations coming at the end of one designated set. With giant fists or stingers coming out to play, it’s a fun element that feels rewarding when executed.
On top of that, a full transformation through Demon Masquerade allows you to traverse each zone with unique abilities. With Madama Butterfly you glide, Gamora allows you to jump an extremely far distances on first charge and then scale the floor with speed, Malphas gives you free flight, but the most fun is the spider-mommy Phantasmaraneae, which allows you to crawl on walls and sling through the air or pull yourself towards a fixed point. Viola also has Cheshire, who comes with his own unique set of abilities. While platforming isn’t the major focus of Bayonetta 3, the elements that are present are extremely strong. As you learn how to traverse each zone, you’re able to learn the faster ways to clear chapters, and the push to do it faster and take less damage each time really ups the replayability of the game.
But Demon Masquerade isn’t the only fantastic bond you get with your demon. You also get the Demon Slave mechanic, which allows players to take control of kaiju-sized versions of their demons and destroy the homunculi you’re facing with special attacks. While this is a fun element that comes with great power, it also comes with risk. With your demon summoned and controlled, your Bayonetta is more vulnerable and can take damage, which will end your demon kaiju fighting on the spot.
While dodging or taking damage will break you out of Demon Slave, you can let go of ZL to move to another location and then hold it again to continue. That said, while Demon Slave seems like an ace to win any fight, PlatinumGames has balanced this mechanic. First, each hit a Demon Slave takes depletes Bayonetta’s magic at a faster rate and also raises the demon’s anger gauge, which when full sends them into Demon Rage. While in Demon Rage, they attack indiscriminately. Finally, demons can be killed and unable to be summoned as they cool down.
Learning when to use them and when not to is a skill in and of itself. The biggest issue I had with this mechanic was learning about the best moments to summon the demons for a quick combo element and when to stay within Demon Slave mode for longer combinations. Finally, the Torture attacks you can execute with your Infernal Demons are extremely fun, dynamic, and a great reward after some longer fights.
So, I’ve taken paragraphs to explain one really amazing element of combat and highlight that the fast-paced combat is both new-player friendly and also really really fun. But what about the story? You know, where you encounter a whole host of multiversal Bayonettas? Well, that’s the tough part.
By and large, Bayonetta 3’s story is its weakest point. Instead of crafting a story with importance, each story element is crafted to develop a bombastic visual moment. It’s as if the focus wasn’t to tell a good story, but rather to just make something really cool. And you know what? With how fun and dynamic Bayonetta 3’s combat and traversal mechanics are, I’m okay with that. In fact, like the other Bayonetta games, the third addition falls into the specific brand of visual spectacle and absurdity that some Japanese media has become known for. Like Gintama or any number of Takashi Miike films, outlandish, brash, and action-filled moments with enough sexuality to make it both humorous and horny, Bayonetta 3 may not be some deep story but it is pure joy—boobs and booty shots in all.
Now, I do feel the need to comment on the story in a larger way, because the game’s ending moves from chaotic lore shift and outlandish story beats made to build up to epic video game moments to an awkward choice. Bayonetta is and will always be a character crafted by this absurdity meant to suit the male gaze, which to be honest, is par for the course of a lot of my favorite female characters in Japanese media.
Ultimately though, in this outing, even with how much that’s hammered home by certain male characters taking center stage, the combat lets me reground myself in everything I love about Bayonetta and her power. While I have issues with the last few chapters, it’s hard to fault them because I’ve seen them happen way too much in anime. Even with those familiar trappings though, Bayonetta 3 keeps this game about our lady and her power, and honestly, more importantly, her relationship with the chaotic witches, and it all just sings—or rather, dances.
And with so many great one-liners and fight mechanics and button-killing combos, I’m her and that’s exciting. Especially because this absolutely unhinged multiverse comes with one giant perk: Bayonettas, plural. In fact, between Jeanne, Bayonettas, and Viola, players get to hop through such a diverse array of combat experiences that it’s easy to stay engaged, even as the unhinged lore just soars off the rails.
The chaos of the story somehow makes it all feel like nothing matters but the visual style, beauty, and romp, which make everything worthwhile. There are performance issues for sure, with some fidelity issues that are jarring, but somehow, none of that kills the joy or the smile I have on my face. From character designs, enemy designs, score, combat techniques, and just about anything else that can be a visual or audio treat, Bayonetta 3 has it in spades. It’s rare to find a game that can easily compensate for its faults, but this is one, completely.
I can ultimately forgive the chaotic lore and absolute dismantling of anything you thought before—actually making this a great gateway into the franchise for newcomers (just let it wash over you, literally nothing matters). And I can do this because my time spent playing this game, actually executing combos, killing homunculi, and seeing absolutely wild scenes that tap into everything I have loved about the series brought me immense joy. Bayonetta 3 isn’t perfect, but it’s everything I wanted. Absolute nonsense with sexy demons, some dope ladies, and dynamic combat is what makes Bayonetta 3 absolutely stellar.
Bayonetta 3 is out now for Nintendo Switch.
Bayonetta 3 isn’t perfect, but it’s everything I wanted. Absolute nonsense with sexy demons, some dope ladies, and dynamic combat is what makes Bayonetta 3 absolutely stellar.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.